Sabina Corporation Limited In January 2017, APAC selected Peter Chen to be the CEO of the year, for Australia. Peter was selected for his tenacity, honesty, perseverance and good corporate governance – with a long track record in managing a listed public company and corporate governance. Sabina Corporation Limited was listed on the Australian Securitas Exchange for 27 years and informed ASX that as from 31st August 2015, Sabina would continue its business operations in Australia as an unlisted public company. This would allow the directors flexibility to re-structure its share capital and activities with minimum of fuss and costs. Mr. Peter Chen, the Founder & CEO, is planning to step down in the near future after 29 years at the helm. The Sabina Group, since its formation in 1978, has been a modest developer in its own right. Most of the concept designs were done by G8 Consultants Pty Ltd (owned 40% by Sabina) for outside clients. Sabina only undertook some of the innovative concepts
and the competed projects in Queensland included the China Trade Centre, RACQ Headquarters, Deakinpoint Apartments (also won HIA Award), Mt Ommaney Hotel Apartments, and Lakes II (100 acre mixed-used development in Townsville). Chen arrived in Australia in 1961 as a young student and completed his accountancy studies in Newcastle during the “White Australia Policy” era. “I remember the going was tough but that did not deter me and I was able to assimilate into the Australian culture fairly quickly”, recalled Chen, “I had to cop a lot of crap from the Aussies when I was just a green horn; but when I became their boss, I gave them heaps in return. It cuts both ways. In the construction industry, you got to be able to take it before you can give it,” said Chen with a smile. “In 1966, I was recruited in Sydney by one of the largest American construction companies in the world to join a small management team to set up their construction operations in the Pacific Island region including PNG, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and Fiji. Two years later at the age of 26 I became the CFO & Company Secretary and reported directly to the financial head office in Hawaii. The following year I was relocated from Port Moresby to Melbourne to become the Executive Assistant to the American Senior Vice President.
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The role gave me a fantastic grounding in a very wide range of technical disciplines including engineering services, mining, railway, construction, building and development. “I left Melbourne in1972 to join a Canadian Mining Company. My principal role was to establish a staff housing estate of over 120 houses and also setting up the mine administration office. “I was subsequently headhunted in 1974 to join one of Australia’s largest construction companies and soon rise to become the national development manager. During this period I was responsible for major industrial subdivisions, created an entire residential suburb, and special projects as well as helping to set-up a new building division during the downturn in the property market. The first tender that was won by our small building team, which included two former Westfield executives, was the building tender for the Pacific Fair Shopping Centre at Broadbeach, Gold Coast. “The journey in the property industry has not been easy. There have been many ups and downs. However, the Sabina group has always pulled through during hard times without compromising our reputation and integrity. “Whilst Sabina has not undertaken too many development projects, we have undertaken other entrepreneurial activities as
well such as seafood, brewery, international trade, and provision of advisory services on economic development SME ventures. We enjoyed immensely the diverse range of challenges and the ability to think outside the box; and to create innovative concepts and visions that are not the normal run of the mill types.” Whilst there are highly qualified technical people associated with the Sabina Group, the innovative concepts are all Chen’s visions – some designs were for development by Sabina; others were for outside clients. In 1986, Sabina Group won the tender against international bidders to build a 5-star Hotel for Expo 88. Unfortunately, Sabina could not agree to Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s Government’s terms. The Japanese giant Kumagai Gumi was Chen’s backer. Kumagai Gumi was the catalyst responsible for bringing Australia to the forefront in construction with major iconic buildings throughout Australia. “In my opinion, the late Managing Director of Kumagai Gumi, Mr. Tony Mitani, was the driving force behind all these big projects i.e. Sydney Tunnel, Ski Tube, Casinos, and many major landmark buildings in all capital cities in Australia. When Mr. Mitani first arrived on the local scene in 1981, I was the one that introduced him to the major Australian banks in Sydney. At first the banks didn’t have a clue as to who Kumagai Gumi was, and in fact they laughed at his