(Yicai Global) June 22 -- Hong Kong's richest man has said mainland China's long-term economic outlook is bright, casting a vote of confidence in an economy that has slowed in recent quarters.
China continues to have a trade surplus, the services industry is generating income and foreign money is flowing in, Mr. Li Ka-shing said yesterday in an interview with Bloomberg, his first with international media since 2012. He also indicated that investors focused on the country's rising debt levels are missing out on the larger picture.
"The long-term outlook for the mainland is good," the 87-year-old chairman of CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd. said from his office atop the Cheung Kong Center building in downtown Hong Kong. "People only see the debt in the state-owned enterprises and in households, when they need to recognize that China is a big exporter."
Those export receipts, a "positive for China" according to the billionaire, helped the trade surplus swell to CNY3.7 trillion (USD560 billion) last year, providing a buffer as the weaker yuan spurred capital outflows.
Mr. Li's confidence in the world's second-largest economy comes amid signs of stabilization thanks to government stimulus measures. China's economy began to stabilize in the first quarter of this year as a record CNY4.6 trillion of credit was pumped in as part of efforts by Premier Li Keqiang to prop up growth.
Mr. Li, who was born in the southeastern Chinese city of Chaozhou, has much at stake in the mainland. His real estate unit, Cheung Kong Property Holdings Ltd., counts about half of its revenue from there and has dozens of properties in the mainland. His flagship company, CK Hutchison, generated 14 percent of its earnings before interest and taxes from the mainland, where he operates about 2,500 Watsons and ParknShop stores.
During his interview, Mr. Li also stepped up his calls for British voters to decide in favor of remaining in the European Union as the world braces for the outcome of this week's referendum on membership.
"If Brexit happens, it will be detrimental to the United Kingdom and it will have a negative impact on the whole of Europe," he said. "Of course I hope that the UK doesn't leave the EU."
As one of the UK's biggest investors, Mr. Li has much at stake in the June 23 vote and his concerns echo those voiced by business and market leaders worldwide as they prepare for the possible fallout from Britain leaving the 28-nation bloc.