September 29, 2015 / 10:50 AM / 2 years ago

Asia's richest man Li voices support for China's leadership

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Asia’s richest man Li Ka-shing voiced support for Chinese president Xi Jinping on Tuesday and rejected claims he was divesting assets from China after a barrage of media articles accused him of turning his back on the mainland.

Hutchison Whampoa Ltd and Cheung Kong Holdings Chairman Li Ka-shing shares a Chinese New Year greeting to journalists at a news conference on the companies annual results in Hong Kong February 26, 2015. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

In January this year, Hong Kong-based Li overhauled his business empire to create two listed companies - one focused on property and the other on telecoms. This saw a shift in the incorporated base of his two main firms to the Cayman Islands from Hong Kong, fuelling speculation the tycoon was pulling out of China.

In an emailed press release sent on September 29, Li said he resolutely supported China’s path to reform and opening up.

“Li has great confidence in China and greatly admires Xi’s leadership style,” the statement said. It cited billions of dollars spent by Li and his family in greater China for education, innovation and medicinal research purposes.

His comments come a week after official Chinese media made pointed commentaries about his business decisions.

“At a time of economic tension in China, Li Ka-shing has abandoned China by selling extensively his assets, disregarding how Beijing has strongly assisted him in the sectors of port facilities, real estate and other infrastructural projects. His act has seriously undermined public confidence in the mainland,” said one commentary from an institute backed by the official Xinhua news agency, titled ‘Don’t let Li Ka-shing run away’.

Li’s family sold more than $2 billion worth of assets in China last year, including property in Shanghai, Nanjing and Beijing. In January, news of Li’s business overhaul was followed by three overseas bids, including $15.4 billion for Britain’s O2, owned by Spain’s Telefonica SA.

Reporting by Farah Master; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman

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