Li Ka-shing, Hong Kong’s No. 1 tycoon, is tipped to announce his retirement as soon as Friday this week. He is widely known as a superman because of his outstanding business achievements and many will be watching closely to see if he does stand down.
Li, who will turn 90 in June, has been the chairman of CK Assets, formerly known as Cheung Kong Holdings, since 1971 and CK Hutchison Holdings, formerly called Hutchison Whampoa, and his sprawling conglomerate ranges from ports to telecom to retail and has a presence in more than 50 countries.
Li’s retirement was first reported last June by the Wall Street Journal, which said Li plans to step down and pass the baton to eldest son Victor Li Tzar-kuoi, who joined Cheung Kong in 1985.
Li is being tight-lipped, but he did speak to a reporter outside his residence on Monday and said it would be dumb for him to comment at the moment.
Speculation has mounted about Li’s retirement with his four flagship companies, which includes CK Infrastructure and Power Assets, due to announce their annual results on Friday. This will be the first time the four companies have announced their results on the same day.
There is speculation that some other important news will be announced, especially because it’s being done on a Friday, which is widely known as the laundry day for negative news in Hong Kong.
However, there is also a school of thought that news of his retirement may be put on hold after China scrapped the term limits of President and Vice President last Sunday.
It is believed Li would not want his retirement to be associated with the changes in leadership terms in China, which might be interpreted in a politically incorrect way.
Li’s retirement has always been a contentious issue because over the years he has won the support of loyal shareholders. With the exception of the last two years, when the Hong Kong stock market has been dominated by mainland technology and financial companies, Li’s companies were always the spotlight of the market, as measured by the stock code: CK Hutchison has the No. 1 stock code.
As of Monday, CK Hutchison had market capitalization of an auspicious HK$383.8 billion (US$49.3 billion), while CK Asset had HK$253.3 billion. Li was listed with a net worth of $35 billion as of Monday, making him the richest man in Hong Kong, but not China, where Pony Ma ($50 billion) of Tencent Holdings and Jack Ma ($41 billion) of Alibaba Group dominated.
The market is looking for clues about what will happen to Hutchison House, the headquarters of Hutchison Whampoa, which Li took control of in what was the most important take-over of his career back in 1979.
Hutchison had approval from the Building Department in 1998 to erect a 47-story building next to Murray Building, which broke the world record for the most expensive piece of land when Henderson Land bought it through tender for $3 billion last May.
Many will be watching closely on Friday to see if Hong Kong’s most successful businessman decides to call it quits.