Wealth management

Li Ka-shing got US$5.7b​ ​richer last year, and is still Hong Kong’s richest person

The 50 richest people in Hong Kong saw their combined wealth rise by 24 per cent to US$307 billion in 2017, according to the 2018 Forbes Hong Kong Rich List

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 January, 2018, 12:11pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 January, 2018, 11:27pm

Billionaire Li Ka-shing has retained his crown as the richest man in Hong Kong, even as Lee Shau-kee narrowed the gap by becoming one of the top wealth gainers last year, according to the 2018 Forbes Hong Kong Rich List announced on Thursday.

The 50 individuals on the list saw their combined wealth rise by 24 per cent in 2017 to US$307 billion, up US$60 billion during the year, reflecting the biggest one-year wealth change ever recorded for a Forbes Asia 50 Rich List. The combined wealth figure nearly matches the size of Hong Kong’s economy, with annual GDP totalling US$319.7 billion in 2016.

The gains were driven by the melt up rally in the stock market, as the Hang Seng Index rocketed 36 per cent last year, to rank as the world’s best performing major market, while the local property market also rose to a record.

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The rankings reflect the 20th consecutive year Li Ka-shing, 89, has topped the tables as Hong Kong’s richest man. His personal wealth increased by US$5.7 billion for the year, raising his personal fortune to more than US$36 billion.

Known in Hong Kong public as “Superman Li” for his ability to build empires out of ordinary businesses, last year Li sold The Center in Central for HK$40.2 billion (US$5.14 billion) to a consortium of investors in what could be the world’s most expensive property transaction.

His investments in stocks and start-ups also performed well. Razer, a gaming hardware maker backed by Li, was one of the most sought after initial public offerings in Hong Kong in 2017. The company’s share price shot up 18 per cent in its trading debut in November.

However, this year’s biggest gainer in dollar terms was Hong Kong tycoon Lee Shau-kee, who ranked No 2 on the list with a personal fortune of US$32.9 billion. Lee’s net worth increased US$9.3 billion over the past year, a rise of 40 per cent from 2016.

Lee benefited from share-price gains in his flagship company Henderson Land Development as well as holdings in Ping An Insurance and Country Garden, the biggest property developer on the Chinese mainland.

Country Garden’s shares rose 208 per cent in 2017, becoming the second-best performing Hong Kong blue chip, while Ping An Insurance ranked as the biggest winner on the H-share index with a 109.7 per cent return for the year.

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Joseph Tsai Chung-hsin, the executive vice-chairman and co-founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding, ranked ninth with a personal fortune of US$10.4 billion, reflecting a wealth increases of 93 per cent. Tsai, who is also chairman of the South China Morning Post board of directors, owns a 2.5 per cent stake in Alibaba. Alibaba is the owner of the South China Morning Post.

Pollyanna Chu Li Yuet-wah, Hong Kong’s richest women, ranked seventh on the list with a personal fortune of US$12 billion. Chu saw her net worth jump 150 per cent thanks to share price gains in Kingston Financial Group, which she founded in 1992 with her husband Nicholas Chu.

Other notable gainers include former Hong Kong chief executive Tung Chee-hwa and his brother Chee Chen. The two sold their stakes in family business Orient Overseas to China’s state-owned shipping company Cosco. Their combined wealth increased by 73 per cent to US$5.1 billion, to rank 17th on the Hong Kong rich list.

Hong Kong’s top 10 richest individuals, according to Forbes

1) Li Ka-shing; US$36 billion

2) Lee Shau-kee; US$32.9 billion

3) Lui Che-woo; US$19 billion

4) Thomas and Raymond Kwok; US$17.8 billion

5) Joseph Lau Luen-hung; US$17 billion

6) Peter Woo Kwong-ching; US$13 billion

7) Pollyanna Chu Li Yuet-wah; US$12 billion

8) Yeung Kin-man and Lam Wai-ying; US$11.1 billion

9) Joseph Tsai Chung-hsin; US$10.4 billion

10) Walter Kwok Ping-sheung; US$8.7 billion