Charm offensive might add up for Agricultural Bank
Agricultural Bank of China, which hopes to raise up to US$30 billion in what could be the world's largest IPO - although that now looks unlikely - has not convinced some fund managers that biggest necessarily means best.
One money manager told Lai See that he met a group of the bank's senior executives a couple of weeks ago as they attempted to convince him to allocate pensioners' and savers' cash to the deal.
It did not go too well, however. 'One of the executives fell asleep during the meeting, another claimed Agricultural Bank was better than ICBC then collapsed into nervous laughter, and none of them were dressed exactly like international businessmen,' the fund manager said.
Hopefully Agricultural Bank, which is set to begin its formal investor roadshow on June 24, has found a good tailor, some good coffee and a better script by now.
The rural lender's so-called 'special mention loans', or those it is unsure borrowers can repay, are worth 325 billion yuan (HK$370 billion). That is almost equal to its 343 billion yuan total equity base.
With hairy numbers like that to brush under the carpet, the image the bank presents to the outside world could be an especially important factor in sealing the deal.
Is the sage of Omaha, Warren Buffett, losing some of his market worth? Every year those who like this sort of thing are invited to bid on eBay for a dinner with the old boy, with the winning bid going to charity.
The idea is that the fruits of a couple of hours picking Buffett's brain will translate into worthy investment ideas and loads of money.
Two years ago a Hong Kong fund manager won with a bid of US$2 million. Last year the winning bid was US$1.7 million.
This year, as of last night, there were 40 bids with the highest at a mere US$700,100.
Analysts said there was some disappointment with Buffett's performance in front of a congress committee investigating the rating agencies.
Buffett is the largest shareholder in Moody's and his testimony was fairly supportive to say the least. The Huffington Post described it as a PR disaster.
Ah well, even Jesus Christ had his off days.
We spotted a story the other day claiming that thousands of small businesses in Taiwan are 'looking with growing unease towards December 31, 2010, fearing that the New Year will trigger a local version of the Y2K 'millennium bug''.
Remember the Y2K bug? Planes were going to drop out of the sky, hospital life support shut down, computers implode. Governments and businesses were panicked into spending billions worldwide on Y2K fixes, but in the end nothing happened.
In this latest version, a 'technology consultant' has come up with the notion that because Taiwan's unique calendar counts time from the 1911 revolution that brought down the last Chinese emperor, it means January 1 will not be the start of 2011, but of year 100.
'This could spell havoc for many older computers that have to get used to counting three digits rather than two,' the report said.
Yeah, right. The only date problem we can see is that the story did not come out on April 1.
World Cup interest
Years ago, World Cup marketing gimmicks were fairly simple - dreadful songs recorded by the teams, or petrol stations handing out 'coins' with players' faces on them.
Today, anything goes. Depending on which team wins the tournament that kicks off tonight, retailers worldwide are offering to repay customers for buying items such as television sets, cars, road navigation systems and holidays.
A British bank is even offering higher interest rates on a bond if England wins. The four-year 'football bond' offered by Nationwide pays a fixed rate of 4.15 per cent a year, but 4.65 per cent if England lifts the trophy.
We think Nationwide's money is safe.
Bonding with women
Forget the chivalry, the wining and dining, the giving of flowers ... the way to a woman's heart is through government bonds.
At least that's what Japan's Ministry of Finance would have you believe with its latest advertising campaign. 'Playboys are no good. I want my future husband to be diligent about money,' coos one of the women in the ads to promote a fixed-rate three-year note that Japan began selling last week.
The tagline declares: 'Men who hold government bonds are popular with women!'
Try telling that to Angela Merkel.
Luisa Tam is on holiday