GONZAGA Li, chairman-designate of Wharf (Holdings), has a genial smile and a very infectious laugh. Mr Li has a lot to be happy about. By 1997 Wharf can expect to have some 6.1 million square feet of redeveloped office and retail space that could kick in more than $1.68 billion, according to rough estimates. This does not include the $900 million expected contribution from Times Square in Causeway Bay from 1995. With a forecast boom in office rents, Wharf is well positioned to take advantage of the rising demand for quality space outside of Central - the traditional focus of potential tenants. ''The rentals are high because of the shortage of supply. This means we will benefit from this. ''Companies are running out of attractive space in Hong Kong. Now Tsim Sha Tsui is being accepted as a major commercial centre,'' said Mr Li. He suggested 70 per cent of group earnings would continue to come from recurring income from the group's property portfolio. After this time the proportions of earnings from the group's different divisions might change as major contributions are expected from cable by this time. The Western Harbour tunnel is due for completion in 1997 and will presumably kick in the same year. Baring Securities indicates Wharf has a portfolio of some nine million sq ft. The new projects over the next three to four years will add in excess of around 3.5 million sq ft, excluding Times Square. Last year was a good year for Wharf, with a major capital raising successfully completed, the launch of the long-awaited cable system, and the opening of Times Square. Debt to assets ratio stands at around 12 per cent; the company's internal limit is 30 per cent. The group is continuing to develop and redevelop its extensive land bank. The attraction of this to investors and the company is that the cost of acquisition is zero - so pay-back periods on projects can be as short as three years. For instance, Mr Li points out that Times Square cost $2.4 billion to build. The expected rental income from the building has been put at $900 million by 1995. Under development is the huge Gateway office and retail complex in Tsim Sha Tsui, a redevelopment of a godown complex near the airport and space next to the Wharf Cable Tower in Tuen Mun. Gateway Phase I in Tsim Sha Tsui will provide the group with 1.1 million sq ft of office space at a cost of $1.2 billion. The complex is expected to produce a recurring income of between $550 million and $600 million in 1995. The complex will be opened in two phases: the first 25 floors will be available from April and the remainder of the 36 floor building will be open in July. Gateway Phase II involves the demolition of the residential complex above Harbour City. Vacant possession comes available from July. Should the site work go flat out, the whole complex could be ready in 30 months. On completion the complex will be made up of three towers with retail space below, and will consist of a total of 2.5 million sq ft at a cost of $2.5 billion. Completion is due in 1996, and retail contribution to Wharf should start in the same year. The full contribution from the office space rented would not be felt until 1997, said Mr Li. Wharf, however, might decide to phase in the office towers as it did with Times Square. In two separate developments Wharf plans to develop a three-tower two million sq ft complex on the site of a 900,000 sq ft Kowloon godown next to the airport. The start of the project, due in early 1995, is largely dependent on the kind of premium the Government is going to want for a change of use to industrial office space, and to increase the height restriction to 25 stories. The other development is in Tuen Mun and involves the redevelopment of 400,000 sq ft of godown next to the Wharf Cable Tower, which consists of 1.4 million sq ft. In Singapore, the group could expect to gain some S$80 million (about HK$385.4 million) from Parc Oasis, although the period in which the money would be booked had yet to be finalised, Mr Li said. In China, Mr Li said the group was undeterred by changes taking place there in terms of the currency, plans for the taxation of property gains and the debate surrounding reform and austerity. Mr Li said the group was a long-term investor in China. The property development projects would roll forward; in fact pre-sales on a development in Wuhan were expected to start this year. But infrastructure projects would not go ahead until the central authorities in Beijing had given their seal of approval, he said.