with Ben Kwok
Deluge of free newsprint sends chill through paper sellers
It is summer in Hong Kong, but it might as well be winter for the Chinese-language newspaper industry.
Since Sing Tao News Corp gave away 400,000 free copies this week, some newspaper stands in Tseung Kwan O reported a 20 per cent drop in copies sold. If that was not bad enough, look at the 40 per cent rate card discount these newspapers offered to grasp a slice of the traditional advertising cake.
With competition intensifying, Lai See has learned that Centaline chairman Shih Wing-ching is pushing his paper AM730 for an August 1 debut, at least two months before schedule.
'We were scooped,' Mr Shih said, 'but we'll stick to our business plan.'
Meanwhile, more free newspapers could be in the making, with one major daily group rumoured to be seriously entering the market.
One group that has no interest in launching freebies would be Jimmy Lai Chee-ying's Apple Daily. Mr Lai, who came back from a prolonged absence two weeks ago to shake up the paper, recently told staff 'it is the quality, not quantity, that matters'.
air today, gone tomorrow
Olongapo mayor James 'Bong' Gordon tried to remain positive yesterday despite the news this week that FedEx would abandon its hub in his fair city taking with it 5,000 jobs.
American enterprises such as FedEx and the US Navy had a history of compensating the citizens of Subic Bay well, he said. FedEx is to transfer its Philippine operations to the former Clark Airforce Base, where arch-rivals United Parcel Service has its regional hub.
'Maybe if they merged there,' Mayor Gordon said, 'the company could be called 'Fed Up'.' Lai See has heard many a true word said in jest.
MA keeps a tight rein
An interesting question was poised to Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Frederick Ma Si-hang, nicknamed 'Fat Horse' in Chinese: 'Would you consider raising a horse after Hong Kong secured the Beijing 2008 Olympics equestrian events?'
His diplomatic answer ran: 'I don't gamble on horses nor do I know how to ride a horse. My interest is in golf.'
Nice try Mr Ma, but isn't the art of politics never to look a gift horse in the mouth.
busy schedule for pccw director
All work and no play makes Alex a dull boy. Fortunately Lai See is happy to report that PCCW's all-rounded director, Alex Arena is not letting a busy round of debt finance activity get in the way of life's more important pleasures.Having completed a US$500 million bond offering on Wednesday, the 54-year-old finance director was spotted having a romantic candlelight celebration dinner in Tai Koo Place. The office romance is said to have started with a youngish executive from Pacific Century Premium Development earlier this year. Mr Arena has moved into the firm's Residence Bel-Air following his divorce last year and would appear to be living testament to the powers of youthful rejuvenation portrayed in the development's glossy advertising.
sozzled in cyberport
Cyberport is just more fun it would seem. A former Lai See colleague from the bonnie highlands of Scotland tells us of his rollicking good time on a recent visit to the Le Meridien Cyberport hotel.
'Not only did the deluxe suite have a superb sea view, but it came with a unique accessory - unlimited complimentary drinks,' he tells us. 'Sozzled in Cyberport is certainly a lot closer to paradise.' There is nothing like freeze booze to win the undying appreciation of any Scot.
Going FLAT out
Still on Cyberport, we are sad to report the departure of two of the three core members of the project's marketing team.
Apparently the workload ballooned after the government decided to organise more events with mass public appeal. 'I can't recall a single quiet day,' one informer said. Not a state of affairs that you would expect from a half-vacant government-backed technology office development.