• Fri
  • Oct 31, 2014
  • Updated: 11:58am
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 March, 2013, 5:55am

Stone's throw away but only for the very few

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.
 

Paul Y Engineering, only weeks away from upgrading its name to the exalted "Louis XIII Holdings", is readying itself for this higher plane. A missive from its public relations firm arrives headed, "Behold the world's most fabulous jewels at Louis XIII". Louis XIII, as we are reminded, is "the world's first ever ultra-exclusive hotel and casino, which targets wealthy Chinese business tycoons".

Having recently formed a partnership with the Paris Michelin 3-star restaurant L'Ambroisie, Paul Y has signed up Graff Diamonds. The hotel is setting up what it calls the "Louis XIII Atelier", which will offer "an unprecedented shopping experience to a lucky few and will be by invitation and appointment only". All the stones will have a minimum value of US$1 million, ranging up to more than US$100 million.

What makes this experience even more enticing is that "even Louis XIII hotel and casino guests will not be granted automatic access to the Atelier". Some might take exception to being refused access. Let's hope that the mining executive that trashed the departure gate at Kunming airport doesn't show up. He flew into a rage after he and his family weren't allowed to board their flight because they arrived late.

 

Connected transaction?

HSBC's latest annual report carries a gleaming photograph of a large aircraft disgorging cargo from its hold underneath the headline: "Connecting customers to opportunities." On closer inspection, the aircraft bears the livery of Cathay Pacific Cargo. With James Hughes-Hallet, who is on HSBC's board and chairman of John Swire & Sons, Cathay's ultimate controlling shareholder, you might wonder if HSBC's front cover constitutes a connected transaction.

 

Banker wasted

Erin Callan, the former chief financial officer of Lehman Brothers, has written a tough piece for The New York Times on why women might not want to take up senior positions in banking. She writes regretfully of a life "wasted on work". As efinancialcareers observes, her article is as much a warning to all workaholics as to female bankers. So read it before it is too late at http://nyti.ms/Xn5yGO

 

In praise of MDs

A recent piece on the website HereIsTheCity about the need for investment banks to lay off managing directors as there are too many of them, drew a heated response from a miffed managing director.

"The role of MD was created in our industry when it was realised that someone actually had to do some real work and, perhaps more importantly, that it was vital to have someone senior around to take the blame when yet more s**t hits the fan."

Managing directors, he argues, are the ones that have the contacts to bring in the deals and the savvy and guts "to place those huge prop trading bets (not that we admit to doing that sort of thing anymore)". As for senior executives: "Sure, they attend Oscar parties, get hauled before Congress every now and then, and rock up to jolly at Davos every year, but how do they actually add value and justify their multimillion-dollar compensation packages?"

On support staff: "The only thing most of them support is themselves after an over-long boozy lunch!" His solution for reducing costs and increasing productivity is to get rid of most of the executives and support staff. "In the meantime, long live MDs, guys like me who do all the heavy lifting, and who are always there to carry the can when things go horribly wrong."

 

A penny for your thoughts

Last year was not a great year for the hedge fund industry with most funds underperforming the S&P 500. Nevertheless, according to a Forbes survey, the top 40 managers and traders made an eye-watering US$16.7 billion combined.

David Tepper's Appaloosa Management outperformed the S&P 500, posting net returns of 30 per cent and earning himself a tidy US$2.2 billion. He was followed by veteran investor Carl Icahn (US$1.9 billion), Steve Cohen and James Simmons (US$1.3 billion), and George Soros (US$1.1 billion). Ray Dallio's Bridgewater Associates, the world's biggest hedge fund, had a poor year by his standards yet he ranked seventh with US$800 million. John Paulson, whose funds endured two torrid years following his sensational subprime mortgage trade, earned US$275 million, which ranked him 17th.

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