Firm denied final appeal showdown with HSBC

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 March, 2007, 12:00am


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A company that accused HSBC of wrongfully forcing it into selling its flagship property has been refused permission to take the matter to the Court of Final Appeal.

The Court of Appeal yesterday dismissed an application by Esquire (Electronics) for leave to take its case against the bank to the city's highest court.

In October last year, the Court of Appeal overturned a previous judgment against HSBC that could have seen it liable for more than HK$450 million for its treatment of the troubled company.

The court criticised almost every facet of the judgment handed down by Mr Justice William Waung Sik-ying in July 2005, in which he called the bank's behaviour 'the devil's work'. Esquire was heavily indebted to HSBC and in 1987 was forced to sell its flagship property, Li Fung House, to cover some loans.

Paul Harris SC, for Esquire, argued that the company should be allowed to plead its case before the Court of Final Appeal because of a rule that granted leave to do so in cases where there were questions to be resolved over property worth more than HK$1 million.

Li Fung House was at all times at the centre of the dispute and was without doubt worth more than HK$1 million, Mr Harris said.

The Court of Final Appeal Ordinance says the court will hear cases 'where the appeal involves, directly or indirectly, some claim or question to, or respecting property or some civil right amounting to, or of the value of, HK$1,000,000 or more'.

The bank argued, however, that from the start the proceedings had been about damages and had never been over Li Fung House. So there was no question over property. The company also had to convince the court it was certain it would recover in excess of HK$1 million. But since the amount of damages sought had never been quantified, the bank argued the court could not grant leave when it was unsure there was a matter of real financial substance to be settled.

The Court of Appeal - made up of Mr Justice Anthony Rogers, Mr Justice Robert Tang Chin and Mr Justice Frank Stock - dismissed the appeal and reserved giving its reasons until later.