Lai See

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 September, 2010, 12:00am

CLSA goes to Hollywood in finance's showbizzy talk fest

Stockbroker CLSA is gearing up for its 17th annual Hong Kong investor forum, which it says will be its biggest with 1,380 investors from 30 countries and 500 chief executives and chief financial officers representing 200 firms from 20 nations.

CLSA likes to add a bit of brio to these events as a diversion from the endless discussions on how to make money. So ironically there will be a showing of the new Oliver Stone film Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, which, if it is anything like the original Wall Street, pans the finance industry and the film's hero Gordon Gekko, who ironically has come to be embraced by the industry. Michael Douglas, who plays Gekko, was due to speak at the forum but had to pull out after he discovered he had throat cancer.

His place has been filled by Hollywood heavyweight Francis Ford Coppola (pictured), who will give a talk on the business of making movies. Is CLSA becoming the Hollywood of the finance industry?

SFC is no Octopus

We hear the strange tale of a small financial organisation that received calls from independent financial advisers seeking to sell their wares even before it had opened its doors for business.

Our friend was somewhat surprised since the only people who knew the phone number worked for the Securities and Futures Commission with whom he had been in contact while securing a licence to operate his business.

Had the SFC or someone within the SFC been selling this information, he wondered? Inquiries revealed that this was not the case. There was no need to sell the information since it is all available on the SFC's website.

And to think that Octopus made HK$44 million from selling this kind of information while the SFC is giving it away. The SFC says it has no intention of selling the data.

New Harlan menu

We see that so-called celebrity chef Harlan Goldstein is embarking on another round of revolving doors, closing one restaurant and opening another.

The 'entrepreneur chef', we are told, 'is getting ready for a big comeback with a hot new restaurant in Wyndham Street', the press release gushingly informs us.

But what about the Harlan's that already exists?

'I sold my shares in Harlan's two years ago, and have nothing more to do with the place,' Harlan says. What he doesn't say is that he had a falling out with the investors who backed that project and when things did not go his way he left after failing to take the name with him.

After that episode he opened another restaurant, Tuscany H, but that will close on October 5, so he can 'fully focus' on the new venture.

So if you missed the 'real Harlan' in Harlan's, you can find him at his modestly titled new venture, Gold By Harlan Goldstein.

Mess of potash

Rival bidders aren't exactly falling over themselves despite Potash Corp of Saskatchewan's best efforts. Potash says BHP Billiton's US$130 a share bid is too low, but alternative offers have yet to emerge. Reuters said Sinochem Group approached Temasek Holdings to join a group that may bid for Potash.

Unfortunately, any foreign bid for Potash is likely to meet a brick wall (Saskatchewans hold Potash dear to their hearts - it's one of their crown jewels). We are all going to get a lot more familiar with potash before this is over. But to say potash is the new iron ore, as some have suggested, is surely over the top.

One-pilot flight?

Ryanair, which is unflagging in its efforts to cut costs, is now suggesting that passengers should be required to pay when they spend a penny at 30,000 feet. Europe's biggest low-cost airline has come up with another way to cut costs.

Its chief executive Michael O'Leary reportedly said he was seeking permission from aviation authorities to use only one pilot per flight as a way to cut back on costs. 'It would save the entire industry a fortune.' He even suggested that one of the cabin crew could be trained to land the plane if something happened to the pilot mid-flight. But wouldn't that make her a pilot? Maybe the old boy's been flying too much lately.

Yes, the rich are difficult

Gerard Aquilina of Barclays Wealth has been bemoaning the difficulties of dealing with the ultra rich. They insist on paying less for services, he told a conference in Zurich. They also ask for credit to invest in property which may not generate private banking fees, and demand help with getting children into schools or last-minute concert tickets, he said. They also cause organisational challenges with a reluctance to share fees.


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