Lai See

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 November, 2010, 12:00am

Henry Tang uncorks delight over city's cut in wine duty

Good to see Chief Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen extolling the great strides made by those in Hong Kong's wine trade in his speech at the opening ceremony of the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Fair yesterday. As we all know this is matter close to his heart with him being such a connoisseur.

He gave the government a pat on the back for reducing the duty on wines and spirits from 80 per cent to zero several years ago in what has turned out to be a very successful measure. In his view Hong Kong, which is already the second biggest centre in the world for wine auctions, having overtaken London, could move to overtake New York this year and move into pole position.

Such was his enthusiasm for the topic that he even permitted himself a little joke. 'We are all delighted to see the business potential that has been unlocked, or perhaps I should say, uncorked.' Ho, ho, ho - trebles all round.

Deripaska - a hard sell

A team from Oleg Deripaska's En+ Group is expected in town next week to rev up the listing of EuroSibEnergo. En+ is the holding company for a portfolio of mining metals and energy interests with EuroSibEnergo holding all of the energy interests.

The power plants have a total capacity of 19.5 gigawatts (GW) compared to CLP's capacity in Hong Kong of 6.9 GW. Some 15 GW is generated by hydro power and the group's most important customer are the aluminium smelters of Rusal, which is also controlled by Deripaska. The company generates about 8 per cent of Russia's electricity.

But impressive though it maybe, getting it listed at a valuation the owners want is proving somewhat difficult for the investment banks - BOC International and Deutsche Bank - that are encumbered with the responsibility. Some banks are a little shy in dealing with Deripaska and this has not helped.

The En+ people believe the company is worth about US$8 billion but they are looking to raise rather more than US$2 billion by presumably selling off 25 per cent of the firm. But since there isn't the same frantic hurry for EuroSibEnergo as there was for Rusal, those involved with the deal may have a more comfortable Christmas holiday. If they can't get the valuation, the deal may not happen.

Who, if anyone, has the testicular fortitude to step forward as a cornerstone investor as given the baggage that inevitably surrounds Deripaska's companies, this will need a few. The cornerstone investors from the Rusal listing are still out of pocket with Rusal still 8.5 per cent below its listing price.

Corporate cat and mouse

Here's a tip. Don't ever annoy Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison (left). Fresh from hiring former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Mark Hurd, Ellison appears to be spearheading a drive to embarrass Hurd's former employer as much as possible by serving a summons on him to appear in court. This means targeting its new chief executive, Leo Apotheker, who used to be the boss at SAP, which is embroiled in a dispute with Oracle going back some years.

HP says Oracle is just being childish, but Oracle begs to differ. 'Mr Apotheker started work for HP on Monday, but it now appears that the HP board of directors has decided to keep him away from HP's headquarters and outside the court's jurisdiction,' Oracle's spokeswoman, Deborah Hellinger, said.

HP said Oracle had had 'ample opportunity' to question Apotheker during a sworn deposition in 2008. 'Given Leo's limited knowledge of and role in the matter, Oracle's last-minute effort to require him to appear live at trial is no more than an effort to harass him and interfere with his duties and responsibilities as HP's CEO,' an HP spokeswoman said.

Terminated - revenue 'trick'

California voters have approved a ballot measure prohibiting lawmakers from dipping into tax revenue meant for local governments. The measure, sponsored by the League of California Cities, stops a common practice by the legislature of redirecting fuel tax and local property-tax revenue meant for cities, counties and redevelopment districts to balance the state budget. Passage means a loss of as much as US$1 billion a year from the state budget. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and lawmakers in July 2009 siphoned US$2 billion from local redevelopment agencies to help close what was then a US$26 billion deficit.