with Howard Winn
Friedland's Mines and Money dream looks like coming true
Last year, Robert Friedland - the rock star of the mining world - told the Hong Kong Mines and Money conference: 'Hong Kong will become the largest mining finance market in the world.' People were a little taken aback by this and thought that maybe this could happen eventually, but was some way off.
But in the past year, interest in the sector has grown rapidly, despite the laborious efforts of the stock exchange and the Securities and Futures Commission to get up to speed. While the 2010 Mines and Money conference was double the size of 2009, the 2011 event next week will be three times the size of 2010. 'Demand has been huge,' says Charlie Hastings, marketing director for the conference. 'The event has really taken off.'
There are now 150 exhibitions and 2,000 people have signed up to attend, so the event has moved to the Convention and Exhibition Centre on the waterfront.
Organised by the Mining Journal and Beacon Events, the Hong Kong Mines and Money event, now in its fourth year, has overtaken the London event which has been running for eight years.
Friedland (pictured) will be back again and Andrew 'Twiggy' Forrest, chief executive of Fortescue Metals Group, will be speaking.
The only downside to moving to moving Mines and Money away from the Four Seasons Hotel to the Convention and Exhibition Centre is the rather ho hum food on offer.
Take it with a pinch of salt
Hong Kong shoppers have reacted to the latest rumour about Japan with their customary sang froid. They're buying salt as if there's no tomorrow - apparently on the assumption the stuff can ward off radiation as well as making fish and chips taste better.
The scientific basis for this belief is hard to fathom. It could be based on the belief that some salt is iodised, and iodine is used to help people exposed to radiation.
The frenzied behaviour is just the latest example of a recurring theme in Hong Kong's rich and colourful history. Remember Maria's Cakes, which was hit by a 'run' over liquidity fears during the Asian crisis?
Or the run on a rock-solid bank which was caused by people taking shelter under its awning while they queued for a bus. Or even the behaviour during severe acute respiratory syndrome, when people hoarded vinegar, believing it would ward off the killer disease.
Just remember this - anyone who tells you to go out and panic buy over the next few days is probably not worth his salt.
A fine line on inflation
How's this for a radical solution for research that doesn't measure up?
The Argentine government is apparently fining private researchers who have the temerity to say inflation is higher than the official rate suggests.
The pressure comes from President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's government as Indec, the official statistics agency, says annual price increases are slowing from last year's peak of 11.2 per cent in July.
Private researcher Graciela Bevacqua, who was fired in 2007 as head of the consumer price index division at the national statistics agency, said she was fined 500,000 pesos (HK$965,000) on Tuesday, a day after she reported prices rose 23.1 per cent last month from a year ago, more than double the official 10 per cent rate.
This reminds us of the Greek official statistics agency and its attempt to minimise its plight. We all remember how that turned out.
A first class opportunity
If you have it in you to describe the one person you would like to meet flying first class with British Airways, then the airline has just the competition for you. The catch is you only have 20 words to play with.
This great literary event is being held to celebrate BA's US$10 million upgrade of its first class seats. The prize is a return flight to London with three nights at the Langham between April 27 and May 1 which will enable you, if you are that way inclined, to experience the Royal Wedding.
'It will undoubtedly be one of Britain's most exciting weekends this year,' BA says in its press release. If that's true then the rest of the year doesn't look so great.
Bottom line on markets
Nothing like a good court case to come up with the granular details of everyday life for a trader. Take the case in New York where Raj Rajaratnam, former head of Galleon Group Hedge funds, is on trial for insider dealing.
At one point, recordings of phone conversations between Raj and his traders were played in court. 'So how's the market treating you today,' Raj says to one of his traders. 'Like a baby treats a diaper,' the trader replies. Killer humour eh?