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Asia's Buffett Gets Into Battery Business

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Li Ka-shing's recent investment in Jia Sheng Holdings shows that the businessman may be taking his nickname as the "Warren Buffett of Asia" to heart. The move closely mirrors a similar bet made by the Oracle of Omaha that earned the investor big returns through 2009.

Jia Sheng Holdings, which has a niche in the Hong Kong market as a brokerage and investment firm, recently took steps to go in a new direction. The company plans to spend HK $2.75 billion to purchase Union Grace Holdings to gain control of Thunder Sky Energy Group, which produces batteries for electric cars.

The recent developments draw interesting parallels to Buffett's investment in the Chinese electric car and battery company, BYD. In September 2008, Buffett paid nearly $2 billion for a 10% stake in this firm which, at the time, was relatively unknown outside of China.

With the growing popularity of environmentalism and electric car prospects, the small firm, once mainly known for producing cell phone power sources, has grown to become one of the most recognizable car companies in not just China, but around the world.

In the time since the bet was made, BYD has grown to become the fourth largest car maker in China and shares of firm have ballooned five-fold. In return, Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) have pocketed billions.

Li Ka-shing's Jia Sheng investment is considerably smaller than that of Professor Buffett. However, the Hong Kong businessman's 400 million shares which, together translate into a 2.5% stake in the firm, still set him back nearly $38 million. These funds will be used to pay for the company's efforts to build battery factories.

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