Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings

Recovery 'not far away' says bullish Li Ka-shing

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 March, 2009, 12:00am

Tycoon Li Ka-shing, Hong Kong's richest man, has vouched for the local economy and expressed confidence in the stock and property markets despite the uncertain global outlook.

Mr Li, who is known for his perennially bullish comments, said there had been recent signs of improvement in the economy.

'Recently, the property market has improved a bit, there have been more orders for durable goods, and stock markets have gone up in the past two weeks,' Mr Li said.

'If the US economy remains stable, there will be a positive reaction around the world.'

The need to replenish low inventories in the US and EU would boost exports from the mainland next month and in May, he said.

Mr Li said he expected a recovery 'will not be too far away' given efforts to kick-start the stalled US economy and help banks clear up toxic assets. Hong Kong would also benefit from the mainland, which would be the first to emerge from the global downturn, he said.

'Hong Kong needs to be strong,' he said. 'Don't waste energy on unconstructive things for Hong Kong. For Hong Kong, the most important thing is that we have the support of our mother country. The individual visit scheme from the mainland has contributed greatly to Hong Kong. Whatever our country can do for us, they have done so.

'China will be the fastest to recover among all countries. I expect a recovery will not be too far away ... we should hope for the best and prepare for the worst. But the situation should not be too bad.'

Repeating comments he made last year, the billionaire cautioned against spending beyond one's means but remained buoyant on his companies as investments. During the stock market boom last year, Mr Li urged people not to borrow funds for investments.

'I am the chairman and largest shareholder of Cheung Kong and Hutchison. I put a lot of time and effort into these companies and yet only draw an annual salary of HK$5,000. I think this signifies whether I have confidence in these two companies. I don't need to do any selling job,' he said.

'I won't comment on short-term speculation. But if you have extra money, buying Cheung Kong and Hutchison shares should be good.'

Asked about layoff plans, Mr Li offered no guarantees. He said it was difficult to say whether the jobless rate would worsen to 8 per cent.

'We operate in 54 countries with over 23,800 staff in many different businesses. There is no guarantee that there will be no redundancies in all these different businesses,' he said.

'I can only say right now, at this very minute, that we have no immediate layoff plans. However, circumstances may change.'

Mr Li maintained that he was very happy and did not feel fatigued despite getting up at about 4am, playing golf, going to work and attending an evening cocktail gathering.