The South China Morning Post has reported Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing's Hutchison Whampoa Ltd is mulling the possible sale of a 40 percent stake of Hutchison Port Holdings (HPH) to a quartet of state-owned mainland China companies.
If it goes through, the move would underscore Hutchison’s recent tactic of monetizing port assets to free up capital to support other high-growing businesses.
HPH is talking to a consortium of mainland Chinese companies as it is planning to a HK$160 billion ($20.6 billion) stake in its ports business. Hutchison holds an 80 percent stake in HPH, the world's largest container port operator by throughput with a foothold in 52 ports in 26 countries.
The buyers reportedly include the biggest names in Chinese ports, China Merchants Holdings (International), Cosco Pacific, China Shipping Terminal Development, as well as major investment firm State Investment & Development Corp.
Li Ka-shing has been actively restructuring his Hong Kong and mainland China assets in a widely talked move that many saw as a precursor to his exit from the market in favor of European businesses.
Known as "superman" in the city, Li has been buying assets from Canada to Europe, stoking talk that he is shifting or transferring assets out of Hong Kong and mainland China. He has denied he is leaving.
However, official sources denied any substantial deal being discussed. "There is nothing at this moment that we should report to the market. If and when there is any transaction which requires an announcement according to the Hong Kong listing rules, we will duly comply," China Merchants said in a statement.