Lai See

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 June, 2011, 12:00am


Sense-of-humour failure leaves a sour taste in the vineyards

We all know that corruption is rampant in China. Even so wine maker Judy Leissner grabbed people's attention with her comments on the subject at a private equity conference yesterday. Leissner, who is from the mainland and is president of Grace Vineyard, was complaining that it was becoming increasingly difficult to run a business in China, particularly when it came to dealing with the various levels of government. She said it wasn't so unusual for a representative from the local authority to show up and complain about their low level of tax revenues. One of their wheezes was that Leissner should find something 'wrong' with her business and allow a 'fine' to be paid to the authority. If she was unable to play ball in this way she would be invited to move her business elsewhere. Some years ago Leissner told a conference, 'If you do want to work in China, my advice would be you have to have a sense of humour. You have to be able to laugh at things.' Sounds as if she is beginning to weary of that approach.

Ferragamo, anyone?

Despite the hullabaloo over Prada's Hong Kong initial public offering and the insatiable demand, we are told, of mainland Chinese for luxury goods, not everyone is buying into it. And we're not talking about investors. Fellow Italian luxury group Salvatore Ferragamo launched its IPO yesterday, offering nearly a quarter of the company on the Milan stock exchange to raise up to Euro400 million (HK$4.45 billion), AFP reports. The company was set up in 1927 by Salvatore Ferragamo, a Florentine shoemaker who came back to Italy after living in the United States, where he became famous for designing shoes for Hollywood stars. It opted for an Italian listing even though Hong Kong tycoon Peter Woo Kwong-ching and his family own eight per cent of the group. We wonder if he plans to hold on to it long term, or whether one of the companies he controls will end up buying the stake, at market prices of course.

Wine, women and wrong

Surveys have now become an almost irritating approach to marketing. Anybody wanting to promote something organises a 'survey' as a soft marketing tool. The latest one to cross our desk comes from Vinexpo, the world's biggest wine and spirits exhibition. This tells us that Hong Kong women are humble about their knowledge of wine. Seven out of 10 women say they know less about wine than men, while 67 per cent of American women claim they know as much, compared with the average of 58 per cent of women across the international survey. But Hong Kong women drink just as much as women in France. Vinexpo says this information was gleaned by questioning 10,500 women over five countries. Another of the survey's gems is that only 40 per cent of Hong Kong women believe that wine is 'necessary' to make a romantic date go well compared with 68 per cent across the survey.

Maserati: not just for tai-tais

We see with some interest that some 30 per cent of the 400 Maseratis sold in China last year were bought by women. This news comes to us from The Wall Street Journal, which goes on to say that this dwarfs the two to five per cent of women that buy Maseratis in the European and US markets. So are these expensive baubles being bought for them by their rich menfolk? Apparently not, according to Masserati. 'Many people are inclined to believe that gentlemen are generously purchasing luxury gifts for women in China, but our observation is that the great majority [of the buyers] are women who have achieved great success in their business and are now rewarding themselves with the finer things in life,' Christian Gobber, managing director of Maserati China told The World Street Journal. But with so many women buying the ultimate male status symbol, what do the boys do now for their toys?

Too big even for Glencore

Glencore is reportedly considering a GBP12 billion (HK$151.5 billion) tilt at Kazakh-based miner ENRC, according to a Reuters report quoting The Sunday Times, and ENRC shares jumped almost eight per cent as a result. Quoting a source with knowledge of the discussions, the newspaper reported that Glencore chief executive Ivan Glasenberg had talked in recent weeks with ENRC's three founders and key shareholders - Alexander Mashkevitch, Patokh Chodiev and Alijan Ibragimov, who between them control around 45 per cent of ENRC's shares. But analysts view a near-term acquisition by Glencore as unlikely since it would struggle to swallow ENRC in all-out cash bid without undermining its own credit rating. And it can't sell more equity for at least six months.