Li Ka-shing gives Zoom shares to son in US$2bil stake revamp


Lee Ka-Shing

HONG KONG: Billionaire Li Ka-shing (pic) reassigned a portion of his long-held stake in Zoom Video Communications Inc to his businessman son Richard.

The Hong Kong tycoon, who’s one of the biggest owners of the video-conferencing company, reduced his holding by 4.7 million shares – equal to 1.6% of the company – through British Virgin Islands investment vehicles, according to regulatory filings this week.

That leaves him with a 6.6% stake in Zoom, worth US$8.3bil as of the last close, assuming he no longer has any interests in the shares he transferred. Li’s fortune would then drop to about US$32bil, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Richard Li received less than 1% of Zoom’s shares from his father, people with knowledge of the matter said, without specifying whom the rest was given to. They asked not to be identified discussing private dealings.

Li Ka-shing – nicknamed “Superman” by his admirers because of a knack for buying assets at bargain prices – built his fortune in real estate and infrastructure but began diversifying his wealth into tech and other industries beyond Hong Kong years ago. That helped shield his investments from the city’s recent turmoil.

The 92-year-old started making early Zoom bets in 2013. The value of his stake, which was worth about US$850mil when the company went public in the US, had surged to some US$10bil before the share transfer as the video-conferencing service became an essential tool for millions of people working and learning from home during the Covid-19 stay-at-home orders.

Zoom now represents about a fourth of Li’s wealth, according to the Bloomberg wealth index. Richard had no Zoom holdings before.

Most of the junior Li’s fortune is derived from his stake in insurer FWD Group Ltd. After a brief stunt at his father’s ports-to-retail conglomerate, the Stanford University dropout decided to break away to build his own empire.

Richard started Star TV before selling a controlling stake to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp in 1993. The same year, he founded Pacific Century Group – now the largest owner of Hong Kong’s biggest mobile-phone operator – and bought some of ING Groep NV’s Asian insurance units in 2012, which later became FWD.

In 2020, Richard teamed up with PayPal Holdings Inc co-founder Peter Thiel to establish a US$595mil blank-cheque firm to scour for one or more South-East Asian companies.

Like the Lis, other tycoons have benefited from the surge in Zoom shares, which have jumped almost 1,100% since their listing in April 2019. The company’s founder, Eric Yuan, now has a fortune of US$20.9bil, while Taiwan’s Samuel Chen was among those who made billions from an early investment. — Bloomberg

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