Lai See

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 June, 2012, 12:00am

Shining example of how bankers seek to serve themselves before clients

It appears that despite the hype, diamonds - and particularly Graff Diamonds - are not a girl's best friend. With the pulling of Graff's share offering, they are more akin to a man's best friend.

But on a more serious note, what were bankers thinking when they thought a deal of this size could be achieved in the current market environment?

Here we have another example of investment bankers acting in their own interests. How could they get it so wrong? Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, HSBC, Deutsche and Goldman Sachs were book runners, while Rothschilds was a financial adviser.

Some of the bankers have blamed the Facebook IPO debacle in America, and as usual, 'weak markets' have been blamed.

Blaming weak markets is not good enough. You expect a team of this size to be able to make an informed assessment of the market environment.

There was no way this was going to help the issuer or the clients and subscribers who would have ended up with the shares.

You can almost hear the bankers thinking: 'If we don't go with this, we're not going to get anything done this year and bye bye bonus.'

On Wednesday, it was apparent that only half the deal was covered. So of course the initial banker response was, 'Let's cut the deal in half'. At least that way they would get a fee.

Graff was looking to raise US$1 billion. Founder Laurence Graff may have learnt a sharp lesson about financial markets. Responding to a question about the weak market environment, he told the media: 'Yes, the markets haven't looked healthy in the past few weeks, but Graff Diamonds is very healthy.' Hmmm.

Ex-CBRC chief's sinking feelings

In the eight or nine months since stepping down as chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, Liu Mingkang seems a changed man.

Speaking yestersday at Victor Fung's talkfest, the Asia-Global Dialogue 2012, he sounded positively chirpy. He told his audience he had been asked to speak about the mainland's 12th five-year plan and about banking reforms. 'I'll talk about the 12th five-year plan first rather than China's banking reform, because I find the 12th plan easier to talk about than banking reform,' Liu said.

Discussing the mainland's economy, he said: 'China has four 'UNs' in economic development: unsteady, unsustainable, uncoordinated, unbalanced.'

Turning to his time at the CBRC, he observed: 'When I first took over the CBRC and looked at the data of the banks, I felt like the captain of the Titanic ... only unlike Captain Edward Smith 100 years ago, I was looking straight at the iceberg.'

While people were not exactly splitting their sides and rolling in the aisles, this is like night and day compared with the sombre briefings he would dole out while he was chairman.

EPD talks tough, but no fines

Good to see that the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) has intensified its efforts in enforcing the idling engine law that took effect on December 15. We noted last month that as of March 30, the EPD had issued zero fines. The EPD said recently it had conducted 165 roadside publicity and joint enforcement actions in total, 58 more since the end of March. And traffic wardens have continued to crack down on drivers who violate the law. But despite the improved activity, no fines have been levied.

However, the EPD assures us that with summer approaching, it has stepped up the ongoing publicity activities to remind drivers to observe the law. They include staging outdoor roving exhibitions between May and June. 'Meanwhile, environmental protection inspectors and traffic wardens will continue to strengthen roadside publicity and joint enforcement actions,' the EPD said.

As widely predicted, this law has been so watered down that it is meaningless and the enforcement has been pathetic, as the EPD's figures indicate. It's another feather in the cap for Environment Secretary Edward Yau Tang-wah, who, if nothing else over the past five years, has perfected that age-old art of 'all talk and no action'.

HSBC bureaucracy's just a joke

During HSBC's recent investor day, chief executive Stuart Gulliver showed refreshing flashes of wit, according to the Evening Standard. 'We used to have 17 layers between me and frontline staff,' he said while defending his restructuring of the bank. 'This led to several instances of people reporting to themselves. Understandably, they did very well in their appraisals.'

Ho ho ho - that had them laughing all the way to the bank.