Lai See

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 April, 2011, 12:00am


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Simon Murray shows true grit and comes a tad unstuck

Simon Murray (pictured) has been making headlines in the British press of the sort he would probably prefer not to. The former head of Hutchison Whampoa has been giving a round of newspaper interviews since his recent appointment as non-executive chairman of soon-to-be-listed commodities giant Glencore. Murray appears to have come unstuck in his chat with the Sunday Telegraph which reported his forthright views on a number of topics including the employment of women.

'Women are quite as intelligent as men. They have a tendency not to be so involved quite often and they're not so ambitious in business as men because they've got better things to do. Quite often they like bringing up their children and all sorts of other things,' he said, adding that he wasn't keen on hiring young women, 'who are about to get married... because I know they're going to get pregnant and they're going to go off for nine months'.

This earned him a stiff rebuke from The Guardian, who quoted Britain's Business Secretary Vince Cable as saying: 'These prejudices are so unbelievably primitive they belong to the Middle Ages. He almost single-handedly makes the case for tough action to ensure there are more women on boards and to ensure women's rights in the workplace are properly entrenched.'

The Daily Telegraph, perhaps rather unsportingly under the circumstances, ran a story the following day written by two of its female journalists, kicking off with: 'Glencore's new chairman has been widely condemned for making 'unacceptable' and 'deplorable' sexist remarks, raising further corporate governance concerns ahead of the commodity trader's planned US$60bn [GBP37bn] stock market debut.'

But Murray's views apparently underwent an abrupt change. In a statement he issued later, he said: 'I apologise for any offence caused by my comments regarding the role of women in business reported in the Sunday Telegraph. I'm 100 per cent committed to equal opportunities in the boardroom and across a company's structure, be they private or public. Businesses which fail to address the under-representation of women at all levels will be at a competitive disadvantage.'

In an earlier interview he also took a swipe at former BP chairman Lord John Browne, who appears to have been Glencore's first choice as chairman ahead of Murray. 'I really think that the idea of somebody who's better known in Hong Kong probably appealed to him [Ivan Glasenberg, Glencore's CEO] more than necessarily having someone who was a peer of the realm in London, I think he wanted something a bit more gritty.'

Maybe so, but after his recent remarks he maybe he's a tad too gritty.

Digging into the sands of time

Dredging is a dreary business as you can see from watching operations in the Causeway Bay typhoon shelter. There is a monster barge firmly secured with a big anchor at each corner repeatedly plunging its grabber into the murky depths to emerge with a combination of mud, car batteries and other detritus in preparation for the new tunnel and roadworks.

So there was some interest recently when the clanking rhythm of the machinery changed to a strained groan and the grabber pulled up a mass of muddy chain and a heavier-than-usual object. Curious workers clustered around as the mystery object was sprayed with water to reveal a large anchor.

So was this a relic from a bygone era? That exciting thought was soon dispelled as attention turned to the chain attached to the anchor, which lead to one of the corners of the barge where it was found to be firmly attached.

At this point the penny dropped - it had pulled up one of its own anchors.

Tech giant fights hefty fine

Former technology No 1, Microsoft is due to make a court appearance next month as it appeals against an eye-watering fine. Bloomberg reports that Microsoft's appeal against an Euro899 million (HK$10.2 billion) European Union fine for failing to comply with an antitrust ruling will be heard on May 24. Microsoft, the world's biggest technology company by market capitalisation until Apple stole its crown, is seeking to overturn or cut the fine levied by the European Commission in 2008. Microsoft was the first company in 50 years of EU competition policy to face a penalty for failing to comply with an EU order. The commission found in 2004 that Microsoft overcharged for patent licences that rivals needed to connect products to the Windows operating system. The additional fine in 2008 brought the total penalty against Microsoft to Euro1.68 billion. Even for deep-pocketed Microsoft, that's a big cheque to sign.