Stanley Ho's pyrrhic victory as SJM declines on debut Casino kingpin Stanley Ho Hung-sun was in triumphant mood at the stock exchange yesterday to witness the debut of his gaming flagship, SJM Holdings. Addressing the media in George Bush Snr's 'read my lips' fashion, he announced word by word: 'Look - who - is - winning - now.' Then he added: 'This is righteousness triumphing over evil.' We wouldn't go that far but Mr Ho was obviously relieved to have finally got his casino empire to market, having travelled a bumpy road for the past two years. During that time, his estranged sister Winnie Ho Yuen-ki had filed 37 lawsuits in an attempt to derail the listing. But the victorious mood didn't last that long as SJM failed to impress on debut, slipping 1.3 per cent from its offer price to close at HK$3.04. The outlook for the stock isn't too good, either. Casino shares have taken a hammering over the past three weeks, falling on average 30 per cent as Beijing seeks to slow the influx of mainlanders to Macau by introducing new visa restrictions. But, at least, Mr Ho now has his seat at the casino equity table. Stocks weigh on charity We know Mr Ho is a philanthropic sort but even he blinked when it was announced at yesterday's share launch that he had donated HK$100 million to the Community Chest for being allowed to choose SJM's lucky stock code of 880. The master of ceremonies swiftly corrected himself, saying the amount was actually HK$1 million, much to the amusement of the guests. But that slip of the tongue did serve to remind us that charities tend to suffer when the market takes a downturn. One of the guests, Henderson Land tycoon Lee Shau-kee, admitted his pockets were not as open as a year ago. 'When the Hang Seng Index was above 30,000, I closed my eyes and signed the cheques,' he said. His portfolio worth HK$200 billion at the top of the market is HK$50 billion lighter these days. Credit reaches a limit Country Garden Holdings chairman Yeung Kwok-keung is not going to be seeing any more of Mr Lee's money either. Mr Lee has promised to lend him HK$3 billion towards a bid to buy TVB from Shaw Brothers. Asked how the deal was going yesterday, Mr Lee said: 'Some backers have backed off. I won't, but I won't lend more either.' He noted the share price of Country Garden, which is being used as collateral in the HK$12 billion deal, had fallen 27 per cent in the six weeks since Mr Yeung emerged as favourite to land the television station. Mr Lee said he wished Mr Yeung good luck. Hard to unseat incumbents There do not appear to be many financial professionals who are prepared to stick their necks out to fight for a functional constituency seat in the Legislative Council. One possible explanation could be they don't want to lose face running against some shoo-ins. Take Johnny Lui Chi-wah, for instance. The chairman of Core Healthcare Investment Holdings set up an association to protect investors following the accumulator (alias I-kill-you-later) controversy. Asked if he would run in the financial services sector, he said: 'I don't think I could shake somebody off the seat.' That somebody is Chim Pui-chung, who is likely to announce his intention to run for his fifth term this weekend. Ditto for the banking sector. The chances are no one will be standing against David Li Kwok-po's finance seat. Asked if he intended to stay on, Mr Li replied: 'You'll know soon.' Richard Li snaps up shares As PCCW was lining up bidders for its core telecommunications assets, chairman Richard Li Tzar-kai quietly bought 15.1 million shares of his flagship's shares at HK$4.92 to HK$4.94 each on Friday. The HK$74 million purchase was his first in 14 months and increased his stake to 28.29 per cent. Meanwhile, Li Ka-shing picked up another 20,000 Cheung Kong (Holdings) shares at HK$103 each on Tuesday, his ninth purchase this year. Buy-back pays off No doubt father and son will be hoping the purchases will have the same magical effect on their firms as this week's Esprit buy-back. The apparel retailer forked out HK$196.6 million on shares at HK$76.55 to HK$78.40 each for the first time after the stock hit a 20-month low and has seen its value rise 4.8 per cent in the last two days to HK$81.35.