WHEELOCK and Co's results were held back by the Government's refusal to issue the company with consents to pre-sell developments, according to director John Hung. Mr Hung felt that the refusal had affected property markets. The rules, however, aim at checking speculation in the pre-completion market because that is where speculation clusters tightest. Properties were changing hands several times before flats were completed in the speculators' most-favoured hunting grounds. But the refusal to allow developers to sell property in advance had not just elbowed out the small-time speculators but altered the balance of the property market, Mr Hung said. Unable to sell properties which were not yet complete, developers and traders were forced to place a relatively higher value on units which were complete, he said. Although the Government's attempt to cool the market has brought significant changes, Wheelock has been able to take them in its stride. Since the company has lost more than 40 per cent off its share value this year, punters will have to figure out how much of a discount to book net asset value of $22 they feel they need. Besides the contribution from Wharf (Holdings), Wheelock has little value to offer. Its companies such as Wheelock NatWest, which is still only appointing senior staff; Foster's China, a brewing and distribution venture; and its share in a proposed Virgin Megastore, hardly excite. In a scenario where the stock market is sliding, and every merchant banker is making frantic calls, desperately seeking deals, NatWest can hardly be happy. Foster's China is faced with the formidable task of getting the Chinese market to take to its branded offering. The Virgin Megastore might find itself suffering from the soft sales which affected Lane Crawford or that exporting Western pop culture to Hong Kong is not quite a song. Consequently, most profits will be from Wharf for a long time to come. Therefore, it is hard to tell why Wheelock decided that the best way to spend more than $200 million in the first part of this year was to buy back shares. Perhaps, like its shareholders, Wheelock has discovered that if you cannot erase the buying mistakes of spring, you can at least average them down in the winter.