• Thu
  • Apr 17, 2014
  • Updated: 4:02am
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 May, 2013, 3:35am

Elsie Leung caught up in Rusal's byzantine politics

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.
 

Elsie Leung caught up in Rusal's byzantine politics

June is looming and that means it's AGM time for Rusal, when a little light is shed on its byzantine politics. The run-up to last year's meeting was enlivened by speculation over whether or not there would be a move to replace then chairman of the board Barry Cheung Chun-yuen. Despite intense speculation that he would be, he wasn't, though he was three months later and remains an independent non-executive director.

This year the attention has shifted to the other Hong Kong independent non-executive director - Elsie Leung Oi-sie, the former secretary for justice.

Sual Partners which owns 15.8 per cent of Rusal has introduced a resolution to the AGM calling for Leung to be replaced by its own candidate. Sual is headed by Viktor Vekselberg, the former chairman of the Rusal board whose acrimonious resignation early last year paved the way for Cheung's chairmanship.

The Rusal board has responded to the Sual resolution with its own which expresses confidence in Leung and a desire that she should remain a director. Vekselberg has been unhappy with a number of Rusal's actions, some of which have been approved by the board. It may be that Leung has been targeted by Vekselberg on account of some of these decisions which were cleared by the audit committee on which she sits. But why she should be singled out is unclear since two other independents also sit on the committee - Nigel Kenny and Philip Lader. Kenny chairs the committee, and both are up for reappointment this year, whereas Leung has another year to serve.

The incinerator is back

So despite promises of a rethink, the Environmental Protection Department has included the Shek Wu Chau incinerator in its report, "Hong Kong: Blueprint for Sustainable Use of Resources 2013-2022", released yesterday. There is a lot to applaud in it but it will disappoint green groups who'd been hoping that the government would take another look at the proposed technology as well as reconsider its location. There is a lack of public confidence here over incineration.

While there are numerous reports of incinerators being closed around the world because of environmental and public health concerns, it is true that modern incinerators produce fewer emissions. What is not so clear is the impact on public health of these lower emissions.

Those present at the recent public forum, which was part of the International Conference on Solid Waste 2013 - Innovation in Technology and Management, were told that modern incinerators did not pose a threat to public health. But this was from a panel most of whom appeared to be closely aligned to the incinerator industry. It was quite striking that no one spoke from a public health perspective.

It may well be that modern incinerators are completely harmless, but given the history of the industry, it would be good to see some documentation from a credible source outside the incinerator industry on the impact on public health from countries that use modern incinerators.

As for the location, several of the incinerator experts said privately that it seemed bizarre to put the incinerator on an island instead of closer to the users of the electricity it is supposed to generate.

Is someone sulking?

Something is amiss at the Li Ka-shing's stable of companies. Following the annual general meetings of these companies it is customary for the respective chairman or the deputy chairman to make themselves available to the press.

This usually takes the form of a convivial exchange of views where Li is quizzed on everything from the direction of the stock and property markets, the economic environment, to local politics and so on.

So we were prepared for an enlightening couple of days with the AGMs taking place yesterday and today. However, before setting out we received a phone call from the group's corporate communications department advising that there was no point going, as the great man would not be speaking to the press.

So why has the convention of so many years been abandoned? The only reason we can see is that there may have been displeasure within the group over the coverage of the dock strike at Hongkong International terminals. Could it be that someone is sulking?

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