Lai See

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 November, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 November, 2008, 12:00am


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White House race sets off HK's alcohol accumulator

There's a story going around about two guys having a bet on the outcome of the US presidential election that involves the loser buying the first drink for anyone who walks into the trendy Tokoro Japanese bar in Mong Kok's Langham Place.

If Barack Obama wins, all you have to say is 'put it on Henry's tab', or if John McCain wins, 'put it on Wilson's tab'.

The bar declares on its website, 'Yes, the bet did happen,' and pleads for people to stop calling to verify the story, which it then relates.

All a bit suspicious, if you ask me, but whether it's a publicity stunt or not, it's going to cost someone a lot of money as the offer is open until the end of the year.

It could be termed Hong Kong's first alcohol accumulator.

Windfall amid turbulence

In every stock market crisis there are always people who come up smelling of roses.

In this case, its Michael, Albert, Ivan, Patrick and Philip, the five Wu brothers who chose this turbulent month to complete the sale of their Wing Lung Bank to China Merchants Bank for HK$36.3 billion.

The deal was sealed on October 9, just before world markets went into tailspins and the Wus, who owned 44 per cent of the bank, pocketed HK$19.2 billion.

Since the deal was mooted in June, the bank's share price has been immune from the global meltdown, staying near the HK$150 mark, up more than 60 per cent since the start of the year.

Having sold at almost peak valuation, the Wus should now have enough cash to buy out Wing Hang Bank, Dah Sing Financial Holdings and Chong Hing Bank all in one.

The family gave a loyalty bonus to most of its 1,650 employees based on their length of service and, judging by the smiles on the faces of various insiders, it was a lot more than most other bankers will be getting this year.

Sizes of the times

They say it's a small world. That probably explains why things seem to be getting smaller.

We bought a mango yogurt this week from our favourite Pret A Manger and were stunned to find the cup was much smaller than the one we bought a couple of months ago (pictured above), even though the price was the same.

It was the same for a can of Coke from a vending machine. They each used to contain 350ml, now it's 335ml, but again the price hasn't changed.

Supermarkets are also into the trick, with new branding and packaging disguising a surreptitious piece of downsizing.

We know there's a recession lurking around the corner, but this is taking things too far. Please send us any examples you have come across.

Ridiculously cautious

An exasperated reader sent us this piece after a run-in with HSBC Holdings and the lengths the bank will go to ensure internal compliance.

'While the Hong Kong business community considers the implications of the internal control mishaps at Citic Pacific, we can all sleep well in our beds at night knowing that HSBC is right on top of these issues.

'This week, my company had a cheque returned to payee [bounced] not because we didn't have sufficient funds or because the signatories were incorrect or even because of a date or amount error. No, the cheque, payable to the [Securities and Futures Commission] for licence fees, was bounced because it did not have a company chop.

'This is the 21st century and HSBC is still relying on rubber chops, which can be purchased in Wan Chai market for HK$10, as proof of authenticity of a cheque. From the sublime to the truly ridiculous.'

Rugby humour

To mark sporting history being made in Hong Kong today with the staging of a Bledisloe Cup rugby match between Australia and New Zealand, here are two trans-Tasman jokes.

What's the difference between the Wallabies and Cinderella?

Cinderella actually got to the ball.

Why do the All Blacks always have two to a hotel room when they're on tour?

So one can perform the Heimlich Manoeuvre when the other one chokes.

Market wisdom

After the Hang Seng Index's worst month in more than a decade, here's thanks to the reader who sent us this thought: A market analyst is an expert who will know tomorrow why the things he predicted yesterday didn't happen today.