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Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing officially steps down

Hong Kong's richest man, Li Ka-shing, officially retired from his business empire, handing over the reins to the older of his sons, after attending the annual general meetings of CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd. and CK Asset Holdings Ltd. for the last time as chairman May 10.

The 89-year-old billionaire will remain as senior adviser for both companies and Victor Li Tzar Kuoi, 53, will take over.

"I've been putting shareholders' interests first for the past 46 years," the elder Li told reporters after the shareholder meetings, "I feel very grateful."

He said he had been working with Victor Li for over 30 years, adding that he has full confidence in the new management.

As one of Hong Kong's largest property developers, Li Ka-shing hoped Hong Kong could solve its housing problems, particularly its shortage of affordable housing.

He said he supports the idea of developing private farmland by way of public-private partnerships in order to accelerate the process and increase land supply.

During CK Asset's shareholders meeting, when asked about the company's recent HK$40.2 billion sale of The Center tower in Hong Kong, Li Ka-shing said CK Asset had made huge gains from the disposal.

But rather than paying a special dividend to shareholders, the company plans to use the money to invest in Grade-A buildings in other countries that are expected to deliver 100% returns, the elder Li said.

With regards to rising interest rates in the U.S., the elder Li said the world is entering an "inevitable" rate hike cycle.

Starting his career as a plastic-flowers manufacturer in 1950, Li Ka-shing transformed his enterprise into a global conglomerate spanning the property, retail, utilities, shipping, energy, manufacturing and communications sectors across more than 50 countries.

His retirement marks the end of the first generation of the Hong Kong tycoon era that set up businesses after the World War II.

The tycoon said he will now devote his time and effort to the Li Ka-shing Foundation.

The elder Li has not stepped aside entirely. According to an April 29 report by South China Morning Post, he purchased HK$234 million worth of CK Asset shares, increasing his stake in the company to 31.82% of its issued capital.

He told shareholders he would continue to boost his stakes in both CK Hutchison and CK Asset.