Fun and games judging firms by their annual report covers April is Lai See's favourite month so he seldom misses a working day and is never short of column ideas. Nearly every annual report offers inspiration and interesting information about one corporate or another to comment on. The good thing is Lai See is paid to enjoy this pastime. So what amusing discoveries has he made this week? Not every gossip columnist picks up an annual report to look up what a director made (or how many meetings he missed) during the reporting period. Lai See does. But more than that, Lai See also likes to form some judgment about a company by the look of its annual report cover. In the current reporting season, Lai See find CNOOC's annual report refreshing, if not downright inspiring. The country's largest offshore oil exploration company has used chalk drawings by children throughout the report, and the cover spells out the theme: 'Drawing a brighter future together.' Now, who says an oil company's annual report is the best bedtime reading because it puts you to sleep right away? ( http://www.hkexnews.hk/listedco/listconews/sehk/20080411/LTN20080411241… ) Similarly, Lai See likes Bank of China (Hong Kong)'s Olympics-themed annual report, which wins hands down as the most visually attractive in the banking sector. ( http://www.hkexnews.hk/listedco/listconews/sehk/20080410/LTN20080410324… ) By contrast, the annual report of its H-share parent, state-owned Bank of China, an official Olympic sponsor, doesn't even carry a colour photograph. Given time, we're sure the bank will catch up on creative communications. Spirit of giving Which was the most generous company on the mainland last year? We nominate Air China, which donated 72.3 million yuan (HK$80.7 million) to charity, while awarding its 13 directors only 2.8 million yuan. In other words, the donation was enough to pay the board for 25 years. Rewards well-earned Li Ka-shing is known to pay talent generously, making billionaires of various lieutenants, past and present. This is understandable, as these people toil to lift the company's value and bottom line. But when it comes to rewarding independent non-executive directors, who are on the board to fulfil regulatory requirements, should a listed company be equally generous? We noticed that CNOOC was more than generous in this area. Last year, it awarded all three of its independent non-executive directors - Evert Henks, Aloysius Tse Hau-yin and Chiu Sung-hong - seven-digit pay cheques ranging from HK$1.07 million to HK$1.47 million. The company also gave share options to Mr Henks and Mr Chiu worth HK$440,000 each. But then chairman Fu Chengyu had his own pay increased by 17.3 per cent to a record HK$11.3 million. If share options provide the most incentives for directors, what can we say about China Construction Bank? In its results announcement yesterday, it disclosed that no senior management, except secretary to the board Chen Caihong, owned CCB shares. He indirectly held 19,417 H shares (worth about HK$130,000) via the employee stock ownership scheme.