Asia’s Richest Man Li Sees Clearer Europe Recovery, Caixin Says

Li Ka-shing, Asia’s richest man, said he sees a clearer economic recovery in Europe and expects rising earnings from the region for his companies, Caixin reported.

Li said his companies are doing “quite well” in Sweden, Denmark, Austria, the Netherlands and Belgium, the Chinese news provider reported. Earnings this year from Europe will surpass last year, the 85-year-old said, according to Caixin.

Confidence in Europe is rising with the European Commission predicting that the region will return to growth this year after contracting in 2013. Li’s Hutchison Whampoa Ltd., with interests in telecommunications, ports and retail, last week reported a 20 percent profit gain helped by an expansion of its mobile-phone business in Europe.

“The signs of economic recovery in Europe are becoming clearer,” Li said in the interview. Hutchison’s “earnings from Europe in 2013 were higher than 2012, and I believe the contributions in 2014 will be higher.”

Europe in 2013 contributed 37 percent of the pretax profit of Hutchison Whampoa, which operates telecommunication services in six European countries.

Hutchison Whampoa rose 1.0 percent to HK$111.80 as of 2:30 p.m. Hong Kong time, bringing its gains this year to 6.1 percent. That compares with the 2.6 percent decline in the benchmark Hang Seng Index.

Li said he prefers to invest in the U.K. rather than France, as taxation is lower and the economy is stronger.

Hong Kong

Li said his companies will continue to use Hong Kong as the base, according to Caixin. Still, government policies in the city frequently require time to “digest,” leading to a slower pace of investment, the publication reported Li as saying.

Hong Kong needs to “seriously” cooperate with Guangdong province, which is next to the former British colony, as Shanghai develops its free-trade zone, Li said. The development in Shanghai will also benefit Hong Kong, he said, according to the publication.

The city needs to reform the education system and invest in training to help improve its competitiveness, he said. Li said he doesn’t mind an increase in the corporate tax rate, say of 0.5 percentage point, if the government revenue is invested in education, according to Caixin.

Li has a net worth of $30.1 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

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