Lai See

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 July, 2011, 12:00am


Housewives put up price of money

Evidence that China's credit squeeze is biting hard is showing up in a number of surprising areas. We recently wrote about the copper trade, where mainly small companies have been unable to get loans so instead obtain letters of credit to buy copper. The copper is then sold and the cash used as working capital or to buy property. The Wenzhou rate, the lending rate among private enterprises in the industrial city of Wenzhou, has rocketed from an annualised rate of about 20 per cent in July 2010 to more that 70 per cent currently. Elsewhere, the so-called gao li dai rates have surged. These are the informal funds collected by groups of housewives and lent out to cash-strapped enterprises. The rates are understood to have jumped from around 3 per cent to 4 per cent per month earlier this year to between 6 per cent and 7 per cent currently. With money tighter, the number of private-loan disputes in Wenzhou has soared, with 474 cases heard between March and May this year.

No Jiaqing matter

We hope the people at Wynn Macau don't let Steve Wynn get his hands on any of the Jiaqing period vases the company bought for US$12.7 million at a Christie's London sale earlier this week. The company bought four of what are described as 'ormolu-mounted Chinese porcelain baluster vases' and paid twice the current world auction record for ormolu-mounted porcelain for the privilege of doing so. Steve Wynn can be somewhat careless with objets d'arts. He famously poked a hole in Picasso's Le R?ve while he was showing it off to potential buyers. That incident cost him US$85,000 to put right. But if he drops one of these vases, it could cost him a lot more. Matched pairs of these vases are rare and matched quartets are never seen, according to a press release issued on behalf of the company. The only known similar examples are in the collection of the British royal family - and we don't need to ask how they got hold of theirs.

Win some, lose some

There was jubilation at Standard Chartered yesterday after being named 'Bank of the Year in Hong Kong', by Euromoney. It walked away with a string of awards from the magazine - best cash management house in Asia, best project finance house in the Middle East, best investment bank in the Middle East, best investment bank in Africa and best flow house in Africa. These are not the only awards the bank has won this year. The bank featured in the awards at the Fund Managers', Asian Bankers', and Brokers' Awards (Fabbas), the Hong Kong finance industries' equivalent of the Razzies, the Oscars alternative that awards the worst in cinema. Stanchart was given a special 'couldn't see the wood for the trees' award for its part in the China Forestry HK$120 million placing. Two weeks after the placing, the stock was suspended and the CEO and senior management have disappeared. You can't win them all.

All the little piggies stay home

There's been some disenchantment with investing in China recently, what with Muddy Waters and forests that disappear overnight. But what about pigs as an investment? Pigs are worth around 70 per cent more now than they were a year ago, Reuters reports. Such is the rate of appreciation that farmers are not selling their animals until they reach optimum size. This in turn is pushing up prices, which make pig farmers even more reluctant to sell. And so it goes on. 'Each pig can grow about half a kilogram a day, which means 10 yuan,' one farmer told Reuters. 'For 100 pigs, that's 1,000 yuan more for each day if I don't sell them.' This reluctance to sell has pushed up pork prices to record levels - some 65 per cent higher than last year. Is it a bubble? People aren't sure, but we don't want to be around when it bursts.

Sharp investment

Diamonds have done much to retrieve their investment sparkle this year. Diamond prices are now above their pre-crisis levels, Reuters reports. They have shot up in price by 35-40 per cent, helped by increased scarcity and their rising attraction as an investment. 'Diamonds are more scarce than before the crisis. And there are three markets where demand is very strong. China, India and the United States,' Stephen Lussier of De Beers was quoted as saying. The US accounts for 40 per cent of global demand and has rediscovered the allure of diamonds as a diversification investment. 'As an investment, diamonds are more similar to art. You need to know what you are buying.' But unlike gold, Lussier says, 99.5 per cent of diamonds still end up in jewellery.