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  • Apr 21, 2014
  • Updated: 9:57pm
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 January, 2013, 4:21am

Things are already looking up above and on ground for 2013

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.
 

In 2012 we spent much of the year raging about illegal car parking, Hong Kong's dirty air, the Shek Kwu Chau incinerator, the legal system, banks and their travails, the politics of illegal structures and local politics. What can we say about the year ahead? Things look mildly promising in that the chief executive is expected in his policy speech later this month to announce measures to reduce roadside pollution, and the ombudsman is to look into the scandal of Hong Kong's lax approach to the management of its archives.

There is even the prospect of some progress in illegal car parking with a senior policeman quoted in this newspaper as saying: "Those who break traffic regulations will be ticketed. If necessary, vehicles will be towed away. Police will not exercise discretion", adding that the crackdown had improved traffic flow in Central.

We are told by a reader that she passed Prince's Building recently where tycoon-mobiles are often parked two and three deep, and saw only a police motorcyclist and no cars. A blip or a trend ? We will be watching with interest. Feel free to resume sending e-mails on matters you feel we should be aware of. A belated happy and prosperous New Year to you all.

 

Whither Winston Wen?

For reasons that are not entirely clear it appears that that it is not possible to search for the name Winston Wen on any of the mainland's search engines. Winston Wen, or Wen Yunsong, is the son of Premier Wen Jiabao. Interest in the younger Wen grew following The New York Times' story in October claiming that Wen's family controlled at least US$2.7 billion in assets, most of which was accumulated after he was named vice-premier in 1998 and ascended to the premiership in 2003. The allegations in the story have been denied by Wen and his family.

But, for reasons best known to mainland censors, "Winston" is now one of those banned names. We know this because we recently had cause to look up the Harry Winston Diamond Corporation. Our efforts proved fruitless. However, wily mainland netizens say there are ways around this such as inserting a hyphen in the problematic name. Hence W-inston apparently works for some as does B-loomberg, for the still-banned Bloomberg.

 

A fine romance

The growing intolerance of the public on the mainland to corruption is making life awkward for officials. Take the case of a senior justice official with the Hunan provincial bureau of justice who threw a wedding banquet for his son.

Xinhua reports netizens' claims that more than 100 justice officials and 20 police vehicles showed up to the 30-table banquet, and that the official received more than one million yuan (HK$1.23 million) stuffed into hongbao, the red envelopes weddings guests use to give money to newlyweds.

The event caused outrage on weibo. But the official protested that no colleagues were invited but dozen just turned up to the wedding, and it would have been inappropriate to drive them away. In addition, he said, he sent more than 100,000 yuan in cash gifts to discipline inspection authorities to count and register the money before returning it to guests. Indeed, the official said, he followed regulations in reporting the wedding banquet in advance and undertook not to receive cash gifts from colleagues and subordinates. Nevertheless, Hunan authorities are to investigate. So much for romance.

 

Hope springs eternal

Is the increased M&A and debt activity in December a sign of momentum building for a better 2013? Debt and M&A bankers had their busiest December in five years, according to Financial News, with Dealogic data showing the highest December volumes since 2007 and a 31 per cent increase from November.

It was also the second-highest volume of the year after October, with US$135.5 billion of US-targeted M&A and US$105.2 billion in deals in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Total investment banking fees for December hit US$6.2 billion, the third-highest monthly total for 2012. Does this mean that along with predicting stock market performance wrongly last year, the industry has also been premature in predicting its own demise, as with all those comments last year about the end of investment banking as we know it?

 

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

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