Chinese bus maker Wisdom’s Hong Kong company is incorporated in the same Jardine House office as Hong Kong’s public transport bus owner Templewater and has a “templewater.com” email address listed as its primary contact, blurring the lines between two of Hong Kong’s franchised bus companies and their preferred supplier of clean technology buses.
Wisdom Transport (Hong Kong) was established in July 2022 by founder WSD Holdings, itself established in April 2022 by offshore founder Wisdom Holdings, a British Virgin Islands (BVI) company. Wisdom, in the mainland, is 51% owned by Templewater, a private equity firm that also holds Bravo Transport, a BVI-registered firm owning Hong Kong’s franchised bus firms Citybus and New World First Bus.
The director registered for both WSD Holdings and Wisdom Transport (Hong Kong) is Zhang Kun, 張鯤, the Chinese name of Cliff Zhang, CEO and Founding Partner of Templewater. Zhang’s Chinese name Kun appears nowhere on the Templewater website while his English name, Cliff, appears on no incorporation documents or SFC licence search.
No staff were seen at the Templewater/Wisdom 3901-08 Jardine House office address during the daytime and no Business Registration certificates for Templewater or Wisdom were visible through the locked doors. The address is not a corporate services firm.
Templewater has not responded to messages. A lawyer close to the situation said Wisdom Transport (Hong Kong)’s office and email facility sharing with Templewater were likely only for “convenience” and did not signal wrongdoing.
Parent owns both buyer and seller
But the link further exposes the conjugal bonds between the bus operator and its preferred cleantech supplier.
Bravo has bought millions of dollars’ worth of buses from cousin Wisdom but has never provided a breakdown of its cleantech bus accounting, with subsidy deals for new-tech buses shrouded in secrecy and often without competitive tender.
The Environmental Protection Department, which has used a decade-old tax-funded slush fund to purchase a number of double-decker and single-decker buses for the firms over the years, now says costs for individual deals cannot be publicly revealed as it may “harm competitive tenders”.
But with the parent company effectively arranging the bus company to buy buses from its own firm, it is not clear where the “competitive” element of the tenders is, nor whether the tenders have been genuinely offered on the competitive market.
Transit Jam has not been allowed to see copies of the tenders for the buses, while for at least two cleantech buses from Wisdom – a hydrogen double-decker show bus and an electric double-decker – Transport Department (TD) said there had been no tender.
“Citybus took the initiative to acquire one hydrogen fuel cell bus for test and trial in Hong Kong. Since it involves one bus only for test and trial purpose, it is not material to the bus service and hence tendering is not required,” said a TD spokesman. The spokesman said the electric bus did not require any tender as it did “not involve any cost in the franchise account”.
The hydrogen bus is currently in Australia demonstrating the potential of hydrogen-fuelled public transport. Bravo’s Wisdom electric double decker has not been seen in service since September this year, although it was seen at the IMX Motor Show last week where Wisdom executives said a “Mark 2” version was in the offing.
Transit Jam was forbidden access to the hydrogen double-decker, with Bravo Corporate Communications Manager Andy Tsang On-tik reportedly claiming our newspaper “would not pass police vetting” for high-profile events.
“Illusory customer contracts”
Also at the IMX Motor Show was a bus Wisdom claimed as its own but was branded “Hyzon”, a firm under investigation by the US Securities Exchange Commission for alleged equities fraud and reporting violations.
An equity analyst had claimed Hyzon was a “repackaging of a flailing Chinese hydrogen-fuel-cell business covered in a glittering new wrapper of misleading deal announcements, illusory customer contracts, and fantastical financial projections.”
Wisdom later said the bus was manufactured in Fujian at the Wisdom factory but that the factory had “forgotten” to change the customer branding (including steering wheel badge, instruction manual and window engravings) from Hyzon to Wisdom.
Wisdom has made many proposals touting hydrogen as a future for commercial transport in recent months: its website is replete with 3D renderings of proposals such as hydrogen fuelling stations and long-haul commercial vehicles that do not yet exist.
The company claims the Hong Kong government will run a 10-bus trial of electric and hydrogen buses in 2023, while it claims a contract for a heavy-duty hydrogen truck for Pepsi in Australia: the Pepsi truck rendering features a badly fitted wraparound dash and mirrors passing through the windows (with no opening side windows); and while renderings show details such as massage seats and water bottle holders, the truck appears to have no brake or accelerator pedal. The company claims driving control of the truck is “all in one hand”.