Bank of East Asia

Lai See

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 January, 2008, 12:00am

Three Richards among top 40 billionaires of Hong Kong

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the richest of them all?

For fun, we shortlisted three Richards - Richard Li Tzar-kai (below), Richard Lee Yun-shee and Richard Elman.

You may think it's a no-brainer, but you may be surprised to see how close they were in the race.

According to Forbes' first listing on Hong Kong's 40 billionaires, the son of tycoon Li Ka-shing was ranked No24 with a net worth of US$1.52 billion, slightly ahead of Noble Group founder Mr Elman (No26 at US$1.45 billion), and TAL chairman Mr Lee (No34, US$1.1 billion).

Forbes obviously did not count Prince Richard's wealth with his one-third stake in his father's Li Ka-shing Unity Trust. The lacklustre performance of PCCW also barred the young Mr Li from reaching near the top.

Also making the top 40 billionaire list was Next Media chairman (and chief executive this year too!) Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, who ranked 32nd with US$1.2 billion.

Mr Lai was the only billionaire, apart from Prince Richard, who made the list and owned a newspaper business (although everyone knows quite a few newspaper owners have deeper pockets than Mr Lai). Rounding up the list are four non-Chinese billionaires including CLP Holdings and Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels' Michael Kadoorie (No7 with US$5.2 billion), shipping magnate Helmut Sohmen (No21 at US$2.6 billion), Mr Elman and Crown Worldwide founder Jim Thompson (No37 with US$1 billion).

Stock gurus under fire

One interesting feature of the stock market in the past 12 months was how the media played up good stock tipsters in town and turned them into juicy front page stories.

Lee Shau-kee (whom the media affectionately called 'Uncle Four') and UBS strategist Andrew Look have become household names for offering accurate stock tips. But both are under fire for their recent advice amid a volatile market.

Mr Look was somewhat a victim of his own success. A popular weekly magazine criticised him when he revised his outlook for the Hang Seng Index down to 28,500 points from 32,000, claiming it caused a more than 3,000-point market collapse. His index target of trading between 28,500 and 37,400 points this year also was bashed for giving little direction to his followers.

Even Mr Lee, who was not paid to give stock tips, was also subject to criticism. His bullish forecast on the Hang Seng Index hitting 30,000 was against the market direction this month, causing much grumbling among his followers.

Because many in the media like to play up his tips, some senior government officials privately mumbled that he may mislead investors.

Mr Lee has not made any public forecasts since New Year Eve, despite almost daily requests from many newspapers.

With reference to the above two tipsters, we can't help but wonder what people would say about Morgan Stanley's Rob Hart, who yesterday said the Hang Seng Index would rise above 30,000 by year-end.

The market was up after his bold call, but we don't know how long the cheers will last.

Go west

Never ask Lai See for directions because he's always mixed up.

Thanks to our reader David Watt, chairman of DTZ North Asia, who kindly pointed out that our prayer compass for the Islamic finance centre was a little awry.

'I always thought Mecca was in the east. However, from Hong Kong, I think you'll get there quicker by going west where the sun has always set, whether I have been in London, Hong Kong or anywhere else,' Mr Watt wrote.

According to him, some hotel rooms carried an arrow on the ceiling to guide the errant worshipper.

A good tip for Hong Kong as it reinvents itself to attract more Muslims for business.