Pan Shiyi, chairman and co-founder of the property company Soho China, is one of the mainland's liveliest businessmen and an obsessive weibo user. Yesterday he regaled a humdrum Asian Financial Forum with his views on the best way to combat corruption on the mainland. Several years ago, he discovered a piece of land in Beijing was unfairly awarded to a bidder where there was collusion between the winning bidder and the tenderer of the land. He complained on weibo and this was reported by the press. Two days later, a man from Hong Kong phoned him with the warning: "If you continue to tweet about this, I will chop your legs off." Pan complained to the mainland police, who protected him. Pan, who still has his legs, said: "If China does not censor the media, corruption will decrease. Transparency will resolve corruption. I have faith China can resolve its corruption problem because of the internet.
Make HK a non-smoking territory
Chief Executive C.Y. Leung has been urged to take a tough line with tobacco control measures in his policy address tomorrow. The letter is signed by senior public health academics from HKU and Chinese University, well-known anti-smoking lobbyist Judith Mackay, the Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health and Clear the Air. The signatories ask for measures to reduce smoking prevalence in Hong Kong to 5 per cent before 2022 compared with the current 11 per cent. Hong Kong would then be recognised as a non-smoking territory by the World Health Organisation. The signatories argue this will require raising excise tax to at least 80 per cent of the retail price, which they say is proven to prevent youth smoking while reducing adult smoking, premature deaths and health care costs. In addition, the government should provide more assistance for those that want to quit. The letter points out that cigarettes are considerably cheaper in Hong Kong than in many other territories, including Singapore, Britain, New York, Australia and France. They also want tougher steps taken against smuggling and the sale of duty-free cigarettes. The signatories suggest all public areas should be tobacco-free, including the entire outdoor areas of restaurants and pubs, whether 50 per cent roofed or otherwise. They also recommend that preventing smoking should be a condition of liquor licences. They note that at present many licensees allow or encourage smoking in order to steal custom from premises that obey the law.
Ferraris and steamed bun
We recently wrote about a plea from the Deutsche Bank property team to its clients by way of an e-mail in simplified characters asking for their support in the Institutional Investor poll. The subject line was somewhat ambiguous and could be translated either as "please lend a helping hand" or "please show us your sympathy". It went on to list its research reports over the year, but it also said the team was under considerable pressure last year, with competitors such as a rival analyst the e-mail refers to as "steamed bun" undermining their forecasts. Steamed bun is believed to be the nickname for a well-known property analyst in another big investment firm. The e-mail went out last week and was widely circulated among the investment community. It prompted a somewhat tetchy response by an analyst that the head of the bank's property research team doesn't need any sympathy since he earned about US$2 million last year and owns no fewer than three Ferraris. This may or may not be true and steamed bun says he wasn't the author. But strange that people get so worked up about such matters.
The mild euphoria that greeted the mainland's surprisingly strong export figures for December, which resulted in a boost for the stock markets, is now being regarded with scepticism. Analysts at Goldman Sachs, UBS and others say that the 14.1 per cent jump reported by the Beijing-based customs administration last week didn't match corroborating data, according to Bloomberg. They say the jump in exports could have been due to round-tripping and faked exports to secure export tax refunds, prompting exasperation once again over the mainland's unreliable data.
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