Tycoon Li Ka-shing loses $2.2 billion in a day as pound slide bites

Mr Li Ka-shing's CK Hutchison Holdings saw its shares slump 5.8 per cent on Monday. PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG - Hong Kong magnate Li Ka-shing lost US$1.5 billion (S$2.2 billion) in a day, with the value of his sprawling business empire tumbling along with the historic decline in the pound.

CK Hutchison Holdings, the flagship conglomerate of Mr Li's group that earned 16 per cent of its revenue from Britain in the first half, saw its shares slump 5.8 per cent on Monday to the lowest since it restructured in 2015. Sister company CK Asset Holdings, a real estate developer that earned almost a third of its revenue from Britain, plunged 8.6 per cent. Both recovered some ground on Tuesday, rising about 3 per cent.

The share slump came amid a global rout as the pound fell to a record low. The US$1.5 billion hit to Mr Li's personal fortune was the fifth-biggest decline among the world's 500 richest people, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The 94-year-old is still worth about US$26.7 billion, keeping him high in the ranks of Asia's wealthiest people, with his stake in CK Asset accounting for most of his net worth.

After decades of diversification, Mr Li's businesses now span property, telecommunications, ports, retail and utilities, with Europe, Hong Kong and mainland China contributing the bulk of revenue. The CK group's operations in Britain include mobile carrier Three UK, health and beauty chain Savers, the Harwich International port, and utilities firms including Northumbrian Water and Wales & West Gas Networks.

It is one of the few Hong Kong groups with extensive overseas exposure, a strategy that has typically helped it weather risks ranging from protests in Hong Kong in 2019 to the ups and downs of the Covid-19 pandemic.

But currency fluctuations have always been a challenge, with the company reporting results in Hong Kong dollars, which are pegged to the strengthening greenback.

That portends a big hit for the company. CK Hutchison has likely seen HK$15.7 billion (S$2.9 billion), or 11.5 per cent, of the net value of British assets wiped out since June 30 due to the pound's slump, according to Bloomberg News calculations. BLOOMBERG

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