Canning Fok, at the 'Hong Kong Heart' of Li Ka-shing's deal machine

Wed Jan 21, 2015 4:00pm EST
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* Fok, 36 years at Li's group, behind most big deals

* Fok planned the group overhaul announced on Jan. 9

* He is Hong Kong's top tax payer for 5 years -report

* Has a reputation as a fast, persuasive negotiator

By Denny Thomas

HONG KONG, Jan 22 (Reuters) - In late summer 2014, as mass protests rocked central Hong Kong, Canning Fok sat in his office quietly planning a business overhaul that would make his boss Li Ka-shing, Asia's richest man, richer still.

After Li revealed the fruits of Fok's labour on Jan. 9, describing it as a "watershed" moment in the history of his business group, shares in his principal companies, Cheung Kong Holdings and Hutchison Whampoa, jumped more than 14 percent.

For three months, Fok worked with his core five-member team on "Project Diamond" to put the basic structure in place, then recruited HSBC to execute the plan, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The overhaul, aimed at tackling a valuation discount caused by the group's conglomerate structure, will split 86-year-old Li's empire into two camps, one focusing on property, and the other housing businesses including telecoms, infrastructure and ports.   Continued...