Friday, August 22, 2008

Li Ka-Shing Says 'Worst Is Yet To Come' In Global Economy Slump

Source : The Business Times, August 22, 2008

(HONG KONG) Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, who predicted China's stock market bubble would burst, says the 'worst is yet to come' from the global credit crunch.

The crisis is turning Li 'very conservative about acquisitions', he told reporters here yesterday while announcing the results of his companies Hutchison Whampoa Ltd and Cheung Kong (Holdings) Ltd.

The US housing slump has triggered more than US$500 billion in credit- market losses for banks globally and led to the collapse and sale of Bear Stearns Cos, the fifth-largest US securities firm.

Mr Li, Asia's richest man according to Forbes magazine, controls companies that operate businesses including retail, real estate, container ports and energy in 57 countries.

'Mr Li's views tend to be accurate,' said Castor Pang, a strategist at Sun Hung Kai Securities Ltd here.

'Looking ahead, signs of a US economic slowdown will become even more obvious. Asia has a high correlation with the US, so market performances will likely get worse.'

Sometimes called 'superman' by Hong Kong's media for his investing skill, Mr Li arrived here from mainland China in 1940 and built his Cheung Kong (Holdings) Ltd into Hong Kong's second-biggest developer by market value from a company he founded in 1950 to make plastic flowers.

Mr Li's comments echo those of Kenneth Rogoff, former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, who said 'the worst is yet to come in the US'.

Credit-market turmoil has driven the US into a recession and may topple some of the nation's biggest banks, Mr Rogoff, a Harvard University professor of economics, said in an interview in Singapore on Aug 19.

'The financial sector needs to shrink,' Mr Rogoff said. 'I don't think simply having a couple of medium- sized banks and a couple of small banks going under is going to do the job.'

Hong Kong will be shielded to some extent because of China's economic outlook, Mr Li said.

Hong Kong's negative real interest rates are keeping the housing market stable and real estate 'has always been a big part of the economy here', Mr Li said.

China, the world's fastest growing major economy, will see its economy continue to grow above 8 per cent 'in the next few years', Mr Li said.

China's CSI 300 Index is down 54 per cent this year, the most among 88 major benchmark indexes tracked by Bloomberg, because of concern measures to cool inflation will damp both profit and economic growth. - Bloomberg

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