Lai See

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 November, 2011, 12:00am


'Myth' of Larry Yung's golf refreshment cart is bunkered

We recently wrote of the sale by Larry Yung Chi-kin, former chairman of Citic Pacific, of Birch Grove House, in southern England, once the home of former British prime minister Harold Macmillan.

We mentioned that he had spent GBP10 million (HK$124 million) on a private golf course, although he was rumoured to have played only six times and that on each occasion, he and his guests were followed by a refreshment cart with smoked salmon and a full drinks bar.

However it appears this may be, and we stress may be, a myth.

A reader who says he has 'a small presence' in the area, West Sussex, writes to say that a friend 'of the most impeccable credentials' e-mailed him to say: 'I know that he [Yung] played many, many more than six times and over a number of years. Also he was never 'followed' by a refreshment cart.

'Sometimes, NOT every time, a cart would come to the halfway point - just as there is a halfway refreshment hut at Fanling for example. But on a private course with limited use it must have been much more economical to have a mobile cart rather than fully set up refreshment hut.'

This has the ring of truth, but since we don't know either of these gentlemen, we cannot vouch for it. Nevertheless, we feel that in keeping with our normal standards of detached, factual reporting, this story should be told.

High tide for US maritime chief

Richard Lidinsky, the heavy-hitting chairman of the United States Federal Maritime Commission, has become increasingly exasperated and angry at the cavalier attitude adopted towards the commission by container line members of the Transpacific Stabilisation Agreement (TSA) and Westbound Transpacific Stabilisation Agreement (WTSA). The firms, including Orient Overseas Container Lines, Cosco Container Lines and China Shipping Container Lines, have immunity from prosecution for forming a cartel to fix freight rates on shipments across the Pacific.

Lidinsky's anger finally boiled over at a recent FMC meeting in Washington when he berated the carriers for their tardiness in filing transcripts of e-mails, telephone conversations and meetings related to shipping issues. This came after he learned that some transcripts were filed up to a year late.

Expressing his outrage, Lidinsky said: 'We have a situation where a group of shipping lines have been given antitrust immunity to collude to raise the rates that American shippers and consumers pay for their imports and exports.

'And all we ask in return are some transcripts and minutes. We get stiff-armed on even those simple orders for over a year, to the point of near-outright defiance. I recently told TSA and WTSA representatives this in private, and now I am sharing my warning in public: If I see one more instance of defiance, I intend to move and vote swiftly to show them that this commission will not tolerate one more day of such defiance.'

We are not sure of the sanctions Lidinsky can impose, but there have already been political moves in the US for the carriers to be stripped of their antitrust immunity, something that would be welcomed by exporters in Hong Kong and Asia.

Fall and rise of Guo Shuqing

Guo Shuqing, the newly appointed head of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, marked his public appearance by tripping and falling on the stage at an international finance forum. The organisation has in the past been associated with attempts to talk up China's poorly performing stock market. Mainland netizens seized on the symbolism of his fall, joking that this indicated further stock market declines. The joke was compounded when he was helped to his feet by Dai Xianglong, chairman of the National Council for the Social Security Fund.

'No matter how great the fall, the NCSSF will always save the market,' said the wags on the web.

Batali row is still on the boil

Although celebrity chef and restaurant owner Mario Batali has apologised for comparing bankers to Hitler and Stalin at a recent Time Person of the Year panel, the controversy rages on.

His patrons in the financial industry called for a boycott of his restaurants, Bloomberg reports.

But others were more supportive. 'Leave Mario alone!' a certified public accountant in Florida, wrote in an e-mail to Bloomberg. 'The bankers ARE the evil guys! No matter to whom one compares them.'

And a Los Angeles-based event producer wrote in an another e-mail: 'I don't think he should be fried for his opinion.'

No, indeed. Maybe they should toast Mario, and roast more bankers.