Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings

Lai See

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 September, 2010, 12:00am

Lam gives the inside track on CKI bid - it's all in Li's stable

Cheung Kong Infrastructure (CKI) head Kam Hing-lam yesterday lifted the veil slightly on the work that went into securing pole position in the contest for British electricity distribution networks of EDF Energy, a GBP5.78 billion (HK$69.2 billion) deal that is expected to be completed before the end of the year.

'This was a two-horse race. It was one of the most intense competitions I ever experienced. Negotiations were complex, with heavy due diligence and expensive bidding cost,' he said.

The other two firms in the consortium - Hongkong Electric and the Li Ka Shing Foundation - have 'strong capital readiness' and 'synergistic operating philosophy', Kam said. The synergy should come as no surprise since Li Ka-shing controls all three.

When asked to confirm media reports that CKI is interested in bidding for a 30-year concession to HS1, the only operational dedicated high-speed railway in Britain, Kam said he could not due to Hong Kong stock exchange regulations.

But he did say: 'The UK is a country where we have previous investments. We like to invest in a country where we have investments. In the UK, if it is a project with steady returns, we will be interested in it.' Just like the telecoms business, eh?

Relief for Rusal

Rusal's stock did a little jump for joy yesterday. It was up 5 per cent to HK$8.20 following its good interim results and the reduction in its board-lot size to 6,000 shares as from October 4, from the current 24,000 shares.

Analysts point out that this won't change the fundamental value of the stock but it will make it more liquid in that retail investors will now be able to join in. At the same time, it will also make it easier for institutional investors to trade the stock since the lack of liquidity in the stock combined with the big board-lot size meant that virtually any trade had an impact on the price. Chalco, a company of comparable size, generally has a turnover 15 times greater than Rusal.

The consensus 12-month target of analysts covering Rusal is HK$10.96 and ranges between HK$9.50 and HK$13.60. Rusal chief executive Oleg Deripaska recently predicted that the share price would double by the end of 2012 implying a target of HK$14 to HK$15. What are the odds of it achieving that, we wonder?

Citi's house call

Good to see Citi doing its bit to help the government cool the property market.

It is extending its branch hours to 7pm to deal with mortgages. It also promises to give a decision on mortgage applications within 24 hours. But you don't have to rush round to the branch because the bank will deliver mortgage documents to your house or office or wherever else you want them. And if you succeed in getting approval before November 30 you get HK$7,000 in cash coupons.

Bid failure fallout

There were long faces at China Strategic's press conference yesterday to discuss Taiwan's rejection of the firm's bid to purchase Nan Shan Life Insurance.

Chief executive Raymond Or Ching-fai was disappointed by the outcome, complaining that the rules of the game kept changing. The one consolation he was able to salvage from the process was that the Investment Commission under Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs, which handled the case, did finally agree that Taiwanese legislators were incorrect to describe China Strategic as a shark funded by mainland money.

The company was considered 'foreign' rather than 'mainland'. But this news, along with the outcome, was only discovered by going along to the press conference in Taiwan on Tuesday. China Strategic has not been officially informed yet.

Another reason for the gloom could be that with the failure to acquire Nan Shan, the performance options due to Or and China Strategic chairman Frederick Ma Si-hang, which were worth millions of Hong Kong dollars, also disappeared.

A case of now you see it, now you don't.

Tall-building syndrome

You can always tell that a country thinks it has 'arrived' when it decides to build a tall building in its capital. There's Taipei's 101 Tower, the Shanghai World Financial Centre, Malaysia's Petronas Towers and of course the 828-metre-high Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

However, Cambodia seems to be jumping the gun a bit with its contribution to tall-building syndrome. It is planning to build a 555-metre-tall skyscraper worth US$200 million, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced yesterday.

In Phnom Penh, a five-storey building stands out, so the recently completed 32-storey Canadia Bank Tower dominates the skyline. But Hun Sen's new monster building will be five times its height, coming in under the Dubai giant but taller than the other buildings in Asia.

The proposal has prompted some to question the wisdom of a building half a kilometre high in one of Asia's poorest countries.

If you build it, they will come, perhaps?