HK tycoon Li urges Britain to stay in EU


HONG KONG: Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing, one of Asia’s richest men, called on Britain to remain in the European Union, warning a vote to leave would have a “detrimental” effect on the entire continent.

With just days to go before the history ballot Li, who has vast investments in Britain, told Bloomberg TV there would be no winners, but said he would keep his business interests whatever the result.

The interjection of Li—dubbed Superman because of his investment acumen that has built him a $28 billion fortune—comes as a series of opinion polls put the “Leave” and “Remain” camps tied ahead of the June 23 vote.

“Of course I hope that the UK doesn’t leave the EU,” he said in the interview aired Tuesday and which was his first with international media since 2012.

“If Brexit happens, it will be detrimental to the UK and it will have a negative impact to the whole of Europe.”

Global markets went into a tailspin last week after some polls suggested the country would leave the EU. But they have soared, along with the pound, since a fresh batch of surveys over the weekend pointed to a vote for the status quo.

There are fears among traders that an exit will plunge the British economy into recession,
hammer the pound and even lead to similar ballots in other countries, causing the eventual break-up of the union.

The 87-year-old Li is one of the biggest investors in Britain, owning the Three phone service, the Superdrug pharmacy chain and electric and gas distribution companies.

‘Black Friday’
His flagship CK Hutchison group generated almost $3 billion of its total $8 billion earnings—before interest and taxes—from Britain last year.

His warnings were supported by billionaire speculator George Soros.

Writing in the Guardian, Soros—who made a billion pounds out of Britain’s collapse from the Exchange Rate Mechanism in 24 years ago that became known as Black Wednesday—warned of a Black Friday.

“Sterling is almost certain to fall steeply and quickly if leave wins the referendum,” Soros wrote.

“I would expect this devaluation to be bigger and also more disruptive than the 15 percent devaluation that occurred in September 1992.”

He warned Britain would be in a worse position this time as the Bank of England interest rates could not be cut much further, whereas they were at 10 percent in 1992.

Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying on Tuesday warned the effects of leaving the EU “could be big.”

“If the UK does leave the EU because of the referendum, it will definitely have an effect on the UK and world economy,” Leung said.

In his interview, Li also gave an upbeat outlook on China’s economy, saying it would be bright in the long run despite the current growth slowdown to rates not seen since 1990.

“The long-term outlook for the mainland is good,” he said, saying the country is still a “big exporter” and maintains a trade surplus.



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