GOLD - tonnes and tonnes of gold is on Lai See's mind today. It has be drawn to our attention that a major player in what insiders call the 'Au Metal' game has been visiting town. White cowboy-boot wearing Sheik Al'Ibrahim, better known to the regulatory world as Yakub Ibrahim, has been in town with a mega deal in tow. He was recently found carrying some fascinating documents, one of which, addressed to Johnson & Mathey Refinery, we have reproduced in part today. Fifty tonnes of gold a week? Until your stocks run out? The calculation involved in this sum is going to make your calculator hum, so we've done it for you. Fifty tonnes is about 110,000 pounds or 1.76 million ounces. Gold costs $382 an ounce so this is a US$672.32 million (HK$5.24 billion) a week proposal. Of course the 'sheik' has lots of supporting documentation including an important looking document about the Mega Business Corporation and its 'Consortium of Prime World Banks' which even offers to pay for gold in 'Prime bank guarantees'. We are not quite sure who the end-user of the gold is, but let's hope it's not someone living in Mid-levels or all that gold could go crashing through the floor. And let's hope they're in when the gold is delivered. The delivery boy isn't going to be too happy if he lugs 50 tonnes of the shiny heavy stuff up the backstairs only to discover the buyer has gone out for the afternoon. Still, it probably would be safe for a while as not even the toughest triads could carry it all downstairs at once. Maybe when Brenda and Kai-bong Chau have got tired of their gold Rolls Royce and make a gesture at once egalitarian, environmentally-friendly and superbly showy by having a solid gold MTR train made. They could add a carriage a week and hold parties as they circle Hong Kong. Numbers up VARIOUS civil servants from the Buildings Department are being moved from their present home in the Murray Building to new quarters in Mongkok, and quite delighted they are about the move too - not. We hear a couple of junior staff got a special reason to be glad of the move when they were reassigned new phone numbers. One had the last four digits 1628 and the other 1688. For non-Cantonese speakers, numbers don't come much luckier than these - 1682 is a Cantonese pun on 'you will get rich easily' while 1688 is a pun on 'you will get doubly rich'. Strangely, the numbers stayed with the underlings for only about a week before they were changed for some further new numbers - this time without remarkable puns. The department moves next month and we'll be interested to hear who ends up on the end of the phone when we call. Bond in hand S. MEGGA issued a US$29.3 million convertible bond back in December 1993 due in 2002 at 2.5 per cent interest. Yesterday, they bought back US$29.34 million worth of bonds for US$24.34 million, excluding the interest paid. This might be considered slightly odd behaviour. On the one hand, the conversion was HK$3.36 a share and S. Megga is now at 49 cents a share making a premium of 456 per cent. On the other, the bid/offer has shrunk to 81.00/84.00, meaning a yield to maturity of 20.85 per cent. If the holder waited until January 4, 1998, the notes could be 'put' at 116 per cent of the face value. Or perhaps a bird in the hand looked better than the two in the bush. Get it right PRODUCTIVITY gains were achieved through the company's rightshaping and rightsizing programme. Leveraging on natural attrition, the company has reduced its headcount by 700 while another 200 have taken up new roles in developing areas of the company since the start of the year. Don't worry readers, Lai See hasn't lost the plot. That was Hongkong Telecon, oops Telecom, talking. The first sentence is old-fashioned management gobbledy-gook for 'we saved money by getting rid of people'. It's what all bright young execs say to their partners when they get fired: 'Hi, honey, I've been rightshaped'. The second sentence is a bit harder to decode. Natural attrition is where you don't replace people who leave. If it's leveraged then probably they hunt for people who are looking miserable and annoy them until they quit - like wildebeest driving the weak and wounded to the edge of the herd to be picked off by lions. One idea might be to send employees to 'developing areas'. We think that means: 'You've been relocated to Urumuqi as part of our on-going mainland partnership programme. There you will run our time domain reflectometer and fibre-optic specialists training course at the People's Number 79 Telegraph, Signal Fire and Semaphore School. 'Enjoy, and don't forget your woolly jumpers.' A real prince ONE HKT person who won't get sent to the semaphore school to explain how to use computers to farmers is David Prince, finance director. Around Lai See, he is called 'The Finance Director Formerly Known as David Prince' and is now simply called by the symbol '$'.