Ty­coon Li on de­fen­sive af­ter state media at­tacks


Hong Kong bil­lion­aire Li Kash­ing has de­fended his busi­ness strat­egy against crit­i­cism in main­land China’s state media that ac­cused him of aban­don­ing the coun­try be­cause of its slow­ing growth.

In an un­usual move, Li re­leased a state­ment re­spond­ing to a bar­rage of crit­i­cism in re­cent weeks about him selling off China as­sets as he re­struc­tured his global busi­ness em­pire to fo­cus more on Europe and less on China.

Com­men­taries in state media chas­tised Li this month for be­ing im­moral and un­grate­ful, ac­cus­ing him of run­ning out on China as its econ­omy slows de­spite prof­it­ing hand­somely in bet­ter times.

Li has un­der­taken a ma­jor re­or­ga­ni­za­tion this year of his sprawl­ing busi­ness in­ter­ests that range from ports to mo­bile phones. The shakeup in­cluded shift­ing the domi­ciles of his two main com­pa­nies from Hong Kong to the Cay­man Is­lands, trig­ger­ing spec­u­la­tion that he was plan­ning to with­draw from China.

“We are vig­i­lant not to let these un­founded al­le­ga­tions es­ca­late to cause in­vestors’ con­cerns,” said the state­ment re­leased Tues­day by his com­pany CK Hutchi­son Hold­ings. It said there was “no truth in the with­drawal ac­cu­sa­tions.”

The state­ment said Li was “con­fi­dent” that Chi­nese leader Xi Jin­ping will con­tinue to im­prove gov­er­nance and re­form China’s econ­omy.

The for­mer Bri­tish colony’s ty­coons have long em­braced China’s com­mu­nist lead­ers in or­der to en­sure sur­vival of their busi­ness in­ter­ests on the main­land. Li was part of a busi­ness con­tin­gent that met Xi in Bei­jing last year to show their sup­port as ten­sions rose over pro-democ­racy protests in Hong Kong.

The 87-year-old Li has long been Asia’s rich­est per­son, although he re­cently fell to sec­ond place with a for­tune of US$24.3 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to Forbes.

Ear­lier this month, a think tank af­fil­i­ated with the of­fi­cial Xin­hua News Agency and the Peo­ple’s Daily news­pa­per, the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party’s mouth­piece, both lam­basted Li over his busi­ness de­ci­sions in China.

Li said his com­pany has been tak­ing a “pru­dent” ap­proach to main­land China prop­erty in­vest­ment over the past two years be­cause of an “im­bal­ance” be­tween sup­ply and de­mand.

“Re­duc­ing prop­erty in­vest­ments does not im­ply we are not in­vest­ing in the main­land,” the state­ment said. It said the com­pany’s re­tail net­work in China has risen 77 per­cent to 2,300 stores in the same pe­riod.


In this Jan. 9 file photo, Hong Kong ty­coon Li Ka-shing re­acts dur­ing a press con­fer­ence in Hong Kong.

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