Sheepish analysts find freedom from flock

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 April, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 April, 1998, 12:00am

Brace yourselves for a shock. It seems hard times are forcing analysts at Hong Kong investment banks to produce - wait for it - original research! Until recently, we were convinced local brokers' reports were driven by a pack mentality. After all, Hong Kong is a big town for spying on research put out by rival investment banks.

In his time, your correspondent has been bluntly phoned by brokers of all descriptions asking for copies of reports put out by their rivals.

But fearless John Hobson, Morgan Stanley's regional banking analyst, yesterday opined that things were changing. He believes there are more than a few broking analysts around town writing research reports without any outside help.

And what of his own policy on writing reports? It is, apparently, to ignore other brokers' analysis.

'I don't have time to read other people's research - there is the potential that you start to think like the pack,' he confided yesterday.

And here were we thinking the term 'independent analyst' was an oxymoron! Remember our item a fortnight ago criticising the apparent move by China Telecom (Hong Kong) to hold its press briefings only in Putonghua? Representatives of the group, if you recall, seemed surprised to see gweilo business reporters show up at a recent briefing at the Grand Hyatt.

We suggested this was not the best way for a telecoms conglomerate to get its message out to the international community.

Well, the message seems to have got through.

Yesterday, the company held another Chinese language press conference at the same venue.

There was one key difference this time around: headphones were provided with full translations of proceedings into English.

A welcome move indeed, and a small, but significant, step for open and transparent reporting by mainland companies in Hong Kong.

Picture the scene: you're watching the climactic chariot race in the movie Ben Hur, that epic of epics.

The title character, Judah Ben Hur, is glancing over his shoulder at his fallen rival, with glorious victory a couple of short laps away.

Next moment, you fall back to earth with a thud, having the sad reality of red tide and health warnings drummed home.

Yes, it's what else but the incredibly appropriate timing of a 15-minute TVB news bulletin on Saturday night - right in the middle of our 11 Oscar epic's most memorable scene.

Reader Paul Ellis says he has long fallen victim to inappropriately timed news bulletins during movies screened in Hong Kong - as we all have.

'But to interrupt THE chariot race of chariot races?! Puh-lease!,' he exclaims.

Credit Lyonnais Securities Asia (CLSA) has been gearing up for its annual conferences in Beijing in a fortnight and in Hong Kong a week later, and speculation has been building on who it has lured for the mainland leg.

Market scuttlebutt has it that teeing up senior Chinese dignitaries for the conference hasn't been the easiest task - with the political situation in the mainland still in a state of flux following the National People's Congress last month.

Word around the traps yesterday had it that Premier Zhu Rongji was asked - along with other mainland dignitaries - to the Beijing leg of the corporate talk-fests, but his representatives recently declined the invitation.

CLSA marketing director Jodie Allison was being cagey last night, refusing to confirm or deny even whether Mr Zhu had been invited.

However, she revealed two of the three slots for senior mainland officials have been filled: one by China Securities Regulatory Commission chairman Zhou Zhengqing, and another by State Development Bank boss Chen Yuan.

Readers Neil and Marina Bailey received an unusual fax from United Parcel Service (UPS) about some cargo that had turned up for them.

On the cover sheet was the message: 'Shipment arrival notice for fright collect shipment.' Little wonder that they were a touch cautious about taking delivery of their cargo.

The folks at Agence France-Presse clearly put plenty of thought into how the news agency portrayed a story yesterday about a bomb that hit a Sri Lanka telephone exchange.

The blast affected thousands of phone lines - but, most importantly, no one was injured.

Still, the AFP types made the most of the story through the headline: 'Bomb rips through Sri Lanka exchange, thousands of phones dead.'