Hong Kong tycoons' wealth surges on property: Forbes

HONG KONG (AFP) - Tycoon Li Ka-shing has retained the top spot as Hong Kong's richest man, Forbes magazine said, as the city's red-hot property market boosted wealth among the super-rich despite a global slowdown.

The 84-year-old Li, nicknamed "Superman" for his business prowess, added a whopping US$8 billion (S$9.8 billion) to his wealth last year, and was now estimated to be worth US$30 billion, Forbes said as it announced Hong Kong's top 50 rich list.

Mr Li, who started out in business as a plastic flower maker, now commands a vast empire through his flagship Cheung Kong Holdings, with global assets in property, telecoms, utilities, ports and retail.

One in every seven residences in Hong Kong, a southern Chinese city of seven million, was built by Mr Li's firms, which also handle 70 per cent of the former British colony's port traffic.

The second-richest man was Henderson Land chairman Lee Shau-kee, also 84, whose wealth rose US$3 billion to US$20 billion last year after the blue-chip stock climbed over 40 per cent.

The Kwok family, which controls Sun Hung Kai Properties, added nearly US$4 billion for a wealth pot of US$19.2 billion, despite taking a hit after brothers Thomas and Raymond Kwok, co-chairmen of the firm, were charged with graft.

Forbes said nearly two-thirds of the list's 50 members, which include six newcomers, built much of their fortune through property investment or development.

Overall, the top 50 - an expanded list from last year - were valued at a combined US$204.53 billion. The 40 richest men in 2012 were worth an estimated US$151.12 billion.

Hong Kong's real estate market has been booming in recent years, with prices among the highest in the world, and an influx of mainland Chinese buyers helping to push prices beyond the reach of many.

There has long been public anger over perceived collusion between the city's powerful property developers and the government, but chief executive Leung Chun-ying, who took office last year, has vowed to make housing more affordable.

Of the top five on the list, four were in their 80s, while all in the top 10 were aged over 60.

The city's richest woman was Ms Pansy Ho, the 50-year-old daughter of Macau gambling tycoon Stanley Ho, whose US$3.9 billion fortune put her at No. 11.

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