Some numbers add up for Mark Six winners
In what is surely a direct result of the recession, the Chinese fixation with numbers may be in overdrive.
Citibank's millionaires survey and the thousands queueing up to receive 'loans' from Kwun Yum, the Goddess of Mercy, set the tone, but it was Thursday's Mark Six sequence of 'sixes' and 'nines' that really caught the imagination.
The 6, 9, 16, 26, 29, 36 combination, coming on February 19, 2009, was unique in the draw's history and produced an unusually large number of winners - nine, to be exact. The record for the most people winning the top lottery prize was on July 5, 1997, also the Year of the Ox, when 39 each won HK$705,770.
The fact that Thursday's winners received just over half a million each came as an appropriate footnote to the Citibank survey that said the city had 66,000 fewer millionaires thanks to the financial crisis.
The findings probably explain why 6,000 queued up outside the Kwum Yum temples in Hung Hom and Tin Hau on Thursday night to receive a red packet at midnight with a note indicating an imaginary loan amount of anything between HK$30 million and HK$880,000.
In another sign of the times, the upper limit was actually raised from last year's HK$380,000.
Shop till you drop
Still on the lottery theme, former television maverick Robert Chua Wah Peng has come up with an idea to keep the economy ticking by rewarding spenders and retailers with big payouts.
Concerned that the government may go down the same economic stimulus path as the Taiwanese and Japanese, who have rewarded their citizens with shopping vouchers and cash handouts, he would like to see some of the billions we have in reserve being used in a weekly draw for, say HK$10 million, that would involve picking numbers from specially printed shopping receipts.
Not only would the winning shoppers be rewarded, but the vendor who handed over the lucky receipt would also receive a share of the prize money. As a safeguard against receipt fixing, Mr Chua also suggests that the eight-digit winning numbers could be partly made up from the Friday closing of the Hang Seng Index, or the closing price of a particular stock, such as HSBC.
The draw would be done on a Friday night on live TV.
Given Hongkongers' infatuation with lotteries and stock prices he might be on to something but don't think the Hong Kong Jockey Club would be too impressed.
Games with the media
A former South China Morning Post columnist used to refer to representatives of the media as 'children of the notebook'. It's a description CLP Holdings must have had in mind when organising its annual spring luncheon yesterday.
The blue-chip utility themed the event around climate change and introduced a few computer games where reporters were teamed up with CLP executives in a demonstration of harmony between the media and one of the city's biggest polluters.
Unfortunately, the games - much like the Atari inventions of the 80s - seemed more appropriate for school children, and six-year-old ones at that.
Nevertheless, they obviously had the desired effect as managing director Betty Yuen So Siu-mai said the gathering was the only time she felt at ease with the press as she did not have to face any tough questions.
Normal service is likely to be resumed on Thursday when CLP announces its results.
Show me the money
General Motors Corp went back cap in hand to the United States government on Tuesday to ask for another US$16.6 billion on top of the US$13.4 billion it had already received to stay in business.
It prompted our quote of the week from an analyst at Gimme Credit, who said: 'GM is like a teenager at the mall: 'I need more money, more money, more money'.'