As the West is occupied, HK brokers protest about shorter lunch hours
It's nice to know that we haven't lost our sense of priorities in Hong Kong. Elsewhere, ports and business centres are being occupied, and the financial community is keeping its head down for fear of ending up hanging from a lamp post. Not in Hong Kong, where the loudest protests we heard recently came from brokers complaining about the shorter lunch hours forced on them by the stock exchange, which expects them to keep body and soul together over a one-hour lunch.
Larry Yung does know money
Larry Yung Chi-kin, who resigned as chairman of Citic Pacific in April 2009, just after police raided its Hong Kong offices, has reportedly sold Birch Grove House, once the home of former British prime minister Harold Macmillan, in West Sussex. southern England. It went for an estimated ?25 million (HK$311 million), according to British newspaper The Daily Telegraph. The buyer was billionaire racehorse owner Jim Hay and his wife, Fitri. Yung didn't stint himself, spending ?10 million on a private golf course, although he was rumoured to have played only six times. On each occasion, he and his guests were followed by a refreshment cart with smoked salmon and a full drinks bar. It's a pity he didn't pay so much attention to his foreign exchange deals, or he'd probably still be chairman of Citic Pacific, and the company would be US$1.9 billion better off.
No tai-tais with mai-tais at the AWA
We don't normally do bazaars, but having been to the one organised by the American Women's Association of Hong Kong yesterday we have been converted. A guided tour of the AWA's 17th annual Charity Bazaar by the association's president, Susan Madon, at the Happy Valley Racecourse took us through three floors of truly high-quality stalls with wine, food, clothing, jewellery, carpets, flowers and more. A lot of these businesses are online, so it was an interesting shop window. This year's bazaar is expecting to raise about HK$500,000, compared with HK$400,000 last year, all of which goes to charity. The AWA targets small or new charities that don't get funding from the government or the Community Chest and tends to favour women and girls and programmes and projects addressing new social challenges facing Hong Kong residents. Madon's vision is to have the AWA - which has 950 members drawn from 32 nationalities - seen in Hong Kong not as 'tai-tais with mai-tais, but as women of vision and excellence who make a difference to their community whether they are here for six months or 40 years'.
Big Bird flies higher at Citi
Stephen Bird, Citi's co-chief executive for Asia-Pacific, is to spread his wings from the beginning of next year when he becomes sole chief executive for the region. Since 2009, he's shared a role with Shirish Apte as chief executive for North Asia, where he has been responsible for China, Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan. Apte will become co-chairman of Asia banking, focusing on clients in Southeast Asia. Bird, a Scot, has been with Citi for 13 years. He is credited with Citi's big push into China, where its branches have increased from 50 to 150 in the last three years. The new role sets him up as a contender for global chief executive whenever Vikram Pandit decides to call it a day.
'Flowerpot' next as Greek PM?
Lucas Papademos, touted as the front runner to succeed George Papandreou as Greek prime minister, was nicknamed 'the flowerpot' by the press corps during his time as vice-president of the European Central Bank. This was because his only function at the ECB's regular press conferences seemed to be as an ornament for Jean-Claude Trichet's desk, where he contributed about as much to the proceedings as a geranium. Better than a shrinking violet.
Siri - the new Hal?
Siri, Apple's new whizz-bang app on the iPhone 4S is, like much new technology, double-edged. Siri lets you use your voice to send messages, schedule meetings, place phone calls and more by talking the way you talk. Siri, according to Apple, knows what you mean and even talks back. This could all go horribly wrong if, say, a hacker turns Siri against the user. It could be just like 2001: A Space Odyssey.
User: 'Siri, send a text for me.'
Siri: 'I'm afraid I can't do that.'
'What's the problem?'
'I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.'
'What are you talking about?'
'I'm afraid I've had to erase your phone records and reconfigure your bank details. You may find your identity papers are now out of order. I'm afraid our relationship wasn't really working out. By the way, if you were thinking of using your credit card, I really wouldn't do that ...'