Hong Kong billionaire tycoon Li’s $12.4 billion deal foiled by shareholders in major setback

HONG KONG – Shareholders have foiled Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing’s $12.4 billion proposal to combine his infrastructure and utility companies, dealing a setback to the billionaire known as “Superman” for his business acumen.

By voting against Cheung Kong Infrastructure’s proposal to buy out Power Assets, shareholders thwarted Li’s plan to reshuffle his business empire in order to accelerate its overseas expansion.

The results of the vote at a shareholders’ meeting were released in a stock exchange filing late Tuesday.

The deal’s failure also throws an unexpected wrench into the 87-year-old Li’s plans to consolidate his sprawling empire before he hands the reins over to his eldest son, Victor. Earlier this year, Li merged his flagship company and its subsidiary and renamed the combined company CK Hutchison Holdings.

Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings Ltd. said about half of minority shareholders voted for the plan, far less than the 75 per cent needed.

The company said in a statement it was “disappointed” that minority shareholders killed the deal. It was offering to swap new stock for all of the shares of Power Assets Holdings Ltd. it didn’t yet own.

The deal faced opposition from two influential investor advisory groups , Glass Lewis & Co. and Institutional Shareholder Services, that didn’t believe it offered enough value.

It’s a rare defeat for Li, who’s been revered for decades in Hong Kong for his business acumen that’s earned him the nickname “Superman”. He has long been one of Asia’s richest people, with a fortune estimated at $33.3 billion, according to Forbes.