Feb 2017

At 100, he sees great prospects for Sri Lanka and commits a further US$166MM to Havelock city

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S P Tao, Founder of the Shing Kwan Group, is a naturalized citizen of Singapore of Chinese origin with extensive worldwide business experience in the commodities, shipping and real estate sectors.

Mr. Tao first visited Sri Lanka in 1940 at age 24, when working with the China South West Transport unit in Rangoon, he was offered a choice of Sri Lanka, Singapore or Calcutta for an R&R break. He chose to come to Sri Lanka and left with a most favorable impression of the people and the country.

In 1958, he commenced his business association with Sri Lanka dealing in commodities with the Ceylon Food Commissioner’s office.

In the 1970’s, he assisted Sri Lanka to establish the Ceylon National Shipping Corporation when he sold one ship, “Lanka Rani”, on credit to the Shipping Corporation. He would later receive as payment in lieu, a 20% equity share in the Colombo Dockyard.

Mr. Tao’s confidence in Sri Lanka has always been rooted in the potential of the country’s geographical location as a vital maritime transshipment and distribution hub combined with the high literacy and ambition of its people.

Business ventures in Sri Lanka

In the 1990’s, in response to Mr. Lee Kuan Yew’s clarion call to Singaporean companies to venture beyond its shores, Mr. Tao re-visited Colombo to assist Keppel Corporation in its plan to acquire Colombo Dockyard. During this visit he was shown a piece of land at Echelon Square in the Colombo Fort area by his good friend Baku Mahadeva and the rest is history. At the time the Sri Lankan Government, actively wooing Foreign Investment, offered Mr. Tao attractive Incentives for a “Flagship company”. Thus, Mr. Tao acquired Overseas Realty (Ceylon) PLC (ORC PLC), a listed Company on the Colombo Stock Exchange and owner of that piece of land. The World Trade Centre at Echelon Square was conceived and completed in 1996, the brainchild of a world class developer bringing together world class design architects and a world class contractor, built to the highest quality and standards that continues to withstand the test of time.

In 2005, another opportunity arose in Havelock City, an ambitious mega mixed- use development project, conceived and developed during the most volatile times. At 100 years of age, he officiated at a Groundbreaking ceremony for the Havelock City commercial development after the successful completion of 450 residential apartments with ongoing development of a further 650 homes.

Mr. Tao has a deep-seated vision for Sri Lanka that secures a prosperous future for generations to come. He remains confident in Sri Lanka’s pivotal role as an essential staging point in China’s one road one belt strategy which will bring about transformative opportunities for the people of Sri Lanka, with their natural flair and skills in technology, to transition towards a service intensive economy and prosperity. Latterly, especially amidst the apparent chaos in the Western world, Mr. Tao is even more resolute in his conviction in making long term investments in Sri Lanka for future generations of stakeholders.

Throughout his business career spanning some 80 years Mr. Tao has always maintained that in business there is no charity. Sri Lanka is poised for great success and prosperity.

Entrepreneurial Philanthropy

At age 80, Mr. Tao founded TSPEF (Tao Shing Pee Education Foundation) which supports eligible Chinese candidates that have been admitted to pursue MBA’s at Harvard Business School and Graduate School of Business (Stanford). When he turned 90, he established the JS-TSPEF (Jiangsu Tao Shing Pee Education Fund), a charitable Foundation registered in China, to provide financial aid to able students from rural areas to complete their tertiary education in the cities. The TSPEF graduates and JSTSPEF students enjoy an enriched and dynamic community where students receive mentoring in entrepreneurship and financial backing in their business startups in their home towns. While education is at the core of Mr. Tao’s philanthropy, he takes the philanthropy to the next level in encouraging and nurturing business enterprises for the JS-TSPEF graduates.