hang lung sheds tortoise image after hare-like interim earnings surge For the better part of a decade until last year, Hang Lung Group chairman Ronnie Chan Chichung was derided by investment managers as a kind of tortoise sitting on a huge pile of cash and doing nothing with it. Last year, though, the company began playing catch-up in the land bank game, spending HK$20 billion to acquire 23 million square feet of land in six mainland provinces. The new strategy seems to have cheered up investors, who have taken the stock up 67 per cent in the past 12 months. However, Mr Chan actually seems to enjoy the comparisons between Hang Lung's performance and Aesop's fable, The Tortoise and the Hare. 'The hare makes money in its own way. So do we - we make money the tortoise way,' he said. However, Lai See wonders if the tortoise metaphor is still appropriate after Hang Lung posted a distinctly hare-like 83 per cent rise in interim profit. Staff of Hang Lung will be rewarded for the company's stellar performance. Executive director Terry Ng Sze-yuen said the average salary increase this year would be 6 per cent and the top performers would get a four months' bonus. loyalty in a footloose age Now here's the kind of story you almost never hear anymore in our footloose age, when staying loyal to one's employer is seen as a sign of weakness. Bank of East Asia's longest-serving executive director, Chan Kay-cheung (right), will step down in May after four unbroken decades of service to the bank. Mr Chan, 60, joined BEA at age 18 in 1965 - four years before chairman David Li Kwok-po - and he's long been a favourite of banking reporters, whom he treats like his nephews and nieces. He will relinquish his deputy chief executive post but probably remain on the scene as a special adviser on mainland business. BEA has a history of keeping its directors in place for a long time. Li Fook-wo, who is 90, joined the bank in 1940 and still sits on the board as a non-executive director. Chairman Li, who turned 65 last year, was asked about his retirement plans. 'I will surely consider it,' he said. But he added he had no plans as yet to install either of his two sons - Adrian Li Man-kiu and Brian Li Man-pun - on the board. hsbc warning tames bulls If you buy into the traditional wisdom of accumulating HSBC shares ahead of its annual result, expecting to win 80 per cent of the time, you may be disappointed this year, what with the company having issued something like a profit warning for the first time in its 142-year history. Now the bank is calling it a 'trading update', not a profit warning, and we leave you to debate the semantics but either way the bank has admitted it may have to add as much as US$1.76 billion to what analysts had assumed would be an US$8.8 billion provision for sour US mortgage loans in its annual results, due on March 5. Analysts say HSBC's annual profit could fall anywhere from 6 per cent to 10 per cent below their forecasts. So it looks like the mounting criticism of HSBC's new chairman Stephen Green was more than just nit-picking, and it could help explain why the bank has been in talks about perhaps selling its London headquarters for US$2 billion. HAnG SENG GOES greener Hang Seng Bank, the Green Enterprise of the Year in 2006, will not be resting on its laurels. To keep the momentum going, it will help some 300 senior high school students (Forms 4 to 7) develop viable environmental businesses. Hang Seng Bank managers will organise a series of workshops and visits revolving around the 4R - reduce, replace, reuse, recycle - concept and then challenge the students to translate it into commercial reality.