These days, Hongkong Telecom executives make little pretence about an imminent Chinese shareholder deal. Officially, timing and getting the right partner is what counts. Two pressing concerns must be addressed. Defending its interests in Hong Kong and facilitating market access to China. A mainland partner is promoted as guaranteeing these vital interests. But who? Executives stress the importance of the right China partner. By that they mean one thing - the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPT). Yet, at more than $20 billion, the price tag is clearly beyond the MPT. With expectation of a consortium bid, Singapore Telecom (SingTel) increasingly appears a likely suitor. Southeast Asia's other telecom giant is cash-rich, acquisition-minded and fabulously well connected in China. That reports first emerged in the tightly controlled Singapore press hints of credibility. Don't forget, we still do not know who bought the 2 per cent stake sold last year by Citic Pacific. The argument against SingTel taking a stake rests in both firms competing as hubbing centres for traffic in the Asia-Pacific. Perhaps. But in a few years, with the region criss-crossed with cable, the importance of hubs will fade. An Asian telecom leviathan looks a threatening possibility.