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Asia's richest man targets Irish buy

Tuesday, August 05 14:50:28

A property flagship led by Asia's richest tycoon Li Ka-shing is seeking to buy into Irish aircraft leasing group AWAS.

This marks the Hong Kong businessman's first major foray into the aviation industry.

Cheung Kong Holdings said in a filing to Hong Kong Stock Exchange, the company "has submitted a preliminary non-binding proposal in respect of the possible acquisition of certain aircrafts from the AWAS group".

The potential deal is at an early stage, but media reports estimate it could be as much as USD5 billion for around 100 aircraft.

Li commands a vast empire through Cheung Kong Holdings and conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa, with global assets in property, telecoms, utilities, ports and retail. He warned last week of a climate of political and economic uncertainty likely to last the rest of the year, and said there was a need for "long-term" strategies to increase shareholders' returns.

In July, Cheung Kong reported a profit for the first six months this year grew by 59 percent to HK$21.35 billion ($2.75 billion).

Dow Jones Newswire quoted analyst Jonas Kan of Daiwa Securities that Li has been looking for investments that can yield good and steady returns. AWAS, owned by private equity group Terra Firma, has a portfolio of more than 300 aircraft leased to more than 100 airlines around the world, including Thai Airways, Qantas and China's budget carrier Spring Airlines, according to its website.

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