Lai See

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 September, 2011, 12:00am


Casino mogul Ho adds his name to a bottle

Much has been written about Stanley Ho Hung-sun over the years. Earlier this year there was considerable media excitement about an unseemly family squabble over the tycoon's not inconsiderable fortune. But there is more to Ho than his business in Macau. He has casinos in Portugal, where he also owns vineyards. And, yes, he produces his own wine. In case there should be any doubt as to the owner of the winery, Ho has gone down the eponymous route and called it 'Stanley'. We haven't had the pleasure of a tasting, but we assume it's a mature but complex wine that dances on the tongue. We could also say that it ages well and you can probably lay it down for a long time, and possibly that it appeals to women. We can see why he was reluctant to call it Dynasty.

Sino-Forest boss blurts it out

Allen Chan Tak-yuen, the recently departed chairman and CEO of financially flawed Sino-Forest, was a man of many parts. He has shot to fame on the back of the rise and fall of Sino-Forest. Apparently he's a sensitive soul. After the failure of his first venture - a project finance business - he was traumatised. 'It was like a nightmare that you plunged into darkness with little to hold on to, with no voice to scream and totally paralysed,' he told CEO magazine. 'I regretted and doubted myself. I couldn't communicate with others. I couldn't read in the first year. I could only sunbathe and listen to music,' he said. He subsequently recovered his composure and started writing books and newspaper columns on management. One of his books - an analysis of the art of war in the Chinese classic A Tale of Three Kingdoms - ends with the interesting observation, 'F**K the rules of the game.' Some of his Sino-Forest shareholders might feel that's at least one thing he's achieved with some success.

Intelligence disservice

Another man of many parts with a connection to the story du jour - Sino-Forest - is Simon Murray. He's described as an independent director of Sino-Forest and a shareholder. He was in the news recently in connection with his appointment as chairman of commodities giant Glencore, which unfortunately coincided with the publication of his somewhat old-fashioned views on employing women in business. But we are grateful to London's Evening Standard for alerting us to his role as a senior adviser to the British-based corporate investigations firm GPW. The company's website says GPW, '... is an international business intelligence and corporate investigations firm owned by its partners and chaired by Andrew Fulton, a former senior member of the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS)'. Of course, it's easy to be wise after the event, but you would have thought that if he had any expertise in the area of corporate investigative work it's a shame he didn't apply it to Sino-Forest.

The high cost of being rich

Swiss private bank Julius Baer has come up with an interesting wheeze to catch the attention of Asia's high- net-worth individuals, or HNWIs. Together with CLSA it's come up with the Julius Baer Lifestye Index. The bank's Asia CEO, Thomas Meir, explained that the consumer price index used by most economies did not capture the cost of goods and services consumed by the rich.

'The index is based on a basket of 20 luxury goods and services that represent discretionary purchase of HNWIs in the region. The index covers high-end vendors across four major cities: Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore and Mumbai,' the bank says. The index is up 11.7 per cent for the year ending April 2011, compared with the conventional CPI, which was up 5.1 per cent.

At the same time, the bank produced the first 'Julius Baer Wealth Report,' which gives an absorbing analysis of the high-net-worth-individual landscape in the region. There we can compare prices in the four cities for various goods and services. Root canal work, for example, will set you back an eye-watering US$3,218 in Hong Kong compared with US$1,874 in Singapore, US$385 in Shanghai and US$563 in Mumbai.

A Mercedes S500 would cost almost US$400,000 in Singapore, 69 per cent more than in Hong Kong. A Chanel handbag is about 60 per cent dearer in Singapore than Hong Kong. Elsewhere in the report we learn that in 2011 and 2012 China and India will contribute over 40 per cent of global growth. According to Baer there were 1.16 million high-net-worth individuals in the region, with wealth amounting to US$5.6 trillion in 2010. By 2015 the bank says there will be 2.82 million, with wealth of US$8.76 trillion. Perhaps surprisingly, their number will rise most rapidly in Indonesia - by 25 per cent - over this period.