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Meet the man buying up billions of pounds worth of British businesses

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Hong-Kong billionaire Li Ka-Shing is in talks to buy Britain's second-largest mobile provider, O2, for up to £10.25bn from Spain's Telefonica, just days after buying a third of Britain's trains.

This would be the second major UK mobile network owned by the 86-year-old, self-made billionaire whose Hong-Kong-based firm, Hutchison-Whampoa, already owns the network Three.

If the deal goes ahead it would create the UK's biggest mobile group.

As the Independent's business editor Jim Armitage points out, that could prove problematic for Britain's competition regulators.

Who is he?

Li Ka-Shing is the richest man in Hong Kong and from 2012 to 2014 he was the richest man in Asia.

He sits at number 14 on the list of Forbes World Billionaires, with a net worth of £23bn ($34.8bn) and is known as "Superman" for his deal-making skills.

What's his background?

Born in 1928 in Chaozhou, China, he was a labourer in a plastics company before he was able to start his own firm in 1950.

In recent years he has been selling off parts of his vast Asian property portfolio and buying up European assets in a major reorganisation of his business empire, which has interests in energy, ports, telecoms and property.

This is part of what Quartz has called a "sell China, buy Europe" strategy, in which he is selling assets in response to economic growth slowing down in Hong Kong and China, and seizing the opportunity to "scoop up undervalued European assets".

He already owns the pharmacy chain Superdrug, UK Power Networks, Britain's largest container port in Felixstowe and in the last week acquired Eversholt Rail Group for £2.5bn.

Sounds like he likes to splash the cash?

Despite being one of the world's richest men, the octogenarian billionaire and philanthropist has a reputation for living a no-frills lifestyle, wearing simple black suits and shoes and an inexpensive Seiko wristwatch.

In Britain he is an honorary knight and is a Legion d'honneur in France.


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