Li Ka-shing says firms will be profitable with or without him

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 May, 2013, 7:16pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 May, 2013, 12:20am

Asia’s richest man Li Ka-shing said on Tuesday that even if he retired now, business at his companies would continue to do well.

Li, 84, was speaking at an annual general meeting of his Cheung Kong conglomerate. A Cheung Kong company and another firm that is part of his other conglomerate Hutchison-Whampoa have been dogged with controversy recently.

Last week, Cheung Kong cancelled the sales of hotel suites at the Apex Horizon development after the SFC launched an investigation into the transactions over concerns the project might constitute a collective investment, which therefore should have obtained prior approval from the watchdog before proceeding with sales.

Business at the Kwai Tsing Container Terminals, managed by a subsidiary of Hutchison Whampoa, dropped about 10 per cent year on year in April as hundreds of dock workers went on strike to press for a pay rise and better working conditions.

At the meeting, a shareholder asked about the management philosophy Li used to govern his vast business empire, which includes, in addition to ports and hotels, telecoms, supermarkets and property development.

Li told told the shareholder there was no need to worry about his management philosophy, and then assured shareholders that even if he were to retire right now his companies would continue to do well.

“Unless there are uncontrollable factors, such as politics and wars … [they] should fare well,” the billionaire said.

Li did not hold a press conference after Monday’s general meeting, which he normally does.

As well, shareholders said they were not allowed to freely ask questions at Tuesday’s meeting as they had in the past. Shareholder questions to the tycoon had to be submitted in writing and those deemed acceptable by his management team were read aloud by the event’s hosts.

A video taken by a shareholder and broadcast on local television showed one participant, who appeared to be an activist, asking if Li would continue to exploit his employees. He was immediately escorted out of the room by security guards.