Lai See

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 February, 2012, 12:00am

New-look HSBC no shrinking violet

HSBC is no longer 'The World's Local Bank' - that's official. In what is a significant shift in its advertising strategy, HSBC is dropping what has been a highly successful tagline. The bank adopted the line in 2002 but is dumping it with immediate effect from all new advertising, according to The change accompanies the considerable upheaval under way at HSBC following CEO Stuart Gulliver's announcement in August that the bank was planning to cut up to 30,000 jobs and pull out of some markets.

The website quotes HSBC's group head of advertising and marketing Andrew Newman as saying the decision to scrap 'The World's Local Bank' was to reflect its new strategy and to 'have a new conversation with our customers and the markets we operate in about the future'.

It's a little unclear what this 'new conversation' will be since the new advertising campaign will have no equivalent tagline. Newman says the new campaign and brand positioning will highlight four aspects of HSBC's strategy: its presence in growth markets and businesses, focus on markets where wealth is being created, emphasis on retail banking and global connectivity. That doesn't sound as snappy as its predecessor. What can we say? 'The World's Shrinking Bank'? 'Honey I shrank the bank'? Feel free to email suggestions.

Tycoon's heart-felt denial

To paraphrase Mark Twain: 'Reports of Li Ka-shing's angioplasty have been totally fabricated.' That in a nutshell was the response from Cheung Kong's public relation's department to a story in Next Magazine. Cheung Kong's displeasure at the story was evident in its pithy reply.

'The entire story was fabricated; Mr Li Ka-shing has not had, nor does he intend to have, any angioplasty operation nor any heart/blood vessel related operation. Mr Li Ka-shing does not need to take any heart/blood vessel related medication. Dr Tse Tak Fu, as mentioned in the said article, has been a friend of Mr Li Ka-shing for many years, and has given medical consultation to Mr Li's relatives and friends. Mr Li has accompanied a senior relative of his to a consultation with Dr Tse before. Mr Li Ka-shing is in very good health.'

Cheung Kong's stock bounced on the news and closed up 2.5 per cent compared with a 1.5 per cent rise in the Hang Seng Index, while Next Media was down 1.4 per cent.

Yau should come clean

Secretary for the Environment Edward Yau was at his slippery best in the Legislative Council yesterday in answering questions on why it was taking so long to introduce new air quality objectives. He once again repeated the erroneous assertion that implementing the new AQOs requires new legislation. This, as we have pointed out before, does not seem to square with the Air Pollution Control Ordinance, which says the AQOs 'may be amended from time to time by the secretary, after consultation with the Advisory Council on the Environment'. In other words, they just need to be gazetted. If the government had any interest in cleaning the air, the new objectives could be law within weeks. But the public's awareness of the problem is growing and Edward Yau's obfuscations are looking increasingly tatty.

It's been fun as usual, Dr Doom

Catching up with Marc Faber - Dr Doom - we found him, as usual, cheerfully bearish. 'I think that eventually the whole financial system will collapse - maybe in five years or maybe 10 years,' he said with a grin. So the question is, how do you prepare for this Armageddon and do you survive? He says you have to be diversified, with 25 per cent in each of cash, property, Asian equities and precious metals.

But he notes that if you look back at the big collapses, such as those of the early 20th century, equities went down but still had some value, whereas cash and bonds lost about three times their value. 'So if you really believe in a systemic crisis at some point, you are better off in equities or real estate.'

Stocks are cheap at present but, 'the returns for many people will be disappointing as they won't be able to make returns of 20 per cent or more every year.' He's still positive on gold, though he says it's still correcting from last year's high. He ends his tale of woe reflecting: 'I don't have the magic formula either.'