The widow [Nina Wang] of Teddy Wang Teh-huei was the 204th richest person in the world, according to Forbes magazine's 2007 rich list, with a net worth of HK$32.7 billion. SCMP, April 5 But how would Forbes know? Is there a special fount of information that spouts only in New York city and that permits no questions about its source? The headlines and commentary yesterday on the death of Nina Wang Kung Yu-sum were almost all accompanied by descriptions of her as 'Asia's richest woman' and by endless references to that figure of HK$32.7 billion. There is obviously great public fascination with an estate of that value and with what will become of it. But ask how anyone knows that it is indeed worth HK$32.7 billion and all you come back to is that this is a figure quoted by Forbes and Forbes is holy writ in matters of how rich the world's richest people really are. Sometimes it is not all that difficult to work out. If you want to know, for instance, how much the world's richest man, Bill Gates, is worth, you take public information on how many shares he holds in Microsoft and multiply this by Microsoft's share price. There will be a bit more than this, of course, but you are likely to be 90 per cent of the way there with that one simple calculation. It is not so simple with Wang's estate. The Chinachem Group was never listed on the stock market. Its accounts are not publicly available and there is no convenient share price to plug into a simple calculation. We can, of course, make up a reasonably accurate list of the major buildings and building sites that the group owns. We can also estimate their value at current market prices and in some cases we even know what they cost the group. That helps in making a guess of the assets side of the balance sheet. But we remain absolutely in the dark about the crucial liabilities side of the balance sheet. We have no information on how much of it is financed by debt or even by the equity holdings of entities other than Wang's estate. We don't know and Forbes doesn't know. We have only rumour and hearsay, which is all that Forbes has, and without precise figures on the group's financing, it is simply not possible to quote figures in decimal places about the value of this estate. What we do know, however, is that some Chinachem projects may not have been the most lucrative investments ever made in Hong Kong, for instance, that fancy residential block in Repulse Bay that looks like someone split a nuclear power plant's cooling tower right down the middle. Chinachem paid HK$5.5 billion for that site at auction in 1997, near the peak of the property market, and this was a stunningly high price even then. Chinachem then incurred heavy construction costs and has had to carry the financing of this investment for almost 10 years. My guess is that the total cost of the project is above HK$10 billion by now and that break-even would require sales prices at up to double the prevailing level in the area. It's all guesswork, however, because the building has stood completed but empty for several years while Chinachem now negotiates with the government for conversion of it into a hotel. Yes, a hotel. That has me scratching my head too. Is this a delaying tactic to keep the banks at bay? So here is my final guess. I don't think this estate is worth anything close to HK$32.7 billion. I think someone has confused the assets side of the balance sheet with the entry for net worth and that the real figure is much less. Retailers catering to tourists are likely to come under greater scrutiny with measures aimed at ensuring their merchandise is genuine, the government said. SCMP, April 4 It's been going on for days now, first the complaints that our tourist shops are ripping off visitors from the mainland (so what's new?) and then pledges from the government that it will do something to stop this from happening in the future. We seem to be going through this cycle again and again. But why concern ourselves only with whether tourists are being ripped off? Hong Kong residents spend many times as much money on shopping as visitors do here and in all this talk of protecting tourists has anyone heard a peep about protecting Hong Kong people from retail scams? Not even a whisper, is there? The tourism lobby does not care about Hong Kong people except when trying to squeeze money out of us for tourist promotion schemes that the tourism industry is perfectly capable of funding itself. Could we also have some public discussion of that particular tourism rip-off, please?