Barry Cheung makes waves in Moscow
We see that Barry Cheung's difficulties with the Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange have made waves in Moscow. This is because he is an independent non-executive director on the board of Rusal, the world's largest aluminium company, which, although Russian, is listed in Hong Kong.
But it's also because Viktor Vekselberg and Len Blavatnick, the principals of Sual Partners, which owns 15.8 per cent of Rusal, have issued a statement calling on Rusal to demand an explanation from Cheung, according to the Russian language newspaper Vedomosti. This probably has little to do with corporate governance issues but is more likely an attempt by Sual to embarrass Oleg Deripaska.
It will be recalled that Vekselberg resigned the chairmanship of Rusal under acrimonious circumstances in March last year, criticising Deripaska for the company's poor performance. The paper quotes a Rusal shareholder as saying: "While there are legal proceedings, it is too early to come to any conclusions." Sage advice.
Austria is under pressure to agree to EU efforts to clamp down on tax evasion. On Wednesday it dropped objections to sharing data on foreign depositors. It had been reluctant to share the names of foreign holders of accounts, many of which were set up as a way of evading tax in their own countries.
In the light of this it will be interesting to see how the Austrian company Bilanz Data fared with its tax mitigation and wealth management seminar in Shanghai yesterday. Its website says that the company is very successful at showing "how tax law can be utilised for the benefit of a company or an individual". Business may not be quite so brisk in the months to come.
Morgan Stanley strategist Gerard Minack, the author of the widely read Downunder Daily, is retiring. His last note has attracted more than usual interest. "Investing is an unusual profession: perhaps the only one where amateurs have a good shot at beating the pros," he starts off.
He points out that in an average year, 60 per cent of actively managed funds underperform their respective benchmarks, while in the three years to end-2012, 87 per cent of funds underperformed the market. His advice is to buy and hold a low-cost index fund: "You will be guaranteed to beat 90 per cent of funds over the long haul," he says.
Minack says, it took him three years to persuade himself of this. "And then I finally stopped trying to pick stocks and time the market and moved my own portfolio into index funds … by far the best investment decision I have ever made."
The return of the prawn cocktail
There was some dismay from a reader following yesterday's piece about Britain's favourite food. We had noted that Chinese stir-fry had replaced chicken tikka masala as Britain's favourite dish and mentioned a number of other Asian dishes popular in Britain. "How can a man of your journalistic experience fail to mention the traditional prawn cocktail starter much loved by some of us of a 'certain age'?" our reader chides.
But what are the origins of the prawn cocktail? Hopkinson and Bareham, in their book The Prawn Cocktail Years, published in 1997, observe: "Prawn Cocktail, Steak Garni and Black Forest Gateau has been the favourite British meal out for as long as one can remember." They also quote Nico Ladenis's My Gastronomy (1987) thus: "A gin and tonic says a lot about you as a person. It is more than just a drink, it is an attitude of mind. It goes with a prawn cocktail, a grilled Dover sole, Melba toast and Black Forest gateau."
Some authorities say the prawn cocktail first appeared in the United States, citing the Boston Cooking School Cookbook (1937). Others say it was Scandinavia. However, the earliest reference we can find is in a recipe in a 1931 edition of the British magazine Country Life, written by no less than Countess Morphy. But we gather the prawn cocktail is enjoying a resurgence, and is now being promoted by cool chefs such as Jamie Oliver.
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