Hong Kong's richest man expands investments in electric vehicles

Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing attends a news conference announcing CK Hutchison Holdings company results in Hong Kong, China, on March 22, 2017.
Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing attends a news conference announcing CK Hutchison Holdings company results in Hong Kong, China, on March 22, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing agreed to buy an indirect stake in a Japanese maker of electric cars, expanding his investments in an area that's set to benefit from China's push to phase out gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Mr Li and two other investors are buying a stake in O Luxe Holdings, according to two company filings made in Hong Kong. O Luxe is a distributor of watches and jewelry that's in the midst of acquiring Japan's GLM, a maker of electric sports cars with plans to license its technology to manufacturers including those in China.

Sales of electric vehicles have surged in the world's largest car market on the back of generous state support, prompting global manufacturers to boost their lineups of non-emission autos.

The demand has attracted investments from a flock of startups as well as companies from outside the industry, including a failed attempt by China's biggest air-conditioner maker.

Mr Li's investment in O Luxe, and by extension GLM, gets him a place in the higher-end of the eletric vehicles (EVs) market, a segment that Chinese startups like NIO and Beijing CH-Auto Technology are targeting and Tesla now dominates with its imported Model S.

The race to sell more EVs looks set to heat up further after China said that it would set a deadline for automakers to end sales of vehicles powered by fossil fuels.

The announcement follows the government's earmarking in 2010 of new-energy vehicles as a strategic emerging industry meriting state support.

News of Mr Li's investment, via Ocean Dynasty Investments, helped send O Luxe shares surging as much as 6.1 per cent to HK$1.74 (S$0.298), the highest intraday price since June 2013.

This isn't the first time the Hong Kong tycoon, whose global business empire spans ports to retail to telecommunications, has invested in electric vehicles. In 2015, he bought a stake in FDG Electric Vehicles, a Chinese electric-van and bus maker.

Vivaldi International and TCL Industries Holdings are the other two investors subscribing for a total of 570.3 million shares in O Luxe.

In addition, Ocean Dynasty and Vivaldi agreed to buy 234 million existing shares of the company, Hong Kong-based O Luxe said in a separate filing Monday.

The share sales are subject to relevant approvals and the completion of the GLM acquisition.