Lai See

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 October, 2011, 12:00am


Millionaires may like to embark on Cayman Islands mystery tour

Hong Kong is reportedly one of the destinations for a government delegation from the Cayman Islands, which has embarked on a 'mystery tour' to the Far East. According to the Cayman News Service, Premier McKeeva Bush is leading the trip to Hong Kong and China.

The trip is a 'mystery' in that while the news agency has confirmed the trip through its own sources, the premier's press officer has declined to reveal any details. The trip is believed to be connected with boosting inward investment to the Caymans.

So why should it visit Hong Kong? The two territories have happily been doing business for years and the Caymans, according to Hong Kong government statistics, is our seventh-largest source of foreign direct investment and the sixth highest destination of outward foreign investment from Hong Kong.

We use the term 'investment' advisedly since most of these money flows are round-tripping or a form of money laundering used by individuals or companies seeking to conceal financial flows. Indeed, this is one of the virtues of Hong Kong's business environment that InvestHK likes to promote. But the Caymans is way below the British Virgin Islands in terms of flows to and from Hong Kong.

Business for so-called secrecy jurisdictions such as the Caymans has been hit hard in recent years as the United States and European governments have sought to crack down on such havens in the wake of the global financial crisis. A recent article in Highbrow Magazine paints a gloomy picture of the Caymans with high unemployment and rising crime rates, 'on an island that once considered itself the safest place on earth'.

With European and US investors turning their backs on unregulated offshore funds listed in the Caymans, the future looks bleak unless the islands can attract rich Chinese millionaires with an interest in tax avoidance. This is why the delegation has come visiting, albeit with a lack of fanfare.

More of the same

The founder of Basis Point, Michael Lawes, has surfaced again after a long break following his sale of the highly regarded Asia financial newsletter to Reuters in 2001. Early retirement apparently palled on Lawes, who has decided he needs something new to give him a reason to get up in the morning after leaving the newsletter in 2003.

Lawes learned his trade at International Financing Review, which was bought by Thomson, and then gave Thomson conniptions by taking it on in Asia with the newsletter and a customised database.

He recently decided to have another go and will take on the combined Thomson Reuters group, which was formed in 2007, and is now home to both Basis Point and IFR. His new vehicle is called Instanter (Jeeves and Wooster fans will recognise the word), an online news service.

Critics would say that Lawes lacks imagination, or perhaps gave in to a craving for loans.

He probably used to tell himself he could take them or leave them, and then found - too late - that he couldn't. As if more than a decade scrutinising syndicated loans, project financing and bonds wasn't enough, Instanter offers more of the same.

Critics might also ask what Reuters was thinking by not introducing a tougher non-compete clause when it bought Basis Point all those years ago.

Cold over hot gadget

Yet another 'must have' digital device has landed, harnessing an unlikely combination of engineers who used to work for the likes of Apple, Google and Microsoft.

Reuters reports that Tony Fadell, known as the 'godfather of the iPod' has invented a ... thermostat. But wait, there's more. The product has a round, brushed metal device with a convex glass face that displays the temperature and changes colour depending on the wall's shade.

The device senses when room lights are on, or when sunlight is particularly strong. It senses movement, automatically turning down heating or cooling if people are away from their home for a certain time. It tracks users' behaviour to project heating and cooling patterns into the future, according to Fadell, who says he wants to turn the mundane device into something sexy, much as Dyson did with the vacuum cleaner.

It's wirelessly connected, so the device's software can be updated seamlessly. Temperatures can be set from an iPhone or internet browser. We don't want to rain on Fadell's parade, but we can't see this generating the buzz that we saw with the iPod, iPhone or iPad.