Li Ka-shing

Li Ka-shing, Hong Kong’s richest man, rejects retirement claims

Hong Kong’s best known business figure, who turns 89 in July, ‘will make his official announcement when he decides to retire’, says Cheung Kong Group

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 June, 2017, 1:29pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 June, 2017, 11:30pm

Billionaire Li Ka-shing, for decades one of the world’s wealthiest tycoons, “has no concrete timetable” to retire from his global conglomerate CK Hutchison Holdings, the group said in a statement on Tuesday.

The company was responding to a report in the Wall Street Journal suggesting Li has told associates he plans to step down as chairman of the organisation by next year.

Li, who turns 89 in July, hasn’t given a specific date but is likely to step down by his 90th birthday, the report said, according to people briefed by the tycoon.

One of them, the WSJ added, said Li has already told his inner coterie of advisers, including son and deputy chairman Victor Li, who is earmarked as his successor.

Another person said the elder Li, known for his trademark horn-rimmed glasses and an iron grip on his companies, could step down by year-end.

“Mr Li has from time to time talked about his retirement and his confidence in Victor to lead the company. Mr Li is in very good health,” the group said in a statement in response to the WSJ report.

“There is no concrete timetable at this stage and Mr Li will make his official announcement when he decides to retire.”

Solina Chau Hoi-shuen, director of the Li Ka-shing Foundation, posted a picture of the elder Li on her Wechat account at about 4pm. She wrote on the post: “Lots of reporters gathered at the ground floor. Don’t know who made such report without basis and give Mr Li a retirement timetable: Mr Li only reacted with a smile to the report and said ‘thanks for everyone concern.’”

With a fortune of US$33 billion, according to Forbes, Li is ranked as the richest man in Hong Kong. He has lately been jostling for position as Asia’s richest person with Jack Ma of Alibaba Group Holding, and property magnate Wang Jianlin of Dalian Wanda Group.

Alvin Cheung Chi-wai, associate director of Prudential Brokerage, said the rumours would not have any significant impact on the share prices of Li-controlled companies as the succession plan has been well telegraphed to the market.

In Hong Kong trade on Tuesday, shares of CK Hutchison eased 0.2 per cent to close at HK$98.5, while CK Property rose 0.7 per cent to HK$61.85.

Last month, Li said at the group’s annual general meeting that he could retire anytime.

“Victor will take up my position, while all the other directors will continue performing their roles. Whether I stay or retire will have no impact as we are a mature company.”

At a media briefing announcing CK Hutchision and CK Property’s 2016 full year result in March, he said “If a person is going to be 90 next year, it will be silly if there is no preparation at all.”

Cheung said now is a good time for the elder Li to give a timetable for his retirement as it will give time for the market to digest the news.