Goldman Sachs

Lai See

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 May, 2012, 12:00am

Granting of legal aid adds fuel to the fire in battle over incinerator

Those working to block government plans to build an incinerator on Shek Kwu Chau are cock-a-hoop at the Legal Aid Department's decision to grant aid to two Cheung Chau residents and one from Lantau who want to apply for a judicial review of decisions taken by the Environmental Protection Department, the Town Planning Board and Exco with respect to the incinerator.

The granting of legal aid means there is a sufficient basis for proceeding and has created a degree of confidence among those objecting to the incinerator that leave to apply for a judicial review will be granted over government objections at a court hearing that starts on June 7. If leave to apply for review is granted, this will put the government in the position of paying to sue itself, as occurred with the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge.

Work on the incinerator is at present suspended after Legco's environmental panel declined to approve the EPD's plans. However objectors believe that as long as the outline zoning plan to build a 3,000- tonne-per day mass-burn incinerator on an artificial island close to the shore remains in existence, then they should continue with the judicial review.

At the same time, the arguments over the type of technology that should be employed continue. Conventional mass-burn incinerators, the objectors say, produce dangerously toxic emissions, and some of them have been closed down around the world for this reason. They argue instead for gas plasma incinerators that produce little in the way of emissions, according to the manufacturers. They can variously produce jet fuel or syngas, which can generate electricity. Various city and regional authorities have in the past few years started to build gas plasma waste-to-energy operations, though nothing on the scale of 3,000 tonnes a day.

Several firms have produced proposals and asked to speak to the EPD. One firm has even offered to install and operate a gas plasma waste-to-energy operation at no charge to the government, as it believes it will make money from the project. However, the EPD has refused to see these firms. Its consultants, Aecom, apparently believe that it is not suitable for Hong Kong, though its US counterpart evidently has a different view.

'We believe that this technology is not only environmentally friendly but ready for large-scale commercialisation,' Aecom's Mike Zebel said in the US.

15 years, a Noble ambition

After what has seemed like a revolving door of senior management up to last November, staff and investors at commodities group Noble must have been gladdened to hear that newly appointed chief executive Yusuf Alireza intends to stick around for some time. Speaking during yesterday's first-quarter results analysts' conference call, the 41-year old Alireza said he'd spent 20 years at Goldman Sachs.

'I'm now looking forward to my next 20-year career at Noble,' he said. Errrmm, it should be pointed out, though, that Alireza, who left Goldman as co-president of Asia, excluding Japan, last November, first joined Goldman Sachs in 1997, according to Noble's press release in February announcing the appointment. By our reckoning, that makes it a 15-year rather than 20-year sojourn at Goldman Sachs. Mind you, this was still considerably longer than the tenure of other former senior Noble executives, including Ricardo Leiman, Tobias Brown, Peter O'Donnell and Steve Marzo, who all left in 2010 and 2011.

It's all relative at UBS

Bank of America Merrill Lynch's equity sales team has been picked as Institutional Investor's inaugural All-Asia Sales Team. According to II, they were selected by 2,430 buy-side analysts and money managers at some 870 firms that manage a total of US$1.57 trillion. UBS came second, followed by CLSA, Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan. II has written a piece about why the top teams are so great. One interviewer gushes about the wonderful treatment his firm receives from UBS, even though it may not be one of the bank's biggest clients.

'Some brokers will deny us access to phone calls with their analysts - they've even asked to increase their commission allocation before calling,' he adds.

Another interviewee waxes lyrical about UBS, saying 'the UBS people have integrity'. Strange how the culture in one part of a business can vary so widely from that in another division. Readers may recall the villainy that was uncovered within UBS by the US Internal Revenue Service in recent years.