Frenchman swims against tide for headline

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 February, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 February, 1995, 12:00am

ASSISTANTS to the chief executives of Hong Kong's most powerful companies gather together once a year and something very important is on their minds.

No, not rigging the land auctions. Or even considering whether they should get the Governor sent back to London.

This gathering of assistants to the territory's most powerful tycoons is trying to make sure its bosses get their photos in the paper.

It all stems from the awkward problem that almost every major firm in the territory is going to be announcing its annual results over the next four weeks, because they all have a year-end of December 31 and take a month or two to get the numbers bashed into shape.

But they can't just announce them when they're ready.

Imagine the problems if Swire, HSBC, Cheung Kong and TVB all announced their profits on the same day.

It actually happened a few years ago, and there was no room in the paper for anything interesting, like that French chap Guy Delage swimming across the Atlantic - a real story from last week's paper, by the way.

It would be tragic if this went unreported just because four major companies wanted to tell the world about their profits.

So, spies tell us a mini-syndicate has been formed to make sure that this never happens again.

Assistants to the various tycoons take their bosses diaries along to a meeting, and no doubt a few of them have consulted the almanacs to try and wangle an auspicious date too.

With no competition, each tycoon can thus be assured they'll get their picture right on the front of page one with no risk of being upstaged.

And there's room for mad trans-ocean swimmers too.

Price of failure THE Failure Group is one US firm that isn't afraid to give itself a bad name.

Its name is Failure because it analyses and tries to prevent 'failures of an engineering or scientific nature', and we first found out about it after reading about its amazing corporate calendar.

February's picture is the World Trade Centre after the bombing.

August's is the aftermath of the Denver air crash which killed 154 in 1987 etc etc.

Bloomberg Business News ran a story about this weird corporate freeby last week, and most people would reckon that this could create a bit of a fuss and drive its share price down.

Instead, Failure Group's price rose.

Party politics THERE was plenty of scope for Sino-British confusion at the Convention Centre last night. Jardine Fleming, the broking arm of the Jardines group, had its annual staff party at the same time and in the same building as the Xinhua spring cocktails.

If the Jardines folk got off the escalator too early they'd end up supping with Zhou Nan instead of Alan Smith.

No doubt practical jokers in both camps were tempted to switch the signs.

Sign language NOT many know this, but people who work in banks have to be experts at calligraphy too.

A customer opened an account at a major Hong Kong bank and supplied a specimen signature.

The bank clerk - sorry, customer accounts service executive - said: 'No, No, No. That's not how you sign your name. You should sign it like this'.

As an ex-civil servant signing dozens of forms a day, this would-be customer had developed a rather stylish streamlined signature, and the bank preferred something more squiggly.

After a few trial attempts they managed to produce something the bank liked, sadly saying goodbye to the flourish that he had used to sign cheques for the previous 15 years.

Unfortunately, he's a slow learner and often forgets his 'proper' signature.

So if necessary one of the bank people is happy to show him his signature again so he can remember how it goes.

Flop disk HUNDREDS of people have received floppy disks containing software allowing anyone with a computer and modem to have a free trial of Compuserve, one of these electronic bulletin board things.

Pity the software has got the wrong telephone number built in.

The software used the access number used in the States and although they tried to point people towards the Hong Kong number they obviously didn't do it right because our computer-literate informant still dialed dozens of times without getting a connection.

We don't know which number the many calls went to.

However, there would be a certain justice if it was the bedside phone of one of the team that sent out the disks.