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Li Ka-shing

Analysts take Li Ka-shing's silence on results in their stride

Experts unruffled by scrapping of Li Ka-shing's results press conference

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 August, 2013, 4:52am

Li Ka-shing's decision to end two decades of media briefings on the interim results of his flagship firms, Hutchison Whampoa and Cheung Kong, sparked a frenzy of speculation among journalists.

It has, however, been dismissed as largely irrelevant by the professional analysts who scrutinise his businesses.

Hongkongers who used to look to Li, chairman of both companies, for advice on topics from property prices to politics will be disappointed that the billionaire known as Superman shunned the television cameras. They would hang on his every word at news conferences in the past.

 

"It's not a problem for me - unless they cancel the analysts' meeting as well," Standard Chartered analyst John Chan said. "I understand that people are accustomed to hearing his views on everything, but I'd rather the company's executives focused on their business."

The conglomerate's departure from usual practice was intended to shield Li from critical media questions about politics and controversial developments in the firms' businesses in recent months, said Cheung Chor-yung, a political scientist at City University.

At past news conferences after interim or annual results, Li would answer questions like, "Is it the right time to buy a flat?" and "How would you evaluate the performance of the chief executive", and even personal ones like "How much money have you given your younger son?" or "What do you teach your grandchildren about Chinese history?"

When confronted with a sensitive question, he would tactfully avoid it by stopping for a while, appearing to be perplexed, or waiting for his elder son, Victor Li Tzar-kuoi, to rescue him.

Victor Li, deputy chairman of both firms, chaired the Cheung Kong analysts' meeting yesterday, while Canning Fok Kin-ning, managing director of Hutchison, chaired Hutchison's.

Victor Li appears to be more blunt than his father. Though less media-friendly, he does try to be witty in his encounters with the press.

Where Li Ka-shing comes across as grandfatherly, Fok, his right-hand man, is more business-like, fond of down-to-earth language and seen by some as a manager with an iron fist.

When dock workers went on strike in April and May, causing an estimated HK$5 million per day in losses to Hutchison, Fok slammed unionist lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan for making use of the workers and spouting "Cultural Revolution-like" criticism of the firm's management.

Supporters of the strikers boycotted ParknShop, Hutchison's supermarket chain. Last month, Hutchison said the unit, which operates 345 shops in China, was up for sale.

 

 

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