AFTER remarking that we wouldn't be able to tell if KPS Video had boycotted titles picked up by Hongkong Telecom's proposed video-on-demand service, we fully expected a call from a KPS person. It was Garrie Roman, managing director of KPS Retail, who called, but to our surprise he was not in rant-at-aggressive-columnist mode. Indeed, he fully accepted that KPS had some problems getting enough copies of major movies to satisfy demand. He even volunteered that KPS Causeway Bay store was overloaded - 12,000 members at a store designed for about 8,000. But his explanation is that the real problem lies in a group of video distributors with exclusive licences restricting supply by controlling prices of tapes. Of about 30 local distributors, about five handle foreign films with notable firms being CIC, which is part of Paramount and directly handles that firm's movies; ERA, which represents Warner and Colombia; and IVL which handles many independents and has just taken Fox. Tapes for rental cost KPS between $300 and $1,000 a piece which, Mr Roman says, limits KPS to between 30 and 100 copies per store. It is also, he claims, the reason that KPS has a flat $24 pricing scheme for both old and new movies. New movies have about a 90-day high earning period, he said. Mr Roman is involved in lobbying the Government to keep so-called parallel import channels open so that KPS can buy videos for rental from the copyright holder in other countries, effectively bypassing distributors. He also claims that video store operators have long been trying to persuade the distributors to make revenue sharing arrangements with them. The distributors would get 30 per cent of gross rental income and a fee instead of a flat up-front fee. This would mean more tapes on shelves, lower prices and an expanded market, Mr Roman said. Video rental in Hong Kong can be as much as five times that of Singapore. Whether you blame KPS and other video shops for overloading and not buying enough tapes or the distributors for restricting supply, consumers know something's got to change. Living in hope GORDON Wu, managing director of Hopeless Fumblings, is obviously more confident than the fund management community about the chances for his Bangkok railway project. They will all have to stop making jokes about Gordon being the only man who can't get a ride in Bangkok because he has snapped up 200,000 Hopeless shares at $4.45 each, which is definitely putting his money where his mouth is. Good to see he hasn't been entirely scared off equity markets by recent experiences with prices. We don't mean Hopeless or even Cepa, although Gordon has personally lost $1.02 billion on his stakes in the past month alone. No, we mean those Cepa warrants on Cepa issued by Peregrine in September last year at 58 cents each. Readers must remember them - there was bit of a controversy over the fact Gordon bought some of them just before reports of a major contract in India was announced, IPOs not being relevant as far as the Insider Dealing Ordinance is concerned. For those who don't recall the warrants, they have an exercise price of $15.50 and a current share to exercise price premium of 28 per cent, gearing of 7.3 times and historical volatility of 49.5 per cent. Unfortunately, that historical volatility has all been something of a negative factor for holders. From a peak of 68 cents in the month after issue, the warrants are now worth a handsome 18.5 cents, slightly off the low of 16.5 cents they hit on November 20. The warrants have eight months to run so there's still a chance that Gordon's little deal won't leave him with egg on his face. Ninjettes KERPOWW! THWAKKK! AAIIEE! Yes, we've been overdosing on the Japanese Manga comics again. But it's not as bad as everyone thinks. The ones Lai See likes aren't ultra-violent sex comics. The new breed of Manga comics all seem to star women bank investigators working for the Ministry of Finance to crack down on dodgy loans by wicked bankers, according to The Nikkei Weekly. One new book is called Kono Hito ni Kakero (bet on this woman) and is all about a female careerist in a fictional middle-ranking bank. She is transferred from head office to the branch with the worst record for profits and uncovers many bad banking practices with hilarious results. Hong Kong is ready for this wave. We suggest a strip based on Laura Cha of the SFC, Emily Lau of Legco and Gladys Li of the Bar Council. By day they are fearless crusaders against sleaze, corruption and evil-doers but by night they transform into ninja management consultants. Nice touch FRIENDS of the Earth has persuaded many government departments not to send Christmas cards this year, but corporations are still piling them out. The picture today is a detail from Cathay Pacific's corporate card. Notice the spooky resemblance to the firm's share price movement in the past month. Cathay also has a naughty mole working there who has been scrawling suggestions inside the cards telling people to amend the white smile on green background card with a pot of correction fluid. Connected with Peter Sutch's Project Orbis obsession is an interesting innovation: the card has a braille inscription - hopefully not for flight crew. Send Lai See your most interesting cards for our excellent Christmas Card Competition. There will be prizes, but we don't know what yet.