Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings

Lai See

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 November, 2007, 12:00am

Tycoons keep feet on the ground and heads above water

Hutchison Whampoa group managing director Canning Fok Kin-ning once said, 'Rich people will never lose money.'

He may be right. We found that in our own highly volatile market tycoons can still make money despite taking radically different approaches - although it has been tough for everyone in the past few weeks.

A week ago, 'Hong Kong's Warren Buffett' - better known as Lee Shau-kee - called the market bottom. The Henderson Land Development chairman said he was investing HK$10 billion and recommending five stocks - Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, China Life Insurance, China Shenhua Energy, China Merchants Bank and CNOOC.

As of yesterday, the Hang Seng Index has jumped 2,477.62 points or 9.53 per cent in the past five trading days, and these stocks have gained from 7 to 13 per cent.

If Mr Lee is a bull - along with New World Development chairman Cheng Yu-tung and Shun Tak Holdings chairman Stanley Ho Hung-sun - Li Ka-shing is more of a bear.

Mr Li's flagships, Cheung Kong (Holdings) and Hutchison Whampoa, recently cashed out more than HK$5 billion by selling shares in China Cosco Holdings, China Southern Airlines and China Shipping Container Lines. The firm made handsome profits of between 100 per cent and 900 per cent in the process.

This week, Mr Li told a magazine that investors should be cautious because of the market's volatility. Unlike the other tycoons, he also refused to predict where the Hang Seng Index would end the year, advising investors to keep their feet on the ground.

Both the bullish Lee and the bearish Li probably had similar results from investing in initial public offerings in the fourth quarter. Lai See figures that both tycoons were strategic investors in three share offerings (Dah Chong Hong Holdings, Bosideng International Holdings and Sinotrans Shipping) that struggled to stay above water.

Out of six offerings Mr Li put money into over the past two months, he is sitting on paper profits only with Xinjiang Xinxin Mining Industry. Mr Lee has a slightly better record with one gain out of five. His sixth one is China Railway Group, which starts trading next month.

Hugo's comeback

After a three-year absence, Hugo's is coming back. The famous Hyatt Regency restaurant is moving across to Hanoi Road, in Tsim Sha Tsui, along with the Chin Chin Bar in 2009.

The plan was announced yesterday when New World Development awarded a management contract to Hyatt Hotels to revive the former Hyatt Regency, which was torn down last year. The new Hyatt Regency will be a 47-storey hotel with 384 rooms.

City Telecom's new exit rule

It appears that City Telecom chairman Ricky Wong Wai-kay is getting more serious about staff management.

According to his annual report, he has upgraded his company's human resources department to 'talent management'. He has also established a unit called the 'Staff Engagement Department', aimed at providing 'first class' service to his staff.

He also introduced an 'executive upgrade plan' in which his company is sponsoring nine executives, including himself, for executive MBA or MBA programmes.

In addition, it is offering one to six-month executive courses to 34 high potential managers in Guangzhou.

Last - and definitely not least - his company is adopting what is known as the staff exit rule of former General Electric honcho Jack Welch (above) in which City Telecom asks the bottom 5 per cent of staff to leave.

We will be curious to see how the new approach will turn the company inside out. City Telecom returned to profit this year after two years of losses.

China Life's man on the spot

Still with corporate restructuring, we note that China Life Insurance's board of directors has approved the dissolution of its investor relations department.

That means that the duty of briefing investors will fall on company secretary Liu Tingan, who will also be the official - and only - company spokesman.

It says the change will help simplifying China Life's corporate structure and increase efficiency.