Asia's richest man: 5 things to know about businessman Li Ka Shing

Asian business magnate Li Ka Shing is Asia's richest man once again, after being dethroned by Alibaba's Jack Ma for a brief month.

The share prices of his two companies, Cheung Kong Holdings and Hutchison Whampoa, shot up after he announced a re-organisation on Monday.

The multi-billionaire's fortune stands at US$33.5 billion (S$44.7 billion) in January 2015, Forbes said. He is now the 14th richest person in the world, according to Forbes' ranking.

The octogenarian businessman, known as "Superman" in Hong Kong for his business acumen, rose from humble beginnings in a life story worthy of a Hong Kong drama serial. Here is more about the man.

1. School dropout

Born in China in 1928, he fled to Hong Kong in 1940 during the Japanese invasion of China. He started working at 12, he said. In his teens, he lost his father and had to drop out of school.

He worked in factories and saved up until he had enough to invest in a plastics manufacturing plant in 1950. Within a few years, he was the largest supplier of plastic flowers in Asia. He has said he had enough money to retire at 30, but he did not stop there.

2. Straight dealing businessman

Mr Li bought Hong Kong property at low prices in 1967, when riots tied to China's Cultural Revolution caused land prices to collapse. That was the beginning of his property developer, Cheung Kong.

His business conglomerate is so vast, that Hong Kong once had the nickname "Li Family City", which is a homonym of his name in Cantonese. His investments span property, telecoms, public transport, retail, shipping and more all over the world, including Singapore.

When Singapore suffered its first recession in 1985, a consortium led by Mr Run Run Shaw and Mr Li invested S$2 billion into building the Suntec Convention Centre.

He also has a reputation for straight dealing. Says one businessman who has sold property to Mr Li: "You can shake hands with him, put not a single thing down on paper and be absolutely sure that he will honour the deal."

3. Does not flash his wealth

He is known for dressing plainly, and wears a $50 watch from Seiko or Citizen - which he sets 20 minutes ahead of time. In private, he collects antique time pieces.

He also wakes up at around 5am each day and plays golf about four times a week.

4. Donating a third of his wealth

The Li Ka Shing Foundation, established in 1980, has made grants, sponsorships and other commitments to educational, medical and health-care causes.

He has said he will eventually give at least a third of his wealth to his charity foundation. He donated S$19.5 million to the Singapore Management University in 2002, which has a library named after him.

5. The Li family

The 86-year-old is a widower - his wife, Madam Chong Yuet Ming, died in 1990. His older son, Mr Victor Li, 50, is set to lead Cheung Kong and Hutchison Whampoa after Mr Li's retirement. Younger son Richard, 48, heads telecom services group PCCW.

chuimin@sph.com.sg

Sources: Business Times, Straits Times,Wall Street Journal, Forbes