Hutchison Whampoa, one of Hong Kong’s largest listed companies, is controlled by Cheung Kong Group, a property company. Hutchison's operations span ports, property and hotels, retailing, power generation and telecommunications. It owns Cheung Kong Infrastructure, and is headed by Li Ka-shing, Asia’s wealthiest man.
Doing business with former LDC 'painful' experience: Li
Cheung Kong No 2 Victor Li Tzar-kuoi has described business dealings with the former Lands Development Corporation as a “painful experience”.
The corporation, predecessor of Urban Renewal Authority, was a “half-governmental institute” which carried out its work in a “rather high-handed” fashion with staff who were “not the most courteous” people he had met, Li told the Court of First Instance.
He was giving evidence in defence of an HK$23 million claim by the authority over their joint venture to build The Center in Central, initial dealings for which were with the corporation.
The authority says Cheung Kong owes it the money for the resumption, or buying back of the land on which The Center, a 346-metre steel skyscraper in Central, was built.
Cheung Kong contends that at a meeting in May 2000 between Li, corporation chief executive Abraham Razack and chairman Lau Wah-sum it was released from any further payment after stumping up the balance of a guaranteed HK$1.9 billion profit.
In court on Friday Li also gave the public a glimpse of his business practice.
He said many would assume he had “absolute authority” to make business deals because he was the son of Hong Kong’s richest man, Cheung Kong chairman Li Ka-shing. As a result, he would ask those he was dealing with whether they had authority to negotiate.
“It has been my habit in the past 25 or 30 years that when someone believes that I have the authority, I will ask him back whether he has the authority,” Li said.
“There is no need for us to talk if he doesn’t have the authority.”
Li said he might not be able to remember every detail of a business deal but he usually would have a good recollection of the “hand-shaking moments”.
Speaking of the May 27 meeting between him, Razack and Lau, Li said he remembered clearly that he confirmed with the two that they had authority to settle the matter before they struck the deal.
He said that as Lau was a traditional Chinese man, they referred in the meeting to the Chinese saying “no delays, no owing and no more money dealings” in settling the matter.
Li said he remembered the meeting clearly because he shook hands with Lau.
“For dealings that involve an international element, we usually shake our hands briefly, like two times. But it was a traditional Chinese-style handshaking with Lau. We shook hands many times,” Li said.
Li said many staff of the former corporation did not show respect for their seniors because it was difficult for supervisors to fire a subordinate, unlike the situation in a private company.
He also particularly attributed his headache to one Marina Lo of the corporation, who he said was “famous” within Cheung Kong and corporation for having “selective memory” and for creating problems and disputes.
Li said she would disregard decisions if she was not involved in the decision-making process and did not agree with the result.
He avoided having dealings with her and preferred to discuss business matters with her superiors, Razack and Lau.