Lai See

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 September, 2008, 12:00am

Embattled AIG bears striking resemblance to Chinese giant

After the dust has settled from the rescue of American International Group, it has been suggested that the company should change its name to America Life because of the similarities it has with the mainland's largest insurer.

For a start, both firms began their business in China and are now both state-owned after the US Federal Reserve gave an US$85 billion lifeline to the American giant in exchange for a near 80 per cent stake, which is somewhat larger than the 61 per cent stake the central government has in China Life Insurance.

And that US$85 billion bailout also happens to be exactly the market capitalisation of China Life as of yesterday.

American taxpayers may not be too pleased to be the owners of a badly run insurance giant that has been given two years to sort out its mess, but there were huge sighs of relief from all around the world yesterday.

But one can't help wondering that after Bear Stearns, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae and AIG, who's next?

Premier League connection

Is anybody else seeing a pattern here?

First it was Northern Rock, Britain's fifth-largest mortgage lender, that had to be nationalised in February to prevent it from going under. Then XL Holidays crashed last week leaving thousands of British holidaymakers stranded overseas. And this week, AIG had to be bailed out by the US government to the tune of US$85 billion.

All three companies happen to be major shirt sponsors of English Premier League football teams.

Northern Rock has the dubious honour of being associated with Newcastle United, which could probably do with some help from the British government as well at the moment.

XL had a #2.5 million (HK$34.7 million) annual deal with West Ham United, who have also just lost their manager but have been swift to appoint another one.

And AIG is probably better known worldwide for being Manchester United's shirt sponsor than for selling insurance. The company paid a record #56.6 million for a four-year deal with the club in April 2006.

So, where will the curse of the Premier League shirts strike next?

Current league leaders Chelsea are sponsored by Samsung, while Liverpool wear the Carlsberg logo and Arsenal fly the flag for Emirates airline. They should be okay, but if this week's meltdown in the financial world is to be taken as a guideline, then Stoke City, which is sponsored by the Britannia Building Society, must be feeling a bit nervous.

Money pit

Talking of sponsors, we note with interest that Lehman Brothers co-developed a 'dark pool' pan-European trading platform three months ago called 'Baikal', named after a southern Siberian lake, which happens to be the world's deepest.

It's so easy to spot those warning signs with 20/20 hindsight.

Grab the money and run

Messenger bag: US$15. Clip and keychain: US$2.75. Golf clubs: US$350. Stress ball: you name the price.

More than a hundred Lehman Brothers souvenirs popped up on eBay this week as former employees tried to make some cash out of the investment bank's collapse.

Maybe that would explain why a smartly-suited fellow was seen on the television news carrying a big lamp out of Lehman's offices in IFC2 on Tuesday, a day before provisional liquidator KPMG arrived.

Business as usual

It seems it has been business as usual for Merrill Lynch at Asia Pacific Finance Tower this week.

A fund manager said he was shocked to receive a lunch invitation from a Merrill broker he met on Tuesday, the day after the troubled finance firm was bought by Bank of America for US$50 billion.

'I had to ask him if he was kidding me, but he wasn't,' the fund manager said.

Merrill is not kidding either about sticking to its scheduled mainland investor roadshow this month and, we're pleased to say, it intends to participate in Operation Santa Claus, in which it is always the top donor.

No laughing matter

Quiz of the day: What's the difference between a Lehman Brothers broker and a pigeon?

Answer: A pigeon can still put a deposit on a BMW.



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