Lai See

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 July, 2011, 12:00am


Faber the contrarian gets gold bug ... like everyone else

Marc Faber was at his gloomy best recently, predicting more or less the end of the world as we know it. Speaking on King World News, he said he expected an agreement on the US debt ceiling but added it wouldn't solve the 'fundamental problem of excessive debt and further, very substantial deficits'. He also suggested any agreement would be fudged and little would be done.

'America will keep piling on debt and printing money, as will Europe, leading to war and the collapse of governments.' As for gold, he said: 'I could make the case that today gold is probably very inexpensive.' With everyone else becoming bullish on gold, Faber, who has made a living out of being contrarian, might be feeling slightly uncomfortable now.

Low-tax Marina Bay beats Macau

The Marina Bay Sands casino in Singapore achieved a significant milestone in the second quarter. Ebitda (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation) for the casino operations of US$405.4 million exceeded for the first time the combined ebitda for the three Sands casinos in Macau. The Marina Bay achieved this on lower net revenues of US$737.6 million for its casino operations compared with net revenues for the three Macau casinos of US$1,187.2 million.

Average ebitda margins for the Macau casinos were about 32 per cent compared with 55 per cent for Marina Bay. This would appear to make it the most profitable casino in the world. But the reason Marina Bay is so much more profitable than the casinos in Macau is that tax on gambling revenue in Macau is 39 per cent, while in Singapore it is 5 per cent on high- roller revenue and 15 per cent on the rest. Singapore's casinos earned US$5.1 billion last year and are expected to outstrip the Las Vegas strip this year with earnings of US$6.4 billion.

Who's on board for the long haul?

For travellers who want to rekindle the romance and excitement of air travel, a Paris-based company, DC3 Antipodes, is offering a three-week air cruise to retrace the route of New Zealand-born air pioneer Jean Batten. She became the first person to fly from England to New Zealand in 1936 when she took off from Lympne, about 20 kilometres from Dover, and landed in Auckland after a flight of 11 days and 45 minutes.

The company will use a propeller-driven Douglas DC-3, which had 14 sleeper berths or 21 passenger berths when the first aircraft entered service in 1936. The flight, costing Euro21,000 (HK$231,000) will take off from Lydd airport, just down the road from the former Lympne airport which is now an industrial estate, on October 29 and stop at as many cities as possible that were on Batten's original route.

Thankfully for the modern-day air traveller, they won't include the H3 landing ground near the Iraq-Syria border, or the southern Iraqi city of Basra, where Batten stopped on her 22,758 kilometre flight.

The plane will fly at an altitude of around 2,300 metres and at a cruising speed of about 250 kilometres an hour. Onboard entertainment will include a large collection of DVD films and documentaries connected with aviation history, along with 'occasional in-flight live entertainment'. If this doesn't appeal, there is always the modern alternative for HK$92,000, flying first class with British Airways in a boring modern jet.

They don't know how lucky they are

For those who don't already have one, the chances of being able to own a new car in Beijing are little better than winning at roulette.

In an attempt to reduce congestion and pollution, Beijing authorities initiated a lottery earlier this year for those that wanted to buy a new car.

In the lottery held earlier this week, Reuters reports, only 17,555 out of a total of 614,441 applicants won the right to register cars. That means the odds have fallen to 35-1 - about the same as scoring on the roulette table - compared with 11-1 in January.

Strangely, about 30,000 successful lottery winners have failed to purchase a car within the six- month time limit, and are being 'targeted' for wasting their quota. An official with Beijing's transport commission has threatened to release their names.

You'll be doubled up ...

This is a bit weak but it's been doing the rounds: as part of its economic austerity measures, the Greek government has banned any further production of taramasalata, a fish-based spread, and tzatziki, made with yoghurt, to prevent a double-dip recession.