The government may nobly claim that its purchase of a large stake in the stock exchange operator is intended to establish closer links with the surging mainland bourses. But White Collar senses it is also to tighten its already considerable control over Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing and maybe get rid of some pesky critics in the process. The government already nominates six of the exchange's 13 directors. The chief executive, an ex-officio director, also must be approved by the government. But by holding about 60 million shares, it can nominate additional candidates to run in director elections that are held annually. Brokers said corporate governance advocate David Webb, elected by shareholders in 2003, has been a strident critic of the government's purchase and some may be glad to see the back of him. Mr Webb would need to sit for election again in 2009. No one can deny that fear of foreign takeovers has crossed the mind of officials and played a large part in this move to invest. Seven years after listing, HKEx is 70 per cent owned by foreign fund managers who, as stakeholders, theoretically could orchestrate major changes to HKEx policies. The government has been increasing its grip on the exchange since the 1987 stock market crash but the surging mainland markets as well as increasing hostile takeovers of other bourses have brought matters to a head. The local bourse, founded by stockbrokers more than 110 years ago, was owned and managed by stock-brokers until the government called for reform in the wake of the 1987 crash. In 1989 the Securities and Futures Commission was set up as a watchdog. Five independent directors were added to the exchange board. That number was later expanded to 12. To end the era of brokers running the exchange like a private club, HKEx was demutualised and listed in 2000, with half of the board appointed by the government. With the brokers' influence gone, fund managers have a much larger say. Fund manager Oscar Wong Sai-hung and Mr Webb were both elected by shareholders in 2003 and last year, Mr Webb's ally, Christine Loh Kung-wai, joined the board. Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah said on Friday that the purchase was 'not a pure investment' and he was right - the government bought at the peak. If it had purchased three months earlier, it would have been 82.35 per cent cheaper. The government has not ruled out buying more shares. Maybe it should seek investment advice next time before buying. Biotech opportunities explored In this week's podcast report, Stefan Ziegler, regional head of pharmaceutical company Novartis Asia Pacific, talks about the firm's international biotechnology leadership camp in Japan next month. Mr Ziegler said the programme was intended to help young talent develop into future global leaders. Up to 40 students in graduate schools will attend to explore career opportunities in the sector. Mr Ziegler said the camp, held before in Taiwan and Singapore, might be conducted in Hong Kong in the future. Funds association to get new head Gerry Ng, the managing director of Baring Asset Management (Hong Kong), is highly likely to replace Elizabeth Scott as chairman of the Hong Kong Investment Funds Association. Ms Scott cannot seek re-election as she has served the maximum two years. Mr Ng launched his career with PricewaterhouseCoopers in London. He now heads Baring Asset Management (Hong Kong) and is deputy chairman of the HKIFA. 300 send off accountancy pioneer About 300 accountants, academics and Hong Kong Jockey Club friends yesterday attended the memorial service of Sir Gordon Macwhinne, the founder of the Hong Kong Society of Accountants (now Hong Kong Institute of Certified Accountants) and so-called 'father of accountancy' in Hong Kong.