BHP Billiton

Lai See

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 February, 2008, 12:00am


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Chinalco's ore inspiring Rio move is blessed by the stars

Will Chinalco and Alcoa succeed in blocking BHP Billiton's attempt to acquire Rio Tinto?

We consulted the horoscope for insight. We were bemused to see that the memorandum of understanding for the Sino-US alliance filed with the Australian Stock Exchange referred to Rio Tinto as 'Scorpio' and Chinalco as 'Cancer.'

So how would the two stars get along? According to, they will be a perfect match for a long-lasting relationship.

'Cancer makes Scorpio feel secure. This relationship has great intimacy, intensity and depth,' it said. 'Both are jealous but the heat in the bedroom will cool the disputes.'

We will watch with interest what develops in Rio Tinto's bedroom, oops, broadroom (our apology for reading too much pictorial news about stars lately). A good code name for action just might help Chinalco win the courtship.

Cold reality for shareholders

About five years ago, when Prince Richard's PCCW made a move on London-based Cable & Wireless, his project codename was 'coyote', with PCCW being 'puma'. Unfortunately he was a bad hunter.

Now, what about his latest move - privatisation of his property flagship Pacific Century Premium Development, to whose minority shareholders he offered HK$2.64 billion to buy them out?

To find out more, we went on a field trip to Hokkaido and secretly visited his Hanazono Ski Resort, which PCPD bought five months ago and promised to turn into the Whistler of Japan.

It would be difficult for PCPD shareholders not to appreciate how Prince Richard had stolen a deal for them.

Even a non-skier such as Lai See was impressed by the abundance of natural powder snow.

On the other hand, in an area almost five times as big as Cyberport, Lai See found only a cafeteria, a ski equipment rental shack and more than 300 skiers (mostly foreigners, including a handful of Chinese), but nothing else.

For the time being, skiers are opting for the better-equipped Niseko resort, only 10 minutes' drive away.

Still, investors should not dismiss Hanazono too soon as a promising project. Hokkaido is the destination of choice for Hong Kong's middle class to vacation.

And the resort's pricing is still hugely discounted to locations in Europe or North America. A ski-buff banker told us Hanazono was like Whistler in the 1980s, 'and you would not want to miss the property run in the next 10 years.'

Of course, investing in Prince Richard's companies could be more fun and challenging than skiing because he always comes up with interesting business ideas, although perfect execution tends to elude him.

So PCPD's major shareholders may have to go down a bumpy road.

Rock-solid credentials

There are a dozen or two tiny listed companies in Hong Kong aspiring to become miners (for good money). How can one stand out?

Find a geologist. China Strategic Holdings yesterday named Kong Chi-seng as chief geologist, along with the appointment of a chief executive.

Mr Kong is said to have 20 years' experience in mining and management, and holds geologist licences in Europe, the United States, Australia and Hong Kong.

Cutting the deck again

It appears that our revenue forecast for Stanley Ho Hung-sun's casino did not sit well with a few Macau readers.

We quoted a Macau Daily report saying the Grand Lisboa, which attracted more than 10 million visitors in its first year, recorded revenue of HK$70 million in the first 10 days of this month.

We were told by sources that this figure might have been only for the 10th day of the month, not all 10 days. No other casinos noted any under-reporting.