Lai See

Ben Kwok

shame on hkex as technical breach lands it on the infamous list

Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEx), the frontline regulator of listed companies, seems to think the naming and shaming of errant sponsors is not the way forward in its quest to ensure debacles such as Euro-Asia Agricultural (Holdings) never happen again.

Lai See, however, thinks it is quite an effective tool. You need only look at this year's Companies Registry annual report. There, in black and white, is the rather embarrassing revelation that HKEx itself has flouted some of the most basic requirements for corporate filing. It is included on a name and shame list of 85 public companies prosecuted for filing violations.

HKEx - as the South China Morning Post reported last year - neglected or failed to file a return on an allotment of shares on time. Oops. It had to cough up a fine of $3,220.

Also on the roll of shame is Wing Hang Bank, which was fined $7,350 for a tardy or non-existent filing notifying a mortgagee entering into possession of property.

Tsingtao Brewery also warrants an entry with its failure to file - or late filing of - annual returns and accounts. It was fined $7,160.

Companies registrar Gordon Jones has little time for excuses. In HKEx's case it was a technical breach, but 'I hope they will take note', he said. 'Big listed companies ... have no excuse. If they are in breach, we go for them.'

A refreshingly straightforward approach, wouldn't you agree?

sugar daddy

China Netcom group chief executive Edward Tian Suning is on the horns of dilemma. Dr Tian is representing Netcom's parent in talks to take a significant stake in PCCW. Those talks have dragged on for five months, with no end in sight.

A risk-taker with a PhD in natural resources management from Texas Tech University, the good doctor was also instrumental in the China Netcom-led acquisition of Asia Global Crossing, since renamed Asia Netcom and incorporated into Netcom's overseas listing vehicle.

Buying PCCW would help Netcom expand beyond its northern China base. But with PCCW facing ever-intensifying competition in its home market of just seven million people, Lai See understands a large disagreement over pricing still separates the two sides.

Mind you, Li Ka-shing, doting father of PCCW chairman Richard Li Tzar-kai, has previously expressed interest in Netcom's listing and could be poised to write a big cheque to help support the company's upcoming IPO. We'll see if that helps break the Netcom-PCCW deadlock.

bachelor boy

Speaking of our young Prince Richard - aka 'Hong Kong's Golden Bachelor' - in a rare interview with Hong Kong Commercial Daily he seemed to value PCCW more highly than that special someone in his life.

'I'll make PCCW [a better company] before considering marriage,' Mr Li was quoted as saying.

Shareholders will be happy to hear that, if not Master Li's significant other.

skyblue to buy high

Just two hours after it resumed trading yesterday - having earlier announced a $23 million placement - AMS Public Transport was suspended again.

The minibus operator, which listed six months ago, announced it was placing new shares to Value Partners, giving it an 8.79 per cent stake and diluting majority shareholder Skyblue's holding to 64.21 per cent from 70.4 per cent previously.

The shares were up as much as 31 per cent before closing with a 20 per cent gain.

Lai See understands the firm will issue a statement to explain an unusual share price movement - and Skyblue promises to take up more shares in the future despite their run-up. How refreshing to see a controlling shareholder sell low and buy high for a change.

the burning question

Deutsche Bank started the fire, but Citigroup is adding oil. Last week, Deutsche Bank analyst Andrew Lawrence raised concerns about Sun Hung Kai Properties' debt exposure, estimating its off-balance sheet debts at about $12.3 billion or $3.45 per share.

This had Citigroup analyst YK Fu punching impatiently on his CAPS LOCK key. 'THIS IS WRONG,' Mr Fu countered in a report, adding that he puts SHKP's off-balance sheet debts at about $4.7 billion. 'No big deal,' in other words.

Alas the real star of this show, SHKP, did not return Lai See's calls seeking comment.