LAI SEE
Lai See
by

Sincere shares soar following chairman's death

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 September, 2014, 4:45am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 September, 2014, 4:45am

Shares in department store Sincere were unusually active yesterday, soaring about 40 per cent to 81 HK cents before falling back to 70 HK cents at the close, up 27 per cent. This was presumably a response to Sincere's announcement on Tuesday of the death on Sunday of chairman Walter Ma King-wah, aged 84. The company's statement said his cousin, Philip Ma King-huen, the chief executive and deputy chairman, had been named chairman and would remain as chief executive.

It is not clear why the stock bounced so sharply; it seems hard to believe Walter Ma weighed on the stock to such an extent. Maybe the market is anticipating a shake-out at the firm. We see on David Webb's webb-site.com that some of its independent non-executive directors have been "independents" for quite a while. Ma King-wing, another of Walter Ma's cousins, is 82 and has been an independent non-executive director since 1979, Charles Chan Man-wai since 1995 and Eric Lok Kai-kin since 1997.

Walter Ma was not ungenerous to himself, receiving HK$11.6 million (HK$9.7 million after tax) last year, down from HK$14.7 million in the previous year. Philip Ma received HK$11 million last year and HK$15 million the year before. John Fu Yiu-cheong, an executive director and the chief financial officer, but not a member of the Ma family, received a significantly lower but more reasonable salary of HK$2.2 million.

There is another possible reason for the rise in Sincere's shares. The value of the firm's stock gained by HK$86.1 million yesterday, or about nine times the annual after-tax cost of the late chairman. This, we are told, is very roughly the net present value of not having to pay Walter Ma any longer. Who says markets are not efficient?

 

Another billionaire survey

Wealth management is one of the "strongest" areas of growth for banks and others involved in the business. Hence the plethora of surveys as to where the world's richest live and how many millionaires and billionaires there are. The latest report on this subject to cross our desk comes from UBS and Wealth-X, which greets us with the headline "Global billionaire population reaches a record 2,325 with the addition of 155 new billionaires in 2014".

The Wealth-X and UBS Billionaire Census 2014 shows that so far there have been 155 new billionaires this year, a 7 per cent rise over 2013. Europe has overtaken North America and is now the region with the most billionaires at 775 (US$2.37 trillion). The largest growth in billionaires occurred in Asia, rising 18.7 per cent. The United States continues to be the country with the most billionaires with 571, followed by China with 190 and Britain with 130. Hong Kong, where the number rose by seven to 82, ranks third behind mainland China, which has the most in Asia, followed by India.

 

Finance is not fair to women

There are gloomy tidings in a new survey that shows Hong Kong lags other regional financial centres in terms of female discrimination in the workplace.

The survey, by eFinancialCareers, asked about 5,000 female professionals if they would recommend their company to a female friend. About 23 per cent in Hong Kong said they would not, compared with only 13 per cent in Singapore and 18 per cent in Britain. The Hong Kong response, however, was better than the 34 per cent in the Middle East. Only 57 per cent of those surveyed in Hong Kong believed women were fairly represented at senior levels. Pay was also a touchy issue with six out of 10 women believing men were better-paid than women in equivalent positions.

 

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

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