A chance to go on board and fire away
We see that Oleg Deripaska has elevated Vera Kurochkina to Rusal's board of directors. Kurochkina has worked for Rusal since 2003 and has been head of what Rusal calls the PR Directorate. She is Rusal's link with the press. It has to be said that her relations with the fourth estate have been somewhat difficult, particularly during Rusal's application to be listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange a year ago. Her manner was, to say the least, austere. It may come as a surprise, particularly to journalists, to learn that she has won prizes for her public relations work, including the national Silver Archer award in Russia for her Rusal project: 'The Russians are coming.'
But, having experienced her yelling down the phone, 'This is bulls**t, bulls**t, bulls**t,' we have secretly awarded her a prize of our own - the Silver Kalashnikov.
Small and manageable
The threat level of Rusal's shares for retail investors is deemed to have subsided sufficiently for ordinary men and women to be able to buy the stock. As from Monday the board lot has been lowered from 6,000 to 1,000 shares and the cost of a board lot at Friday's closing price of HK9.84 will fall from HK$59,040 to HK$9,840. It seems such a far cry from a year ago when the Securities and Futures Commission was wringing its hands over the riskiness of the stock and insisted on a board lot of 24,000. This was reduced in August to 6,000 and Rusal says the cut led to a 40 per cent increase in turnover. The smaller board lot will also make the stock easier to short, and with the stock going back on the short selling list, Monday may be an interesting day.
It's our turn
Dagong Global Credit Rating, a relatively new mainland credit rating agency, has downgraded the US sovereign credit rating to A+ from AA. The downgrade reflects the country's 'deteriorating debt repayment capability and drastic decline of the government's intention of debt repayment'. In 10 pages of dense analysis the rating agency is hugely critical of the latest US monetary policy moves and declares that 'the serious defects in the United States economic development and management model will lead to the long-term recession of its national economy, fundamentally lowering the national solvency'. The debt problems, it says, cannot be solved by currency devaluation; it warns that the latest measures could trigger 'an overall crisis', by which it seems to mean a global crisis.
The report says the fundamental dynamic of the US economy is credit expansion, and this is failing to lift the economy domestically and is also threatening the world credit system. It also points to the heavy burden carried by the US economy by 'the US global hegemonic strategy'.
The upshot of the current US difficulties and the steps it has taken will reduce confidence in the dollar, which 'may trigger the trend of selling US dollars'. If we didn't know these guys better, you would think the report was trying to undermine the US dollar rather than describe its problems. But it's a withering report driven perhaps by years of having to endure lofty recommendations by US analysts on how China should manage its economy.
The Group of 20 summit is better known for its focus on currencies and economic issues, and geographical correctness is obviously a low priority. Just ask Julia Gillard, prime minister of Australia - or Austria, if you're a South Korean bureaucrat. Officials in Seoul mistakenly garbed her in Austrian national gear. Gillard, dressed in a Sound of Music-style red and white puff-sleeved dress and pink apron, was part of a display of dolls representing leaders at the G20 summit this week. She's now wearing a suit, presumably because they couldn't get hold of flip-flops, cut-off shorts and a 'Men At Work' T-shirt.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton mistakenly referred to 'Prime Minister Rudd' during a visit to Australia this week. This sort of carelessness irks Lai See. It's like those people who persist in calling the late James Brown the 'Godfather of Soul' when he never even visited the South Korean capital.
Go mad over this auction
There is to be an auction of almost 500 lots of clothing, furniture, jewellery and knick-knacks recovered from fraudster Bernard Madoff's former Manhattan penthouse and Montauk, New York, beach house. The pre-sale estimate is US$1.5 million to US$2 million. There are some 200 pairs of shoes and 44 men's sport coats. Two dozen worsted double-breasted suits are estimated at a total of US$480 to US$690. And there are hundreds of sweaters, polo shirts and custom-made monogrammed Charvet dress shirts, not to mention his wife's clothes. A collection of almost Imeldaesque proportions.