Lai See

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 May, 2007, 12:00am


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Temperatures rise as Shanghai's love affair heats up

Shanghai has never been so hot - not just in terms of temperature but also the city's heated infatuation with the stock market.

Every newspaper in the city has featured the latest developments in its romance with the stock market on the front page this week, with success stories and colourful details of individuals scoring a quick profit.

Even veteran stock watchers such as Lai See were amazed by reports that some Shanghai companies have added half-hour morning and afternoon work breaks to allow employees to get their share trading fix. Company productivity gives way to individual profitability.

The bubble in the financial centre has grown to such an incredible level that even Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing feels uncomfortable. According to one Shanghai paper, a record 56,570 new stock accounts were opened on Tuesday, compared with 6,918 new accounts two weeks earlier on pre-Golden Week Monday.

Shanghai is certainly hot these days - and if you can stand the heat, go there and have a look.

The name game

Shanghai seems to lack a house brand, unfortunate for a city serving as a window to China for the world's most famous company names.

The most valuable brand name in Shanghai, according to the Hurun Report, is Bank of Communications, which it ranked 10th among other national brands such as China Mobile, ICBC and Huawei.

Bocom, in which HSBC Holdings has a near 19 per cent stake after the mainland lender listed A shares this week, was estimated to be worth US$3.45 billion.

Other Shanghai companies ranked among the country's top 100 brands are Pudong Development Bank in 30th place, Zhonghua Tobacco in 39th and Bright Dairy & Food in 47th.

On the road again

It's hard to catch Bocom executive vice-president Dicky Yip (below) in Shanghai, although it's the bank's home city. Mr Yip, seconded from HSBC two years ago to drive the mainland bank's credit card expansion, spends two-thirds of his time elsewhere.

We caught the veteran banker just before he headed to a Visa conference in Europe early this week. Mr Yip, among the most articulate English speakers in Bocom's top management, travels frequently to meet investors in Europe and the US but much of his time is spent officiating at branch openings across China for the bank's rapidly expanding network.

Mr Yip recalled taking a 5? hour flight to Urumqi, Xinjiang, for a branch ceremony, staying for two hours then heading back home on the same day. His secondment contract ends next year. Until then, he'll keep on the long march.

Driven to distraction

It is a common belief among Shanghai's 60,000 taxi drivers that they serve more customers than their counterparts in other provinces yet do not earn as much.

Here's why: most cab drivers in the city work 24-hour shifts, resting on alternate days, unlike most drivers in other parts of China who operate a 12-hour two-shift system.

We gather that Shanghai drivers earn an average of 4,500 to 5,000 yuan per month, less than half that of their Hong Kong counterparts. During a typical working day, they make an average of 900 yuan in sales, pocketing 300 yuan after deducting 450 yuan for car rental and 150 yuan for fuel.

The next time you can't find a taxi at Xintiandi - particularly after 9pm, when we were told many drivers are at home finishing their dinners - give them a moment of consideration. They probably need a break after working some 15 hours.

One more piece of advice: talk to the driver on your ride and keep him awake.

Gift of the gab

A joke we heard in Shanghai concerned a certain mayor in the Pearl River Delta who considered it one of the main challenges of his job to master Cantonese. Fortunately, his people assured him that he only needed four phrases to get by:

'Duc (okay)'

'Ng duc (not okay)'

'Duc ng duc? (is it okay?)'

'Duc duc duc duc! (okay, okay, okay!)'

Thus equipped, the mayor was able to attract billions of yuan in investment, even from some Shanghai enterprises.