Kuo's Peter Fu splits with HPL's Ong Beng Seng

The office entrance of Kuo International at Cantonment Road.
The office entrance of Kuo International at Cantonment Road.PHOTO: ST FILE

A dispute between the wealthy Fu and Ong families who are linked by marriage and business has been settled out of court and will result in them going their separate ways on the corporate front.

The settlement means a lawsuit bought by Mr Peter Fu Chong Cheng, 66, head of oil trading and investment holding firm Kuo International, and his sister Juanita, 61, will now not go ahead.

"We didn't go to trial because we settled the matter out of court on confidential terms, and to the satisfaction of both sides," Mr Fu told The Straits Times. "Juanita and I are pleased that we have now parted ways with Ong Beng Seng."

Mr Ong is managing director of Singapore-listed property giant HPL. He is married to Club 21 fashion group founder Christina Ong, the sister of Peter and Juanita Fu.

Mr Fu and sister Juanita own shares in HPL while Mr Ong and his wife hold a stake in Kuo.

Terms of the settlement are confidential but HPL filings on the Singapore Exchange on Dec 2 last year show that a transfer of 83.4 million shares in the issued and paid-up capital of HPL was completed.

Mr Ong did not respond to requests for comment. The Ongs' lawyer, Mr Ang Cheng Hock of Allen & Gledhill, also declined to comment.

Mr Ong, 72, and wife Christina, 70, are estimated by Forbes to have a net worth of US$2 billion (S$2.8 billion). Mr Fu's estimated net worth of US$900 million comes mostly from oil trading and investment holding firm Kuo International, set up by his late father, Mr Peter Fu Yun Siak.

The families were close business partners. With $45 million of funds, the Kuo Group incorporated HPL in 1980 for the purpose of buying the Hilton Hotel. Mr Ong, who had been Kuo's managing director since 1978, left Kuo's Singapore office and began managing HPL in 1981.

While Mr Ong grew HPL's hotel management and property development business, Mr Fu played a key role expanding Kuo's oil-related businesses and transforming the company into one of the biggest players in Singapore.

After Mr Fu's father died, the relationship between Mr Fu and Mr Ong soured. Mr Fu increasingly flagged concerns over the way Mr Ong "imposed his own business interests onto HPL at the expense of shareholders", according to court papers. For his part, Mr Ong claimed that Mr Fu attempted to obstruct the management of HPL.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 24, 2017, with the headline 'Kuo's Peter Fu splits with HPL's Ong Beng Seng'. Print Edition | Subscribe