Sir john plays down generation gap to prove there's life in the warhorse yet There is a saying among Hong Kong investors that roughly goes: 'Always trust the bank, it never lets you down.' Yesterday HSBC (Holdings) group chairman Sir John Bond again delivered, smashing forecasts with a 55 per cent growth in half-year profits. Lai See is a generous fellow and does not plan to start grumbling about miserable deposit interest but he is interested in Sir John's future career. Sir John, 63, was quizzed yesterday about retirement plans, a question all the more relevant considering HSBC's rapidly ageing board. His deputies, Baroness Dunn and Sir Brian Moffat, have both celebrated 65th birthdays while nine of the bank's 22 directors are over 60. Faced with such a no-win situation Sir John did what any colonial banker looking for a quick get-out would do. He reached for a Chinese proverb. 'There's a saying that the old horse in the stable still wants to go out and run,' deviating somewhat from the original verse with: 'The next generation will be better, I'm a generation of my own.' Investors always want more but this old horse should be spared the knackers yard a while yet. what's out is now in 'Outsourcing' is emerging as the most feared word in the job markets of the developed world. In Britain, HSBC has slashed its workforce by 3,000 in favour of off-shore processing centres led by India. Seemingly wised up to the emotive content of the word, the days of high-profile firms happily telling journalists and investors about their value-added cost-cutting programmes seem to have passed. Turning things on their head Sir John was at pains to argue that Hong Kong was the happy recipient of 'in-sourcing' as job functions migrated from the group's nether regions to its Asian headquarters. Shanghai industrial has it covered It may not be the biggest conglomerate or even the fastest growing, but red chip Shanghai Industrial can claim a silver for having the best-designed annual report cover. Judges were wowed by the Shanghai firm's yellow and turquoise reproduction of the Bund and distinctly non-industrial shots of wheat fields on the inside. 'This may be an out-of-the-box trial in design for the annual report of a Chinese company like Shanghai Industrial,' waxed the New York-based International ARC Awards organisers. For the record Sun Hung Kai Properties also won best overall report in the miscellaneous corporations category. more broadsides in broadband tussle City Telecom chairman Ricky Wong Wai-kay shows no sign of yielding in his perpetual struggle with market giant PCCW. Having suffered suspicious blockages to his new cheap line rental service that piggybacks broadband connections, he again threw a press conference at his posh Peak pad yesterday announcing a $38 a month deal for the first 5,000 customers. The industry enfant terrible also offered a 'friends and family' referral programme for PCCW customers. Reporters were not forgotten either with special transport laid on from the Peak for a last-minute press conference organised by PCCW in Quarry Bay to counter the marketing blitz with an SMS quiz competition. The phone wars are going from the sublime to the ridiculous. grand returns for the sharp-eyed Readers of this column should have seen handsome portfolio returns this week, although probably most have not. On Friday, Lai See exclusively reported that Mr Microsoft's charity - the US$27 billion Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation - had bought a 24.8 per cent stake in tiny, Hong Kong-listed Ocean Grand Chemicals. So when the stock barely moved on thin turnover of HK$70,000 we were, to say the least, surprised. Over the weekend the Chinese-language press reported the item and the share price yesterday bolted 35 per cent to a three-month high of HK$1.36 on turnover of 19 million shares. Now Lai See might be hoisting himself on his own petard, but it goes to prove that if you want to make serious money you had better read the back page every day.