Li Ka-shing

Henderson tycoon plans to retire on a high note

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 June, 2012, 12:00am


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Tycoon Lee Shau-kee's retirement goal is to restore his wealth to pre-2008 financial crisis levels, and he's giving himself three to five years before considering giving up his day job as chairman of Henderson Land Development.

While some property tycoons, including Asia's richest man, Li Ka-shing, have spelled out their succession plans recently, Lee wants to recover lost financial ground.

He was among those whose wealth was hard-hit by the global financial crisis. 'For example, as when playing mahjong, I want to have munwu, or winning the game by the highest scores.

'Then my wealth may be double and it would be better for my successors as well as for the charity [works I fund],' he said yesterday after the annual general meetings of Henderson Land Development and Henderson Investment.

Lee declined to disclose exactly how much he is worth now, but said there was still a 'shortfall' - which, according to estimates by Forbes magazine, could be as much as US$1 billion. 'I hope I can make it up in the next three to five years,' he said.

Asked if he would retire at that time, he said: 'I'm 83 now and am gradually reducing my workload running the group.' Lee, who has two sons and three daughters, said he had no immediate plan to step down, though his two sons had gradually been taking over the business empire in Hong Kong and on the mainland.

'Elder son [Peter Lee Ka-kit] will focus on the group's mainland business, while younger son [Martin Lee Ka-shing] will head the Hong Kong operation. My daughters are not so keen on doing business,' he said.

He was rated by Forbes as the second-richest man in Hong Kong, with an estimated wealth of US$18 billion in March this year, compared with US$19 billion in May 2008, just before the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September that year, which triggered the global financial crisis.

According to Forbes calculations, Lee's wealth plunged to US$9 billion in 2009 before rebounding to US$18.5 billion in 2010.

Last week, at another company gathering, Lee, famous for giving out investment tips, advised that stocks in Hong Kong would be more profitable than property. The remark upset some of his friends in real estate.

'If your boyfriend gives you HK$10 million and you use it to purchase stocks, the value of the stocks will probably jump to HK$20 million in three years provided that the stock market goes back to its usual situation,' he said. 'But if the HK$10 million is used to invest in properties, you may get an amount slightly above HK$10 million.'

Yesterday, Lee said this personal view was not meant to encourage people to buy Henderson shares. 'I just wanted to share my views with the public,' he said.

'Other developers, and even my company staff, complained to me that my words might discourage home-buying interest,' he said.

They were worried that 'it would affect their sales when they released new projects onto the market. Some of my friends are also unhappy as their girlfriends asked them for cash to buy stocks instead of receiving property as gifts.'

Meanwhile, Lee said Henderson Land, the city's seventh-largest developer in terms of market value, had 68 redevelopment projects in urban areas, which could provide six million square feet of gross floor area over the next five years, and yield 10,000 new flats upon completion.

Lee forecast Hong Kong home prices were unlikely to increase significantly because the government had boosted land supply and was keen to build more public housing.