CK Asset is no longer a pure property company, a year after Victor Li takes over the flagship firm from 'Superman' dad

By Peggy Sito peggy.sito@scmp.com / https://www.scmp.com/ | April 5, 2019 10:25 AM SGT
Victor Li Tzar-kuoi had a surprise for shareholders last month when he announced the 2018 earnings of the flagship company founded by his father: he paid the highest dividend growth among Hong Kong's listed property developers.
For CK Asset Holdings, the record payout " even if its core profit missed consensus estimate " was the culmination of a three-year restructuring that transformed one of the city's best-known developers into one of Asia's largest conglomerates, with operations spanning energy, global infrastructure and aircraft leasing.
Property sales, the entirety of Cheung Kong Property's revenue when Li Ka-shing established the developer in Hong Kong, made up 45 per cent of CK Assets' income last year, seven months after Victor took over as chairman.
"CK Asset is like a private-equity fund now, like Canada's Brookfield [Asset Management]," the 120-year-old company with US$330 billion of assets under management, said Jonas Kan, head of Hong Kong research at Daiwa Capital Markets. "They are huge, they look for investment opportunities across the risk-return spectrum, with more exposure on real estate and infrastructure."
Li Ka-shing (right), founder of CK Asset Holdings and CK Hutchison Holdings, with Victor Li (left) during a press conference in Hong Kong, during which the elder Li announced his retirement to hand over his business empire to his elder son. Photo: AP
The transformation " driven by over HK$100 billion (US$12.7 billion) of acquisitions in 2017 and 2018 " increased the conglomerate's recurring revenue to over 50 per cent last year, compared with 2016, said Gerald Ma Lai-chee, CK Asset's general manager of corporate business development.
That provides CK Asset with an operational diversity that reduces its reliance on Hong Kong's fickle property market, and shields it from political uncertainties such as the US-China trade war and Britain's exit from the European Union.
Gerald Ma Lai-chee, CK Asset Holdings' general manager of corporate business development during an interview at Cheung Kong Center in Central. Photo: Nora Tam