Bank of East Asia CEO stepping down after 38 years

Mr David Li's 38-year tenure makes him the longest-serving CEO among firms listed on the Hang Seng Composite Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Mr David Li's 38-year tenure makes him the longest-serving CEO among firms listed on the Hang Seng Composite Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. PHOTO: SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST

HONG KONG • Mr David Li, the longest-serving chief executive officer of a major Hong Kong-listed company, is stepping down from the top position at Bank of East Asia after a 38-year run.

Mr Li, 80, will withdraw from his day-to-day role as CEO from July 1 and will become executive chairman, according to a statement yesterday. His sons Adrian Li and Brian Li will become co-CEOs.

Mr David Li, who joined Bank of East Asia in 1969, was appointed CEO in 1981 and named chairman in 1997.

His 38-year tenure makes him the longest-serving CEO among all companies listed on the Hang Seng Composite Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Among other long-serving current CEOs of companies on the Hang Seng index, Hengan International Group's Mr Hui Lin Chit has had a 34-year run and Want Want China Holdings' Mr Tsai Eng-meng has been head of his firm since 1987.

Mr Benjamin Pan's tenure as CEO of AAC Technologies Holdings is 26 years so far, the data shows.

Mr Paul Singer's Elliott Management Corporation, which owns about 8 per cent of Bank of East Asia, has previously alleged that the lender had acted improperly when issuing stock that diluted minority shareholders' stakes and cited the bank's "chronically poor performance" and "the inability of an entrenched executive management team to deliver proper value". The New York-based hedge fund started legal proceedings against the firm in 2016. That case continues.

Bank of East Asia was cut from the Hang Seng index last year after a 34-year stay in the benchmark. Shares of the lender - which was incorporated in Hong Kong in 1918 - have fallen 25 per cent over the past year, while the market gauge has dropped about 10 per cent.

None of the 11 analysts tracked by Bloomberg who follow Bank of East Asia have "buy" ratings on the stock. Six recommend that investors "sell" and the rest rate it a "hold", giving the bank a consensus rating of 1.91 out of 5, the lowest among the Bloomberg Asia-Pacific Banks Index's 63 members.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 24, 2019, with the headline 'Bank of East Asia CEO stepping down after 38 years'. Print Edition | Subscribe