Who Are Ya: Birmingham Sports Holdings

Everyone knows that Birmingham City are owned by a company based in Hong Kong, but how much is actually known about them and what they do? In this second refresher article about the powers that be behind the club, I’ve taken a look at Birmingham Sports Holdings.

Hong Kong Stock Exchange

You can read all other articles in this series by clicking this link.

Who are Birmingham Sports Holdings and how much of the club do they own?

Birmingham Sports Holdings (BSH) are a Cayman Islands-registered company that are based in Hong Kong, who are listed on the main board of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

This means that shares in the company can be bought or sold by anyone via a stockbroker (although in practice this is very difficult outside Hong Kong unless one is spending a lot of money). At the time of writing this article I am the owner of 20,000 shares in BSH.

Because Birmingham Sports Holdings is a listed company, there are some facts and figures which are permanently in the public domain, such as total number of shares available and the share price.

This makes it possible for us to get a rudimentary value of the company called “Stock Market Capitalisation”, which is simply the number of shares in the company available multiplied by the price of each share.

At the close of business on Friday 26 November, shares were trading at HK$0.117 (about a penny each) which gives a stock market capitalisation figure of HK$2.276Bn (around £230M). Theoretically, this is how much it would cost to buy every share in the listed company, although in practice anyone trying to do that would end up paying much more.

It’s also worth noting that the stock market capitalisation figure doesn’t seem to tally with the actual value of the company, based on what it does.

What else do BSH do apart from own the club?

As it stands, BSH have three parts of the company which report revenue to the group. In addition to the club, BSH also have a stake in a residential / commercial complex in Phnom Penh, Cambodia; and a stake in a medical business based in Japan.

BSH makes some money in Cambodia from leasing and sub-leasing buildings within a large complex known as One Park. The company only has a stake in a few of the buildings rather than the whole property and uses a Cambodian company to lease them to tenants. Revenue comes in from agreed rents and from property value increases, although in recent times the value of property in Cambodia has actually dropped.

The Japanese arm of the business involves offering medical treatments to rich Chinese who wish to avail themselves of healthcare in Japan. Medical tourism has been a growth sector in recent times and the idea is that BSH would make some revenue from this industry; however, this project is in its infancy and has not returned much as of yet.

At one point BSH also owned a Chinese lottery services company selling lottery software to companies based in Asia but this was sold in June, 2021 as it was unprofitable.

Who runs BSH?

Like Birmingham City, BSH is run by a board of directors. The directors will make decisions and recommendations about the path the company is to take, with some needing ratification from shareholders like me at public meetings.

Directors have to be re-elected every three years at an Annual General Meeting, although in practicality it would take a veto from the larger shareholders to deny them re-election due to the low numbers of shares in the hands of the general public.

2020 agm

This can be shown by last year’s AGM where only 20,000 shares voted against the reappointment of the chairman Zhao Wenqing; I can confirm that those shares were owned by me.

BSH currently has five executive directors (ED), one non-executive director (NED) and three independent non-executive directors (INED).

The executive directors are employed by BSH and are the people who for all intents and purposes run the company. The non-executive director doesn’t take any wages from BSH but is on the board to offer their experience, while the independent non-executive directors also don’t take a wage and sit on the audit, remuneration and nomination committees for the company.

The executive board are as follows:

Zhao Wenqing

Name: Zhao Wenqing
Job: Chairman of the Board, Executive Director
Salary (from 2021 Annual Report): HK$2,048,000 plus benefits

To read more about who Zhao is, please see my BCFC board article.

Huang Dongfeng
taken from http://www.jxcc.com/shangshigongsi/guanlituandui/20141010/jt_14129294181621.html

Name: Huang Dongfeng
Job: Chief Executive Officer, Executive Director
Salary (from 2021 Annual Report): HK$2,048,000 plus benefits

Theoretically, as CEO Huang is one of the most powerful people within BSH. However, despite that there isn’t actually that much information out there about him beyond his biography supplied by the company.

What little we do know is that Huang was company secretary of another HK-listed company called Jiangxi Copper Company from March 2013 until October 2016, and that he has “extensive experience in corporate management, corporate finance, merger and acquisition”.

Jerry Yiu Chun Kong

Name: Jerry Yiu Chun Kong
Job: Executive Director
Salary (from 2021 Annual Report): HK$294,000

Yiu is also a director of Birmingham City FC and I have covered him already in my previous article there.

Hsiao Charng Geng

Name: Joe Hsiao Charng Geng
Job: Executive Director
Salary (from 2021 Annual Report): HK$940,000

While the official biography given by BSH is light on detail, we’re quite fortunate that there is more information out there on him online. We know from this post on Instagram that Hsiao lived in One Park Cambodia, where we can see from old annual reports filed online he was Chief Executive Officer of Asia-Pacific Development Bank. According to their latest report, APD Bank is 94.19% owned by Vong Pech.

Wang Yaohui

This picture of Hsiao and the elusive Mr King (Wang Yaohui) was taken in Vietnam in 2018. This picture along with the Cambodian connections leads me to believe that Hsiao and Mr King are very much connected.

Guo Honglin

Name: Dr Guo Honglin
Job: Executive Director
Salary (from 2021 Annual Report): HK$1,200,000

Dr Guo is based in mainland China, where his profile on the Chinese information service Baidu lists him as a teacher. He is listed as the president of the Chaoyang Branch of the National People’s University Affiliated Middle School as well as an adjunct professor of the School of Education of Renmin University of China.

I will admit I’m unsure of what Guo does in connection with BSH at this time.

I’m going to accept right now that this article is very dry; there isn’t much information that I’ve not shared before and that it’s hard to understand who these people are let alone what they do.

However, if there is one thing I want to get across it’s that Blues is only a small part of their role and that when they make decisions for BSH it’s going to be for the benefit of that company and its shareholders. There will be times when that will coincide with what is right for the club; but that isn’t as frequent as one may think.

The listing really is all important – because it’s the volatility of shares which can make easy profits. The executive directors of BSH will do what they need to do to protect that listing and the trading of shares; it’s no coincidence that the downfall of Carson Yeung as owner of BSH somewhat coincided with trading in shares being suspended.

At this moment in time the club is entwined with BSH so deeply that I can’t see how they can easily sell the club and keep the listing – and importantly, I can’t see why they would.

While owning a football club brings a lot of attention, it brings attention to the people who run the club. There is a possibility that it’s also what is known as a “dead cat strategy”, whereby it’s dramatic and shocking but it distracts from what is going on elsewhere in the company; and I have to be honest, my concerns about who owns the club are based on their non-club activities.

In my next piece in this series, I’m going to be focusing on the names of the people who own stakes in BCFC, BSH and Birmingham City Stadium Ltd.

People in this article

Zhao Wenqing
Huang Dongfeng
Jerry Yiu Chun Kong
Joe Hsaio Charng Geng
Dr Guo Honglin
Vong Pech
Wang Yaohui

Organisations in this article

Birmingham Sports Holdings