after expansive 3g talk, hutchison's ports and shops win at bonus time Managers at Hong Kong's dominant conglomerate, Hutchison Whampoa, must be glad that attention has shifted away from its loss-making third-generation phone business. Despite being dependant on one-off gains to pad the bottom line, the group's cash cow businesses seem to be ticking along nicely. This week managers cashed in their bonus cheques with some receiving pay-outs of between three and six months' salary - a sum similar to last year. Ports and retail staff are understood to have fared better than the embattled telecommunications division. Yet, even this apparently healthy pay-out has would seem to have disappointed some executives who had built up high hopes of impending salary rises following comments by chairman Li Ka-shing last month that he was maximum bullish on 3G prospects. Alas those among the group's 50,000 plus staff in Hong Kong who were banking on an automatic pay rise are likely to be disappointed. The group avoids collective pay settlements and Lai See understands that only selected staff will enjoy pay rises of 2 to 3 per cent depending on performance. Still, even that modest rise at least breaks a four-year salary freeze. 'I'm happy,' one insider said. 'With 3G turning around, next year can only get better.' Unless, of course, it gets worse. hurdler takes praise to heart Magnate Li Ka-shing awarded the Tom Online Sports Awards' grand prize to Olympic gold medalist hurdler Liu Xiang and here is what he said in a congratulatory film advertisement on Tuesday: 'Did you know how exhilarating your performance was at the Athens Olympics? My heart raced faster with every hurdle you jumped; when you leapt the last hurdle, my heart was about to leap out also.' Gosh. Lai See wonders how the hurdler could respond to such giddy praise from the great man. Perhaps something along the following lines: 'Do you know how psyched I am about your share-price performance? My heart pounds when I think of every country in which you operate. When you launched that loss-making 3G service faster, my heart leapt at your great gamble.' a bull by any other name Has the bull run out of steam? Wall Street's signature three tonne sculpture, a potent symbol of American capitalism, designed by artist Arthuro Di Modica in 1989, is being put up for sale with a reserve price of at least US$5 million. Di Modica built the Wall Street landmark two years after the global market meltdown of 1987 because, in his words: 'I saw people who had lost everything and I didn't like that, so I worked to create something beautiful for young Americans.' For punters worried that a resurgent Wall Street is about to lose its virility, some consolation can be taken from the fact that the bull is going nowhere and only the naming rights have been sold. gallery for the very naughty 'Tis the season for awards, honours and reminiscence. This may have been the year of property bulls, Macau concepts and non-violent direct market action, but it has also been the year of the busted public company boss. So much so that governance activist David Webb has released a new feature on his web site; the 'Hall of Shame'. 'You really have to excel at bad governance at a senior level to gain entry to this exclusive group,' he opined. His roll-call of bad eggs consists of 24 directors from 17 companies who were found guilty of criminal offences. According to his data, 14 listed companies are under Independent Commission Against Corruption investigations. That should be an excellent footnote, if not appendix, to any prospectus pitching Hong Kong as a major financial centre. mining the rot in shrinking assets If Hong Kong's graft-busting agency was a company the analysts' report might read: 'Huge operational gearing off smaller market size.' In the first 11 months, the ICAC reported a 14 per cent drop in corruption reports to 3,450, yet it recorded a similar increase in prosecutions to 443. As a result the chances of a graft report transpiring into a prosecution increased to 12.8 per cent, compared with 9.6 per cent in the previous period. Operating in a mature market, with only limited growth opportunities, the agency certainly looks to be sweating its assets harder.