UPDATE: I found out what is going on with the "worst" culprit; see "Final update" below!

Data Guru now offers Hong Kong Companies Registry data, updated every day. This can be used for due diligence (is a company you're dealing with actually dissolved, or winding up, or has a recorded dispute over ownership?), and for keeping track of new entities of interest.

One other use case for this data is finding out that some companies seem to change names every couple of months, sometimes to their previous name. This is suspicious behaviour, so I expose these companies here.

The worst culprit by far is the company with number 0650420. This was incorporated in 1998-07-22, when it was initially called PREMIER DRAGON DEVELOPMENT LIMITED in English and 御龍發展有限公司 in Chinese. (Hong Kong incorporated companies must have a name in English or Chinese or both, and their Chinese name must be in traditional characters). The company then became dormant on 1999-12-01, a slumber from which 20 years later it has still not awoken; however, it is nonetheless having fever dreams, because since 1999-12-03, when it lost its Chinese name and became AUSTRALIAN VACCINE TECHNOLOGIES LIMITED, it has racked up 60 name changes. Of those name combinations:

  • 14 times the company was PREMIER DRAGON DEVELOPMENT LIMITED with no Chinese name
  • 10 times the company was PREMIER DRAGON DEVELOPMENT LIMITED and 御龍發展有限公司, as it was at birth
  • Every other time was a unique English and Chinese name pair: sometimes it changed mildly, it was China Jinhai International Group Limited and China Jinhua International Group Limited (look again!), China Soft Power Ding Jiu Technology Holdings Limited and China Soft Power Technology Holdings Limited, NEO-CHINA RESOURCES (HOLDINGS) LIMITED and NEO-CHINA RESOURCES GROUP (HOLDINGS) LIMITED. Other times it was Jekyll and Hyde, from EHEALTHCAREASIA LIMITED to QUALITY EDUCATION HOLDINGS LIMITED, or SHANGHAI LAND (FORTE) COMPANY LIMITED to MEIJI YASUDA CAPITAL MANAGEMENT ASIA LIMITED, many times via pausing in its comfort state of PREMIER DRAGON DEVELOPMENT LIMITED

In the last couple of years, the company formerly known as PREMIER DRAGON DEVELOPMENT LIMITED 御龍發展有限公司 has calmed down, only changing name every year or so, and since 2018-05-10, after almost 20 long years of identity crises, resting back to the simple PREMIER DRAGON DEVELOPMENT LIMITED.

You can see the varied and multifarious names of Company Number 0650420 here.

Honourable mentions go to the following schizophrenic companies, each with at least 30 name changes:

There doesn't appear to be much information online about these companies, but there are some intriguing overlaps. Companies 1200057 and 1212643 were both Artwell something-or-other in 2008, and 0650420 and 1060639 were both China Finance/Financial at 2017 and 2012 respectively, and 0965490 and 1212643 were both changed to Genvon from 2009-12-10.

Most damning of all is that 1060639, 0787450, 0808721, 1212643, 1200057 and 0965490, i.e. 6 of the 8 companies with at least 30 name changes, were all called MLC something-or-other Limited at some point (with two of these currently sporting this moniker, as can be seen in the bullet point list above). The panoply of MLC companies registered in Hong Kong can be perused here (note that not all are necessary connected).

Unfortunately finding out the directors of these companies is not free at the moment, but that's on Data Guru's timeline...

Addendum: after some sleuthing by a commenter on HN, it was pointed out that when the nominal PREMIER DRAGON DEVELOPMENT LIMITED changed names, soon after another company with a similar or identical name would arise. For example,

  • Premier Dragon (0650420) decided between 2016-09-08 and 2016-10-20 to be called China Electronics Optics Valley Union Holding Company Limited 中電光谷聯合控股有限公司.  
  • A slightly older company, 0581220, changed to CHINA ELECTRONICS OPTICS VALLEY UNION COMPANY LIMITED 中電光谷聯合有限公司 on its 20th anniversary in 2016-12-13. The name is actually not identical... look closer...
  • A Cayman Islands-registered company, China Electronics  Optics Valley Union Holding Company Limited 中電光谷聯合控股有限公司, which only got that name on 2016-09-30, during Premier Dragon's tenure with this name.  This company is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange under symbol 00798. Its major shareholdings are public, and also available on my  website, in this case here: https://dataguru.hk/hkexdisclosures_corporation?corporation=....

This seems to be more than a coincidence, as a major shareholder in the listed company is AAA Finance and Investment Holdings Limited, a BVI company...  but company 0581220, a Hong Kong company, was called AAA FINANCE &  INVESTMENT LIMITED 三A銀信投資有限公司 before it switched to China Electronics etc.!

More generally, here are all the names which Premier Dragon shared at some point with those of other companies (although almost certainly not at the same time due to CRHK naming rules). Notice how each time the other company chose its name a few months after Premier Dragon did:

English name Chinese name Premier Dragon name change Other company's number Date other company chose this name
MEIJI YASUDA CAPITAL MANAGEMENT ASIA LIMITED 明治安田投資顧問亞洲有限公司 2003-03-21 0779654 2004-01-02
FOSUN INTERNATIONAL LIMITED 復星國際有限公司 2004-11-10 0942079 2004-12-24
GUOTAI JUNAN FINANCIAL HOLDINGS LIMITED 國泰君安金融控股有限公司 2005-06-06 1157693 2007-08-10
Fuji Electric Hong Kong Co., Limited 富士電機(香港)有限公司 2009-09-22 0951523 2010-04-01
NS UNITED SHIPPING (H.K.) CO., LIMITED 新和日鐵聯合海運(香港)有限公司 2010-08-23 0543143 2010-10-04
SPARX Asia Investment Advisors Limited 2011-05-24 0793029 2011-06-30
YU LIN INDUSTRIAL LIMITED 裕璘實業有限公司 2011-10-21 1683152 2011-11-22
Gibson Innovations Limited 2015-03-06 1874187 2015-05-05
Central Wealth Securities International Holdings Limited 中達證券國際控股有限公 司 2017-04-07 0706688 2018-05-16

This of course doesn't include cases where the names are similar but not identical, e.g. China Electronics Optics Valley Union Holding Company Limited vs. CHINA ELECTRONICS OPTICS VALLEY UNION COMPANY LIMITED above.

Final update: I found out what is going on, at least with regards to Premier Dragon Development Limited. After some mild Googling, I came some Interim Reports for The Bank of East Asia Limited that mentioned this company. The latest one that mentions this company is from 2014, and it states that this subsidiary is a "Name reservation service" with no assets or equity. I guess this is a way of ensuring no other companies with the same name will incorporate until a client of BEA is ready to take the name. (This relies on only one company being allowed to have the same name at the same time in Hong Kong). This company disappeared from BEA's later reports, but it still operated after 2014, so I'm not sure if this means it was no longer a BEA subsidiary.

Are there any more analyses of Hong Kong that can be answered using public data that you'd like to see? Or do you have data that you think has value that can be extracted? Get in touch!

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