Lai See
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 August, 2014, 1:26am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 August, 2014, 1:26am

It's Christmas again with David Webb's Arts Optical tip

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.
 

Listening to RTHK's Money for Nothing programme yesterday, we heard host Bryan Curtis feature what he termed "a fun Lai See-type" item on yesterday's show. It related to the stunning performance of the Hong Kong-listed eyeglass company Arts Optical, which rose 60 per cent on Tuesday, but alas it was a story that Lai See missed.

The stock soared on the news that it had sold its Shenzhen factories that are on a site earmarked for urban renewal for the equivalent of HK$2.27 billion, adding about HK$2.60 to HK$3.00 per share. Curtis recalled that in the days when shareholder rights activist David Webb used to provide "a Christmas pick", Arts Optical was his tip in 2002 when the share price was HK$1.87. Indeed Webb, together with a company he controls, is shown in the Arts Optical 2013 annual report as owning 30.76 million shares. On Tuesday's HK$1.51 gain alone, he made a paper gain of HK$46.5 million and rather more using the 2002 price of HK$1.87.

He says Shenzhen is beginning to go through a similar experience to that of Hong Kong in the 1980s when it became too costly to make garments and factories relocated to the mainland. The value of the redeveloped sites rose in line with the economy, thus compensating factory owners. Arts Optical shareholders are the beneficiaries of a similar trend that is now occurring in Shenzhen. Webb says he still owns the stock. Asked if it was one of his better investments he said: "It's hard to say."

 

Talking Heads

Readers will recall that we have reflected on what may or may not happen at RTHK's English language-radio station when Bryan Curtis retires on September 18. We can now confirm that his position as head of English-language programming will be filled by Hugh Chiverton, the head of Radio 3, while the new head of Radio 3 is to be Jim Gould.

As to the future of Money for Nothing, the early morning finance and business show hosted by Curtis, we understand that it will continue at least until the end of the year. It will be hosted by Reenita Malhotra together with the help of other guest hosts invited from the regular guests that have appeared on the show.

 

Credit to China

They say cash is king. Nowhere is that more true than in mainland China. According to a recent Accenture survey of 3,000 consumers in 22 cities, mainland Chinese still prefer cash to credit. While almost 391 million credit cards had been issued as of the end of 2013 in China, that amounts to only 0.29 card per person, according to People's Bank of China statistics. The survey of mainstream urban consumers also revealed that nearly half the respondents (47 per cent) do not have a credit card at all, a much lower uptake compared with other leading economies.

For example, more than 100 million credit cards have been issued in South Korea (2.32 cards per person) and more than 900 million credit cards have been issued in the US (2.88 cards per person) as of the end of 2012, according to the Bank for International Settlements.

Mainland Chinese credit card owners are still not accustomed to taking on credit and 58 per cent pay back the full amount owing on the card in one hit rather than paying off the debt in instalments. Indeed, less than 10 per cent of credit card users pay the minimum amount on their credit card bills regularly. This represents a huge opportunity for financial services providers, says Accenture, if they can change people's perceptions and encourage credit-based consumption habits.

 

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

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