Lai See

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 November, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 November, 2008, 12:00am

He started a joke, which started the funds crying

It's not only money being lost in the financial meltdown but also our sense of irony ... and humour.

This is evident following a Next Magazine article by top business columnist Tony Tsoi Tong-hoo last week that became a much talked about topic in the tea rooms of Central.

The 'Dear Jimmy' article was a letter from John Chan, founder of the Moon Capital hedge fund, to his client, Next Media chairman Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, saying he had decided to close the fund after a loss of 65 per cent in the past two months.

Mr Chan admitted he had lost confidence in the stock market after seeing utility stocks like Hong Kong and China Gas and CLP Holdings fall 15 per cent in a day.

He said he had also lost faith in his largest holding, Vtech Holdings, even though it was trading at four times its price earnings ratio, with a dividend yield of 17 per cent.

Mr Chan closed by advising Mr Lai never to invest in a fund manager who had lost his confidence and direction.

Mr Tsoi (above), whose day job is chief executive at Varitronix International, wrote that Mr Lai had authorised the letter to go public.

The story tweaked the interest of many hedge fund managers and brokers, who circulated it widely. Some even told Lai See that they knew of Moon Capital (a San Francisco-based hedge fund) and were trying to track down an English-language version of the letter.

Yesterday, in his latest column, Mr Tsoi said he had received many inquiries about how much exposure Mr Lai had in the fund and could not understand how people had not realised the letter was a spoof, poking fun at the attitude of hedge fund managers.

He lamented the fact that the economic downturn had affected our sense of humour.

At least Mr Tsoi, a deputy chairman of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing listing committee and a listing committee member at the Securities and Futures Commission, hasn't lost his. We hope he enjoyed having the last laugh.

Nursing their wounds?

Blame it on the poor stock market, or even the notorious accumulator, but there is a marked absence of local billionaires taking part in the Clinton Global Initiative in Hong Kong next week.

Apart from Li & Fung chairman Victor Fung Kwok-king, whom we understand is the local facilitator for former US president Bill Clinton's talkfest, and Hang Lung Group chairman Ronnie Chan Chichung, no other local tycoons will be joining the two days of panel discussions and work sessions at the Grand Hyatt.

On the other hand, we note that among the major sponsors are Victor Pinchuk from Ukraine and Malaysia's Vinod Sekhar.

From the bargain basement

Li Ka-shing may not have been very pleased with the headline, but he must have been happy with the outcome yesterday when Morgan Stanley declared Hutchison Whampoa was 'too cheap to ignore'.

Shares of Hutchison rebounded 4.11 per cent to close at HK$36.70, although this is still 20 per cent below the US brokerage's target price of HK$46.

In other words, too big to fail

Yet more evidence that Citigroup had no doubt the US government would come riding to the rescue before the US$306 billion lifeline came to light on Monday.

First, there was the pre-announcement full-page advert that appeared in newspapers all over town on Monday morning proclaiming the bank's proud history and 'extraordinary levels of liquidity'.

Then yesterday, Lai See received a Citigroup calendar for 2009 in which it describes itself as a leader with cutting-edge ideas, the best products and solutions 'and unparalleled access to capital and liquidity'.

We rest our case.

Blowing in the wind

Stanley Ho Hung-sun's staff know how to make the boss happy on his birthday, especially in the current climate of casino rivalry.

Newspaper adverts taken out by SJM Holdings to celebrate the company's 38th anniversary and the chairman's 87th birthday this week contained eight lucky words that translated as: 'Golden rooster spreading wings; winds blowing away sands.'

We're told the imagery had Mr Ho smiling all day.