Hong Kong’s richest tycoon Li Ka-shing


—File photo

HONG KONG: Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing, 89, who officially retired Thursday, started his career selling plastic flowers and spent seven decades building a vast business empire spanning from container ports to telecommunications.

The billionaire earned the nickname “Superman” for his business acumen and was so influential in Hong Kong that residents joked he could prevent typhoons from hitting on working days.

Li’s companies are part of the fabric of Hong Kong life, providing everything from internet services to supermarket chains, while his decisions had the potential to affect property and utility prices for the city’s seven million residents as investors hung on his every word.

Li was born in 1928 in the mainland Chinese city of Chaozhou.

His family fled to neighbouring Hong Kong during the Sino-Japanese War — Li recalled bombs being dropped on his hometown when he was in primary school in an interview with Forbes Magazine in 2012.

He first started his own business in 1950 manufacturing plastic flowers, calling the company Cheung Kong after China’s Yangtze River.

But after diversifying into property he saw large profits in the 1960s and in the following decades his businesses expanded into a diverse range of sectors.

As the business grew, so did its global reach, with the 1980s seeing the firm make investments in the Canadian property and energy sectors.

According to Forbes his family’s companies now employ 310,000 people in more than 50 countries.

The magazine listed Li as the world’s 23rd richest person in a 2018 ranking of leading billionaires — three places behind Alibaba founder Jack Ma and six behind Tencent’s Pony Ma — with a net worth of $34.9 billion.

“Looking back all these years, it’s my honour to have founded Cheung Kong and to have served society,” Li told a packed room of journalists in Hong Kong as he announced his retirement in March.

“It’s been my greatest honour,” he said.—AFP