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Li Ka-shing

Billionaire Li Ka-shing absent from Hutchison annual general meeting owing to illness

The octogenarian Li takes a sick leave, marking his second absence from an annual general meeting since 2013

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 May, 2016, 2:39pm
UPDATED : Friday, 13 May, 2016, 7:38pm

Billionaire Li Ka-shing, 87, was absent from the annual general meeting of his flagship companies CK Hutchison Holdings and Cheung Kong Property on Friday because of an illness.

“The chairman has gastroenteritis. No big problem but he just lost his voice. He will be fine after staying home and resting for several days,“ Victor Li Tzar-kuoi, vice chairman of CK Hutchison said before the firm AGM. Li is the elder son of Li Ka-shing.

“But it is hard to ask (Li Ka-shing) not to work. He will return to the office once he feels slightly better,” he said.

Friday’s absence is the second time “superman” Li has missed his an annual general meeting since he had surgery to remove gallstones in 2013.

Shares of Chueng Kong Property lost 1.5 per cent to close at HK$45.7, and CK Hutchison shares shed 1.13 per cent to HK$91.15 on Friday. The Hang Seng Index ended the session 1 per cent lower at 19,719.

Li Kwok-suen, a fund manager for Philip Capital Management said concerns over Li’s health could pose a short term psychological impact on the group’s share prices.

“As Li is getting older, he will not stay in the company forever,” he said. “Li will know when to step down and be well prepared in terms of the succession plan.”

In 2010, Li Ka-shing laid out what he said was a plan to split his business empire between his two sons so as to ensure no conflict between them.

According to the succession plan, the elder son Victor Li Tzar-kuoi will take the helm of property group Cheung Kong (Holdings) and conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa, now named CK Hutchison and Cheung Kong Property Holdings after the completion of the group’s largest restructuring in May last year.

“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 unveiled the plan at the group’s annual general meeting in 2010.

On Tuesday, the European Commission rejected the proposed £10.25 billion (HK$115.14 billion) acquisition of British mobile network operator O2 by CK Hutchison Holdings, which said that it would consider a legal challenge.

Victor Li said CK Hutchison would wait to see if the UK votes to leave the European Union in the June referendum before deciding on its next move.

The Financial Times’ Brexit poll tracker indicates 46 per cent of voters will opt to stay in the union and 43 per cent are in favour of leaving. The rest are undecided.

Brexit “has political risk” for our potential purchase of O2, Victor Li said.