Lai See

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 May, 2010, 12:00am


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Next business opportunity is helping him collect royalties

It is not an exaggeration to say that many mainlanders prefer to seek out speculative investment opportunities and engage in opportunistic behaviour to make a fast buck rather than wait for more conservative investments to bear fruit.

How else can we explain the phenomenon of people making money from a beggar?

Meet Brother Sharp, the mainland's first 'beggar prince'.

The 34-year-old homeless man, whose real name is Cheng Guorong, has unwittingly become a fashion icon. His good looks have won him tens of thousands of online fans not just on the mainland but also in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan.

Cheng rose to stardom after someone posted his photos on the internet, showing him sporting a bohemian grunge look, with unkempt hair and cigarette in hand, roaming the streets of Ningbo in Zhejiang province.

Many instantly exploited his popularity by selling clothes modelled on those he wore in the photos. On, the mainland's top e-commerce shop, some 14,000 items are named after Brother Sharp.

His 'homeless chic collection' includes baggy jeans, leather jackets and multi-coloured cloth belts, with prices from 10 yuan (HK$11.43) to 300 yuan. His signature padded overcoat is priced at 8,888 yuan.

Some have even claimed to raise funds on his behalf, there are songs that were written for him, and a popular TV show in Taiwan had a segment dedicated to him.

Cheng, who recently reunited with his family, wants nothing to do with this craze and has returned to his hometown in Jiangxi.

Tom given thumbs down

What a difference a year makes. Just last year Tom Group, the Chinese-language media conglomerate controlled by Li Ka-shing, reported that its financial situation was improving.

But after considerable dread and anticipation, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services finally dropped the negative rating bomb on Tom yesterday by revising the outlook on the group from stable to negative. It also affirmed its 'BB' long-term corporate credit rating, which means the firm's bonds are graded as junk bonds.

The agency explained that the downgrading was based on its view that Tom's credit metrics would continue to remain under pressure despite expectations of more revenue growth this year.

'Despite Tom's current market strength across some multimedia categories, its credit profile is susceptible to strong competition, particularly within its internet value-added service business, where telecommunications service providers have easy and direct access to the group's potential customer base,' the agency's credit analyst, Lawrence Lu, said.

Sounds like it needs to launch some form of pre-emptive attack and do some serious customer poaching.

And 5 cleanest public privies?

Shanghai can be a real nightmare to navigate for visitors, especially during the World Expo when it is overrun with tourists.

Privy, a private travel network, has harnessed the power and expertise of its social network to launch its 'Privy 5' Shanghai online guide, which includes 30 'top five' lists highlighting the best the city has to offer. Future guides will feature Beijing, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, New York, Seoul and Tokyo.

Founder Stephen Liu says Privy functions as a social compass that enables like-minded people who travel frequently within Asia to share lifestyle reviews in a discreet and trusted environment, as membership is 'by invitation only'.

What a brilliant way to cash in on the expo fever! But Lai See has a small request: find us five top places where we can still see old-timers wandering around in flip-flops and pyjamas and the real Shanghai.

10 megaMoo = 1 MW

American dairy farmers could soon find themselves in the computer business, with the manure from their cows possibly powering the vast data centres of companies like Google and Microsoft.

The idea plays on two trends: the building of computing centres in more rural locations and dairy farmers' efforts to turn cattle waste into fuel.

With the right skills, a farmer could rent out land and power to tech companies and recoup an investment in the waste-to-fuel systems within two years, Hewlett-Packard engineers say in a research paper released yesterday. This could benefit firms in countries like China and India, which need cheap energy.

According to HP's calculations, 10,000 cows would be needed to power a one-megawatt data centre, the equivalent of a small computing centre used by a bank. This energy option is full of manure - literally.