Lai See

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 July, 2005, 12:00am

Hang Seng depositors' rush to yuan turns into a comparative trickle

Was he really wrong? On Saturday, Hang Seng Bank chief executive Raymond Or Ching-fai said his bank's customers converted $50 million into yuan deposits on Friday alone, a day after China revalued the yuan a modest 2.1 per cent and allowed for a +/-0.3 per cent daily trading band. Compared to the standard conversion rate of $5 million a day, it seemed the first tangible evidence that a speculative wave was building, betting on continued yuan strengthening, and most Chinese-language papers led with it in their Sunday editions.

Then on Monday, Hang Seng issued a statement to clarify that Friday's yuan conversions had merely doubled to $10 million, and blamed an intra-departmental miscommunication for the slip-up.

That struck some of Lai See's banker contacts as odd, not least because Mr Or is famous for having a very good head for numbers.

Hang Seng Bank officials insisted that they initiated the clarification soon after Mr Or misspoke, but still did not come out with their statement until Monday - some 48 hours later. In the interim, we imagine some very nervous mainland and Hong Kong monetary officials sweated bullets.

The gift horse donation ride

Two months after Li Ka-shing donated $1 billion to the University of Hong Kong's medical facility, Henry Fok Ying-tung yesterday countered with an $800 million gift to the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, which the Fok family has long supported. Both are by far the largest single gifts received by either institution.

It was also the second time in two weeks that the UST had been so blessed, after earlier receiving a $33 million gift from Henderson Land Development chairman Lee Shau-kee.

With Mr Fok's largesse, however, there was a catch: $500 million was earmarked for 'an education and research institute' on Nansha, an island in southern Guangzhou where Mr Fok is a big investor in the Nansha Information Technology Park and a host of other facilities including a ferry terminal and a conference centre.

That said, one must never look a gift horse in the mouth. Especially when there's still $300 million left over for your main campus.

Too busy to take own advice

CSFB chief regional economist Dong Tao can be excused for feeling both very clever and very silly. Clever because he was one of the first to correctly tip a summer revaluation for the yuan; silly for not having any yuan exposure himself.

'On several occasions I thought about buying yuan ... but I was too busy,' Mr Tao said in the latest '14 minutes with Lai See' podcast. 'Although I made the right call, I did a lousy job with my own investments.'

To hear Mr Tao's lament in full, please visit

Magic month for merchants man

China Merchant Holdings chairman Fu Yuning has netted a neat $15 million from his share options this month.

Last week, he sold 416,000 shares at $15.57. This month he has exercised 1.5 million shares at $5.05 each, costing him $7.5 million, and later sold them on the open market for $23.25 million.

Mr Fu, a graduate of Dalian Institute in Port & Waterway Engineering, still holds 1.6 million China Merchant shares with a market value of $24.32 million.

His deputy, Zhao Huxiang, has also sold 1.25 million shares this month for about $19 million, and has another 850,000 shares worth $13 million still in-pocket.