Lai See

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 August, 2006, 12:00am


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Giordano in the frame as corporate takeovers come thick and fast

If this summer has had any one theme, it can probably be summed up in two words: corporate takeovers.

First there was Richard Li Tzar-kai's Houdini number at PCCW.

Then came suggestions that the 99-year-old Sir Run Run Shaw was ready at last to let go of his prized possessions which include the controlling interest in TVB.

Now the spotlight has fallen on the popular apparel franchise Giordano.

Unlike PCCW and TVB, Giordano has not had a controlling shareholder since its founder Jimmy Lai Chee-ying cashed out in 1996.

Esprit chairman Michael Ying Lee-yuen was said to have contemplated a move on Giordano around the time of the Asian financial crisis but he never followed through.

Last Friday, Giordano's bigger rival Uniqlo, via its parent Fast Retailing, emerged as a potential suitor though Giordano said it had yet to receive more than an expression of interest.

A bid, if it does materialise, would cause a dilemma for Giordano chairman Peter Lau Kwok-kuen who has insisted for the past 12 years that Giordano would stay independent.

The company's shares soared 18 per cent yesterday to close at HK$4.80. They are now up 45 per cent from their trough of HK$3.30 just six weeks ago.

In June, Mr Lau picked up 1.43 million shares for around HK$5 million, an average price of HK$3.57. His 1.62 per cent Giordano stake is now worth HK$115 million.

The company's market cap is now HK$7 billion.

But Credit Suisse analyst Marisa Ho doubts that Fast Retailing would want to spend all of its US$1 billion cash hoard on Giordano.

Giordano's acknowledgement of the Japanese retailer's interest 'effectively throws the ball back at Fast Retailing in a rather high-octane manner', she said.

Chim's two cents

Chim Pui-chung, who represents the financial services industry in Legco, did not get to be known as the 'golden banker' by offering free air time to journalists.

The closing down of another small securities house yesterday prompted a barrage of reporters' calls to Mr Chim's mobile while he was briefly out of Hong Kong.

'Hey, I know what you're going to ask, so I'll give you one minute, okay?' he told one hack, adding that the roaming charge at his undisclosed location was US$5 per minute.

Stanchart's health statement

Standard Chartered Bank has been doing its utmost to make its name synonymous with both health and wealth.

The bank yesterday distributed 20,000 green apples at its branches to promote its retirement income plan in conjunction with Prudential Insurance.

Meanwhile it was giving away fruit salad at the staff canteen and offering free physicals and wealth analysis at its buildings in Central and Kwun Tong.

For more on StanChart's health, check its interim results today.

Long-lasting souvenir stamp

Queues never end in Hong Kong. Three weeks into the Harbin Ice Lantern Festival's run at Cityplaza and with a No3 typhoon alert in effect, yours truly still had to wait 20 minutes to buy tickets to one of the coolest places (-5 degrees) in town.

We have no complaint with Swire Properties which we gather has already raised close to HK$1.5 million for World Vision Hong Kong by donating the HK$20 entrance fees it receives.

The state of Lai See's hand is something else, however.

Four days later, try as he might, he has still not succeeded in washing away the blue chop that was stamped on him at the entrance. Now he feels like a pig in the slaughterhouse.