with Howard Winn
Rusal's debut share price fall a blessing in disguise
After all the fuss that accompanied the run-up to Rusal's stock market listing, we had to attend the listing party at the stock exchange to mark the start of trading.
Chief executive Oleg Deripaska (below) was there resplendent in a dark suit along with his wife Polina. All the guests were wearing red roses although it's unclear whether this is because red is Rusal's corporate colour or because the rose symbolises love - a subliminal From Russia with Love, perhaps.
Interestingly, Russia's ambassador to China, Sergey Razov, made the trip from Beijing. Easily the biggest man in the room, he greeted Deripaska with a bear hug. The tallest woman in the room, again Russian, was the willowy Vera Kurochkina, Rusal's head of communications, but she wasn't hugging anyone.
Normally, on these occasions there is a polite exchange of gifts between the stock exchange and the new listing company. Ronald Arculli, the chairman of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, handed Deripaska some sort of glass bauble but Rusal's gift had to be wheeled in - a 12 kilogram Russian doll made, of course, from aluminium
Unfortunately, the stock exchange's crummy public address system meant that much of Deripaska's comments to the press went unheard. We managed to catch, '... Aluminium ... Asian growth next 10 years ... Russia ... China ... thank you'. He put a brave face on Rusal's share price, which opened at HK$9.80, which was 9.3 per cent down from its HK$10.80 issue price, saying: 'It's reasonable - you see what other markets are doing.'
The overwhelming question, though, is would it have done better if retail investors had been able to subscribe to the issue? But Rusal's decline must have been a big relief to the Securities and Futures Commission, which prevented retail investors from participating in the initial offering.
Having had to deal with irate minibond investors who lost money, there was a chance, if Rusal had soared on its debut, of having to deal with equally irate investors who had been prevented from making money.
Taipan Geoghegan starts work
At lunch with HSBC's chief executive Michael Geoghegan on his first day at work after decamping from London was an amiable affair but, alas, we were urged not to reveal the content of our discussions. We can reveal that members of his entourage were somewhat taken aback by the hordes of photographers that greeted him as he stepped out of his car at the bank's headquarters. Apparently, he is not that big a story in London.
We can also reveal that he doesn't seem to be that familiar with Frank King's four-volume history of the bank. No doubt too busy making history rather than reading about it. We wait with interest to see how he makes his mark.
Consulate rewrites history
We had to smile at the press release sent out by the Australian consulate-general on the subject of the official Australia Day Reception. This is not because it featured yet another picture of our esteemed Chief Secretary, Henry Tang Ying-yen, clutching a glass of his beloved wine, but on account of the consulate's interesting take on history.
'More than 300 people attended the reception, held on the 222nd anniversary of the arrival of the first fleet of European settlers at Sydney Cove,' the press statement says. But as every schoolboy knows, the first fleet arrived with the intention of setting up a penal colony. These so-called European settlers, the Australian consulate refers to, were in fact English convicts. We can't help feeling that the apparent political correctness on the part of the consulate betrays a certain reluctance to highlight the dubious origins of what is now a great nation.
Bubbling over with romance
Those of you at a loss as to how to impress your significant other on Valentine's Day could do worse than take up what the Crowne Plaza in Causeway Bay describes as the 'Ultimate Romantic Package'.
For those couples willing to take the plunge, the hotel claims it will 'redefine the ultimate romantic experience' with a Valentine's Day package that will allow couples 'to celebrate their love in unparalleled privacy and luxury'.
To cut to the chase, it is offering two couples per day on February 13, 14 and 15 a lift from home in the hotel's Merc, a night at the hotel with dinner for two, and breakfast in bed the following morning. Dinner, it has to be said, sounds good - all six courses of it, washed down with a bottle of Pierro Cabernet Merlot. Then it's back to the room for a bottle of 1998 Dom Perignon and strawberries 'to further celebrate their love', as the hotel puts it.
But any further celebration of love might be difficult after that lot. The HK$10,888 price tag might also detract from the romance.
Charged-up HSBC customers
Our item yesterday on HSBC's increase in charges appears to have struck a nerve. We've had a number of expressions of disenchantment at the creeping rise in fees and charges by the bank. We will be processing them over the next few days - so keep them coming.