Hong Kong's richest man Li Ka-shing to retire in July

Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing

Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing

CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd on Friday reported a 6 percent rise in annual profit, and said billionaire Li Ka-shing would step down as chairman of the ports-to-telecoms conglomerate after the annual general meeting.

Also unlike his rivals, including fellow hongs Swire Pacific and Jardine Matheson, he proved adept at something else: selling assets. The tycoon started his career as a factory apprentice when he was 13.

Li said in 2012 that he planned to have Victor take over but had avoided specifics for years.

"Li Ka-shing's real genius, to me, is not necessarily in the assets he acquired, but his ability to sell them at the right time", said Jonathan Galligan, head of Asia gaming and conglomerates research at CLSA, the brokerage.

The 89-year-old Li will, as expected, stay on as senior adviser to the group.

Li's flagship CK Hutchison controls diverse assets in over 50 countries, and has recently counted Europe as a significant income source.

Li's "rags to riches" story has been an inspiration to many Asian businesspeople.

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He went on to begin his own plastics company, Cheung Kong Industries, which began his empire.

He was one of the first Hong Kong tycoons to invest in mainland China, with property playing a big part in his wealth.

He has held roles on the board of Husky Energy Inc (1987-2001), Hopewell Holdings and Hutchison Whampoa, and was made chairman of CK Infrastructure Holdings in 1996, as well as CK Life Sciences, the pharmaceutical branch of the company. His companies also control one of the two dominant supermarket chains and one of the two largest pharmacies as well as one of Hong Kong's largest cellphone companies. He will accept 5,000 Hong Kong dollars ($638) annually from each business, the same amount as his current annual pay as director.

The listed firm had a market cap of some HK$ 258.82 billion ($33 billion) as of market closing on Friday, and directly holds more than 27 percent of the units in Fortune REIT, almost 19 percent of Fortune REIT and over 39 percent of mainland-focused Hui Xian REIT. He forged close ties with top Communist Party officials, including former leaders Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin, though he is said to not be as friendly with current President Xi Jinping.

But this spurred a hail of criticism from Chinese state-run media amid concerns that the property sales, giving Li's stature as an investor, could exacerbate capital flight from China.

His lieutenants have however tended to be more circumspect - at least when it comes to commenting on Li. "I'm very happy and very honoured I have had this opportunity".

"I will don a new battle suit and put all my efforts into the work of my (charity) foundation, especially on the aspects of medicine and education".

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