Stanley Ho

Lai See

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 August, 2011, 12:00am


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The Philippines as perilous as Syria? Or is government playing politics?

With parts of London and other cities in Britain burning and gangs of looters rampaging through the streets, the Philippines seem rather peaceful by contrast. Yet a glance at the government's outbound travel alert site shows that the Philippines - along with Syria - still merits a black warning, which means avoid all travel and warns of a severe threat.

If putting both countries at the same level was not absurd enough, Britain is considered less of a threat than the Philippines. In an effort to minimise the absurdity of its grading system, there is a note about Britain but it is not included in the colour-coded system. The Security Bureau notes: 'Hong Kong residents intending to visit the country should monitor developments. Those already there should exercise caution for their personal safety.'

The tone of this warning puts it on the level of an amber warning - the same for Pakistan, Thailand, and India, which the Philippines should be in. With the anniversary of the tourist bus hijacking approaching this month, the government should stop playing politics with the travel advisory. If it is going to be abused for some cheap popularity, then why bother, because it is misleading as things stand.

Fit and proper investigation

Just when the jostling among casino tycoon Stanley Ho Hung-sun's family for parts of his empire appeared to have settled down, along comes Winnie Ho Yuen-ki, his estranged sister, to lob a spanner in the works.

She is continuing her long-running quest to get a share transfer in HK-listed casino operator SJM Holdings' parent company officially recognised. This time she has her lawyers asking the SFC and the HKEx to investigate whether Stanley, his daughter Pansy Ho Chiu-king, fourth 'wife' Angela Leong On-kei and SJM chief executive Ambrose So Shu-fai are 'fit and proper' persons to serve as directors of SJM.

Winnie helped run parent company Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau (STDM) for much of the 1980s and 1990s. STDM held the Macau casino monopoly for 40 years until 2002. Just before its monopoly expired, Winnie was fired as a director. But she retains a stake in STDM of around 7 per cent. STDM is the majority shareholder of SJM.

Winnie says she transferred that stake in 1983 to her private company, which in 2005 transferred the stake to her private charitable foundation, the Moon Valley Foundation. STDM does not recognise the transfer.

The letter to the SFC and HKEx landed in our inbox yesterday, but was dated June 14. It renews Winnie's allegations that the four directors have 'unreasonably and unlawfully refused and denied payment of dividends due and owing' to her for the last five years. It also says they have blocked her from sending a proxy representative to STDM's board meetings in Macau since 2003.

The letter concludes with an allegation that the four directors have failed to show that they are able to conduct their duties 'competently, honestly and fairly' or to maintain proper 'reputation, character, reliability and financial integrity', and asks for an investigation.

Apple tastier than light sweet crude?

Associated Press put it neatly as it summed up the latest scalp to be taken by Apple: investors seem to think you want an iPad more than oil, as Apple became the most valuable company in the United States, surpassing Exxon Mobil on Wednesday. Apple closed at US$363.69, which brings its market value to US$337 billion. Exxon closed at US$68.03, giving it a market value of US$331 billion. Even with soaring oil prices, Exxon could not match Apple, whose net income jumped 70 per cent to US$14 billion on a 52 per cent surge in revenue to US$65 billion in its last fiscal year. Just think: you could have picked up Apple shares back in 1997 for around US$5 a pop, when it was only 90 days from oblivion, according to founder Steve Jobs, who rescued the company at the time. That is even better than buying HSBC shares when they were trading at under HK$20 a pop before the takeover of Midland Bank back in the early 1990s.

Yet more regrets

While we're on the subject of investments we wish we'd made, Bloomberg has another example involving families holding shares in unlisted Cargill, the world's biggest agricultural company. It said that from 1990 to 1994, cash-strapped Cargills and MacMillans sold 600,000 shares back to the company at an average price of US$73.30, according to a Wasserstein Perella & Company report. Those shares would be worth about US$40,000 apiece now.