Li Ka-shing spells out sons' futures
Li Ka-shing, Asia's richest man, yesterday spelled out a succession plan to split his business empire between his two sons in a way he said would ensure no conflict between them.
Li (pictured) said that elder son Victor Li Tzar-kuoi would take the helm of property group Cheung Kong (Holdings) and conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa.
'As for my other son [Richard Li Tzar-kai], there are some things that he is very interested in. He will have my full support ... now that he has already owned several sizeable companies.
'The asset values of the businesses that he owns will go up several times over, so he will also have a very successful career.
'And there will be no conflict among their businesses.'
Li Ka-shing, who turns 84 next month, was rated last year by Forbes magazine as the ninth-richest person in the world - as well as Asia's richest - with an estimated wealth of US$25.5 billion.
He told a press conference yesterday after the annual meetings of Cheung Kong and Hutchison that younger son Richard was in talks with 'several sizeable companies' for acquisitions in industries outside the business scope of Cheung Kong and Hutchison. He said they were not media or entertainment businesses, but were 'long-term' businesses that Richard liked.
Victor would own more than 40 per cent of Cheung Kong, his father said, and 35.5 per cent of Husky Energy, a Canadian oil company.
Li Ka-shing said he had 'no plans' to retire, but had thought out the succession plan for a long time.
Victor, who was also at the press conference, said he was happy with his father's decision. Victor has been managing director at Cheung Kong and deputy chairman at Hutchison for more than 10 years.
Richard, who is not on the board of either company, was not available for comment. He left Hutchison in 2000 to focus on building his own business empire. He is chairman of PCCW, the biggest telecommunications company in Hong Kong.
Based on Cheung Kong's closing share price of HK$91.50 yesterday, the company's market capitalisation stands at HK$211.93 billion, making Li Ka-shing's stake worth at least HK$83.56 billion.
Husky Energy was worth about C$22.84 billion (HK$172.84 billion) based on Thursday's closing price, valuing his stake at C$8.11 billion.
The 40 per cent stake in Cheung Kong, which owns 49.97 per cent of Hutchison, effectively gives Victor control of the conglomerate. Hutchison closed at HK$66.55 yesterday, giving it a market capitalisation of HK$283.73 billion.
Shares in Cheung Kong and Hutchison that Li Ka-shing has bought over the past two years will go into the Li Ka Shing Foundation, a charity that will be overseen by both Richard and Victor upon their father's retirement.
The foundation also owns shares in Facebook.
Hutchison boasts the world's biggest port and telecommunications operations, in 14 countries. Its activities also span infrastructure, retailing and property development.
Li Ka-shing remains upbeat about Hutchison's earnings prospects, despite global uncertainty as a result of the euro zone crisis. He also said he was optimistic about business opportunities in Europe.
'We definitely won't decrease our investment in Hong Kong,' he said, when asked whether Hutchison would make further acquisitions in Europe. We want to invest in Hong Kong as long as it can provide us with a harmonious macro-environment. If not, we go invest somewhere else, overseas.'
Li, who voted for Henry Tang Ying-yen instead of winner Leung Chun-ying in this year's elections for Hong Kong chief executive, refused to comment on Leung. But he said the chief executive-elect must prove that he could protect the Basic Law (the city's mini-constitution) and Hong Kong's core values, including the rule of law and freedom.
He also said he welcomed policies to solve housing problems facing low-income groups in the city, but said he hoped the government would maintain a stable land supply.