LIVE IN Magazine | Jul 19, 2010
Hong Kong tycoon, Li Ka-Shing
Home prices have risen rapidly in the last 15 months, sparking concerns about a possible bubble in the Hong Kong market. While urging caution, Li Ka-Shing avoided the “B” word while answering questions at the recent results press conference for his two flagship companies, Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. and Cheung Kong (Holdings) Ltd. Instead, he praised government officials for their effective use of mortgage-tightening measures and tough talk to keep the market in line.
“I think the Hong Kong government has already tried its very best to keep prices stable,” Li told a throng of reporters. “I think the government has done a nice job.”
The annual results conference usually affords the biggest opportunity for local journalists to dig for sound-bites from Li, who is known to many in Hong Kong simply as “chiu yan,” or ”superman,” for his investing prowess.
Referring to past statements in which he’s recommended citizens buy property if they have extra cash on hand, Li grinned and said, “If people bought when I suggested, they would have done very well.”
In Mainland China, where Beijing officials are focusing on land hoarding by real estate developers, Li said his companies hadn’t ever been challenged by authorities.
Not everyone in the Li clan has been as fortunate. Earlier this month, Beijing municipal authorities banned Pacific Century, a company controlled by Li’s younger son Richard, from making future land acquisitions in the city after the company allegedly failed to proceed with work on a real estate project in the city in a timely manner. A spokesman at the time said company officials were seeking more information about the incident and declined further comment.
The elder Li cautioned observers against reading too deeply into that matter. “You can’t just look at what’s on the surface, or you’ll misunderstand. It may not be a matter related to Pacific Century at all,” Li said, without elaborating.
Mostly, the tycoon left the property market commentary to elder son Victor, seated to his right, who summed it up this way: “In the end, property is a question of supply and demand – and in Hong Kong, supply is limited and demand is growing,” Victor Li said.