Li Ka-Shing: Asia's second-richest person retires

CK Hutchison posts higher-than-expected annual profit

CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd on Friday reported a 6 percent rise in annual profit, and said billionaire Li Ka-shing would step down as chairman of the ports-to-telecoms conglomerate after the annual general meeting.

"I have made a decision to step down as chairman of the company and retire from the position of executive director at the forthcoming annual general meeting of the company", Li said in a statement included in the filing for CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd and CK Asset Holdings Ltd to the Hong Kong bourse.

His retirement will bring the curtain down on a career in business spanning 75 years that has earned him a net worth of $35bn (£25bn), according to Forbes, ranking him in the top 30 richest people in the world.

The board said it "would like to express its honest gratitude to Mr Li for his invaluable contributions to the group". "Look at anything he sold and, plus or minus a year, its hard to say he didn't pick the top - that's a tremendous skill". In 1979, with help from HSBC, Li took control of Hutchison Whampoa, now CK Hutchison, making him the first Chinese to take over a British-backed conglomerate.

A factory apprentice when he was 13, he will be forever known as "Superman" for his work ethic and business success.

One of Li's best-known deals in this respect was the 1999 sale of its United Kingdom telecoms unit, Orange, to Germany's Mannesmann at the height of a market boom.

Even after stepping down, Li, who turns 90 in July, will remain a senior adviser for his sprawling business empire. He said the secret to his success included factors like continual self-improvement and hard work.

Bloomberg has added that Li impacted Hong Kong's history.

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It has also been an incredible journey from rags to richest after arriving in Hong Kong as a penniless immigrant in 1940.

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. "I will vote for him", Li said.

In the years to come, Li invested in local real estate as others sold, most notably in 1967, when riots inspired by Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution in China rocked Hong Kong and sent property prices plunging.

Close Chinese ties had their downside too, particularly in the US, as critics including former President Ronald Reagan's defense secretary to ex-Republican Senate leader Trent Lott voiced concerns about Li's relationship with China - allegations denied by Li's camp.

Li came under rare attack by some Chinese state media outlets a few years ago, who accused him of abandoning China by selling off some assets there.

Last summer, President Xi Jinping visited Hong Kong to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the city's return to Chinese rule, and during a meeting with about 200 business and political leaders, he shook Li's hand for about 10 seconds.

Though rarely accessible in recent years, the bespectacled tycoon enjoys shooting from the hip during public appearances and hasn't shied from making controversial and politically barbed comments.

And asked this week by Reuters for his thoughts on any retirement by Li, Simon Murray, Fok's predecessor, kept it brief, replying via email simply "Happy Retirement!"

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