Tsang's less than crystal clear waffle at annual trade dinner
By all accounts, our chief executive's speech at the Hong Kong Trade Development Council's (HKTDC) Annual Dinner in London recently was quite well received. The dinner had attracted an all-star line-up, as it coincided with the HKTDC's Think Asia Think Hong Kong conference. Luminaries at the top table included Henry Keswick, vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Association, British Business Secretary Vince Cable, Hutchison Whampoa boss Canning Fok Kin-ning, HSBC chairman Douglas Flint, billionaire Dr Victor Fung Kwok-hing, Stephen Green, British trade and investment minister and former HSBC chairman, Michael Heseltine, entrepreneur David Tang and former Hong Kong governor David Wilson, among others.
Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, resplendent in Mandarin collar without his usual bow tie, started off by saying how 'chuffed' he was to eclipse the records of not one but two previous governors - Wilson and Chris Patten - who each managed to speak at five HKTDC Dinners in the 10 years from 1987 to 1996. His sixth speech ranged far and wide over different aspects of Hong Kong, including the information that the city is home to over one third of all the bird species in China, as well as rare butterflies, dragonflies and amphibians. But he began to overreach himself when speaking of Hong Kong's 'crystal clear waters'. The last time Hong Kong could be said to have crystal clear waters are perhaps the late 1960s or early 70s. His speech can be found on the internet and you can judge it for yourselves. What you won't find on the internet are the introductory remarks by HKTDC chairman Jack So Chak-kwong, which were surpassingly droll. Commenting on Tsang's qualities, he observed that 'he doesn't put in fake expenses, he doesn't hold wild parties in his villa and he has very little interest in hotel housekeeping'. We should be thankful for small mercies.
Not premier enough for HSBC
Our attention has been drawn to that rare bird - a disgruntled HSBC customer. A reader wrote that he was given a cheque the evening before he flew out on vacation and planned to deposit it with at Hong Kong International Airport. Our reader duly entered the HSBC branch in the arrivals hall cheque in hand and was welcomed by two men in pinstripe suits who asked what service was required. When told 'cheque deposit' they inquired if the customer was a Premier account holder. Alas, he was not and so was invited to visit the branch in Terminal 2, which, as we know, is about a 15-minute walk. So exit one very disgruntled HSBC customer grinding teeth and cursing HSBC. You can't help feeling HSBC has set itself up for that outcome.
HSBC's response? 'We have a large number of outlets in Hong Kong providing different levels of service to meet the different service needs of our customers. We have a number of outlets at the airport - a general service branch and a Premier Centre for our wealth- management-oriented customer base. The bank apologises to the individual who was unable to use the Premier Centre to deposit a cheque. There is a general service branch at the airport which is not too far away from the Premier Centre.'
CPP's 3.55 billion 'hellos'
We've noticed curious events at Hong Kong-listed China Public Procurement (CPP), which has been suspended since July last year until it provides a satisfactory explanation to Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing for some of its transactions that have been queried in the press. That curiosity aside, CPP's boardroom has been like a revolving door, with at least 10 directors resigning over the past two years, several of these for 'health reasons'.
However, there appear to be new moves afoot to revitalise things at the company with the rehiring of its former chief executive Cheng Yuangzhong on September 15. Cheng resigned as chief executive in October 2009 and left the company in February 2010. Cheng's return has clearly been encouraged by the 'golden hello' that is the subject of a recent stock exchange notice. A number of shareholders have agreed to transfer some 3.55 billion shares to Cheng. CPP shares were suspended at HK$0.68, which would value Cheng's shares at HK$2.4 billion. Cheng has to pay the princely sum of HK$5.
The notice says this price was arrived at after 'arm's length negotiations' between Cheng, the sellers and the guarantors in view of Cheng's 'experience in developing procurement information platforms and strong business networks in the PRC'. Of course, there is no saying that CPP shares will trade at HK$0.68. But even if they fell to one cent they would still be worth a handy HK$355 million.