Li Ka-shing is delighted after hearing the news that his Shantou University rowing team had broken the world record. Photo: Li Ka / Shing Foundation

Tycoon Li Ka-shing has ruled the roost in Hong Kong for the past 20 years by building a vast business empire and amassing a huge fortune.

It was hardly surprising then that the chairman of CK Hutchison and CK Asset Holdings topped Forbes’ 2018 Hong Kong rich list. His net worth now stands at US$36 billion, up nearly 9% from last year.

Li again put his peers in the shade, staying ahead of Henderson Land’s Lee Shau-kee on $32.9 billion, K Wah’s Lui Che-woo on $19 billion, and Sun Hung Kai Properties’ Thomas and Raymond Kwok on $17.8 billion.

Chinese Estates’ Joseph Lau Luen-hung came next on $17 billion followed by Wheelock Properties’ Peter Woo Kwong-ching on $13 billion. And every one of them made their fortunes through property investments.

Still, there will come a time in the near future when Li will finally have to give up his number one spot. He is nearly 90 years old and looks certain to hand over to his eldest son Victor later this year, according to press reports.

But despite his age, the tycoon nicknamed “Superman” is still rarely out of the news, as he is often quoted about his foundation’s high-tech investments. On Friday, he was even spotted smiling after his Shantou University rowing team had set a world record for crossing the Atlantic in 34 days.

Li, of course, is probably the shrewdest businessman in the city. He was quick to expand his business outside of Hong Kong in the early 1990s. His high-profile acquisitions include the Felixstowe port in the United Kingdom and the Canadian oil company Husky Energy.

CK Hutchison, in fact, is now in 50 countries and has more than 290,000 employees. But there is a limit to his success. Despite his vast wealth, he still trails the mainland Chinese internet kings, Pony Ma and Jack Ma.

Pony, who runs Tencent, is worth $49.6 billion, while Alibaba founder Jack has amassed a $39.6 billion fortune. Another notable name is China Evergrande’s Hui Ka-yan, the Guangzhou property tycoon, who is now worth $37.9 billion.

Making Forbes’ rich list for the first time is Joe Tsai Chung-hsin. The Alibaba vice-chairman is listed with a net worth of $10.4 billion.

Martin Lau Chi-ping, the Tencent president, is also new name. The former Goldman Sachs banker is now worth $2.4 billion because of his stock options with the Chinese internet giant.