Rags to riches Entrepreneur –Li Ka Shing, Chairman of Cheung Kong Holdings

Born in 1928, Li Ka Shing is a Hong Kong based business tycoon and philanthropist. He was born to a housewife and a Primary school head in Chaozhou in Guangdong province of China. His childhood was not a comfortable one. His family fled their home when he was still 12 because of the Japanese invasion of China. Very soon, he had to leave school before the age of 15 due to his father’s death. In order to overcome the burden of poverty he found a job in a plastic tradings company where he worked for 16 hours a day. 


He briefly worked as a Salesman for the plastic products and by 1950, through his meticulous management of finances and proper planning, he managed to open his own plastics factory. In order to open the factory he also borrowed funds from family and friends and contacts he cultivated as a salesman. Within 8 years, his business was flourishing manufacturing and exporting high quality plastic flowers. He learnt techniques of mixing colors with plastic which resulted in the manufacturing of flowers that resembled the real ones. He knew that in order to remain ahead of his competitors, he should have the the best talents available and he did that by hiring the best technicians available in the market.

However, in 1958 he was unable to renew the lease for his factory and was forced to purchase and develop a new site for his factory. His business life took a major turn during the 1967 riots of Hong Kong. The effect of the riot was so severe that many people fled Hong Kong leaving behind their properties or selling their properties at very cheap rate. Li was quick to realize that the political turmoil was temporary and the the prices will soon go up. He bought parcels of land at very low prices and in 1971, Li officially named his real estate development company Cheung Kong which was eventually listed publicly in Hong Kong stock exchange in 1972.

With many successful bidding over the next few years, Li became the largest private landlord by 1979. In 1979 Li bought 23 percent of Hutchison Whampoa, which was a merger between Hutchison International and Hongkong and Whampoa Dock, from Hongkong & Shanghai Bank. 

During the next few years, Hutchison Whampoa expanded its container ports and in 1985 bought 33 percent of Hongkong Electric Holdings. Li started his business expansion globally with investments in the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and Husky Oil. By 2004, Li  increased his equity to 49.9 %  and used Hutchison Whampoa to expand into other businesses. Also his two corporate entities were intertwined with Cheung Kong Holdings owning 49.9 percent of Hutchison Whampoa, and Hutchison Whampoa owning 85 percent of Cheung Kong Infrastructure.

According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Li is the richest person in Asia, with a net worth of $31.9 billion. Currently he is the chairman of the board of CK Hutchison Holdings and he is the world’s largest operator of container terminals along with being the world’s largest health and beauty retailer. He is also considered as one of the most powerful figures in Asia and is famous for his philanthropic activities. Till date he has donated about US$2.2 billion to charity and other various philanthropic activities.

Li is famous for his simple living and holds the ancient Chinese values to his heart. A regular golf player, Li still remains fit and plays Golf daily at 6 AM.   

Team TOS

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