A preferential allocation to a few hundred shares of Sunevision was offered to your correspondent last week because he is a shareholder of the parent, Sun Hung Kai Properties(SHKP). He turned the offer down. It was not because he thought Sunevision a bad stock. It seems to have more real substance in it than any other e-stock offered on the market recently, although that is not saying much. It was rather because a few hundred dollars in e-shares hardly seemed worth the bother when the more immediate question is when will the share price of SHKP show some fire of its own. What do you think, Mr Kwok? But it was also because of a profound aversion to the speculative bubble in the Grab Easy Money (GEM) corner of the stock exchange. It is time once again to point out some of the fallacies in the thinking that has puffed this bubble out so far. Yes, it is true that the rise of the Internet is likely to bring some enormous changes to our commercial structures. With a few clicks of your mouse button you can buy increasingly more of the goods and services that you otherwise have to trundle around town to get. More and more is going on the Web. You may soon be able to live your whole life in complete solitude in front of your screen with only occasional diversions to the kitchen and washroom. What a wonderful prospect. It is also true that the introduction of any new technology to the mass market is usually accompanied by the creation of multi-billionaires who were there first. Just think of John D. Rockefeller and the oil industry or Bill Gates and Windows. But here is the difficulty. This technological revolution, the Internet, has few of those features of initial market inefficiency that made oil and computers such winners for a few people. This one is purely about efficiency gains. It is about knocking out the middleman in commercial transactions to give consumers instant direct access to the things they want to buy from a wide range of sellers, all of whom have their prices posted. Anyone can do it. It costs very little to set up a Web site. And the evidence is now coming in that just about everyone is doing it. They cannot all be the new Rockefellers. In fact, none of them are likely to be. The real winner will be you, the consumer, who can now get lower prices and faster access to an ever wider range of things for your shopping basket. The people and their Web sites through whom you do it are the conduits only. They are the new utilities and none of them have monopolies or any substantial edge over their competitors. A few fancy equipment providers will make good money from it for a while, but almost all the rest are already confronting the inevitable. A utility business based on undercutting competition that can spring up anywhere is not a business that offers much prospect of earnings. Rockefeller and Gates made themselves billionaires because their businesses produced billions in earnings. It is just not happening in the Internet. The only people making real money from it are dream merchants working the stock market. And if you want to know why just ask yourself a simple question. How can a middleman between you and the product succeed in a business that is all about getting rid of middlemen? In a recent column (Monitor, February 29) your correspondent raised the question of what Cathay Pacific Airways actually does for Hong Kong people that they should consider it their flag carrier. It is still a good question and all the more so with Cathay's announcement of pretax earnings for last year of $2.49 billion. How much of that profit came back to Hong Kong in profits tax? Your answer is a mere $3 million from Cathay itself and $14 million from associated companies that couldn't duck our taxman quite as easily. Our national airline, is it?