A warm Cayman welcome to Mr. Li Ka-shing

In late October, Caymanian entrepreneur Shalico Christian received an email from his mentor Justin Chiu, a Hong Kong developer — and fellow alumnus of Canada’s Trent University — for whom he had interned in the summer of 2011.

Mr. Chiu, according to his email, was looking into doing business in the Cayman Islands. Saying he wished to fly down soon, he requested Mr. Christian’s advice on travel arrangements, suggesting a possible reunion with other Trent graduates, University College of the Cayman Islands President Roy Bodden and Trent economics professor Tom Phillips (who taught at UCCI from 2004-2006, is now back in Ontario, but keeps close ties to Cayman).

An urgent matter forestalled Mr. Chiu’s plans to visit, but the email itself turned out to be a portend — of the massive restructuring of Chinese mega-billionaire Li Ka-shing’s business empire, which is reincorporating as a Cayman entity.

You see, Mr. Chiu — in addition to being the friend of Messrs. Christian, Bodden and Phillips — happens to be Executive Director of Cheung Kong (Holdings) Limited, one of Mr. Li’s two primary multinational conglomerates that are moving from Hong Kong to Cayman. And Mr. Li’s global headline-making announcement was the business in Cayman to which Mr. Chiu had alluded.

This is not to say that Cayman’s group of Trent alumni played any active role in courting Mr. Li’s business (the “heavy lifting” in that regard should be credited to professionals in Cayman’s private financial services sector); however, it most probably didn’t hurt that Mr. Chiu, one of Mr. Li’s closest and most senior colleagues, was already well-acquainted with Cayman, and Caymanians, and apparently felt our island, and our people, worthy of their trust.

If any of our readers woke up this morning with lingering doubts about the smallness of this world, or that immensely complex financial transactions are often underpinned by basic human relationships — Mr. Christian’s anecdote, we think, should sweep those misconceptions away.

Indeed, Pinnacle Media has connections of its own with Mr. Li’s family.

A pair of our senior journalists, Managing Editor Norma Connolly and reporter Tad Stoner, worked directly for Mr. Li’s son Richard for his media operations in Hong Kong and London. Although Richard Li’s enterprises are separate and distinct from his father’s, Ms. Connolly and Mr. Stoner both attest to a culture of discipline and fairness of conduct in the Li family — sentiments supported by Mr. Christian in his experience working at Cheung Kong (Holdings).

Some Compass readers have left comments on our website suggesting that the importance of Mr. Li’s announcement to Cayman has been exaggerated; after all Mr. Li is not actually loading up a moving van bound for Governors Harbour, and he’s not breaking ground on new physical headquarters for his companies. The only immediate beneficiaries, they say, are the lawyers creating the contractual arrangements, and the Cayman government, which will receive a few thousand dollars in fees.

Such a view, in our opinion, is myopic, leaving out perhaps the largest beneficiary — the reputation of Cayman as one of the world’s preeminent jurisdiction in which to do business. Additionally, just because Mr. Li is not investing locally in Cayman just yet, doesn’t mean he won’t in the future. Mr. Li’s companies already have an interest in the Caribbean as owners of the Grand Lucayan resort in Bahamas, for example, and are active in scores of countries.

At minimum, the restructuring has generated news stories across the world, largely casting Cayman in a positive light, and has demonstrated that, now, Mr. Li (whose even demeanor and pragmatic business sense have earned him the reputation as Asia’s Warren Buffett) has placed at least one foot on the deck of the HMS Cayman.

Don’t hesitate, Mr. Li. Welcome aboard! Cayman, and the Compass, are eager to make your acquaintance.

… Truth be told, we feel like we know you a bit already.

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  1. Still nothing to get overly excited about. Are you going to start running news stories and editorials every time a billionaire incorporates an entity in Cayman. If so, you’ll be extremely busy! Yes it’s good for Cayman in the general sense of reputation and more fees coming in, but the headline yesterday was misleading at best and clickbait at worst. The fact is this type of transaction is very common, especially for HK listed companies. Funny you mention Warren Buffett, as he has a couple of subsidiaries here yet no one makes a big deal about that.

    From a recent story in the South China Morning Post, which shows just how common this is. The global news stories mostly spoke about how incorporating in Cayman will help shareholders get more money out of the newly formed companies.

    Li, however, rejected suggestions that the proposed reorganisation is a sign of his withdrawal from the city.

    More than 75 per cent of companies that have listed in Hong Kong in the past 10 years or so are incorporated in Cayman Islands, including state-owned enterprises. Have they also lost confidence in Hong Kong? said Li, adding that the company was just following the trend.

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  2. Thanks for the change of perspective Compass. However Christoph makes a good point as well.

    On any account I believe this is a good thing for Cayman and great publicity which we need especially after years of negative exposure and politically driven conspiracies that played out in the international media deeply damaging Cayman’s reputation.

    Thanks again Compass it’s nice to read good news for a change.

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  3. What I find interesting about this move is that it follows what pretty much amounted to a fire sale of all Mr Ka-shing’s business interests in mainland China. He’s obviously feeling the cold wind of change coming from somewhere.

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