Richard Li

Cab Chat

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 February, 2009, 12:00am

Ho Chun-keung ponders the PCCW saga and bemoans Hongkongers' admiration for those who focus on making quick money

The controlling shareholders of PCCW are so irresponsible. Richard Li Tzar-kai has demonstrated how 'skilful' he is. First he bought Cable & Wireless HKT, then he privatised PCCW. Cable & Wireless HKT used to be a blue-chip company and people bought the stock to receive regular dividend payments. In the past it was such a stable company. And now what shareholders get is HK$4.50.

People are saying Li is so great, he doesn't need to spend a dime on privatisation. He can even earn some money with all those extra dividends paid to the major shareholders. But for the small shareholders, they only get HK$4.50 per share. Li is not doing business at all. He is just earning money. Telecommunications is an industry backed by fixed assets but the only thing Li does is play tricks.

PCCW was still making a profit last year and it was unreasonable of them to cut budgets allocated to contractors. If it was losing money it would be alright for it to cut its budget. Now it is doing so despite making a profit. I get the feeling that the big guys are aiming for a nicer balance sheet for the company after the privatisation.

PCCW is not taking their contractor staff's interest into consideration. Privatisation and cutting staff are just two ways for them to earn more money. I support the strike by the workers. It was quite a useful way to voice their discontent. They did it and the company started negotiating with them. If they didn't do anything they would be fooled by the company.

I am not blaming Li for the downfall of PCCW. The opening of the telecommunications market means there is much more competition. For investors who had bought the shares long ago, it was very likely they would suffer a loss. Yet it is a different story when it is somebody playing financial games with them that makes them lose. Investors just wouldn't accept the loss.

News reports talk about Li giving out PCCW shares to others so that he would get votes for the privatisation deal. If he really did this it would be unethical. Even if the number of votes is not big enough to overturn the voting results, they should hold another ballot to prove their innocence. Justice and fairness are not something you talk about. They should be something that you can see.

If the Securities and Futures Commission didn't find any problem in the deal, and a rerun of the polling proved nothing to be problematic, then go on with the deal. Shareholders provide funding for companies' investment, meaning that they put their trust in them. Companies shouldn't betray their trust.

Li is smart and a little bit selfish. I am not saying he is wrong. People behave like that in modern society. In Hong Kong, people call you a smart kid when you can make quick money. The person who makes the largest amount of money in the shortest period of time is the most brilliant. It is so hard for us to earn every cent. Looking at people who manage to make quick money provides temptation for people to try to do the same for an easier life.

I wonder about that teenager who blew off his fingers while trying to make a bomb: was it merely curiosity or something else that drove him to do it? I cannot tell. Many youngsters like to make things, but a bomb is definitely an unusual choice. For this generation's children, they play computer games and MSN. When I was young I tried making a giant firecracker out of a bunch of firecrackers. It was easier to get explosives in the days before firecrackers were banned. Where did the youngster get the explosives for making the bomb? It shouldn't be a simple task.

A strange fungus has killed more than one person, but as a healthy person I am not worried at all. The immunity of cancer patients is lower, making them prone to fungal attack. Normal, healthy people do not need to worry at all. By cooking food thoroughly we can kill the fungus. I have been more cautious with food since Sars, and I don't want to scare myself with this new incident.