Sir Li Ka-shing. (Photo/CNS)
With declining profit levels a ripening reality for his businesses in mainland China and Hong Kong, business magnate Li Ka-shing is dumping his assets and heading West, the Economic Observer reported.
According to the financial reports of Li's Hutchison Whampoa, the company recorded an operational income of HK$325.9 billion (US$40.03 billion) in 2010, with pre-tax revenue pegged at HK$39.3 billion (US$5.1 billion). Of this figure, the company's mainland China business accounted for 12% of the total, with pre-tax revenue taking up 28% of the total.
The contribution of its mainland China business dropped to 11% in 2012, with pre-tax revenue plunging 19%.
Profits in Hong Kong have slumped as well. Hong Kong's contribution to the company's business dropped from 18% in 2010 to 16% in 2012 and pre-tax revenue nearly halved from 30% to 16%.
Since February, Li has sold a subsidiary of Cheung Kong Limited, a Hong Kong branch of Apex Horizon All-Suite Hotel and a Guangzhou shopping mall, as well as the publicly-traded Power Assets Holdings Limited.
In addition, Li is cutting down his retail business and slowing down investments in the real estate market.
Hutchison Whampoa confirmed on July 21 that it plans to sell supermarket chain ParknShop — a division of the Watson Group — for the benefit of its shareholders.
The sale has attracted bids from seven companies from home and abroad, which offered prices between US$3 billion and US$4 billion.
As of 2012, ParknShop had 345 stores in Hong Kong, Macau and South China, with revenue of HK$21.7 billion (US$3.6 billion).
Li is selling the supermarket chain because ParknShop's falling sales now account for less than 15% of Hutchison Whampoa's total income in the retail business.
In the meantime, Li is speeded up investing in Europe.
According to Hutchison Whampoa's financial report for the first half of 2013, its European business was worth HK$85.1 billion (US$11 billion), making up for 43% of the total sales, compared with Hong Kong's 15% and mainland China's 11%.
Europe also contributed 31% to the company's total pre-tax revenue, compared with Hong Kong's 17% and mainland China's 18%.
Li has proactively developed the European market since 2010 when he spent US$9.1 billion to buy EDF Energy, an energy company based in the United Kingdom.
A year later, Li's son Li Tzar-kuoi bought British Northumbrian Water Group for ￡645 million (US$1.03 billion).
Li's family has become the largest holder of infrastructure assets in the UK after several acquisitions.
A Chinese researcher noted that Li selling his assets and investing in Europe indicated that the business tycoon did not view the Chinese economy positively.
Li also might have foreseen the economic crisis China might face and the risk of the housing market bubble bursting, because of which he has turned to the European market, Song Yanqing, president of Research and Development, stated.