CONTINUING our search for investments which haven't flopped, we received a fax from South Island School about the share portfolios of its Form IV students. As part for their economics and business class, the students of Form IV have been running imaginary share portfolios. 'Over the past six weeks, while the Hang Seng index has fallen by 15 per cent and many of the top funds have recorded similar losses, some of our less 'professional' students actually made a small profit,' wrote one of the teachers. The students who have outpaced the professionals have an average age of 14, incidentally. We'd love to give further details about their achievements, but attempts to contact the teachers, or even read their signatures, have proved fruitless. We can't wait until term restarts to find out the details as we seem to remember that school teachers' next day at work after that is sometime around August. We can only presume they've been head-hunted to run MBA investment courses at Harvard during the break. Without wishing to be too rude about the ability of the students, it's a long-established principle verified by academic studies that monkeys throwing darts at a page full of stock prices will on average be able to pick stocks that outperform the choices of the most expert fund manager. Luckily for the incumbents at Exchange Square, a dart throwing monkey would be unable to obtain authorisation from the Securities and Futures Commission - and neither would the Form IV students of South Island School. Dig this THERE'S an interesting gauge of Hong Kong's economic development being dug up north of Discovery Bay on Lantau Island. It's the Chinese University's excavation of some 4,000 year old dwellings, the largest of which is 20 square metres and would have housed one family. Our contact who's seen the houses says: 'They're pretty small.' Well, yes. But the current Housing Association guidelines for public flats would allow three people to live there, based on the associations current quota of seven sq metres square per person, which is also pretty small. We reckon that 4,000 years of economic development in Hong Kong have resulted in our living area being increased by less than 50 per cent. However, 4,000 years ago they got a garden rather than a concrete podium. The other barometer is property prices. The Chinese University people need $2 million to dig up the rest of the site, expected to contain about 10 dwellings about the same size. That works out at $1,400 a square foot. If they dug them up and sold them off it would be some of the cheapest property in the territory. Food for thought THE gang of financiers who nipped out of a Christmas party at the Godown restaurant leaving an unpaid bill for $2,200 have proved that the age of chivalry is not over. Within hours of details of their activities appearing in this space yesterday, they paid up. Unfortunately, if you're the president of a US stockbroker or other enterprise currently worried sick about being owed US$100 million by a mainland trading company, we can't promise the same results. Sorry about that. Up in smoke ANYONE wary of the Vancouver Stock Exchange will be even more wary after reading an article in yesterday's International Herald Tribune listing some of the more entertaining companies it has listed. They include a company culturing pearls which made only US$42,000 while shipping millions of dollars of investors' money to Panama, and a gold refiner that inflated its inventory with brass bars. Our favourite is a company that was supposed to sell machines for making french fries to Brazil and Guyana until two prototypes started smoking in the lab. The fire brigade was called and no machines were ever sold. Start-up venture capital outfits wouldn't get within sniffing distance of our own exchange because of the need to show an established profits record. Unfortunately, this very same rule would prevent the Hong Kong equivalents of Adobe or Apple Computer being listed until they were so large they were boring. New line ONE company that claims to have been tricked into buying expensive ads in an uncirculated fax directory has an unusual defence: it claims that the fax directory representative passed himself of as a Hongkong Telecom employee. The sales executive didn't actively walk in and claim: 'I'm from Hongkong Telecom.' But the people from the wronged firm claim they were expecting a Hongkong Telecom employee to turn up and when the fax directory employee turned up instead they just rode the confusion. This is a new twist to the long-running saga of these books, which not only include almost every major business as their victim but also charities and trade unions. Incidentally, we hear that these bogus directories are now being published in China, and already companies in Hong Kong are being enticed into signing up for ads in books that will supposedly be published on the mainland. Our fervent hope is that somehow the fax directory people will clash head on with the Nigerian money-laundering scamsters. While the directory publishers would try to take the money-launderers to court for ads, the money-launderer would be trying to empty the directory-publishers' bank accounts. Both could spend hours trying scams on each other and everyone else could get on with business as usual.