Friday the 13th puts firms in mood for a city-cramming annual report melee There was a ghoulish tone to yesterday's spate of annual meetings. More than 20 listed companies crammed the city's hotels and conference centres, seemingly trying to beat the looming black Friday [13th] wrap. And directors not only had to face the ignominy of seeing their salaries revealed to the great unwashed but they had also to deal with a less respectful public. Divided on dividends We were among the first to greet Citic Pacific chairman Larry Yung Chi-kin, under fire for being the angel of traffic congestion after his firm jacked up Eastern Harbour Tunnel tolls this month. Unfortunately for us, Andre Desmarais, an independent non-executive director fresh in from Montreal, got in first. Mr Desmarais was with his son when the following conversation transpired. Desmarais: 'Larry, this is my son.' Yung: 'Hi.' Desmarais: 'Please keep up your dividend payout, otherwise I can't afford his law school.' Mr Desmarais owns 101.73 million Citic Pacific shares and each earned a dividend of $1.10 last year. He was not heard complaining about higher tunnel tolls. Swire question takes flight Swire Pacific's post-annual meeting press conference opened with a curveball. 'Would Swire Group invest in Zhengzhou Airport?' Swire chairman David Turnbull, clearly perplexed, ducked the question and instead delivered his welcome remarks while apologising that he and top lieutenants Keith Kerr and Martin Cubbon would only stay for 10 minutes. 'Sorry, what was your question again? What is Zhengzhou?' Mr Turnbull asked. For the record, Zhengzhou is a city in Henan province that is home to seven million people. Mr Cubbon then stepped up to say Swire was looking to invest in some second-tier airports. The science of life Over the harbour, a group of shareholders was protesting outside the CK Life Sciences' AGM, asking why the stock has proven such an un-genetically modified dog of an investment. A banner outside the meeting declared: 'Prestigious Mr Li, your 8222 (CK Life Sciences' stock code) has sunk deeper and deeper, will it ever come above water?' It was signed 'Seafish'. The stock has tumbled 45 per cent to $1.10 since its market debut four years ago. Chairman Victor Li Tzar-kuoi claimed to have flu and cried off but shareholder requests would be considered, a deputy said. hard day for the press gang Shareholders may not be happy with the goings on at China Unicom. Nor are reporters, who are banned from the firm's annual meetings. Since taking over the helm in November last year, Chang Xiaobing has presided over a loss-making CDMA business and a disappointing final-year result. Even the usually media-friendly director William Lo Wing-yan protested as reporters wanted in. Eventually, Mr Chang gave the pack a few minutes, although most had gone. At least they had been treated to a proper show earlier at China Mobile's shareholder bash - ironically presided over by former China Unicom chairman Wang Jianzhou. an unbearable lightness of thought Bulk shipping carrier Noble Group yesterday reported double-digit growth for the first quarter but chief executive Richard Elman and chairman Tobias Brown seem hard pressed to deal with the unbearable lightness of being that comes from a seemingly non-stop global commodities boom. 'Even though things are going well at Noble and the future looks great, generally we have been in a pretty cantankerous mood of late. 'We are starting to feel a bit too 'establishment' and we are sometimes irritated by a few members of our executive team who look a little too sleek from 'options fat'. 'We feel our hand twitching a bit to reach down to the very bottom desk drawer, where the not-recently-enough-used machete lies.' We don't know what the pair have been smoking, but this writer certainly wants some.