Family ties loom large as HSBC awards contract to Hutchison In the 130 years since Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, the communication business has been pretty much a monopoly. It was not until 13 years after Hong Kong opened its fixed-line telecommunications market that we saw some significant customer migration. One key client that defected, we gathered, was HSBC, which recently awarded its fixed-line and broadband business for more than 200 branches to Hutchison Global Communications. This marks the first time that Hong Kong's biggest bank has resorted to a telephony network not provided by PCCW or its predecessor Cable & Wireless. Hutchison and HSBC declined to give details about the contract size, but we assumed it was in nine digits per annum, probably the single largest local telecommunications contract from a private entity. The Hutchison fixed-line network has been stealing business quietly from PCCW, which is owned by Richard Li Tzar-kai, son of Hutchison chairman Li Ka-shing. Many investment banks in town serving Hong Kong's No1 tycoon, including Goldman Sachs and other Cheung Kong Centre tenants, have already switched networks to Hutchison. One may argue this is still far from real competition, as business is shifted no more than from the right pocket to the left in the Li family. We tend to think that the rich would get richer, but perhaps Richard wouldn't agree. Gambling on a meal It has been a mixed month for Stanley Ho Hung-sun, who was awarded the highest honour of the 'Grand Lotus Medal of Honour' in Macau last Friday. But he might be happier if his gaming flagship SJM were on track to debut on the Hong Kong stock exchange before the Lunar New Year. SJM's listing is on hold as sister Winnie Ho Yuen-ki relents little to press her case against the company with the Securities and Futures Commission. 'Thank you, sister No10,' said Mr Ho, in response to reporters' questions about the listing. 'I'd be happy to see the listing, but equally happy that it doesn't happen yet.' 'I need to buy her a meal.' Can we expect good news after the treat? A year of initial failures Did you know this has been a particularly bad year for initial public offerings? Almost every day since the start of the year, companies have been announcing that they were giving up their listing plan. According to a Bloomberg tally, 24 companies worldwide - including fashion house Tommy Hilfiger - had delayed their listing so far this year. In Hong Kong, six companies, including SJM, Changsheng China Property, Maoye Holdings, Solargiga Energy and SFK Construction, either delayed or shelved their fund raisers. Going public HSBC and Hang Seng Bank picked a lucky day - March 3 - for their annual results release. What can we expect? We tried to find some guidance from Public Financial Holdings, a lender specialising in personal and commercial loans and the first listed company to report last year's results. The finance company delivered them on January 10, only six working days after its financial year ended on December 31. Last year, Public Financial's profit was up 34 per cent at HK$665.33 million, thanks to the full-year contribution of Asia Commercial Bank. The nine directors made HK$4.95 million, up 15 per cent. Chief executive Tan Yoke Kong made HK$2.09 million, up 12.5 per cent. We suppose thousands of HSBC bankers - despite the subprime crisis - make more than that. The late news The Financial Times yesterday broke the story of David Li Kwok-po paying US$8 million to settle an alleged Dow Jones insider trading probe. Most local reporters and readers missed it in the morning. Why? Because the paper did not arrive on time. In a rare occurrence, most copies of the pink newspaper destined for Asia - Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Korea, etc - were not delivered before lunch due to a technical problem in Britain. A representative said a power shortage in London affected production. The FT will strive to arrive on time today, along with an apology to readers.