NEWS
03/17/2016 12:08 EDT | Updated 03/18/2017 01:12 EDT

Hong Kong tycoon Li will invest less if Britain leaves EU

Hong Kong billionaire tycoon Li Ka-shing warned Thursday that if Britain votes to leave the European Union, his company will scale back investment in the country, where its businesses span ports to mobile phones.

Li, one of Asia's richest people, told reporters he was confident Britain would remain in the EU but his sprawling global conglomerate, CK Hutchison Holdings, would need to be more cautious if the country votes to exit.

Britain is holding a June 23 referendum on whether to remain in the 28-nation EU amid a heated debate about its role in the bloc.

Li's British business interests include investments in the port of Felixstowe, retail chain Supderdrug, gas and water utilities, a rail company and mobile phone operator Three.

The tycoon said he believes the campaign to get Britain to exit "won't be successful."

However, "in terms of whether we'll have more or less investment, of course it will be lower if Britain withdraws, so we need to be a bit more careful," he added, without offering any specifics.

Li spoke at a news conference following the release of annual results for CK Hutchison, which posted 31.2 billion Hong Kong dollars ($4 billion) in profit last year. Earnings at its ports, infrastructure and retail businesses were hurt by fluctuations in the pound, euro and other European currencies, the company said in its report.

The 87-year-old Li is ranked Asia's second wealthiest person by Forbes, which estimates his fortune at $30.6 billion. He's admired by Hong Kongers, who've nicknamed him "Superman" for his business acumen.

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Kelvin Chan, The Associated Press