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  • Dec 18, 2014
  • Updated: 10:00pm
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 October, 2013, 3:27am

PetroChina listing means we are still 'bigger' than Singapore


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.

Oil and gas companies seeking a presence in the Asia-Pacific region prefer to list their stocks on the Singapore Exchange rather than on the Hong Kong stock exchange, according to Alastair Macaulay, a partner at global law firm Clifford Chance.

Speaking to the Business Times, he said Singapore was preferred because it was more of an international hub compared to Hong Kong, which is more China-focused. So is this yet another "threat" Hong Kong should be concerned about?

It is true that Singapore has recently drafted new oil and gas listing rules and regulations and appears to be trying to attract oil and gas companies. But before throwing up our hands in despair, it is worth remembering that Hong Kong does have the world's largest producer of oil listed here in PetroChina. The company produced more liquids last year than Exxon - so we are still "bigger" than Singapore.


Nice work, if you can get it

The Civil Service Bureau says it has received about 75,000 applications for civil service vacancies, according to Apple Daily. Some 17,000 of them were vying for the post of administrative officer. However, because only 35 such posts are available this year, that means 485 applicants are competing for one position - the largest number of applicants for the post since 2005.

A personnel consultant said more people had applied for government posts this year because of a worsening economy. This may go some way to stiffening government resolve in standing up to the Civil Service, which has been moaning about what it claims is a low pay rise. Compared with the private sector, and taking into account salaries plus allowances, the civil service does very nicely.


Women's work

"Companies are waking up to the fact that to retain skilled women in the workforce, they need to offer more than good compensation packages. Flexible working and part-time or job-share opportunities are the tip of the iceberg."

So says Pallavi Anand, a director of Robert Half in Hong Kong, commenting on a recent study undertaken by the firm.

She went on to say: "Our survey also shows Hong Kong companies have or are planning to introduce: onsite childcare services, family health and dental plans, and telecommuting - to hold on to valuable female employees."

The survey, which included responses from 100 human resources directors in Hong Kong, found that three out of four (74 per cent) of those polled said it was common for female employees to move into part-time and/or flexible working roles on their return from maternity leave.

Robert Half concluded that: "The trend for flexible working conditions seems to be taking off in Hong Kong as it is globally because of the shift to try to encourage women into more senior positions and on executive boards whilst being able to maintain a healthy work/life balance."

Now what about the men?


ICM raises HK$11.4m at banquet

Hats off to the charity International Care Ministries (ICM), which raised a stunning HK$11.4 million at its Hong Kong annual banquet earlier this week, an increase of 17 per cent over last year. The charity focuses on helping the poor in the Philippines. The country has a population of 92 million, of which 26 million (28 per cent) live in poverty on less than US$1.22 per day. Of these, 8 million (9 per cent) live in ultra poverty, on less that 50 US cents per day. According to Unesco, there are 1 million Filipino children aged between six and 11 who are unable to attend school. These are the people who ICM targets. They are the ones who do not have enough food to feed their families, who are without adequate shelter and cannot afford medicine for their sick children. David Sutherland, the former chief financial officer for Morgan Stanley Asia and chairman of the ICM board, described the collection as "an extraordinary down payment on ICM's need to fund its HK$30 million cash budget during the current fiscal year", and will enable ICM to reach 62,000 people. The charity banquet also featured a live auction, which was enlivened by the energetic performance of master auctioneer Kristine Duininck, who in 2010 won the women's National Auctioneers Association International Auctioneer Championship.


Have you got any stories that Lai See should know about? E-mail them to howard.winn@scmp.com


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This article is now closed to comments

howard has forgotten that bigger does not mean better.
He has also forgotten that Petrochina is a mainland state-owned company.
If Petrochina were to list on the SGX instead of Hong Kong, the HKex may as well close shop. Without all those blockbuster listings from the mainland, where would HK be?
Singapore is an international financial for Asia, especially South Asia and Australasia, built from its own ingenuity and sweat - not a hand-me-down from the Brits.
Which are the biggest banks in HK? HSBC, Standard Chartered - British - and Citbank - American.
Singapore? DBS, OCBC and UOB.
Hong Kong is now like an international hub for China, when it used to be mollycoddled as the hub of British and Western interests in Asia during the colonial days.
Now, many from the West are also looking at Singapore.
Hong Kong is no longer the "hub" of choice. Sorry. But true.
Singapore - Asia's largest forex hub and offshore wealth management centre. It's Asia oil trading hub as well as a hub for commodities trading and debt financing amongst others. The go-to place for international reits and business trusts.
What is HK but an equity raising centre for mainly mainland Chinese companies?
I don't really understand the 'bigger' than Singapore remark and headline.

First of all, who cares. The last place we should measure ourselves by is Switzerland-of-Asia-wannabe Singapore. (I am not sneering, this is minister-mentor-menace Lee's clearly stated desire)

Secondly, Singapore's stock exchange is an equity market backwater by pretty much any measure. It barely makes it in the top 20 of exchanges by market cap. Hong Kong's exchange (#6 in the world, and note that #5, Euronext, is actually five exchanges combined) is over 4x the size of Singapore's, both by market cap as by trading volume.

Then some may argue that this is because of SOE's like PetroChina being listed in Hong Kong. But that is exactly the same in Singapore. The largest listed company there is SingTel, which is majority state-owned. Other top-20 listings in Singapore include DBS (formerly wholly and still partly state-owned), CapitaLand (state-owned), Singapore Airlines (state-owned) and a bunch of companies that are listed in Singapore but are historically and operationally in essence really Hong Kong companies: Jardine Matheson, Hong Kong Land and Dairy Farm (that is of course Wellcome Supermarkets, Mannings etc).

If we would take those HK companies and the state-owned ones out of the question, there would be very little left of the Singapore exchange indeed. Being 'bigger' than Singapore is really the last thing HKEx has to worry about.
I would like to add that HK is still a formidable financial centre, especially when backed by China. The rivalry between HK and Singapore is good so long as it's constructive and we use intense competition as an impetus to learn from each other and improve. In my view, HK's waning economic competiveness against Singapore is not so much because you are now a part of China, but because your leaders, in particular Donald Tsang, have failed to negotiate relations with Beijing in a smart way to the benefit of the HK people and not the tycoons.
Petrochina lists in HK. And this is supposed to be a one up on Singapore? So what?
Nobody outside China trusts China because of its regime, rotten economic and political system which try to force foreign companies to give away their technology and pay bribes, which are illegal under the companies' home country laws.
Like Singapore, Hong Kong was given birth by the British (which the Chinese hate to admit) as an independent trading entrepot at a strategic crossroads on international trade routes. It cannot perpetuate its success as just another Chinese city.
PRC political and economic corruption has been poisoning HK for 15 years and is gaining momentum. It cannot last more than another 15 years. The more HK becomes integrated into China's economy the less it will be trusted.
What jc said is sad but true. But Singapore is in the same position a few years envying hk and even if hk is second to spore at this point, it doesn't mean we can't chase it back.


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