Bank of East Asia

Lai See

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 February, 2008, 12:00am

Seize the day but remember Richard Li's quantum leap

Crack open the champagne or head for cover, but make up your mind fast. Leap years arrive only once every four years and today, February 29, is the Gregorian calendar's gift to each of us.

But beware: sometimes you gain a day only to lose a dollar.

Some may remember a previous February 29 as a big day in Hong Kong corporate history. Exactly eight years ago, Richard Li Tzar-kai signed a US$38 billion deal to acquire Cable & Wireless HKT and vowed to create another Sony, in the name of PCCW.

Prince Richard's prediction was right on the money - Sony, like PCCW, hasn't gone anywhere in the past eight years either.

Back to the future

Lai See likes to be in front of the news and first with the scoop, but yesterday we got a little ahead of ourselves. Our item on the VIP guest list for China Resources Group's 70th anniversary bash said the party took place on Wednesday. In fact, the company hosted its cocktail reception last night and of the three Sun Hung Kai Properties Kwok brothers, we only spotted Raymond.

Educational honours

Lee Shau-kee may not be as rich or as charitable as Bill Gates. But the Henderson Land tycoon definitely trumps the Microsoft magnate for honours bestowed by top mainland universities.

Starting today, Mr Lee embarks on an educational roadshow that will see him awarded an honorary doctorate degree from Shanghai's Fudan University. In Beijing next week, he will accept an invitation to sit as a council member on the boards of Peking University and Tsinghua University.

Mr Lee's elder son, Peter Lee Ka-kit, will also be invited to join Tsinghua University's board, while his younger son, Martin Lee Ka-shing, will receive the same honour from Peking University.

Mr Gates, on the other hand, received an honorary doctorate from Tsinghua last year, and accepted an advisory role at Peking University.

Philanthropic heroes

Speaking of charitable donors, Forbes Asia yesterday released its first 'Heroes of Philanthropy' list. The magazine chose four people each from the mainland and Hong Kong, and featured mainland solar-panel manufacturing magnate Shi Zhengrong of Suntech Power on its cover.

Topping the list of philanthropists from the mainland was Yang Huiyan, the 26-year-old controller of property developer Country Garden. Together with her father, company founder Yeung Kwok-keung, she donated US$32 million to education and other causes last year.

The father-daughter team was followed by Mr Shi, actor Jet Li and Jiangsu Huangpu Investment boss Chen Guangbiao.

It came as no surprise that Hong Kong's top donor was Li Ka-shing. Mr Li has generously committed US$1.1 billion to charitable causes to date, and has promised to donate one-third of his wealth to charity altogether.

Also making the Hong Kong list were Sir Michael Kadoorie, Henderson Land's Mr Lee and Centaline real estate brokerage founder Shih Wing-ching, who has pledged to donate his US$600-million plus stake in the company to a charity foundation.

Shareholder benefits

Still on the topic of giving, trading and investment firm Styland Holdings has hit upon an innovative way to keep its shareholders happy - by dishing out free gifts.

While freebies are a common promotional gimmick among banks and supermarkets, Lai See believes this is the first time a listed company has adopted such a tactic.

Styland, which has been suspended from trading since April 2004, yesterday said it would extend its offer to all non-registered shareholders as well to 'ensure all shareholders can share the fruitful results of the company'.

To collect, recipients need only go to one of three collection points with copies of documentation, such as share certificates or a statement from their stockbrokers.

So long, Pritchard

After 15 years in Hong Kong, former South China Morning Post Business Editor Simon Pritchard is saying goodbye and returning to the financial industry.

Mr Pritchard, whose two stints in various roles on the SCMP's Business section spanned a decade, is returning to his native Britain to work for a London hedge fund focusing on emerging markets. The new role involves frequent travel in Asia, and we can only hope that means plenty of reunions at the main bar of the FCC.