• Wed
  • Sep 24, 2014
  • Updated: 5:08am
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 August, 2012, 8:51am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 August, 2012, 9:25am

Kusamaki Tree defies an ill wind

BIO

Howard Winn has been with the South China Morning Post for two and half years after previous stints as business editor and deputy editor of The Standard, and business editor of Asia Times. His writing has also been published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. He writes the Lai See column which focuses on the lighter side of business.
 

The strong winds that have accompanied the typhoons in recent weeks have, we gather, been a source of some concern to the owners of expensive trees.

Francis Lui Yiu-tung, deputy chairman of Galaxy Entertainment revealed recently that in the wake of Typhoon Vicente, he felt compelled to call Hotel Okura Macau at the Galaxy Resort to check on the condition of the highly expensive Kusamaki tree located outside the hotel's lobby.

Despite Vicente's winds of up to 180km/h, which uprooted numerous tees in Hong Kong and Macau, the Okura's Kusamaki tree survived the onslaught. This is just as well since Lui was coy about how much it cost saying only that it was in the seven digits.

The tree is between 80 and 100 years old and was brought from Japan and transported to the mainland where it grew for years before it was sold to Galaxy.

We know the tree's history because it comes with a certificate testifying to its purity. The tree is valued in Japan for its high quality wood and is used to build houses as it is resistant to termites and water.

In Hong Kong, the Kusamaki is regarded as a fung shui tree which explains why this one sits outside a hotel at a casino.

Cowboy Engineering at CLP

Readers will be aware that Typhoon Vicente damaged a coal plant at a power station on Castle Peak belonging to CLP Power. The overhead conveyor belt that carried coal to the plant was damaged. CLP has apparently being buying up vast quantities of diesel to see it through the several months needed to repair the belt.

Four of the eight power-generating units were shut down after a section of the belt fell from a height of about 50 metres during the typhoon. The total capacity of the affected units was 1,400 megawatts, more than a third of the plant's gross capacity.

But we can all rest assured that the job will be completed as efficaciously as possible since it has been entrusted to a Shenzhen fabrication firm that rejoices under the name of Cowboy Engineering.

China denies 80 tonne gold theft

We see that the price of gold is stirring. But we suspect this is not because of a story put out by Xinhua last week which said the Bank of China had denied reports it was investigating the loss of 80 tonnes of gold reserves from the national treasury. The Bank of China said that the reports were "untrue and pure rumour".

The bank's denial, Xinhua says, was in response to a report carried by a Hong Kong magazine stating that the Ministry of Finance, the central bank, the Ministry of Supervision and the National Audit Office had jointly set up special groups to investigate the whereabouts of the apparently missing gold.

The mind boggles at the possibility of making off with that amount of metal which would have been no small logistical feat. At a value of US$4.1 billion it may well have been worth the effort and would have had a surprisingly small volume at 4.2 cubic metres. This all goes to show what a compact store of value gold is.

Simply Citi

Citi, still basking in the glow of its 200th anniversary (they must be pinching themselves) has come up with a new wheeze to improve its service. Called the "Simplicity Challenge" (Simply Citi, geddit?) clients are asked to come up with ways of simplifying how the bank interacts with its clients. All suggestions must have a 30- to 45-day implementation period, and if accepted will receive a US$1,000 award from Citi.

New York is No 1

New York is the world's most competitive financial centre, according to the Xinhua-Dow Jones International Financial Centres Development Index, a gauge to measure the growth capacity of 45 financial centres around the world.

London is second followed by Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore and Shanghai. And it was Shanghai - which aims to become the world's leading financial centre by 2020 - that was rated as having the most potential for the third consecutive year, beating Hong Kong, New York and Tokyo, based on indicators such as market, economic prospect, service and regulatory environment. But the city is comparatively weak in terms of economics politics and openness, Shanghai Daily modestly reports.

 

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