with BOC float, it's not who is subscribing but who isn't Who doesn't want a piece of China's most famous bank? As the world's largest initial public offering in five years, the Bank of China has attracted more than one million Hong Kong subscribers. Amazing statistics but how many is one million people? To give it some context, it is about half the number of investment adults in Hong Kong and twice the number of protesters on July 1, 2003. It has the highest number of subscribers on record, dwarfing the previous record made by MTR Corp of 602,000. It also knocks the Link Reit into a cocked hat at 503,000 for the first, collapsed round and 232,000 the second time around and is almost triple the BOC (Hong Kong) subscription at 385,000. Of course, the hope among investors is that it will follow the likes of China Life, Ping An Insurance and Bank of Communications who this year doubled their share prices after listing. Even shares of China Construction Bank, which barely trod water in the first two weeks after it debuted on October 26, were up 42 per cent in the first seven months. It is little wonder, then, that Hong Kong investors - believing the sponsors will allocate 1,000 board lots to the hoi polloi as they have done with previous hot IPOs - have been clamouring for subscription forms. Who cares that BOC, the most scandal-ridden bank in China with the most reported cases of theft, actually warned investors that negative press coverage could pose a risk? Well, this is Hong Kong. And this is BOC. downturn? most valued stocks say n0 Oh well, the Hang Seng Index was back to what it was two months ago. It's down more than 1,600 points from its peak of 17,304 three weeks ago and still zig-zagging to the bottom. There are, however, some who live in hope of a stock rebound any time soon. Drawing from the lessons of China Construction Bank float in October when the market dipped as investors sold stock to jump on the new listing, the latest trough suggests a sharp intake of air before the BOC listing on June 1. So, is the market actually performing worse than it was two months ago? We listed the six most valued trading stocks in Hong Kong, comparing their closing price yesterday with that of two months ago and here's how it looks: HSBC is at $133.6 against $130.40 two months ago, China Mobile is at $40.05 against $39.35, Hutchison is at $70.40 as against $72.55, China Life $11.25 against $10, PetroChina at $8.30 against $8.05, SHKP is at $80.05 against $79.95. The Hang Seng is at 15,696 against 15,815. Among the six, only Hutchison Whampoa is performing worse than two months ago. The best performer is China Life which is still 12 per cent ahead of its position in March. Smart readers surely know when to bottom fish. boot on other foot for banker Standard Chartered chief executive Mervyn Davies is not just a soccer fan, he is also a non-executive director of Tottenham Hotspur. So it seems only natural that Mr Davies, who already holds tickets for the final two matches of the World Cup in Germany, is the envy of millions of Hong Kong soccer fans. On his Hong Kong visit yesterday, he boldly tipped England and Brazil to be in the finals - sweet revenge, perhaps, for Britain's 1-2 defeat at the feet of Brazil in the 2002 World Cup. seeing's believing with dividends A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, they say. And likewise, shareholders would prefer a company's cash in their own bank account rather than in a corporate banking account. At the annual general meeting of Asia Financial yesterday, a shareholder asked chief executive Bernard Chan if the company would consider giving out a special dividend of $1 per share after the company booked a $2.50 per share net profit for selling its banking business for $4.50 per share. Mr Chan skilfully sidestepped the issue, saying that he would listen to shareholders' requests but without committing himself to a payout. They'll keep asking until they get it - one day.