Bank of East Asia

Goliath ready for David this time

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 March, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 March, 2003, 12:00am

Minority shareholder activist David Webb ruffled a few feathers at yesterday's Bank of East Asia (BEA) annual general meeting.

Questions, questions and more pesky questions.

Can't directors just award themselves more pay in peace any more?

You may recall that Mr Webb recently launched Project Poll: a campaign to prise open the doors of Hong Kong's shareholder meetings. Shares have been bought in every company in the Hang Seng Index to get people into these meetings.

And yesterday it was the turn of BEA.

Some executives seemed a bit flustered at the quiz monster, Mr Webb.

But not Richard Li Tzar-kai.

PCCW chairman Mr Li is on BEA's board of directors.

He boldly introduced himself to Mr Webb. Might as well, he'll be seeing him at the PCCW shareholder meetings.

But the PCCW boss would be prepared, Mr Li chortled.

Much like Goliath's famous last words.


The perks of being a shareholder in Hong Kong were in full abundance at yesterday's BEA meeting.

This is otherwise known as the scramble for lunchbox tokens. It is always heartening to see the elderly shareholders in particular rally for the free feed.

And David Webb had earned four tokens. To his credit, he held them up and asked who wanted them.

If this trend continues, we suspect a little Webb fan club may be born.

Of geriatric groupies.


The Island Shangri-La was quite possibly the safest place to be yesterday thanks to the Credit Suisse First Boston (CSFB) Asian Investment Conference.

Gurkhas galore.

We learned this the hard way. The annual attempt by journalists to sneak into the sessions they weren't invited to.

One reporter was stopped by a Gurkha at the door and her press badge was confiscated.

But while security was tight, cost-cutting was also in evidence.

Press numbers were limited this year. One reason given by a press officer was frugality: printing less badges saves money.

Ah-hah. On the other hand though, there was an ample supply of apple pie for the delegates. No savings there, then.

Especially as it was being gobbled by journalists with lots of spare time on their hands.


The joys of technology meant that delegates didn't even have to turn up to this year's CSFB conference - a Webcast was available instead.

And even if you missed it first time around, an on-demand replay is there for up to 30 days.

How convenient.

Except that practically every session had the caveat 'Webcast not available at company's request' tagged to it.


Gaffe of the day comes courtesy of Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Frederick Ma Si-hang.

The occasion was the third CEO Insurance Summit.

We shall skip the boring bits of his speech. Needless to say Hong Kong is fabulous and insurers have a wonderful life here.

And Mr Ma concluded with some chipper words.

Enjoy Hong Kong. Shop, and make us prosper.

Which all seems very well except that the rest of us are being advised to stay away from busy districts for fear of contracting a fatal virus.

And Mr Ma seems to think the best way to help retailers is for consumers to ritually destroy their credit cards.

See for yourself. Mr Ma's signoff: 'So spoil your spouses, burn the plastic and enjoy your stay in Hong Kong.'

Er, isn't that burn a hole in the plastic?