Time to pick cherries amid the wreckage

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 November, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 November, 1997, 12:00am

Plunging stock markets seem to be having particular spin-offs for buyers looking to pick up a bargain on new - or slightly used - vehicles.

First it was Thailand that started to see bargain basement post-crash prices paid for cars bought before markets dived.

Now it's Hong Kong.

A September-registered Toyota Camry with just 900 kilometres on the clock was put on the market through a car dealer at the beginning of last week for $210,000.

Apparently, it had been bought on hire purchase by someone with significant exposure to the market.

Tumbling share prices presumably made it difficult for the market player to fork out the car repayments.

As the market wrought its destructive path last week, the price started to tumble - and one of our readers became steadily more interested as the week progressed.

After Monday's trade, he was informed the asking price had fallen to $205,000. This was not bad, as the new price of the vehicle is about $250,000.

But there was more.

Following last Tuesday's bloodshed, it had dived to $198,000.

On Wednesday morning, he was told the price was a mere $196,000.

Now, our reader just happened to be scanning the market on the Wednesday - the day the Hang Seng staged a record single-day recovery.

As the market continued to soar, he rushed to the car dealer to put down a 10 per cent deposit - fearing the rebound might have sparked a price rethink by the car's owner. Perhaps this week's market action will reveal if he moved too quickly.

As property developer Plotio Holdings lists on the stock exchange today, could someone please tell us how to pronounce its name? Certainly, there seems to be a bit of confusion on the subject at the company's headquarters in Sheung Wan.

The company's chairman, Lai Yiu-keung, pronounces it Ploh-ti-O, but he seems to be the only one saying it that way.

He's well and truly outnumbered by the group's company secretary and public relations consultants, who would have it as Plott-io.

However, the narrator in the video touting the company's skills had yet another interpretation. His version was Plosh-io.

There was total confusion amongst journalists covering a launch press conference last week - many of whom came up with their own unique interpretation somewhere between the various versions: Ploh-shi-O.

Baffled? Maybe you should use their stock code number instead. It's 499.

We were under the impression we had heard everything on the stock-picking front - from using astrology to technical analysis.

But Templeton Franklin Investment Services have come up with a new method for picking winners that has more to do with the kitchen than the trading floor.

A mission statement sent in by reader Nigel Webber from Templeton's emerging markets brochure goes as follows: 'All companies in which Templeton Funds are invested have been carefully researched, our analysts or fund managers personally visit most of the companies, and stocks in them are purchased only if they represent food value.' Food value? Well, after last week's developments, maybe some Templeton types are suffering from indigestion.

Poor corporate timing - example number 485.

Hongkong Telecom put more than a dozen of its outlying island holiday properties on the market earlier this month.

Most were on Cheung Chau Island - including one five-house compound interestingly named Chilliwig, which was expected to fetch as much as $15 million - while a couple were on neighbouring Lantau.

A spokesman from the group said the move was a bid to recoup some profits.

Well, those profits may take a while to come to fruition.

We hear the events of the past two weeks - and the effect they have had on the property market - have made Hongkong Telecom's profit repatriation drive a distinctly more difficult task.

Ah, the power of the press.

Two months ago, there was a lengthy Business Post profile on Philip Tose, the outspoken head of Peregrine Investments. Mention was made in the opening paragraph about 'a stained carpet marked with cigarette burns' in the group's head office.

It was all part of an overall portrayal of the Peregrine engine-room as a bit of a no-frills operation.

We hear that soon after the report appeared, an order was made to tear up the carpet and replace it with something more befitting an investment house of Peregrine's standing.

Now, Peregrine's profits are looking a bit threadbare after the company announced last week it had taken a bit of a hit from the Asian currency and equity market turmoil.

Wonder if the healthy-looking shag pile in head office signifies better times ahead for the Peregrine ship.