Lai See

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 August, 2011, 12:00am


Citic Pacific chairman finally puts the record straight

It would appear that Citic Pacific has been misunderstood. A lot of people felt that Citic was trying to hinder an investigation by Hong Kong police into accusations that the bank had committed fraud over its HK$15.5 billion derivatives loss in September 2008.

Some people took this view after Citic took court action to try to prevent police looking at documents it took from Citic's offices at the start of its investigation.

Then it went to court again because it objected to paying the police costs in its earlier action.

But it transpires that rather than hindering the investigation, the company, unbeknown to outsiders, has actually been trying speed up the investigation.

Citic Pacific chairman Chang Zhenming explained yesterday at a meeting to announce the company's first-half results that Citic had set up a special committee of people 'unrelated to the incident' to facilitate the investigation.

'It is regrettable that nobody came to see us. We hope to co-operate to speed up the process,' he said.

Elaborating further on the company's court action, he said that the company's attempts in court to restrict police access to files relating to the investigation was to 'protect shareholders' interests' and that this was a right under the Basic Law. He didn't say to which shareholders he was referring.

Scrambling for new recruits

While the rest of the world appears to be on its way to hell in a handbasket, with thousands in the finance industry in Europe and the US likely to lose their jobs, Asia is desperate for staff in finance, accounting and banking. That's according to financial headhunters Robert Half.

In a recent survey it says a net 30 per cent of Hong Kong employers are looking to increase full-time staff in finance, accounting or banking in the second half of this year. But an average of 90 per cent of employers in the Asia-Pacific region say they are struggling to find skilled financial professionals. The figure was highest in Hong Kong (93 per cent) and Singapore (97 per cent).

The main reasons cited by Hong Kong employers for increasing staff are to fuel business expansion (56 per cent) and ease the workload of existing staff (53 per cent).

Hong Kong employers are having the most difficulty in finding skilled professionals in the areas of finance and compliance. Some 88 per cent of employers are worried about losing their top staff, says the survey.

This appears to be a valid concern, with 45 per cent of Hong Kong finance professionals surveyed aiming to switch jobs within the next two years. And how are employers dealing with this threat? Increasing salaries, improving training and, er ... turning to recruitment firms.

Competition from mainland

One of the additional pressures on the finance sector in Hong Kong appears to be coming from mainland securities firms.

They are making inroads in international investment banking markets, driving up hiring costs and increasing competition for deals, a senior Barclays Capital executive told Bloomberg. 'They're real competition. They absolutely win deals and in many cases, they win deals that we would love to be in,' said Matt Ginsburg, HK-based head of investment banking at Barclays in Asia. 'They are starting to be competitive for talent.'

In Asia, fees from advising on stock sales and mergers have grown faster than in the US and Europe. Citic Securities and Haitong Securities are planning share sales to raise money for hiring and expansion outside their home market. Mainland securities companies are using Hong Kong as a stepping stone for global expansion. Share-sale fees in Hong Kong were 2.2 per cent of the money raised last year, the lowest level since 1999, according to Bloomberg.

Website's SOS for socialites

Those of you who reckon you can produce a 'good night out' on the town and get paid for it might like to try your hand at becoming a 'socialite'. The website is looking to recruit so-called socialites in cities around the world.

People looking for a night on the town then book through the website for a 'local VIP night out experience with a local socialite'.

The brains behind this idea is Australian Sean Grobbelaar, who says socialites need to have the ability to offer people a 'well-guided tour of nightlife locations with special VIP treatment, such as no queuing, free drinks and free entry. They need to show how a true local has the most fun in their city.'

But there is a code of conduct: 'No drugs, no sex, no selling products and no getting drunk on the job.' Should be a wild night.