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Hong Kong's richest man optimistic of world economic recovery.

HONG KONG, 26, March 26 Kyodo

Li Ka-shing, the richest tycoon in Hong Kong, said Thursday that China will lead the world when the economy revives, but it all depends on whether the U.S. economy can stabilize.

''Data have shown that the property market in the United States has been recovering, durable goods orders rebounding and the stock market also going up significantly in the past two weeks,'' Li told reporters at his companies' annual results announcement.

''If the U.S. economy regains stability, the global economy will respond well. Mainland China will be the first country to recover,'' he said.

Li, 80, was ranked 16th on Forbes magazine's 2009 World's Billionaires list with a net worth of $16.2 billion.

His conglomerates, Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. and Cheung Kong Holdings, operate in 54 countries and employ more than 238,000 people.

Li said he expects export and import trade will grow in April and May because inventories in European countries and the United States have shrunk, and he believes Hong Kong and China will benefit most from the revival.

Hong Kong's latest trade figures, however, remain gloomy.

The total exports value last month was HK$141.9 billion (US$18.3 billion), down 23 percent year-on-year and 24.4 percent from that in January.

Values of exports to major destinations, including Malaysia Singapore, Thailand, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan, dropped between 21 percent and 37 percent from a year ago.

Imports last month were worth HK$165 billion, down 17.5 percent year-on-year and 8.5 percent from January.

China's State Council said Wednesday that Shanghai will be built into a major international financial center and shipping hub by 2020.

Li said China, ''being a big country,'' can have two global financial centers, and Hong Kong will ''inevitably face huge challenges.''

Li, however, declined to comment on China's calling for a new global currency to replace the U.S. dollar as the world's main reserve.

''It is the central government's decision, not my decision,'' he said.

Hutchison Whampoa's net profit last year dropped 42 percent to HK$17.7 billion, while net profit for Cheung Kong dropped 44 percent to HK$15.5 billion, because of the economic downturn, Li said in the companies' statements.
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Date:Mar 30, 2009
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