HAS Paliburg International anything to do with Paliburg Investments? Even staff at Paliburg Group are at loss for the answer. A court reporter last week called up Paliburg's public relations department to clarify the relationship between the two companies, both names having appeared in a corruption case involving more than $1.7 million. 'Is it correct to say Paliburg Investments is an associate company of Paliburg International?' the reporter asked. The PR officer quickly jotted the query down and promised to call back once she received an answer from her 'seniors'. With a looming deadline, the reporter called back but was told only that all PR staff had left for the day. The journalist repeated her initial question. Reporter: 'Do you know whether Paliburg Investments is an associate company of Paliburg International?' Staff: 'Please call back tomorrow.' Reporter: 'Excuse me, may I know who I'm speaking with?' Staff: 'I don't know.' Reporter: 'Let me put this simply, what is your name?' Staff: 'I'm not in the position to say.' Perhaps reporters should stop asking these awfully tough questions. Rebel offensive THINGS are looking interesting at Pioneer International where rebel shareholders are going to try and force the company to sell off a stake in Bangkok Bank to realise a huge increase in the value of the shares not recognised in the firm's accounts. As Lai See pointed out last week, the direction in which Li Ka-shing decided to jump had huge ramifications. Well, K. S. Li has sold his 13 per cent stake to fund managers Regent, a firm which has launched attacks on under valued shares many times before. Maybe he fell out with the Gaw family - maybe he has had enough hassle over Hanny Magnetic and wants a quiet life. Even if rebels Deutsche Bank, Liverpool Limited Partnership and Illiad have the support of Regent, they still look to be a bit far from success, however. They need a special resolution passed to force a sale, and that requires 75 per cent of votes cast at an EGM. As the Gaw family has 21 per cent of the firm, it will mean mobilising just about every share in the market - or excluding the Gaw family from the vote. Irrelevant plea WE might be tempted to complain about the convoluted language used in legal announcements in Classified Post. Happily, not every company in Hong Kong employs a team of obfuscators to pen communications to investors. We are not sure how good a defence this would be in court however. 'How do you plead?' 'It's totally irrelevant as far as we're concerned.' No competition GORDON SIU, Secretary for Economic Services, was getting awfully sarcastic with the United States over free trade last Friday. 'You believe in competition, so do we. You believe in free trade. We practice it here,' he said at a press conference, implying that the US does not. Very nice, but the US is likely to get sarcastic with you over competition. Hong Kong has just two large chains of supermarkets, one international telephone service provider, four container port operators for eight terminals, a cartel to fix interest rates, draconian restrictions on broadcasting, two electric utilities, two gas suppliers, competition has only just been introduced among buses services, one airline, a car parking cartel, one stock exchange and the civil service has a monopoly on wasting money. We do not even have one monopolies commission. Incidentally, if the Consumer Council was really committed to introducing competition, it would have split itself in two to compete on which one could waste the most time testing irrelevant products. How big small? GUINNESS Flight's Asian Smaller Companies Fund invests in companies with a market cap of up to US$500 million, leading Lai See to have slight doubts as to whether or not it was accurately named. Of course it was - the fund took in only $8.3 million in the September launch period - much smaller than many other funds. Nerissa Lee, the fund's manager, was not perturbed. 'Guinness Flight funds usually start at a modest size.' 'Last year our China and Hong Kong Fund took in only $2.6 million, but there is now $30 million in it.' Shaving time BRILLIANT products always turn up in The Nikkei Weekly newspaper. This week the paper has a gadget which solves the age-old problem of what to do if you want to - (a) drive, (b) shave and (c) check your car battery at the same time. What you need is a Daisen all-in-one battery checker car shaver - plug it into the cigarette lighter socket and you can shave and check to your heart's content.