Li seeks to cash in on growing plane leasing

Joseph Millis
LI KA-SHING, Asia’s richest man yesterday aims to become a force in the global aircraft leasing business after it was announced that as his flagship investment firm held talks with lessors on building up a portfolio of planes.

The Hong Kong tycoon’s Cheung Kong Holdings was reported by Reuters to be in discussions to form a joint venture with Mitsubishi’s MC Aviation Partners leasing arm.

Li's firm is already bidding for a $5bn (£3.1bn) fleet of 100 planes that lessor AWAS Aviation Capital had put up for sale.

The move by Li, who runs a global business spanning everything from property to energy, is part of a strategy to recraft the group’s investments outside Hong Kong, targeting stable returns in a fast-growing industry. As global air travel booms, carriers are opting to lease new planes rather than buying them, saving on huge capital outlays upfront.

“They [Cheung Kong] have their fingers in a lot of pies at the same time,” said one executive, who declined to be identified. “They have huge ambitions and are looking to become a top global lessor.”