Lai See

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 May, 2011, 12:00am


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A case of handbags at dawn for bosses at Milan Station

We normally don't take much interest in handbags unless we get hit by them - which happens from time to time. But the Milan Station IPO phenomenon has piqued our interest. For a company that sells secondhand handbags, albeit premium bags, to be 2,100 times oversubscribed - that takes some doing. We see that some 68 per cent of the proceeds of the issue, about HK$98 million, is to be used on developing the company's network of stores on the mainland.

However, we see from the Risk Factors section in the prospectus that the group has already identified unauthorised use of its name by shops on the mainland selling handbags in Guangzhou, Hangzhou and Shanghai.

If that wasn't enough, several enterprises have registered the Milan Station name with the local administrations in Chengdu, Nanjing and Shanghai. The prospectus notes: 'The group has engaged a lawyer in the PRC in 2011 who will commence legal actions against third parties for infringing the group's intellectual property rights in the PRC within six months after listing.' Looks like this lawyer is going to be busy.

Insurers receive a saucy premium

It is not uncommon for insurance companies to reward their top performing agents with so-called 'incentive' trips. However, one such event organised recently by a unit of Munich Re, the world's largest reinsurer, appears to have to got somewhat out of hand.

The subsidiary Ergo Versicherungsgruppe hosted a party at a Budapest spa for their agents, which also featured 20 ladies of the night, Handelsblatt reported.

The story, picked up by Bloomberg, notes that in an unusual touch the women wore colour-coded armbands with red for hostesses, yellow for those available for sexual favours and white for women reserved for executives.

The senior management involved in organising the party have apparently been fired following what has been described as 'a clear violation of company policy'.

Presumably, they are insured against this sort of thing.

Left feeling a bit of a Twitter

The Chinese twittersphere is apparently abuzz with a story that Fang Bingxing, the president of the Post and Telecommunications University - who is otherwise known as father of the great firewall of China - recently suffered the indignity of having either a shoe or an egg, or both, hurled at him.

The event supposedly occurred while he was giving a lecture at Wuhan University. When he complained that the university authorities should have been aware of the intended 'attack', since it had been discussed on Twitter, someone pointed out to him that they could not legally access Twitter since Fang had banned access to it. Students access Twitter using virtual private networks (VPNs).

Shoe throwing in the Middle East during the 'Arab Spring' prompted The Economist magazine to set up the 'shoe throwing index' as a measure of discontent.

Is this now a new indicator we should watch for in China?

Track record isn't that good

Chinese Railways Minister Sheng Guangzu has hit on a brilliant idea for curbing corruption in his notoriously corrupt department.

At a meeting of the Chinese Railway Ministry recently he made senior railway officials sign an agreement that they would not be corrupt. Problem solved? If only his predecessor Li Shijun had adopted this wheeze, he might have saved himself from his present discomfort at being investigated for corruption.

But if past experience of Sheng's kind of initiative is anything to go by, the prognosis is not altogether favourable. In 2006, Shanghai party chief Chen Liangyu wrote an article for a Shanghai newspaper which told of the evils of corruption.

Alas, before the year was out he, too, had succumbed to its allure and is now languishing in prison.

Holinesses in glass houses ...

Good to see Pope Benedict XVI engaging in the popular sport of banker bashing. He has lambasted the financial markets, accusing them of resuming 'harmful speculation', Bloomberg reports.

Apparently, His Holiness accused the markets of 'frenetically' engaging again in a 'worrisome' form of finance that will 'end up impoverishing even more those who already live in seriously precarious situations', according to a text posted on the Holy See's website.

But it has to be said that the Catholic Church has, in the past, been guilty of worse. We can refer you to the numerous volumes of History of the Popes, by Leopold Von Ranke, which tell a racy tale of corruption, sex and thuggery, by their holinesses.