Li Ka Shing expanding his investments in electric vehicles

HONG KONG • Billionaire Li Ka Shing has agreed to buy an indirect stake in a Japanese maker of electric cars, expanding his investments in an area that is set to benefit from China's push to phase out petrol and diesel vehicles.

Mr Li and two other investors are buying a stake in O Luxe Holdings, according to two company filings in Hong Kong. O Luxe is a distributor of watches and jewellery that is 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 line- ups of non-emission autos.

The demand has attracted investments from start-ups as well as companies from outside the industry.

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

The race to sell more EVs is set to heat up further after China said 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 yesterday, their highest intraday price since June 2013.

This is not the first time the Hong Kong billionaire, 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 manufacturer.

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 have agreed to buy 234 million existing shares of the company, Hong Kong-based O Luxe said in a separate filing yesterday.

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

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2017, with the headline 'Li Ka Shing expanding his investments in electric vehicles'. Print Edition | Subscribe