Sun Hung Kai Properties

Lai See

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 January, 2008, 12:00am

Sage absent but son tells borrowed wisdom like it is

Where is Asian stock god Lee Shau-kee when we need his investment advice?

Yesterday Lai See went to his 76th-floor office at International Financial Centre for two hours in the hope of receiving his words of wisdom, but he was not there.

So we moved on to his elder son Peter Lee Ka-kit to shed some light on the current market turbulence.

'I have not seen [my father] today,' said Mr Lee. 'But let me borrow the words of the next door Mr Li [Ka-shing]: 'don't borrow money to buy stock'.

'You should only buy based on what you have. If you have holding power, you'll make your way back.

'So invest, but do not speculate. That is how my father did it. You know people in his generation preferred long-term investments, but we tend to trade stocks and switch to the one with higher returns.'

When we asked about his short-term view, the Henderson Land vice-chairman said even George W. Bush seemed to have run out of ways to handle the financial crisis, and as a result the bad news has not been fully reflected. Watch out for the earnings season in March when major European banks announce bad results.

Sadly, this time we couldn't get him to give a bullish forecast for the Hang Seng Index, or any stocks.

Bold predictions

Lee Shau-kee's buddy, New World Development chairman Cheng Yu-tung, is not known as a man of guts for nothing.

Yesterday he boldly predicted that the Hang Seng Index was close to the bottom. He advised investors to consider buying back into the market and tipped the Hang Seng Index to return to the 30,000-point level by year-end. He expressed favour for mainland financials, mining and insurance stocks.

Mr Cheng also said he expected the United States to cut its benchmark interest rate by 100 basis points very soon. That was also the prediction yesterday of Bank of East Asia chairman David Li Kwok-po.

Don't worry, be happy

What, me worry?

Yes, we worry.

Former Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp chairman David Eldon employed these two phrases to describe the mood in the shadow of the global equity meltdown.

In his bi-weekly blog, he said the subprime crisis might be painful, but it was not life-threatening. Not too much to worry about then.

However, he was concerned credit card defaults could reflect the subprime market, which could affect trade, particularly with Asia. And yes, that's worrisome.

The mainland will feel the heat, but there will be no natural disaster.

'While we would, of course, rather have neither, most people I know prefer the fact that you can make preparations for a typhoon that you cannot make for an earthquake,' Mr Eldon said. 'I think we need to consider those preparations now to stand a chance of weathering whatever storm might come.'

Like his fellow Scottish HSBC bankers, Mr Eldon grasps the art of managing people's expectations.

Hidden messages

If you are looking for an excuse to sell, how about this one:

Bear Stearns analyst Mohan Singh, nicknamed 'Mr Unlimited Upside' in Chinese, fell sick this week.

'The US sneezes and I catch a cold in Hong Kong,' he said.

Last year the ever-bullish analyst joined a not-so-bullish company, and from that move, some of his followers might have gleaned a subtle message about the state of the market.

Giving back

Back to where we started, Peter Lee yesterday dropped a little hint about what his father has in mind for this year.

Tycoon Lee Shau-kee is in the process of setting up his third charity project in addition to his Warmth Project on the mainland and the Peu Hua Education Fund, which specialises in expanding water sources in places like Gansu province.

The Lee family had humble beginnings. With just HK$1 in his pocket when he arrived in Hong Kong from Shunde, Peter Lee yesterday recalled how his father still rented an apartment in Towning Mansion, Causeway Bay, some 40 years ago.

The rest is history. Hong Kong's third-largest landlord and a cash-rich tycoon is sitting on substantial profits from the mainland share market, and is now ready to open up his wallet to fund water projects on the mainland.