with Ben Kwok
dickson shareholders may wonder who benefits most from latest deal
The Dickson Concepts recipe for success in business is, as his stock watchers will tell you, a time-honoured one - buy low and sell high between the listed company and the parent company.
However, retail tycoon Dickson Poon's listed company Dickson Concepts yesterday proposed to buy the Asian licensing business of Tommy Hilfiger from the chairman for $396 million or about 7.8 times last year's earnings.
The price represents 6.6 times its book value this year and 12 times that of last year's and altogether seems a bit rich for a flat business.
What is rather curious is that Mr Poon did not give a profits guarantee this year. The group did not even release sales figure of its Tommy Hilfiger Asian business which runs 79 stores in Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, Singapore and Malaysia.
We are not sure if this is a good deal for Dickson shareholders, given Tommy Hilfiger was taken over by private equity group Apex Partners only three months ago for US$1.6 billion and that the US apparel brand is destined for a painful restructuring.
What worries us more is the track record of Mr Poon in executing deals which prove to be more advantageous to himself than to his shareholders. Mr Poon bought back Harvey Nichols, ST Dupont and Tommy Hilfiger for $1.52 billion in 1999 after the Asian crisis, promptly selling the freehold of Harvey Nichols' Knightsbridge store site for $828 million.
Now it is crunch time for Mr Poon's minority shareholders who may want to see a return from the Tommy Hilfiger business.
little interest in host's footballs
The World Cup reaches its climax this weekend with two unlikely finalists - France and Italy - competing for the biggest prize in football.
We were amused to see that the German Chamber of Commerce yesterday delayed the auction of its charity football until Monday.
The football - autographed by team members - is currently bidding at $35,000, rather a low figure, since there are only two footballs of this kind in Hong Kong.
For the benefit of the charity organisation Hong Kong Special Olympics, we hope the host country Germany can at least take third place by beating Portugal.
regulators join the happy hour
Our securities regulator will be able to join the early happy hour crowd on Fridays at Lan Kwai Fong since most of its staff can now sign off at 5.15pm, 45 minutes earlier than usual thanks to its more humane five-day week and shorter working day on Friday.
But hang on! We received an SFC release at 5.26pm - a follow-up call 15 minutes later confirmed that the premises were empty.
but bankers work full saturdays
HSBC will also follow the five-day week but has kindly left open nearly half its 114 branches for a full day on Saturdays.
However, some residents may not benefit.
East islanders such as Lai See were not thrilled to find that there was only one HSBC outlet between Chai Wan and Shau Kei Wan with the exception of Hang Fa Cheun.
Besides this, half the 29 Kowloon MTR stations will not be covered not to mention our expatriate zones in Discovery Bay, Sai Kung and the Peak.
annual report report
Flipping through annual reports is one of Lai See's favourite hobbies and it's great to see that Jimmy Lai Chee-ying has appealed to the child in every shareholder.
In Next Media's annual report, there was a flap on the back of the front cover that contained a slab of red plasticine, now lovingly fashioned into a rose by a colleague.
Separately, it is always fun to read Karrie International's annual report but never more so than yesterday.
Its chairman's statement, entitled 'Heartfelt dedications' comprised 51 pages, up two pages from last year. HSBC's chairman must be feeling cheated by comparison, he got only five pages this year.