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Hong Kong’s richest man Li Ka-shing to retire at 89

Hong Kong’s richest man Li Ka-shing announced Friday he was stepping down as chairman of his flagship company CK Hutchison, marking the end of an era for one of the world’s most storied tycoons.

“I have decided to step down as Chairman of the Group and retire from the position of Executive Director at the forthcoming Annual General Meeting of the Company,” he said in a statement, ending mounting speculation about his retirement.

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Hong Kong’s richest man Li Ka-shing, 89, gestures during a press conference in Hong Kong on March 16, 2018. Photo: Anthony Wallace/AFP.

Li, who turns 90 in July, is expected to hand over the reins to his eldest son Victor.

The billionaire added he would serve as “senior advisor” of the company.

Speaking with reporters on Friday and smiling occasionally, Li said he was “happy and honoured” for the opportunities he has had.

“Today’s young people also have many opportunities,” Li added. “Knowledge changes fate — you must invest and strengthen yourself.”

Li never gave a straight answer when asked about retirement at previous press conferences, but a sweeping revamp of his vast empire in 2015 was seen as a sign that he was paving the way for Victor to take over.

His retirement closes a chapter on a long legacy but analysts say investors and markets have been preparing for this inevitable day.

Castor Pang, head of research at Core-Pacific Yamaichi Hong Kong, told Bloomberg News earlier that Li’s retirement would “just be an official announcement” of plans that have long been in the works.

 ‘Superman’ 

Investors in Hong Kong and in the region watched Li meticulously for decades as he helmed a prosperous conglomerate that covered sectors from container ports to telecommunications, with his moves setting market trends.

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Li Ka-shing. Photo: Wikicommons.

Nicknamed “Superman” for his business acumen, Li’s companies are part of the fabric of Hong Kong life, ranging from internet services to supermarket chains.

His decisions had the potential to affect property and utility prices for the city’s seven million residents as investors hung on his every word.

The Center, a landmark Hong Kong skyscraper owned by Li’s CK Asset, sold for a record price of more than $5 billion last year, indicating the city’s booming property sector was not cooling down.

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

His Cheung Kong Infrastructure company operates development, investment and infrastructure businesses in mainland China, Britain, Canada and other countries.

An avid golfer, Li got his start in 1950 making plastic flowers.

Local legend has it that he can even control the weather — ensuring typhoons do not hit Hong Kong during the working day.

Hong Kong's richest man Li Ka-shing to retire at 89