with Howard Winn
There's no better policy than to change with the times
How does a bad policy become a good one? Answer: when the government decides to implement it. The recently introduced special stamp duty was appropriate and timely, according to Eva Cheng (pictured), secretary for transport and housing, speaking on the radio. She said she hoped the new initiative would ensure the property market's stable and healthy development, benefiting real homebuyers.
Yet as David Webb recalls on Webb-site.com, Cheng told the Legislative Council in June that an extra stamp duty would be 'unfair to those who have genuine needs to sell their properties within the specified period of time, and will cause additional hardship to those in financial difficulties. In fact, not all property transactions generate profits. Those gaining profits from property speculation are already subject to profits tax. The additional stamp duty will be considered as a kind of double taxation.' She was speaking during Legco's debate on an amendment to the Stamp Duty Ordinance. As Webb says, despite the government's own criticisms of the measures, five months later it decides to implement them.
Dodge the bullet, not the tax
Given the problems facing Ireland, HSBC must be relieved that it didn't take up the Irish government's offer in 2006 to relocate its headquarters to Dublin. The advantage of such a move was, of course, its 12.5 per cent corporate tax rate, which must have seemed quite tempting when compared with Britain's 30 per cent.
HSBC moved its HQ from Hong Kong to London in 1993, but was feeling restless by 2006. In early 2007, news that it was proposing to sell its 45-storey office block in Canary Wharf set off another round of speculation that it wanted to move its HQ out of Britain. Ireland, with its advantages of education, language, time zone and low tax rate, was cited as an alternative to London. At least that's one reputational bullet that HSBC has managed to avoid.
Should the HK gamble flop
Veteran stock picker Anthony Bolton has not only been putting his money into his Fidelity China Special Situations Fund. The 60-year-old fund manager, who relocated to Hong Kong this year, has bought a GBP5.9 million (HK$72 million), 2,900 square foot flat overlooking Victoria Harbour. 'It is the most expensive thing I have bought in my life,' Bolton tells Bloomberg Markets magazine. And it's a big bet as Hong Kong is suffering from a property price bubble - a danger that also threatens the mainland. Still, there's always the beachfront villa in Antigua for Bolton, should the bull have to dash out of the China shop.
Harlan going to the dogs
Dog lovers will be out in force tomorrow to take part in the annual 'Peak to Fong' event held by Hong Kong Dog Rescue to raise money for its efforts to look after homeless dogs. It starts with a walk from The Peak and finishes with a street party in Lan Kwai Fong.
In its seventh year the event is attracting support from the likes of Harvey Nichols, Cathay Pacific and Lane Crawford. A welter of celebrities will be in attendance, possibly with their dogs.
Home-grown celebrity chef Harlan Goldstein has even offered himself as a prize. He will cook a dinner for six at the home of whoever offers to pay him the most, with the proceeds going to HKDR. The dinner is being auctioned on the HKDR website and, by yesterday evening, bids had reached HK$15,000.
Sing with the banks
If your bank was a pop star, who would it be? Hereisthecity.com has been amusing itself and others with this intellectual poser. Here are some thoughts they have come up with.
HSBC - Boy George: both are coming to terms with their size. Goldman Sachs - Jay-Z: both have their fingers in almost every pie you can imagine. Bank of America - Garth Brooks: both hail from the southern US, are overweight and haven't had a hit for years. BlackRock - Lady Gaga: totally original and at the top of their game. Renaissance Capital would be Simply Red.
JPMorgan Chase - The Rolling Stones: both have a good frontman, a strong following and will be around forever. Standard Chartered - Dolly Parton: big in certain areas. Royal Bank of Scotland - Sheena Easton: Scottish, came out of nowhere, had a brief period in the sun, then bombed. UBS is Madonna in disguise, been around for ages, seen better days.
Credit Suisse - Ozzy Osbourne: not in the news as much these days, and trying to grow old gracefully. Lazard - Rod Stewart: still up there after all those years. Lehman Brothers could be Michael Jackson, and Merrill Lynch Jim Morrison: all deceased but still have legendary status. Morgan Stanley - Kylie Minogue: both have had a very good run but many feel their best years are behind them. Any more ideas?