Lai See
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 March, 2013, 3:32am

Chairman Ronnie Chan aims another kick at Donald Tsang

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.
 

One clear takeaway from the chairman's letter to shareholders in the Hang Lung Group 2012 annual report is that Ronnie Chan Chichung was no supporter of the previous administration. He has always used this platform to take a few swipes at the government in the past, but he evidently feels the change at the top has given him the elbow room for a couple of free hits at Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's administration.

"Because of the inexcusable failure of the Hong Kong government to sell land 2005-2010, our residential market is totally distorted … our city has had a deficit of land supply for about a decade," he starts off. "Equally devastating as not selling land was the negligence to build up a government land bank for longer term needs." When the effect of the undersupply finally erupted some two years ago he writes, the then government did "pitifully little to address the issue".

However, the wheel of fortune has apparently turned. "As I predicted six months ago when our city's new Chief Executive first took office, proper steps would be taken to remedy the situation for both the short and the long term. Indeed it came to pass." This may come as a surprise to some readers. Measures may have been taken, but they are clearly not working. Indeed, Chan goes on to say that there can be no short-term solutions without incurring longer-term negative consequences. He freely concedes that, "ironically, as the government errors of the past years drove up prices, we became a beneficiary", though adds he was a keen advocate of more land sales.

 

All at sea

Shareholders in the shipping company Pacific Basin Shipping may be pleasantly surprised when they see the venue for their upcoming annual general meeting in April. The company, which usually holds its AGMs in a hotel, will this year hold it in the recently opened Maritime Museum at Central Ferry Pier No8.

Surrounded by the history of Hong Kong's shipping industry, it is a fitting location for a shipping company to hold a meeting of this kind. It is the first shipping company to hold such a meeting at the museum and it's clearly a good way for the shipping industry to continue its support of the museum, since whatever it pays to hire the venue goes to the museum rather than a hotel.

Another supporter has been Wah Kwong Maritime Transport, which held its 60th birthday there last year before it opened. Pacific Basin is a major supporter of the museum in that it sponsors one of its galleries. It's unclear whether the firm's shareholders will have to pay the HK$30 fee to enter the museum to get to the AGM.

 

Long live the money gene

Good to see that the money gene is alive and well in Hong Kong. Ming Pao reports that three property sales managers at Cheung Kong were among the buyers of the rooms in the Apex Horizon hotel. The three sales ladies bought the rooms for HK$2.95 million, HK$2.97 million and HK$2.96 million respectively. They each made more than HK$300,000 reselling the rooms two days later, just before the introduction of the double stamp duty.

 

The importance of homework

Does working from home lead to an increase or a reduction in productivity? A report by the US National Bureau of Economic Research concludes there are benefits, after studying the experience of CTrip.com International, a 16,000-employee Chinese travel agency listed on the Nasdaq Composite Index, Bloomberg reports.

After some of its employees were allowed to work from home, performance increased by 13 per cent, with less sick days and fewer breaks. They also made more calls per minute, thanks to the quieter working environment, and fewer people quit. When the company extended the choice to everyone, performance doubled again.

But not everyone is convinced, as Yahoo demonstrated last month when it ended home working, and as from June has ordered its employees to show up at the company's offices to work.

Jacqueline Reses, the executive vice-president of people and development at Yahoo, sent out a memo last month supporting the back-to-the-office move. She wrote that working side-by-side with colleagues fosters collaboration and improves work "speed and quality". There lurks another corporate control freak.

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