Li Ka-shing

By Nov 22, 2015
Li Ka-shing
Li Ka-shing
Born: 29 July 1928 (age 87) Chaozhou, Guangdong, China
Citizenship: Canada
Hong Kong
Occupation: Chairman of CK Hutchison Holdings
Chairman of CK Property Holdings
Chairman of Li Ka Shing Foundation
Net worth: US$33.7 billion (September 2015)
Education: School drop-out
Religion: Buddhism
Spouse(s): Chong Yuet Ming (Deceased)
Children: Victor Li
Richard Li
Awards: Justice of the Peace (1981)
LL.D. (1986)
D. SSc (1995)

Sir Ka-shing Li, GBM, KBE, JP is a Hong Kong business magnate, investor, and philanthropist. According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, as of 16 April 2014 he is the richest person in Asia, with a net worth of $31.9 billion. He is the chairman of the board of CK Hutchison Holdings as of 2015; through it, he is the world's largest operator of container terminals and the world's largest health and beauty retailer.

Considered one of the most powerful figures in Asia, Li was named "Asia's Most Powerful Man, Li Ka-Shing" by Asiaweek in 2001[citation needed]. His companies make up 15% of the market capitalisation of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Forbes Magazine and the Forbes family honoured Li Ka-shing with the first ever "Malcolm S. Forbes Lifetime Achievement Award" on 5 September 2006, in Singapore. In spite of his wealth, Li has cultivated a reputation for leading a no-frills lifestyle, and is known to wear simple black dress shoes and an inexpensive Seiko wristwatch. He owns a house in one of Hong Kong's most expensive districts, Deep Water Bay in Hong Kong Island. Li is also regarded as one of Asia's most generous philanthropists, donating over US$2.18 billion as of August 2015 to charity and other various philanthropic causes. Li is often referred to as "Superman" in Hong Kong because of his business prowess. Because of his wealth, he is regarded as a celebrity, and even has a wax statue in his likeness (the only non-artist to have one in Hong Kong).

Li Ka-shing was born in Chaozhou in Guangdong province, China, in 1928 to Teochew people. Due to his father's death, he was forced to leave school before the age of 15 and found a job in a plastics trading company where he worked 16 hours a day. In 1950 he started his own company, Cheung Kong Industries. From manufacturing plastics, Li developed his company into a leading real estate investment company in Hong Kong that was listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 1972. Cheung Kong expanded by acquiring Hutchison Whampoa and Hongkong Electric Holdings Limited in 1979 and 1985 respectively.

Business career

Li's businesses cover almost every facet of life in Hong Kong, from electricity to telecommunications, from real estate to retail, from shipping to the Internet. The Cheung Kong Group's market capitalisation is HK$647 billion (US$82.9 billion) as of December 2009. (This includes some double counting of the Group's controlling stake in 12 listed companies around the world.) The group operates in 55 countries and employs over 260,000 staff worldwide.

Plastics manufacturing

In 1950, after learning how to operate a plant, Li founded a plastic manufacturing company in Hong Kong with funds borrowed from family and friends and contacts he cultivated as a salesman. Li avidly read trade publications and business news before deciding to supply the world with high quality plastic flowers at low prices. Li learned the technique of mixing colour with plastics that resemble real flowers. After retooling his shop and hiring the best technicians he could find, he prepared for weeks for the plant visit of a large foreign buyer. Impressed with the quality of Li's plant, the buyer placed a large order. A few years later, Li grew to be the largest supplier of plastic flowers in Asia and made a fortune selling them.

Real estate

In 1958, unable to renew the lease for his company, Li was forced to purchase and develop a site by himself. An opportunity to acquire land arrived after the 1967 riots were in full swing when many people fled Hong Kong. As a result, property prices plummeted. Li, believing the political crisis would be temporary, and property prices would eventually rise, bought parcels of land at low prices. By 1971, Li officially named his real estate development company Cheung Kong (長江實業), named after Cheung Kong, (Chang Jiang or the Yangtze River) the longest river in China.

Cheung Kong Holdings was publicly listed in Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 1972. During board meetings, Li stated on a number of occasions his goal of surpassing the Jardines-owned Hongkong Land as a leading developer.

The successful bid by Cheung Kong for development sites above the Central and Admiralty MTR stations in 1977 was the key to challenging Hongkong Land as the premier property developer in Hong Kong. Despite its size, Jardines decided in the 1980s to protect itself from hostile takeover by Li or other outside investors. The company implemented a cross-shareholding structure that was designed to place control in the hands of Britain's Keswick family despite their less than 10% holdings in the group. In 1984, the company also moved its legal domicile from Hong Kong to another British overseas territory – Bermuda, in anticipation of the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong to People's Republic of China in 1997.

Throughout 2014, Li has been selling part of his real estate holdings in China.

Ports and electricity

In 1979, Li closed a unique transaction and acquired his current flagship company Hutchison Whampoa Limited from HSBC. The purchase created a massive conglomerate with business interests in multiple industries. The most notable branch of his business is the investment in container port facilities around the world, including in Hong Kong, Canada (Deltaport in Vancouver), China, the United Kingdom, Rotterdam, Panama, Bahamas and many developing countries. In total, Li's businesses control 13% of all container port capacity in the world.


A subsidiary of Hutchison Whampoa, the A.S. Watson Group (ASW) is a retail operator with over 7,800 stores. Its portfolio encompasses retail brands in Europe such as Superdrug (UK), Marionnaud (France), Kruidvat (Benelux countries), and in Asia including health and beauty retailer Watson's store and wine cellars et al., Park'n'Shop supermarkets (and spin-off brands), and Fortress electrical appliance stores. ASW also produces and distributes water products and beverages in the region.

Asset trader

Hutchison Whampoa group has the reputation of being an astute asset trader. It frequently builds up new businesses and sells them off. Huge profits were obtained in the sale of its interest in Orange to Mannesmann Group in 2001, making a profit of $15.12 billion. In 2006 Li sold 20% of Hutchison's ports business to Singapore rival PSA Corp., making a $3.12 billion profit on a $4 billion deal.

Recently Hutchison Telecommunications, nearly 50 percent owned by Hutchison Whampoa, sold a controlling stake of 67% in Hutchison Essar, a joint venture Mobile operator in India, to Vodafone for $11.1 billion. It had invested roughly $2 billion earlier.

Pyramid structure

Like many Asian conglomerates, the Li Ka-shing group[clarification needed] is structured to retain disproportionate control without incurring the cost of owning an equivalent economic interest. This separation between control and interest is accomplished through pyramid structure, dual-class equities and cross-holdings.

Internet and technology

Li has also made a foray into the technology business, where his investment and venture capital firm Horizons Ventures is specifically allocated towards backing new internet and technology startup firms, bought a stake in doubleTwist. His other firm, Li Ka Shing Foundation bought a 0.8% stake in social networking website Facebook for $120 million in two separate rounds. and invested an estimated $50 million in music streaming service Spotify.

Some time between late 2009 and early 2010, Li Ka-shing led a $15.5 million Series B round of financing for Siri Inc.

In 2011, Horizons Ventures invested in Summly, a website-summarizing app. Notably, the investment made Nick D'Aloisio, Summly's founder, the world's youngest person to receive a venture capital investment at just fifteen years old.

In 2012, Horizons Ventures invested $2.3 million in Wibbitz, a company that provides a text-to-video technology that can automatically convert any article post or feed on the web into a video in a matter of seconds.

In August 2012, he acquired a stake in Ginger Software Incorporated.

In 2013, Horizons Ventures invested in Bitcoin payment company BitPay.

In February 2015, Horizons Ventures participated in a $30 million Series C funding round in Zoom Video Communications.


Besides business through his flagship companies Cheung Kong Holdings and Hutchison Whampoa, Li Ka-shing also personally has extensively invested in real estate in Singapore and Canada. He was the single largest shareholder of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), the fifth largest bank in Canada until the sale of his share in 2005 (with all proceedings donated, see below). He is also the majority shareholder of a major energy company, Husky Energy, based in Alberta, Canada.

In January 2005, Li announced plans to sell his $1.2 billion CAD stake in the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, with all proceeds going to private charitable foundations established by Li including the Li Ka Shing Foundation in Hong Kong and the Li Ka Shing (Canada) Foundation based in Toronto.

Li has some real estate interest in Vancouver, specifically in connection with Concord Pacific Developments that developed the old Expo '86 lands in Yaletown[citation needed], as well as Concord Park Place and CityPlace, Toronto in Toronto.

Personal life

His two sons, Victor Li and Richard Li, are also prominent figures in the Hong Kong business scene. Victor Li works directly with his father as Managing Director and Deputy Chairman of CK Hutchison Holdings, while Richard Li is the head of PCCW, the largest telecom company in Hong Kong. They are both Canadian citizens.

Li is famously plainly dressed for a Hong Kong tycoon. In the 1990s he wore a $50[clarification needed] timepiece from Citizen Watch Co. and plain ties. He later wore a Seiko.

Li remains physically fit, and says that no matter what time he sleeps at night, he gets up before 6 am each morning to play golf for about an hour and a half. His golfing partner is Hong Kong movie mogul Raymond Chow. Li says that during that time, '...the ninety minutes that I have are mine.' His preferable amount of time for sleep is eight hours. It is also said that he walks on the treadmill for fifteen minutes a day at noon.

Awards and honours

  • Grand Bauhinia Medal
  • Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire
  • Commandeur, Légion d'honneur


On 4 August 2011 at the interim results announcement for Hutchison Whampoa, Li endorsed Tang for the forthcoming chief executive election and praised him for five full minutes. Then Li let slip and said "You all can be just like me, one-person-one-vote." The media then looked at Li in disbelief, and pointed out that regular citizens do not get one-person-one-vote. Li then tried to laugh it off and said "maybe in 2017 they will have one-person-one-vote to choose the chief executive, I probably just said it a little early." Li was, however, criticised by Xinhua for not being unambiguous in his opposition to the Umbrella movement protests and his support for Leung. Later, prior to the Legco vote, Li said that the largest threat to Hong Kong's future was if the government failed to ensure passage of the 2014–5 round of political reform.

Li's business empire, while Chine-centric, has presence around the world. Li came under attack from Global Times in early 2015, when his companies put out word that it was considering selling prime Shanghai and Beijing properties. It became apparent that Li aimed at re-weighting his asset portfolio to more stable and transparent markets in the West. Concerted attacks ensued and went into a crescendo as China's economy slowed down dramatically in the second half, and the central government sought a way to stem the capital outflows. Specific reproaches were that his asset disposals were "an act of ingratitude" and "immoral at such a sensitive juncture". Security Times, a People's Daily publication, estimated that Li has sold at least 73.8 billion yuan worth of assets since 2014. Li's holding companies denied divesting in China, saying that its asset disposals were being undertaken in the ordinary course of business. The attacks stopped abruptly several weeks later, when editorials in official publications such as People's Daily, Beijing Youth Daily took a neutral stance in unison.


  • His donation in 1981 resulted in the founding of Shantou University, near his hometown of Chaozhou.
  • Li was invited by Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping to become a member of the board of directors of the China International Trust and Investment Corporation (CITIC) to support the economic reform initiatives that Deng was attempting to develop. CITIC is China's largest conglomerate and is 42 percent owned by the government of China. It serves as the chief investment arm of China's central government and holds ministry status on the Chinese State Council. Li served only one year on CITIC's board before resigning his directorship. He was the non-executive director of The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation since 1980 and became Deputy Chairman of the bank in 1985. He was also Deputy Chairman of HSBC Holdings in 1991–1992.
  • In September 2001, the newest tower in the Hong Kong Polytechnic University was named after Li, following a HK$100 million donation to the University.
  • The Li Ka Shing Centre in Cambridge, England, houses a Cancer Research UK facility, which is a part of the University of Cambridge. The Centre was named after Mr Li following a £5.3 million donation, and was opened in his presence in May 2002. The Li Ka Shing Foundation endowed a professorship of oncology at the university in 2007 with a subsequent gift of £2 million.
  • In November 2002, the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business in China was founded with a large donation from the Li Ka Shing Foundation.
  • The Li Ka Shing Library at the Singapore Management University is also named in his honour after a US$11.5 million donation in 2002 to the higher education institution.
  • After the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake disaster, he reportedly pledged a total of US$3 million.
  • In 2005, Li announced a HK$1 billion (US$128 million) donation to the Faculty of Medicine, University of Hong Kong. It was renamed to Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine on 1 January 2006, which provoked controversy between the university and quite a number of alumni of the faculty, notably Kwok Ka Ki, over the university's naming procedures.
  • Also in 2005, Li donated US$40 million to the University of California, Berkeley, citing that he was impressed with the university's accomplishments in the biosciences. In recognition of Li's donation, the university has named the campus' new biosciences facility the Li Ka Shing Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences, which opened in October 2011.
  • A long-time supporter of Stanford University since the 1980s, Li is the principal benefactor to the US$90 million Li Ka-shing Center for Learning and Knowledge, which opened in Fall 2010 and is now the headquarters for the Stanford University School of Medicine.
  • On 9 March 2007, Li Ka-shing contributed $100 million to the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in the National University of Singapore. Also, "to honour and recognise Dr Li's support and generosity, LKY SPP will name one of its three buildings at the historic Bukit Timah Campus after him".
  • Li Ka-shing donated C$25 million to St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto to found the Li Ka-Shing Knowledge Institute, which will serve as a medical research and education centre in downtown Toronto.
  • Li Ka-shing donated C$25 million to the University of Alberta to found the Li Ka-shing Institute of Virology.
  • Li Ka-shing (through the Li Ka-shing foundation) donated HK$30 million (US$3.85 million) to aid relief efforts in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.
  • In 2013, Li Ka-shing donated US$2 million to the University of California, San Francisco to support their advance precision medicine initiative. The funds will be used to build a worldwide network of clinicians and researchers, launch leadership exchanges between UCSF and China, and create a systems- pharmacology program to develop more precise medications.
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