Lai See
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 October, 2013, 10:05am

Town Planning Board's atrocious decision on Peak boutique hotel

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.
 

The Town Planning Board recently issued a defence of its widely criticised decision to allow the house at 27 Lugard Road to be developed as a boutique hotel. The board does not have a distinguished record and this is one of its crassest decisions.

Readers will know this road, which loops around Victoria Peak, is one of the most pleasant walks in Hong Kong. It is accessible to the rich and poor alike, the young, the old and the infirm. One wonders if anyone at the board has taken the trouble to visit the site before applying its rubber stamp to the application.

It claims to have considered environmental and traffic aspects in arriving at its decision. The hotel is expected to have about 52 people, so how can the Transport Department blithely proclaim that "the traffic flow generated by the proposed hotel would be similar to a residential redevelopment at the application site"? The board talks sternly of imposing conditions on traffic, yet we all see what developers do with, for example, "open space" on their developments, which are supposed to be open to the public - they are subverted.

And anyone who saw TVB Jade's demonstration of walking along the road with a piece of wood equivalent to the width of the vehicles the developer proposes to use would have a good idea of the disruption this hotel will cause. Old women had to get out of their wheelchairs to get past, babies had to be taken out of prams and so on.

At one point during the board's consideration of the plan, Assistant Commissioner for Transport W.B. Lee reportedly said: "The width of Lugard Road could cater for hotel guests carrying luggage to the hotel by themselves. With proper hotel management, this would unlikely cause nuisance to other users of Lugard Road." You couldn't make this up.

 

Supercharged growth

Alex Molyneux, former chief executive of SouthGobi Resources, yesterday made what appears to be a bold swoop for Singapore-listed Blumont. Together with Pacific Partners, he bought 5.2 per cent of the company and by the end of the day he was chairman.

Blumont has attracted attention recently in being one of a trio of small-cap firms suspended by the exchange, having moved up strongly in recent weeks. The stock has risen more than 1,000 per cent this year, from 21 Singapore cents (HK$1.30) to S$2.45, before crashing by 56 per cent on Friday. When trading resumed on Monday, it fell 85 per cent. Yesterday, it closed at 13 cents.

Having started life as a packaging, property and investment business since last year, Blumont has been acquiring stakes in mining and metals firms. Indeed, it has invested in two firms chaired by Molyneux - uranium firm Azarga Resources and Celsius Coal, a coking coal development company with assets in Kyrgyzstan.

Despite Blumont's roller-coaster ride, Molyneux was upbeat, to say the least in his assessment of the company. "I have watched Blumont for some time and am a believer in its business model. This is a company fast on its way to being Asia's first diversified natural resources champion. With the unusual share price drop, this is the right time to get involved." He added that with his team's experience, "we can supercharge the group's growth".

 

Citi heavyweights could do better

Having just about knocked the bank's finances into shape, Citi is now intent on encouraging its staff to shape up. This is the second year of the Citi Fitness Challenge. Staff undertake various activities for which they are given credits. For each credit, Citi will make a donation to a charity. The beneficiaries include International Rescue, Project HOPE or CARE International. Last year, 15,000 employees signed up for the event, which lasts about six weeks, and raised US$200,000.

Chief executive for Asia-Pacific, Stephen Bird, is leading from the front and has signed up. So have the three, shall we say, heavyweights that run the corporate communications division in Hong Kong, Richard Tesvich, James Griffiths and Godwin Chellam, pictured above in 2010 at a FinanceAsia Christmas party. The trio lost a combined 9kg during last year's event. These gentlemen are all over 1.8 metres and have a combined weight of more than 300kg, not all of which is muscle. They are looking for an improved performance this year.

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