Bovine behaviour as big spenders battle it out at year's first land sale The first land auction for the current fiscal year did not disappoint, with the government reaping more than $10 billion for its efforts. A consortium led by always-bullish Sino Land won two tracts in West Kowloon for a combined $5.9 billion. Sun Hung Kai Properties, Hong Kong's largest developer, paid another $4.23 billion for a plot in Ngau Chi Wan. During the first sale, Sino Land did not raise its paddle until the 23rd round of bidding and finally prevailed in the 47th round, paying $3.19 billion, or an accommodation value of $5,300 per sq ft. Lai See watched the proceedings from his perch behind Cheung Kong (Holdings) managing director Victor Li Tsai-kuoi and Mr Li's lieutenant, Grace Woo Chia-ching. Initially, the two monitored proceedings intently. But after bidding for the first plot went through $2.81 billion they started chatting, which indicated to Lai See that they were no longer in the game. What was too dear for Mr Li and Ms Woo was just right for Sino Land chairman Robert Ng Chee-siong, who later took time to crow about his own coup and rubbish Sun Hung Kai's. 'The price we paid was reasonable,' he said. 'The price [Sun Hung Kai paid] was very high.' and bulls rush in... Mr Ng may have spoken too soon, especially considering the appearance of a potential Jonah at yesterday's proceedings. Also attending the auction was Peter Woo Kwong-ching, chairman of both Wheelock & Co and Wharf (Holdings). The last land auction our property team remembers Mr Woo gracing with his presence was back in 1996, at the very height of the bubble. Tremble, Mr Ng, tremble. calm after the storm The British love to start off their conversations with remarks about the weather, perhaps because theirs would be a lovely country if only it possessed a roof. In his public debut yesterday, Securities and Futures Commission executive director Martin Wheatley, also the watchdog's chief executive-elect, was true to form. Speaking at the Hong Kong Securities Institute, the former London Stock Exchange deputy chief executive recalled his trip to Hong Kong four months ago, during which he accepted an SFC offer. An amber rainstorm warning and severe downpours meant that he couldn't drive across the Tsing Ma bridge. Of course, only an Englishman would take that as a good omen. 'I am told there is a Chinese proverb - yu gwo tin ching - which literally means 'after a storm comes calm weather',' he said hopefully. reunification off to a flying start To err is human, and poking fun at people who err is a big part of this column. It is therefore only fair that we sometimes draw attention to our own mistakes. Last Friday, we matched an article on mainland flag carrier Air China with a picture of a plane bearing the livery of Taiwan's China Airlines. Ooops. Our thanks to Zach Culvert for bringing the contradiction to our attention. 'Anticipating a quick reunification, no doubt,' he remarked. OSK gets back in business A 120-man outfit in the go-go 1990s, the Hong Kong office of Malaysian boutique brokerage OSK Asia gradually dwindled away before finally closing its doors in 2002. Now it is back, and Stephen Hui Chiu-chung has been charged with returning OSK's Hong Kong arm to its former glory. 'It is a tough market,' said Mr Hui, who worked as a reporter before embarking on his 34-years-and-counting career in finance. To hear our complete conversation with this journalist-done-good, please tune into the latest '14 minutes with Lai See' at podcasting.scmp.com.