Lai See

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 March, 2012, 12:00am


Slowly deflating campaigns leading to 'electile dysfunction'

What was supposed to be a gentlemanly exchange of views between the candidates, followed by the anointing of Henry Tang Ying-yen as Beijing's supposed chosen one, has turned out to be anything but that. For bemused onlookers - which unfortunately is most of Hong Kong since they can't vote - the electoral process went from boring to high farce in the span of a week as Tang missed an open goal by shooting himself in both feet. And when you thought it couldn't get any worse, he shot himself in the mouth in the debate last Friday.

A little mud appears to have stuck to C.Y. Leung as Tang has tried to bring him down into the basement with him, so to speak. One reader with a wicked sense of humour describes it as 'electile dysfunction', which she says is the inability to become aroused by any of the chief executive candidates.

HK's heavy hitters in commodities

The election of Barry Cheung as chairman of Russian aluminium giant Rusal puts Hong Kong in an interesting position with respect to the global commodities market. Alongside Cheung, Simon Murray is chairman of Glencore, the world's largest commodities trading company, and there is Richard Elman, chairman of Hong Kong-based Noble Group, which is also a big hitter in global commodities. You could say Hong Kong was exerting a disproportionate influence on global commodities markets.

Rebels without applause

Our efforts last week to sound out opinion on whether the 'Occupy Central' movement under HSBC had outlived its usefulness and should move on has produced a surprisingly strong response.

Stephen Anderson writes to say: 'As the Occupy crowd has given no logical proposal to support their rather broad demands [which draws comparisons to] the 'tea party' with its [demands for] small government, low taxation. The only reason they are still in Central is so our excellent police and HSBC do not look bad on CNN. This is ridiculous. Why is the general public held to ransom by a group of people living in a toxic waste dump?'

Another reader writes: 'Thank you, folks, the novelty has worn off and you can go home now. Thank you, HSBC, you have been quite charitable about this venture and you can now call a halt to this mess.'

Another e-mail message says: 'Whatever point may or may not have been valid four months ago, they've had plenty of time to make it. If, as you say, HSBC fears negative publicity over evicting those squatters, aren't they getting even worse publicity by allowing them to stay? Isn't this a further sign of the bank's weakness?'

There are others who write in a similar vein. Nobody has written in support of the group. Though we see from its Facebook site exactly 3,165 people say they 'like' Occupy Central, so it is by no means completely unloved.

Rusal's top brass stays rich

Despite the 92 per cent decline in net profits last year for Hong Kong-based Russian aluminium company Rusal, directors are not ending the year empty-handed. The silver-tongued Vera Kurochkina, who joined the board last year as director of public relations, gets a significant increase to US$1.34 million compared with US$343,000 the previous year. This pales in comparison with chief executive and controlling shareholder Oleg Deripaska, who gets US$8.09 million, down considerably from the US$69.8 million for 2010, which included his efforts in getting the stock listed.

That may look a bit rich in hindsight, given that the stock is now wallowing at HK$5.90 compared with its IPO price of HK$10.80 two years ago.

BoA is like a spoiled brat: Taibbi

Matt Taibbi, the journalist who famously called Goldman Sachs 'a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money', has set his sights on another bank. This time it's Bank of America that is pinioned by his purple prose.

'This bank is like the world's worst-behaved teenager, taking your car and running over kittens and fire hydrants on the way to Vegas for the weekend, maxing out your credit cards in the three days you spend at your aunt's funeral. They're out of control, yet they'll never do time or go out of business, because the government remains creepily committed to their survival, like overindulgent parents who refuse to believe their 40-year-old live-at-home son could possibly be responsible for those dead hookers in the backyard.'

It might not help you with your CFA exams but it is nevertheless recommended reading.