Solina Chau: CK-Hutch merger not a retreat from HK, China

January 13, 2015 17:00
Businesswoman Solina Chau (left), welcomed by Lu Kun (right), representative of the Chinese embassy in Israel, took a hundred Hong Kong students and reporters to Israel to meet the start-ups in which Horizons Ventures has invested.

The recent merger of Cheung Kong (Holdings) Ltd. (00001.HK) and Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. (00013.HK) will increase the value of the two companies for shareholders, and is not aimed at retreating from the Hong Kong and China markets, said Solina Chau Hoi-shuen, person-in-charge of Horizons Ventures and director of the Li Ka Shing Foundation.

“Hong Kong people are used to look at an issue from a single angle and sometimes may become egoistic,” Chau told Hong Kong reporters on a trip to Tel Aviv in Israel on Monday.

In 1997, it was a big issue when Hong Kong companies decided to change their places of incorporation, she said.

But now, as Hong Kong only accounts for about 2 percent of China’s gross domestic product, the impact of such a change, also known as re-domiciliation, on the country is insignificant, she said. 

Chau said it is not appropriate to describe the restructuring of the two companies as a “divestment” or to focus too much on re-domiciliation as every investment is an interaction with the market.

Businessmen will go wherever there are investment opportunities. If there are not many investment opportunities in some places, companies should do something to remain responsible to their shareholders, she said.

“Fluidity is an important thing to all businesses and is a key for success,” Chau said, adding that as a shareholder of both companies, she is happy to see the merger.

Hutchison Whampoa is a company that is competing with global peers, while its merger with Cheung Kong will strengthen the group’s competitiveness and is a positive action for shareholders, she said.

In fact, many foreign media have said for a long time that Cheung Kong and Hutchison should have been restructured earlier, and that’s why they use “finally” to describe the deal, she said.

Commenting about the electoral reform proposed by Hong Kong government, Chau said she prefers to adopt a “pocket it first” strategy and wishes that the proposal will gain full support from all members of the Legislative Council.

“Perhaps we always focus too much on Hong Kong’s situation. To let Hong Kong become an element of China’s future political development is actually an important thing,” she said.

After a universal suffrage platform is set up in Hong Kong, Beijing will definitely put a lot of effort in finding suitable candidates to join the election, she said, adding that a chief executive should have the mentality of serving Hong Kong people, instead of ruling the city.

“Someone likes to rule but the outcome may not be good while many other capable people, who want to serve the public, are unable to be elected,” she said.

Chau voiced confidence that Beijing will continue to improve Hong Kong’s political system, although some people may think “pocket it first” is a huge bet.

She said she is not worried that Hong Kong may have not enough good candidates for the 2017 chief executive election.

As long as there is a platform for universal suffrage, good candidates will emerge, she said. However, if the electoral reform proposal is rejected in Legco, Hong Kong will suffer from endless political debates.

When asked whether she is a good candidate for chief executive, Chau quipped that she is not attractive enough in the political arena.

[Chinese version中文版]

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Chief reporter at EJ Insight