Lai See

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 July, 2007, 12:00am

Professor learns fast in the Legco cauldron

Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Chan Ka-keung, a former professor at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, yesterday demonstrated how a teacher can also become a good student within a month: he cut short his speech in the Legislative Council.

Lawmakers earlier this month complained after listening to an eight-minute lecture from Professor Chan in Legco that he had been long-winded.

Ever the quick learner, Professor Chan (below) yesterday delivered a PowerPoint-illustrated speech in less than five minutes.

He is also starting to ensure that he does not look at everything from an academic point of view.

Facing questions from lawmaker Emily Lau Wai-hing on his earlier comments over the income gap in Hong Kong, Professor Chan said yesterday: 'I carried out an analysis of the Gini coefficient but I did not say it is not a serious problem.

'But I do think the problem deserves efforts to deal with it,' said Professor Chan, now wearing his politician's hat.

The Gini coefficient - a measure in which 0 is perfect equality and one is total inequality - rose to 0.533 in June from 0.518 10 years earlier and remains among the highest in the developed world.

Ms Lau's questions did not stop there. At yesterday's Legco session, she persisted with questions about Professor Chan not disclosing earlier that his wife, Eva Chan Wu Chui-ping, is an executive director at Morgan Stanley.

Lawmakers had scrutinised the issue earlier this month.

Professor Chan said he had a 'firewall' that prohibits him from any conflict of interest and that he welcomed any improvement in the declaration mechanism for government officials.

For Professor Chan, his education is perhaps just beginning.

Ms Lau, who has been critical of the remuneration package earned by Hong Kong Monetary Authority chief executive Joseph Yam Chi-kwong over the years, will surely be a good teacher for Professor Chan.

Listing honeymoon over

Oh dear, another one. Zinc alloy trader Lee Kee Holdings, which listed its shares in Hong Kong in October last year, yesterday said that its first-half profit would drop substantially on a lack of inventory holding gain and fierce competition.

Lee Kee joins Fufeng Group, the mainland's largest producer of the food additive glutamic acid, in issuing a profit warning soon after listing. Fufeng listed its shares in February and warned earlier this month that its gross margins had been squeezed by higher raw materials costs and declining product prices.

'The company did not make any material inventory holding gain for the first half of 2007 as prices of zinc and zinc alloy were volatile and on an overall downward trend,' Lee Kee said.

'The operating environment for the group is becoming more competitive and the group faces intense competition from local nonferrous metal suppliers and producers in China,' the company added.

Lai See searched archives from South China Morning Post and found the following quotes from the company's management.

'Our inventory stock, which amounted to 30 to 45 days of sales, has a higher value if the price of zinc and nickel rises,' chief executive Clara Chan Yuen-shan said in March. 'We expect the price of zinc and nickel will be stable in 2007.'

Fufeng chairman Li Xuechun in January had played down concerns over a margin squeeze a month before the listing, saying that the company had room to raise prices.

Mr Li forecast a 'modest' rise in glutamic acid prices.

Cazenove Asia was the sole sponsor for Lee Kee's listing, which raised HK$534 million, while Fufeng's listing sponsor was Goldbond Capital.

Bankers become bakers

Twenty-one senior members of HSBC yesterday enjoyed a day out with the mentally disabled of the Hong Chi Association, playing indoor games, pottery making and baking.

The bank's Asia-Pacific global payments and cash management team spent the day at the association's Pinehill Village in Tai Po.

The tour was one of the events scheduled for the annual gathering of heads of global payments and cash management and the regional leadership team, who were in Hong Kong for the regional conference.

Throughout the day the senior executives mingled with Hong Chi students in the village's organic farm and spent some time cleaning school buses.

The tie-up between HSBC and Hong Chi has endured for more than 10 years and a total of HK$17 million had been donated.