• Thu
  • Sep 18, 2014
  • Updated: 5:15pm
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 April, 2013, 3:57am

Rolls-Royce's new ultra-luxury car wraithed in hyperbole

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.
 

It cannot be denied that Rolls-Royce produces remarkable cars. It has recently produced another one - the Wraith - which was unveiled in Hong Kong yesterday in some style.

After the speeches, a darkened partition wall slid back to reveal the new Wraith appropriately "wraithed" in dry ice smoke shimmering in the gloom with its lights on. But it's a shame that Rolls can't produce a beautiful new car, albeit what they like to call an ultra-luxury car, without hyperbole that verges on the ridiculous.

We can just about go along with, "Featuring, a contemporary two-door-design, Wraith's striking fastback body exudes power, style and drama - inspired by the Grand Tourers of the fifties and sixties." But then we move into overdrive with, "Bold lines, tension in the panels and a raked rear screen evoke the image of a world-class athlete poised in the starting blocks."

This detracts from what is undoubtedly a superbly engineered car. But then with a starting price of HK$5.5 million, you would expect something special. That said, it is slightly more than half the price of the extended wheelbase version of the Phantom at HK$9.8 million.

It is the most powerful car Rolls has produced and will go from zero to 100km/h in 4.6 seconds, which is something for a car of that size.

Hong Kong, with 250 to 300 "modern" Rolls-Royces, still has the highest number of these cars per head of population in the world. The US remains the biggest market, closely followed by China. Sales were up 18 per cent in the Asia-Pacific last year. Altogether, 3,500 Rolls-Royces were produced last year, well up on the 1,200 produced in 2009. First deliveries of the Wraith will be in the last quarter of 2013.

 

Thatcheration coverage

There have been some strange responses to the death of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

A Taiwanese television station reported the news and accompanied it with footage of Britain's Queen Elizabeth greeting members of the public. In Thailand, a television channel reported her death accompanied by a picture of the actress Meryl Streep, who played Thatcher in the film The Iron Lady, which was about the former prime minister. In Britain, there were a number of parties celebrating her death. The Hong Kong newspaper Wen Wei Po, which has close links to the Communist Party, mentioned the story briefly, churlishly using three pictures of these parties, with a caption that blandly states they showed people in Britain reacting to Thatcher's death.

 

Hooked on coal

Beijing is unlikely to get anything resembling clean air for many years to come. Indeed it won't meet World Health Organisation standards until 2031, according to the website Chinadialogue.

While Beijing has launched various initiatives to clean its air, the problem it faces is that an average of 39 per cent of its PM2.5 particulates come from outside the city. When the wind is in the south, that is, from Hebei and Shandong provinces, they can contribute 50 to 70 per cent of Beijing's PM2.5 levels.

Chinadialogue explains that in 2011 these two provinces consumed nearly 700 million tonnes of coal and each burned more coal than Germany, while together they exceeded India's consumption.

"Putting it another way, more coal is consumed within 600 kilometres of China's capital than in the entire United States," it says.

An estimated 8,572 premature deaths occurred in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Xian last year due to high levels of PM2.5 pollution.

 

Investment banks' poor quarter

There was little for investment banks to cheer about in the first quarter. Revenues fell to US$2.1 billion from US$2.4 billion in the comparable period last year, according to Dealogic.

UBS, with net revenue of US$166 million, displaced JP Morgan (US$93 million) from the No1 spot for revenue in the Asia-Pacific (ex-Japan), with Citi (US$93 million) in third place.

In the Asia-Pacific including Japan, Nomura ranked first with US$197 million, followed by UBS (US$173 million) and Morgan Stanley (US$154 million).

M&A volumes in the Asia-Pacific (ex-Japan) fell 23 per cent to US$85.3 billion. This was mainly the result of the mining sector, which dived 73 per cent to US$3.7 billion with 130 deals. A year ago, there were 226 deals which raised US$13.7 billion.

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