Hong Kong’s Richest Man Eyes Vietnam as Zero-COVID Hammers China

By Kathleen Li
Kathleen Li
Kathleen Li
Kathleen Li has contributed to The Epoch Times since 2009 and focuses on China-related topics. She is an engineer, chartered in civil and structural engineering in Australia.
May 9, 2022 Updated: May 10, 2022

CK Asset Holdings, founded by Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing, will invest in real estate in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The move comes as Vietnam has become the fastest growing country in Southeast Asia, and its GDP growth rate exceeds China’s.

Li, who ranked first in the “Hurun Global Real Estate Rich List 2022” with a net worth of $33 billion, has always been a bellwether for Asian investors.

The Saigon Times recently reported that CK Asset Holdings Ltd. (01113.HK), Japan’s ORIX Corp., and Vietnam’s Van Thinh Phat Group discussed local investment matters with the leaders of Ho Chi Minh City on April 13.

CK Asset Holdings Executive Director Justin Chiu said at the meeting that the recent visits gave him complete confidence in investing in Ho Chi Minh City, which he also attributed to his company’s local partner, Van Thinh Phat Group.

CK Asset Holdings, previously known as Cheung Kong Property Holdings Ltd., is one of the largest real estate developers in Hong Kong, holding more than $80 billion worth of assets and more than $50 billion in equity. Van Thinh Phat Group is Vietnam’s largest private real estate company and played an essential role in encouraging CK Asset Holdings and ORIX to invest in Ho Chi Minh City.

Li Ka-shing is known as one of the most shrewd business people in the world. Observers say he can keenly gauge the changes in the global market, then move around his huge global assets accordingly. In the early days, he invested heavily in the Chinese market. But in 2013, he began to sell Hong Kong and Chinese assets on a large scale. At the same time, he started investing in UK and European real estate.

State-run media Xinhua News Agency took notice and published an article, titled “Don’t Let Li Ka-shing Leave,” in 2015. The report said, “In China, the economic and political cycles are closely related,” and Li’s sale of assets is a way to escape without getting noticed.

In 2020, Li started selling UK and European assets.

In 2021, after CK Asset Holdings purchased land in Hong Kong, Chinese media said that Li “killed back,” which means he returned to Hong Kong and China to invest. But that same year, the company sold its Century Plaza in Shanghai, which included shopping malls and an office building.

On March 11 this year, CK Asset Holdings announced that it had sold its London property, 5 Broadgate, in a cash deal of 729 million pounds (about $927 million.

Vietnam’s Booming Economy Offers Investment Opportunities

The news that CK Asset Holdings has teamed up with Japan’s ORIX and a local Vietnamese property group to invest in Ho Chi Minh City real estate shows that Li has chosen Vietnam as his next investment destination, some experts noted.

On April 30, Albert Song, a researcher at Tianjun, a politics and economics think tank, told The Epoch Times: “Li Ka-shing hastily moved his assets again and keenly explored Vietnam as the new investment territory because Vietnam’s economy is rapidly rising. Even in 2020, the worst year of the pandemic, its GDP growth rate still exceeds China’s and ranks among the top in the world.”

Song has 27 years of experience in China’s financial industry.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, Vietnam’s total import and export volume was still close to $670 billion; this increased nearly 23 percent year on year, a record high. At the same time, Vietnam recorded a trade surplus for a sixth consecutive year of over $4 billion.

The Vietnamese stock market set a new record last year, with the Vietnam Index (VN-Index) reaching a trading record of 1,500.8 points on Nov. 25, up nearly 36 percent from the end of 2020.

“Foreign trade is booming, domestic demand is boosted, asset prices are rising, and Vietnam has shown amazing economic dynamism,” Song said.

Vietnam’s exports in the first quarter of 2022 increased by 15.9 percent year on year, while China’s Shenzhen exports fell by 14 percent in the first quarter of this year. Shenzhen has been the city with the highest export value in China for 29 consecutive years.

Song believes that Vietnam’s implementation of “coexistence with the virus” has strengthened its position in the global industrial chain.

“For Vietnam’s economy, which relies on foreign trade, the rapid recovery of import and export trade has directly boosted the rapid recovery of Vietnam’s economy. Since this year, many Japanese, Korean, European, and American technology companies have transferred orders to Southeast Asia.”

Regarding China’s position in the global industrial chain, Song believes that “the risk of decoupling between China and the global industrial chain is increasing, and Europe and the United States are showing strong interest in Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries, and Vietnam is becoming a new supply chain center.”

“The total trade volume for the year is expected to exceed the $800 billion mark. Many factories in Vietnam are fully booked with orders this year, including many orders voluntarily transferred to Vietnam by Chinese companies. The total trade volume for the year is expected to exceed the $800 billion mark.”

Kathleen Li
Kathleen Li has contributed to The Epoch Times since 2009 and focuses on China-related topics. She is an engineer, chartered in civil and structural engineering in Australia.