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Meet Li, a refugee-billionaire

Feb 12, 2007 08:44 AM IST Business Business
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Mumbai: Building profitable business empires is second nature to Hutchison Whampoa Chairman Li Ka Shing. The reticent tycoon will now be smiling all the way to the bank after the Vodafone offer.

Li is as shrewd a businessman as you will ever find. That's why he's one of the most successful Chinese tycoons.

But he started life as a refugee, fleeing to Hong Kong, away from political turmoil in China in 1940, when he was 13.

In 1949 he started a plastics making company. And after that first venture he did not look back.

In the 60s Li entered the real-estate business when asset prices were at an all-time low.

A decade later he officially named his property company Cheung Kong Holdings.

In 1979 Li acquired from HSBC a British company called Hutchison Whampoa. This gave him a foothold in ports, property and retail.

He subsequently expanded his interests in areas such as telecommunications and energy.

Li's empire now spans 40 countries, employs 2.2 lakh people and accounts for 11.5 per cent of Hong Kong's stock market value or $703 billion.

Li has been known to make the right investment at the right time and sell out for billion-dollar profits.

In 1999, he sold UK-based Orange telephone network to Germany's Mannesmann for a $14.6 billion profit.

Then, through the early 90s skeptics wondered why he took control of Canada's Husky Oil, which posted poor returns for years. Today the company is a prized jewel in his portfolio.

If Li's past is anything to go by he'll drive a shrewd bargain. He's sure to extract maximum value for his 67 per cent in Hutch Essar.

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<div align="center"><strong>The rise of Li Ka Shing</strong></div> </td>
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<img src="/pix/common/bullet.gif" alt="bullet" width="7" height="7"><strong></strong> 1940: Fled to Hong Kong at the age of 13</p> </td>
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<img src="/pix/common/bullet.gif" alt="bullet" width="7" height="7"><strong></strong> 1949: Started a plastic making firm</p> </td>
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<img src="/pix/common/bullet.gif" alt="bullet" width="7" height="7"><strong></strong> 1960: Entered property business, asset prices were rock bottom</p> </td>
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<img src="/pix/common/bullet.gif" alt="bullet" width="7" height="7"><strong></strong> 1970: Named property company Cheung Kong Holdings </p> </td>
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<img src="/pix/common/bullet.gif" alt="bullet" width="7" height="7"><strong></strong> 1979: Acquired Hutchison Whampoa from HSBC</p> </td>
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<img src="/pix/common/bullet.gif" alt="bullet" width="7" height="7"> Expands into ports, retail, telecom &amp; energy</p> </td>
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<img src="/pix/common/bullet.gif" alt="bullet" width="7" height="7"><strong></strong>2007: Has ops in 40 countries, employs 2.2 lakh people</p> </td>
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<td height="20" valign="middle" class="Btext11 pLeft10"><img src="/pix/common/bullet.gif" alt="bullet" width="7" height="7" /> Accounts for 11.5% of HK stock market value or $703 bn</td>
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<td height="20" valign="middle" class="Btext11 pLeft10"><img src="/pix/common/bullet.gif" alt="bullet" width="7" height="7" /> 1999: Sold Orange telephone group for $14.6 bn profit</td>
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<td height="20" valign="middle" class="Btext11 pLeft10"><img src="/pix/common/bullet.gif" alt="bullet" width="7" height="7" /> 1991: Took control of loss making Husky Oil in face of opposition</td>
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<td height="20" valign="middle" class="Btext11 pLeft10"><img src="/pix/common/bullet.gif" alt="bullet" width="7" height="7" /> 2007: Husky Oil among Li’s most prized companies</td>
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