Li Ka-Shing – Superman who earned his way

Born in 1928, Li Ka-Shing, popularly dubbed "Superman Li" (Chiu Yan, in Cantonese), is a self-made man who believes in the importance of earning one’s own way in the world.

Born in 1928, Li Ka-Shing, popularly dubbed "Superman Li" (Chiu Yan, in Cantonese), is a self-made man who believes in the importance of earning one’s own way in the world. By all accounts, Li is a traditional man who values principles, respect, personal trust, loyalty and good manners. But, he is not averse to competing with younger son, Richard, who is busy building his own telecommunications empire.

Dubbed the most profitable company in the world, Li’s Hutchison Whampoa has more cash on hand for gigantic-scale investments than Microsoft or Intel. Li is also heavily involved in Hong Kong’s port operations, utilities, properties, retail chains and telecom networks.

While Li may be known for having started in Hong Kong’s property market, he has not stood still in these fast-moving times and has kept pace with changes in market conditions and technology.

Li’s first dot-com venture Tom.com was oversubscribed 669 times at its IPO. Tom.com, which broadcasts programming from a Hong Kong radio station seemed to have little else but Li's backing.

His Hutchison subsidiary runs Ports-n-Portals, a business-to-business shipping website serving 19 international ports, and recently signed a deal to co-build China's first online oil and gas exchange. Li also has a joint venture with Compaq Computer Corp. to set up an e-government site in Hong Kong, which would provide residents with services like birth certificates online. In January, he announced a link with Priceline.com to launch a new Chinese-language Internet portal, and plans to run a fiber-optic joint venture with Global Crossing.

Li’s first dot-com venture Tom.com was oversubscribed 669 times at its IPO.

He recently pledged US$10 million to build a research centre that he hopes will help China compete with the West in next-generation Internet technology. Speaking at Beijing's Qinghua University, where the center is to be built, Li said the new technology - called Internet 2 - is aimed at building an alternate Internet thousands of times faster.

Although Hutchison won 3G licenses in the U.K., Italy, Austria and Sweden but withdrew from the bidding war in Germany, probably a smart move, on hindsight, as successful bidders paid the government $46.77 billion for the German licenses. Hutchison, in partnership with NTT DoCoMo and Royal KPN, paid 4.385 billion British pounds ($6.46 billion) for its U.K. license. The chairman of Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. and Cheung Kong Holdings Ltd., has also announced plans to bid on a 3G license in the U.S. once licenses go up for sale. – Ken Wong, ZDNet Asia