• Wed
  • Aug 20, 2014
  • Updated: 5:35am
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 November, 2012, 10:40am

Burgundy is the new Bordeaux in mainland China

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.
 

We've always been reluctant to go to the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair as there was a lingering fear that having ventured in we might have trouble exiting. It's a big event covering two floors and for someone who is partial to the occasional tipple we felt a bit like the proverbial kid in a candy store.

There was an astonishing amount to see and, er, sample. So over a glass of 20-year-old Taylor's with marketing director Nicolas Heath, we discussed the impact of the reduction of the tax on wines and spirits in 2008. He said that while volumes hadn't increased that much, his company sold more of its top-end port into Hong Kong.

"We are now able to sell you more of the good stuff."

The big attraction for many exhibitors is to sell into the mainland. We understand that while the Bordeaux bubble has burst on account of high prices and the increasing prevalence of bottles of fake Bordeaux in the mainland, the new brand that is catching on is "Burgundy".

Hong Kong, however, is viewed as a mature market, or at least Hong Kong Island is. Walk into a wine store in Hong Kong and there will be a range of wines for sale. Over in Kowloon it's a different story with wine shops packed with virtually nothing but Bordeaux.

Providers of new world wine remain sanguine that the mainland palette is maturing and gathering sophistication as people and their children travel abroad and develop a sense for how wine should taste. What they don't perhaps appreciate is the extent to which the mainland wine trade is driven by face, and the importance of the brand being appreciated by the recipient of a gift of a bottle of wine - usually a politician. We left the fair heavily tempted but not stirred.

Rogers' sterling investment

We see that Jim Rogers appears to be taking a more sanguine view of sterling. In 2009 he said on CNBC: "I've sold all my sterling and wouldn't buy sterling for another five, 10 or maybe 15 years. I don't see good things happening in the UK economy. The same is true about the US."

However, yesterday we see that the Rogers International Commodity Index Committee issued a press release reporting changes in the composition of the index included replacing the 1 per cent weighting of the ICE Cocoa contract with NYSE Liffe Cocoa contract. "The addition of NYSE Liffe Cocoa, traded in GBP, will add that currency to the Index," the statement said.

Presumably he wouldn't want to be holding a contract denominated in sterling if he thought it was going to collapse. Despite the hullabaloo surrounding his bearishness on the currency we haven't heard much about its reacceptance on his part.

He's long been a hard commodity bull but he's been quiet recently as they fell out of favour. But maybe we're not taking a sufficiently long-term view on all this.

Steady tables

There's been little change in the top two positions in the Asia ex-Japan investment banking revenue league tables. Credit Suisse maintains its lead for the first three quarters, as it did last year, though revenue declined by US$81 million to US$373 million. UBS was also second with revenue down US$87 million to US$352 million.

However, there have been some interesting changes lower down with Goldman Sachs slumping from third place last year to seventh, while Citi has leapt from ninth place last year to third, and HSBC has risen two places to fifth. The biggest movers were mainland banks with Citic Securities rising from 18th last year to 8th, and the Bank of China from 17th to 10th.

Obama recognised in Shenzhen

We see that congratulations are in order for Obama. Not Barack Obama, who won the US presidential election, but his half brother, Mark Okoth Obama Ndesandjo. He was recently recognised at the 20th anniversary of the Shenzhen Social Welfare Centre for teaching orphans at the centre to play the piano over the past 10 years.

Ndesandjo, according to the Shenzhen Daily, has made a name for himself for his extensive charity work on the mainland. He came to Shenzhen 10 years ago and married a woman from Henan province in 2008.

He runs a consulting company based in Shenzhen that helps US firms invest in China, and Chinese companies invest in the US and Kenya.

Have you got any stories that Lai See should know about? E-mail them to howard.winn@scmp.com

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