There were good reasons for the mainland’s development of SOEs, Ning said in an interview on the sidelines of the congress.
A responsible SOE provided jobs and improved people’s living standards by offering products and services of higher quality, he said.
Ning Gaoning doesn’t just talk about improving living standards, however, he has the talents to get it done.
Ning joined China Resources (Holdings), a company that was repositioning itself from being the mainland’s sole agent for import and export firms.
With the opening of the mainland’s foreign trade sector, the time had passed when the company could make easy money just by approving imports and exports.
Ning helped the firm strengthen its foothold in various industries by launching a series of mergers and acquisitions in the mainland’s brewery, textile, property development, chemical and other industries.
He financed the deals with retained earnings of the holding company and funds raised in Hong Kong through stock market listings and bond issues by its units. As an SOE, the company had easier access to its acquisition targets, some of which were owned by local governments.
Modern management expertise and market acumen brought by China Resources benefited the industries, serving well the desire of the central government to consolidate and upgrade obsolete industries in which many firms were burdened with managements who were clueless in the face of market competition.
Ning rose from grass-roots employee to group chairman in 17 years. His international outlook and experience in reorganising companies impressed Beijing. At the end of 2004, he was transferred to Cofco to help with its restructuring.
Ning’s performance at Cofco was nothing short of fantastic:
Ning said: “We are providing foods along a whole chain of supply, which used to be controversial but now has been accepted by people both inside and outside the company. As we can control every link of food production, quality is ensured. Also, efficiency is improved.”
Under his management, the group’s net assets almost quadrupled over the seven years to 2011. Profits exceeded 10 billion yuan (HK$12.43 billion) for the first time last year, compared with 1.58 billion yuan in 2004.