Hong Kong's richest man Li Ka-shing to retire at 89

CK Hutchison posts higher-than-expected annual profit

Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing, right, chairman of CK Hutchison Holdings company, chats with his son, co-managing director Victor Li, at a press conference to announce the company's annual results in Hong Kong, March 16, 2018.

Li's son, Victor, is 53 years old and has already served as deputy chairman to both companies.

Mr Li has been Hong Kong's wealthiest individual for two decades, with an estimated net worth of 36 billion USA dollars.

He will stay on as an advisor to the group he created, at an annual fee of HK$5,000 - equivalent to USA $637, or about $12.25 a week.

Courted by China's leaders in the years before and after the return of Hong Kong, Li had run into criticism in Beijing of late after a series of sales of his companies' assets in mainland China as part of a restructuring of the businesses.

Li ranked 23rd on the world's rich list by Forbes.

Castor Pang, head of research at Core-Pacific Yamaichi Hong Kong, told Bloomberg News earlier that Li's retirement would "just be an official announcement" of plans that have always been in the works.

He himself has regularly emphasized the hard work as well as his own drive to educate himself after becoming an apprentice in a watch strap factory at the age of 13, shortly before his father died.

Now he controls a business empire spanning the globe, employing almost 300,000 workers in more than 50 countries.

Through his flagship CK Hutchison, Li controls the biggest container port operator in the world, Canadian oil giant Husky Energy Inc, one of Europe's leading telecoms operators, as well as infrastructure assets and a long-time interest in Britain that saw him awarded a knighthood in 2000.

He has also sought to trim his Hong Kong assets and his CK Asset Holdings sold its stake in the Center skyscraper - one of the jewels in the crown of his property portfolio in the city - in November for a record HK$40.2 billion ($5.2 billion).

Li personifies some of the conflicts that came from the region's rise: Dubbed "Superman" by local media for his business acumen, he symbolizes inequality in a city with one of the most lopsided wealth demographics on the planet.

The asset sales drew criticism from China, including in an editorial in the People's Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, that attacked Li for "abandoning his home market and the motherland" as economic growth slowed and uncertainties loomed. He has never been publicly over-critical.

His retirement announcement illustrates his confidence over business continuity, given that he has prepared his son for several decades, Fan said.

"I like to read history very much ... and about my country". He even touched on Chinese politics, saying he would have voted for President Xi Jinping if he was allowed to and that he favored a controversial express rail checkpoint planned to link with mainland China.

"Li's investment is a drop in the ocean compared to the huge size of the Chinese economy", it said. "But personally I don't say things that I shouldn't say".

CK Hutchison shares closed up 0.3 percent on Friday, versus a 0.1 percent fall in the benchmark Hang Seng index.

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