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  • Dec 22, 2014
  • Updated: 12:59pm

Li Ka-Shing

Often referred to as “Superman” in Hong Kong because of his business prowess, Li Ka-shing is the richest businessman in Asia, and chairs conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa and Cheung Kong Holdings, a property group. Li turned Cheung Kong Industries into a top property group, and Cheung Kong expanded to acquire Hutchison Whampoa in 1979 and Hongkong Electric in 1985. Li is a noted philanthropist and heads a charitable foundation that is a shareholder in Facebook.

NewsHong Kong

Tycoon Li Ka-shing downbeat over Hong Kong’s future

Tycoon warns over competitiveness, Occupy Central and harassment of mainland tourists

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 February, 2014, 9:38pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 March, 2014, 8:16am


  • Occupy Central: 8%
  • Harassment of mainland tourists: 11%
  • Declining competitiveness: 81%
1 Mar 2014
  • Occupy Central
  • Harassment of mainland tourists
  • Declining competitiveness
Total number of votes recorded: 1,125

Li Ka-shing, Asia's richest man, gave a downbeat assessment of Hong Kong's situation yesterday, warning that the Occupy Central campaign, the harassment of mainland tourists and declining competitiveness with neighbouring markets would erode the city's prospects.

Li also said he was upset about the news that Hong Kong has been replaced by Beijing as the venue for a meeting of Apec finance ministers and central bankers.

"The move to occupy Central does not benefit Hong Kong," he said. "If this happens, it will give a bad impression to outsiders ... even if it just lasts for one hour, it will be harmful to the city."

The campaign wants to stage a sit-in protest in the city's business district this year if electoral changes fail to meet its expectations.

Li spoke at the post-earnings results press conference of his flagship companies - Cheung Kong (Holdings) and Hutchison Whampoa.

Cheung Kong posted a 10 per cent rise in its net profit to HK$35.26 billion for the year ended December last year, and Hutchison Whampoa reported its net profit for the year ended December up 20 per cent to HK$31.11 billion. Both were better than analysts' expectations.

Li said Hong Kong people need to stop complaining about Chinese tourists because they help support the city's economy.

Even if it just lasts for one hour, it will be harmful to the city

"It will be very difficult for Hong Kong if there's no support from China." Li referred to the harassment of mainland tourists during a protest in Kowloon last month in which demonstrators targeted shoppers in Tsim Sha Tsui,

"Stop scolding China tourists, this is totally wrong," he said. Visitor arrivals to Hong Kong from China jumped about 17 per cent to 40.8 million last year, according to the Hong Kong Tourism Board.

In what seen as an unusual move, Li repeatedly expressed sadness about recent happenings in the city.

"I was saddened that Hong Kong has been replaced by Beijing to host the Apec conference. I hope Hong Kong can be recognised by our own country and other countries as the ideal place to host such international meeting," he said.

He was disheartened about the recent brutal attack of former Ming Pao chief editor, Kevin Lau, that sparked off concern over freedom of press in Hong Kong, and upset by the continuous reports criticising that he is pulling out of Hong Kong, despite his repeatedly denials.

Commenting on Hong Kong's competitiveness and opportunities, he said that the city's competitiveness should be strengthened. The gross dometic product of Hong Kong and Singapore were at similar levels in 1997, he said. But now Hong Kong's per capita GDP is now about one-third less than that of Singapore.

Li was ranked the richest man in Asia by Forbes magazine with a net worth of US$32 billion last year. But the ranking could be threatened by Galaxy Entertainment chairman Lui Che-woo, who has ridden Macau's casino boom to become Hong Kong's second-richest person, with a net worth of US$21 billion.

Li said that in a period of at least 10 years in the past, foreign magazines, which he did not identify, had underestimated his wealth by more than 40 per cent because they did not regard Canada's Husky Energy as one of his assets.

"Actually I am the biggest shareholder in Husky, slightly more than Hutchison. That's a personal investment. But I don't bother to point out," he said.

Li also reiterated he had no plan to retire.



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This article is now closed to comments

Dai Muff
In my company many of the older staff have got more passion than many of the young ones, who seem to think the world owes them a living. Recruiting is a nightmare. Sitting on Facebook all day is not what I pay you for.
If Mr Li was so concerned about competitiveness, how about he pay his workers better wages at the port so that they do not strike. How about he stop jamming other operator networks than 3 in his HQ building. How about he build affordable properties for locals, both commercial and residential. And how about he condemn the corruption, cronyism, cartel behavior and anti competitive practices that prevents new entrants.
Oh man, yeah, look at what happened to New York after Occupy Wall Street. That city is completely in the doldrums now. Like, totally.

If Mr Li thinks Hong Kong is no good anymore for his exploitative business plays, then please, please let him sell his interests here as soon as possible to some actually competent companies. Perhaps we can then finally have quality supermarkets, pay dock workers a decent wage, and less overpriced shoeboxes to live in. Good riddance.
Everything this heartless billionnaire says about Hong Kong has some self interested motive.
All he and the other tycoons are interested in is money and most would not lift a finger to protect the ordinary people's freedoms and civil liberties; after all, to Li and his friends these are things to be bought and to those who cannot afford them: tough luck.
For 20 years the Shippers Council has complained about the annual hike of terminal charges. The terminals blamed wage increase as a major factor of skyrocketing operation costs.
Then Hong Kong has just recently found out ...vow....the dockers were still earning 1997 wages in 2012.
Squeezing & sucking the blood of workers and then make a name for himself as a charity donor is not philanthropy. It's more like a spiritual redemption.
As one of the biggest beneficiaries of the mainland visitors, what would you expect Mr. Li to say. I'm sure that many Hongkongers would agree with the comments by impala, if Mr. Li wants people to stop complaining, how about redistributing the wealth a little, pay the dock workers amongst others a decent salary.
About his comments on Occupy Central, even the international business leaders have fully endorsed it. German and American business leaders have clearly stated that they fought for democracy and that Hongkongers who treasure democratic representation should do the same. Of course without violence.
Freedom is not an issue for KS and having a great economy doesn't make a prison cell any more comfortable for someone who's done no more than speak his mind. Even if KS is right about negative impacts of Occupy Central, the price is a small one to pay for a much greater prize.
Who needs you be our moral compass. Why don't you go back and do what you do best: continue to exploit people to build your utopia.
As LKS mentioned ; Why is HK's GDP per capita about a third less than Singapore's. That's because our city's wealth has mostly accrued into the hands of the rich, but the middle class and poor barely scrap through. The top 10 richest tycoons like him or HK's richest one percent are still richer than Singapore's. High rents , high property prices , over dependence on mainland tourist business, and so called free markets economy and low taxes are sure ways to erode our competitiveness. LKS idea of competitiveness and social harmony is for the rich to get richer and the middle class become obedient working slaves; property mortgage slaves.
Mr. Li wants more mainlanders here because they pay lots of $$ for his flats...
you must be on his payroll to write such a naive statement
Sorry to disappoint, master Li. We don't have a built in seat at the table like the masters gave you. You are allowed to participate because you have accepted the Master's hegemony. You have shown that even one who has succeeded as a capitalist can bow down to worship the communists. You are the favorite type of slave for the masters because all you want is money and giving money to make people give up freedom is the favorite means of the masters. The rest of us are not rich slaves and will not be allowed to be rich slaves under the masters' program, so perhaps we need to take care of ourselves a bit more and rely on the largesse of princelings a bit less. But thanks for caring so much.
The problem with HK is old oligopolistic people old men like him. He did not seem to be concerned about competition when HSBC sold him Hutchison out of receivership at a knock down price behind closed doors. 35 years ago. And don't mention his conviction for culpable insider dealing in 1985 please.
LKS was answering reporters' questions. He did not volunteer his "moral compass" and for those who thinks he sucks blood, what about the thousands of jobs he created for this city? People who contribute little, expect much; do little, talk much. Many commentators herein sit on their backsides everyday and offer their unsolicited opinions because in the real world no one listens to them. When was the last time they did something truly positive for Hong Kong?
He is right that hk is not competitive any more. Since 1997, with so called all the backing from china bring in biz, yet our GDP per capital is much behind singapore which does not enjoy the china boom as much. But he didn't point out one of reasons for lost of competitiveness was due to high property price and rent that was partly caused by developers like him with the government together. Hk facing tremendous problems with aging population and not moving towards knowledge based economy at all. We still have less universities seating by % vs singapore and developed countries! what make it worst is the hi end graduate students are 70 to 80% non HK student won't stay after study. Even Li, he is actively invest in the Valley and Israel in hi tech as there is no tech in hk. As said, we don't have a local startup IPO in hk of sizeable for 10 to 20 years? No new blood.
LKS hits right on the nail when he said HK needs to streghthen its competitiveness. In part, it has to do with management cultures. For example, maintenance has never been a strong suit with Chinese management culture. Take toilet maintenance, one can immediately notice the difference between that of HK Land and IFC. Services is another area for comparison. Here, even LKS's own companies are lacking in many ways. Chinese are good at building things, but, when it comes to maintenance, it has been a problem for a long time, perhaps too long!
Must I? Or have I stated the truth that offended those people as described? Do look once more at your finger-pointing comment and decide what "naive" means. Your bullying don't scare me.
He makes his money through hardworking so he desrves the reap of his sow. You can do that too,
Most of what you said echoes my sentiments as well. However. over the past year the container terminal dispute and rumours of him selling his interests in Parknshop and Watson's have taken their toll. His aide, FOK did the group no favours by denouncing others. LKS also seems to have fallen out of favour with Beijing especially after the last CE election. While I believe he still speaks from the heart its likely he will be a diminishing force.
Oh it's him again. Everytime he opens his big mouth people roll out the red carpet. Yawn.
I have a lot of respect for "uncle Li Ka Shing," I have to disclose that I am an investor who has made a lot of money owning shares in his companies. I don't agree with most his harshest critics here as he made a lot of money for middle class investors, unlike his youngest son whose shares are just about worthless while Richard is now a billionaire. Li Ka Shing truly means well. He could have pulled up stakes and moved out of the territory in 1997 and made a fortune cashing in on the boom before 1997 and then taken his money elsewhere to make more money such as on the underpriced (at the time) Canadian oil sands . The mainland investors haven't faired as well. This time he is "cashing in during the boom". Why now? To me, he is a canary in the coal mine. Something is amiss. I'm just a "main street" investor, the kind who took a beating while Wall Street made out well. He is sending us main street investors a warning. I wish his son, Richard prior to the tech bust in Hong Kong's failed Cyber Port debacle. Whether or not I need to sell his shares, depends on how well thought out his future plans are and how good an investor his son Victor is, i.e. where is he going to put his money if indeed he does cash in? I don't trust Richard, but I still haven't made up my mind about Victor, whether or not he shares his father's sincere commitment to us shareholders whom he as looked out for for so many years.
Since when did Li Ka shing care about journalists? The media is just another outlet for him to better market his properties for sale. Nothing more.
One more key factor. What made hk successful was the hungry baby boomer. The new generation is nothing close at all to the level of intensity. So, a "company" with aging and less passionate workers, what do you expect to happen?
Dai Muff
Look at how fast some of the mainland's architectural showpieces are allowed to fall apart. In Guangzhou and in Beijing.
He means he is downbeat about HIS future in Hong Kong - having so publicly bet on the wrong CE candidate!
"Actually I am the biggest shareholder in Husky, slightly more than Hutchison. That's a personal investment. But I don't bother to point out," he said.
I think he just pointed it out for us...
It's easy for him to urge ordinary HK residents to embrace China and accept the status quo when he benefits tremendously from it.
Dai Muff
He makes his money through others' hard work. Big difference.
Dai Muff
For political reasons, our leaders want us to be ever more beholden to the mainland and so they do not want to encourage us to be competitive but to "go do business on the mainland".
It really is not brain surgery.
The BIG joke is that 'no one should worry about China's GDP growth, because in fifty years or sooner, everything will have to be rebuilt again'!
Does he now..he made his money through buying Hutchison with no other bidders from HSBC, Joe Studwell's book makes statements concerning the circumstances which did not give rise to those mentioned suing him.
You seem to think you are in the position to criticize someone who is totally out of your league. Rather than putting what lks said in perspective, you rather do one of your attack on the rich rather than thinking hard about how lack of competitiveness as a whole we are as a populace. blaming get us not nowhere and it's people like that you that make me think hard about migrating.
GDP per capita has not fallen against Singapore in PPP terms. Add in the 1.2 million new residents and SGD strength.
Whatever these group of wealthier developed made in hk can't be reverted as the property interest group is getting bigeye and bigger like a cartel. But these is eroding competitiveness of hk on an ongoing basis. The only thing I think is possible for them to reinvest back to hk is use their earned money to invest to a tech foundation, like what Silicon Valley did when all tech leaders pour the money back on a personal level via venture capital to the economy to create more new startups. I would ask to he local universities ( but please build something real not just publish paper, don't make a electric car prototype but build a Tesla!) and these wealthy group to build a huge, I meant a huge, Vc or fund to invest on oh tech. This is the only way out for hk as we are too expensive to develop or rely on low margin biz like tourism. Don't say hk is too small for tech, look at Israel and Finland. In US, not just Silicon Valley, now even New York, and many cities are doing tech. Rather than giving charity, I would ask Mr. li heavily to donate or invest in local tech foundation. Or maybe he can start a Li Tech Foundation or, Developers Tech Foundation, as he is familiar with tech investing in FB, Spotify, etc. these investment or charity will be the way out for hk to redistribute the wealth to create something new and money making and sustainable to increase the hk competences long term. In the end, they all benefit and we all benefit as well.
If you look at Japan, u think they are in trouble you will be seeing hk getting even worst. Why? Japan was in trouble because of aging population similar to hk. But at least Japan has much more world brand and technology than hk before aging. HK financial can be easily overtake by shanhai. It is a matter of time. Say 10 years later when we are aging, with no tech, loosing market to SHANGHAI when yuan starting to float...imagine what will that be?
This is the man who never speak out unless the interests of his country is threatened or the common wellness of his countrymen.
HWL touched 143 dollars 15 years ago and is now.....you checked the price recently ? you made money out of his USD 20 billion telecoms fiasco...?
Makes sense. When I lived in Vermont Husky came in and promised the world and damaged the environment in Northern Vermont and people could no longer afford to live in the area because of sprawl and price increases.The state bought into the money flashed in front of them and it changed the local landscape for the worse. Please move to Vermont.
just turn to the sports section. another international event not supported by the HK government, maybe CY prefers another local soccer tournament. HK current leadership and their decisions are turning Asia's World City into a small provincial city of China.
Sure he does! And all his employees working for minimum wage are well treated and aren't being exploited at all.
Please find those "competent companies" for HK
if you can't find any, you should start one yourself
the world's democratic masses would welcome you
as a latter day marxist
Mr Li,
With all due respect, would you mind commuting on the MTR on a Friday at 6pm, and then update us about your thinking again?
Everyone knows that Occupy Central does no good to Hong Kong.
However, but for the unfair electoral systems, the campaign would not have launched and supported by the local. They have no alternative but to do so.
Z.O.Z... If HK been over 50-y the rule of law of CN active, valid, it’s will scare me, because 1.3 milliard people has not Norms and values apply, not Modern society, they must learn so much of everything in this whole society; community of their daily life, but there mind are so naïf, so arrogant, superior, haughty, presumptuous, supercilious, high-handed, condescending, overbearing, stuck-up, self-satisfied,pedantic how can u be adjust, fix, repair, tune them in this whole Society community of the life? CN must leave HK in a freedom of his own sister city. Because HK will help u (CN) change in to positive way of future, not in reversed order. (did CN know how we here EU-people talk about CN? It’s not nice to hear this!). HK fight for u self, used the contract, make it permanent, do it now, the rest will come later… freedom of speech…
Morning Mr. Li, Nice to read u news, and let me see u do care about HK. I don’t care how rich u are, but if u can help HK, do it than … (Li also said he was upset about the news that Hong Kong has been replaced by Beijing as the venue for a meeting of Apec finance ministers and central bankers.) So do I, if everything leaves HK and go to Beijing, it’s will change a lot of things for HK… Why is HK not Central of a general meeting (Azie)? Why is HK not the central bridge of the business of Azie? Why HK don’t make the 50-year contract in to permanent, immovable, immutable with indeterminate conditions, circumstances with the Law of the system, One land, two systems? I like the Law of Brits, Engels, not CN, they are more humanity, like us EU, has freedom of speech, freedom of human right, that is important to help the future. freedom of speech... Z.O.Z...
I urge you to look at the IMF and World Bank figures to check the facts according to nominal and PPP terms. It is even higher than at nominal levels. HK's population 20 years ago was about 5.5 million. Singapore's about 3 million. Yes the gap in absolute numbers has narrowed from 2.5 million (current HK population - 7.1 million) to about 1.8million (current Singapore population - 5.3 million. Yet in terms of per capita levels, at both nominal and PPP, Singapore's GDP per capita has increased! What do these mean? It means higher growth and productivity levels in the Lion City. Simple as that
You are stupid. Period.
But at least I irritated you. Now run along, you have Princeling boots to lick, lackey.
@dai muff: we blocked FB at our office....easy to do. We had folks sitting on this and watching movies until we blocked both.
You are not only naive but blind perhaps by your anger. He did more charity than we ever did in our entire lives. The city is blinded with anger and rather than questioning ourselves, we keep finding someone to blame. We deserve to lose to the lion city, not because of lks but because we have too Many people who are still locked in their dreams while the world passes us by. Hkers are normally the last people I like to hire not bc of any bias but their standards and attitudes are simply appalling compared to PRC Chinese and many other elites feel the same. But it seems like honesty is the last thing required in this city with everyone encouraging each other to hate the rich, be discriminating towards mainland Chinese and basically silence everyone who speaks the truth.
You are not only naive but stupidly blinded. What bullying is there? You are the real bully.
Oh yes, you spoke like you are actually smarter than he is and can run a business much better than him. If, please shut up and not make a fool of yourself. Mr Li is a proven genius at least as a asset trader and you are really not qualified to make such comments unless you are soros or buffet.


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