Li Ka-shing, Hong Kong’s richest man, said he will offer financial support to allow his younger son Richard Li to build businesses outside of the family’s Cheung Kong Group of companies.
Richard Li is in talks with “several sizeable enterprises” for possible acquisitions, the 83-year-old billionaire told reporters in Hong Kong yesterday, without identifying the targets. Li Ka-shing said he has set aside funding for Richard Li that is “multiple times” the son’s current assets.
Li, 19th on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index with a net worth of $21.7 billion, has been nicknamed “Superman” by the local media after expanding Cheung Kong Group in industries including property, ports and energy in more than 50 countries. Richard Li acquired a fund management firm from American International Group Inc. in 2010 and has pursued an independent business career since quitting as a director at his father’s Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. in 2000.
Richard Li’s target companies are in “traditional, long-term” industries, Li Ka-shing said yesterday. The elder Li, chairman of Cheung Kong Holdings Ltd. and Hutchison, said he doesn’t expect he will be competing directly against his son in the future.
Richard Li’s PCCW Ltd., Hong Kong’s biggest phone company, rose in afternoon trading on the city’s stock exchange after Li Ka-shing’s comments, closing up 2.2 percent at HK$2.82, compared with a 0.3 percent gain in the benchmark Hang Seng Index.
Joseph Lo, who represents Richard Li at the Brunswick Group public relations company, declined to comment.
“I will fully support him,” Li Ka-shing said after the shareholders meetings of Cheung Kong and Hutchison yesterday.
Li Ka-shing’s Cheung Kong Group includes Hong Kong-listed Cheung Kong Holdings, the city’s second-biggest property developer, and Hutchison, which is in industries spanning ports, energy, property, retail and telecommunications in 53 countries.
Elder son Victor Li will be running Cheung Kong Holdings and Hutchison in the future, Li Ka-shing said. He said he has no immediate plans to retire.
In March 2010, Richard Li’s Pacific Century Group paid an initial $277 million for PineBridge Investments LLC as AIG sold assets to repay a $182.3 billion U.S. government bailout. As chairman and biggest shareholder at PCCW, he also controls HKT Trust and HKT Ltd., and Pacific Century Premium Developments Ltd.
In 2006, an investment group that included Li Ka-shing failed to buy control of PCCW after Richard Li learned of his father’s involvement in the bid.
Li Ka-shing said yesterday he sees “no big problem” in Europe, and expects his companies to sustain their earnings from the region this year.
Hutchison owns retailers Superdrug and Marionnaud, and its 3 Group unit offers mobile-phone services in seven markets in Europe and Australia.
China is expected to post annual economic growth of 7.5 percent this year, Li said. The country is “in control” of its macroeconomic policies, he added.