SCMP Thursday, May 18, 2000

Li Ka-shing beats Jiang to top Asian power list

JO BOWMAN


Property and Internet tycoon Li Ka-shing was named Asia's most powerful person yesterday, outranking President Jiang Zemin in a list published by Asiaweek.

Hailed as the "ultimate clicks and mortar" entrepreneur, Mr Li - whose business interests run from supermarkets and mobile phones to ports and property - moved up from ninth place in the annual rankings for his "exponentially increasing wealth and the enormous power it brings".

"Mr Li's wealth bridges the gap between the old and new economies, not only in Asia but worldwide," Asiaweek editor Ann Morrison said. "In addition to his huge property developments, like the new Oriental Plaza in Beijing, he has reaped rewards in telecommunications businesses in Europe and even dotcom plays in Hong Kong. His is the ultimate 'clicks and mortar' conglomerate."

Mr Li's younger son, Pacific Century CyberWorks chief Richard Li Tzar-kai, also made the top 50, ranking 14th. Mr Jiang is in second place, up from third last year, but Premier Zhu Rongji - who jointly held first place last year with South Korean President Kim Dae-jung - sank to 10th spot.

"Business is back and, as the Asian crisis is largely over, the region's power has shifted to reflect the new economy," the magazine said.

While Mr Jiang takes a back seat to Mr Li in the rankings, mainland leaders have a strong presence - several have climbed up the list and others have entered it for the first time.

Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa was bumped off the list this year from 43rd spot, as was Financial Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, who ranked 19th last year.

Taiwan's controversial president-elect, Chen Shui-bian, is a new entry to the list, in at No 6. Singaporean Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong slipped out of the top 10 to 11th place, while media mogul Rupert Murdoch dipped from 20th to 42nd.

On the mainland, Vice-President Hu Jintao rose from 36th to 19th; the head of the Communist Party Central Committee's organisation department, Zeng Qinghong, entered at 20th; PLA General Chief of Staff Zhang Wannian entered at 26th; and National People's Congress chairman Li Peng rose from 37th to 32nd.

Mr Li Ka-shing is estimated to have a net worth of about US$10 billion (HK$77.8 billion), and in January was named Asia's fourth-richest man by the Australian newspaper which gave him a joint ranking with the Kwok brothers of Sun Hung Kai Properties.

His interests include Hutchison Telecom and the ParknShop chain. Both he and Richard Li were travelling last night and could not be reached for comment.

Mr Li Ka-shing's initial public offering of shares in his Internet venture, Tom.com, attracted more than 300,000 investors earlier this year, and was 669 times oversubscribed. The company ended its first quarter with losses of more than $45 million this week, but bosses said the figure was in line with their business plan.