Li Ka-shing, whose life journey from humble beginnings to Asia’s biggest business fortunes became the epitome of entrepreneurship that inspired generations of Hongkongers, has announced his retirement after almost seven decades at the pinnacle of one of the world’s largest corporate conglomerates.
“I have decided to step down as chairman of the company and retire from the position of executive director at the forthcoming annual general meeting of the company,” Li said in filings for CK Hutchison Holdings and CK Asset Holdings to the Hong Kong stock exchange on Friday.
He will serve as the senior adviser of both companies.
“I am grateful to have been able to create value for shareholders all these years, and serve society,” Li said. “This has been my greatest honour. I thank everybody for their love and support.”
Li will dedicate his time and effort toward philanthropy, led by the KS-LK Foundation, especially on issues related to medical health, and social issues, he said.
Also known as Superman to many, Li, who turns 90 in July, will hand over the chairmanships of his two flagship companies to his elder son Victor.
At the press conference to announce the companies’ earnings, Li said he did not see mortgage rates in Hong Kong – one of the world’s priciest urban centres – to rise by more than two percentage points.
“Should people keep chasing after higher and higher flat prices? If you have sufficient funds, buying a flat for your own use is OK regardless of market prices, as long as you can afford the mortgage payment,” said Li, whose CK Asset was one of the city’s biggest property developers.
I am grateful to have been able to create value for shareholders all these years, and serve society
Excluding revaluation gain on investment properties, CK Asset posted the underlying profit of HK$20.32 billion (US$2.59 billion) for the year to December, in line with the HK$20.3 billion average estimate of 16 analysts polled by Bloomberg.
CK Hutchison, the conglomerate with businesses from container ports, retail, telecommunications and power plants said net profit increased 6 percent to HK$35.1 billion last year.
One of the earliest Hong Kong tycoons to invest in mainland China, Li dismissed criticisms that his company had been selling Chinese assets to transfer money offshore as “ridiculous and illogical”.
“Asset trading is par the norm for business. Our group has 40 billion yuan (US$6.33 billion) in projects along the coastal regions of China on natural gas, including a major gas production project by Husky Energy. Even if we have sold assets on the mainland, the money returns to the company and belongs to all shareholders, unless we sell the shares.”
On China’s legislature proposed move to remove a term remit on the presidency that would allow President Xi Jinping to extend his term, Li said: “If I have had the right to vote on this issue, I would support Xi, because China’s anti-corruption campaign has been effective in the past few years. That is a fact.”
Li, who represented Hong Kong’s rags-to-riches story, also has a piece of advice for Hong Kong’s youth. “There are many opportunities available to the youth of today. The most important thing for young people is that they must bolster their competitiveness through the accumulation of knowledge.”