Richard Li

Richard Li said to be eyeing ING Asia units

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 May, 2012, 12:00am


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Telecom tycoon Richard Li Tzar-kai may bid for ING Group's Asia insurance and asset management businesses, according to sources.

The giant Dutch financial firm last month announced plans to sell the two units together or separately and has invited firms to submit bids. People familiar with the situation told the South China Morning Post that Li Ka-shing's younger son is looking at both.

Li's spokesman would not comment.

Last week Li Ka-Shing said he would financially back Richard Li's attempts to expand beyond the family's property flagship Cheung Kong Group. Li senior did not give any details but had said Richard was in talks for possible acquisitions of 'long-term' interest.

The octogenarian billionaire had said businesses that Richard Li (pictured) was interested in would not compete with Cheung Kong or its conglomerate subsidiary Hutchison Whampoa, which would be passed to elder son Victor Li Tzar-kuoi as part of the succession plan outlined by the patriarch. Neither Cheung Kong nor Hutchison is into insurance or asset management.

Richard Li has expanded beyond the business scope of his father's empire since quitting as a director at Hutchison Whampoa in 2000. He is now chairman of PCCW, the largest telecommunications operator in the city. He also used to own Pacific Century Insurance, which he sold to Fortis Insurance International in 2007.

Li Ka-shing, who turns 84 next month, was rated by Forbes magazine last year as ninth-richest person in the world and richest in Asia, with an estimated US$25.5 billion.

In bidding for the ING units, Richard Li faces strong rivals such as US insurers Metlife and AIA Group, Canadian insurer Manulife Financial Group, and Korea Life Insurance, as well as asset management firms such as US fund houses Blackrock and Invesco, Australia's Macquarie and Japan's Nikko Asset Management.

ING, which has to divest its insurance operations before the end of next year to qualify for state aid under European Union regulations, is looking to collect US$7 billion from selling the two units.

Joseph Tong, executive director of Sun Hung Kai Financial, said: 'Richard Li has already purchased the asset management unit of AIG. It makes sense for him to buy the asset management unit together with the insurance unit of ING as this would help boost his wealth management operations.'

In 2010, Richard Li bought fund manager PineBridge Investments from American International Group. Last year he spun off the telecommunications assets of PCCW into a business trust, raising HK$9.3 billion. This came after his failed attempt in 2009 to privatise PCCW.

In Asia, ING has operations in Hong Kong, the mainland, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, India and Thailand.