Lai See

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 October, 2008, 12:00am

The bitter times, all over again

Bravo to Bravo Theatre for their recent sellout charity show Bitter Sweet about the life of 'Queen of Cakes' Maria Lee Tseng Chiu-kwan.

When the company embarked on the project a few months ago, they could not have envisioned the sense of deja vu it would cause.

Inspired by the Asian financial crisis, the play brought back memories of red-chip fever, the property market bubble, the closure of the Yaohan department stores, the bankruptcy of Peregrine, the run on the International Bank of Asia and the collapse of Long-Term Capital Management.

H shares, the property market again, Lehman Brothers, U-Right, the Bank of East Asia and AIG anyone?

It was 10 years ago when the 32-year-old household bakery Maria's went under, putting more than 400 people out of work and leaving 90,000 cake coupons outstanding in the market.

However, those coupons took on a currency of their own, with more than 20 retail outlets offering to honour them, ranging from movie houses, wedding photographers, vegetable stalls and even other cake shops, eventually making Maria's markers a much sought after item.

We are not suggesting this is the way to solve the problem of Lehman Brothers' toxic minibonds, but the victims' plight certainly warrants more creative ideas than staging protests outside the Hong Kong Monetary Authority offices.

Perhaps we'll be watching the Bravo Theatre re-enacting the solution 10 years from now.

A cool buy

Some wag has put Iceland up for sale on eBay.

Listed as a 'Unique opportunity to buy a Northern European country', it was given a starting price of 99 pence (HK$13.03), with next Friday as the closing date.

'Iceland will provide the winning bidder with a habitable environment, Icelandic horses and admittedly a somewhat sketchy financial situation ... Please note: Greenland and Bjork are not included in this auction,' says the sales pitch.

If you're wondering why the auction is being conducted in sterling and not krona, the troubled Nordic nation is currently embroiled in a full-blown diplomatic spat with the British government over Britain's decision to protect its depositors by freezing the assets of collapsed Icelandic banks.

The last time we checked, the bid was up to #10 million.

Unhappy returns

Thanks to the reader who sent in what must be the quote of the week that best summarises the mood of Lehman minibond holders.

'I am more interested in the return of my money than the return on my money.'

However, it's worth pointing out that if the bondholders do get up to 70 per cent of their money back, they will be better off than most people who invested in blue chips at the start of the year. Of the 42 Hang Seng Index members, only four - CLP, Hongkong Electric, HSBC and Tencent - have fallen less that 30 per cent so far this year.

Solace in verse

Believe it or not, but the credit crunch is now inspiring poetry. The BBC has been encouraging people to send in rhymes of the times to its website to celebrate National Poetry Day in Britain. Here's one of the best:

Don't lend,

Don't spend,

Make do

And mend,




Old trash.

Save cash,

Sit tight.

It'll be alright.

Bottoms up

Finally, we were moved by a Friday drink invitation from a banker whose e-mail seemed to capture perfectly the mood of the week: 'Anyone for a drink ... I need one before I top myself.'



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