When Li Ka-shing stops banking on a stock ... Few investors like to bet against tycoon Li Ka-shing. That might partly explain why the Hang Seng Index ended up back where it closed out the year after Mr Li (right) dumped 40 per cent of his personal stake in Bank of China. His timing looks to have been perfect, jumping the gun ahead of other strategic shareholders such as Royal Bank of Scotland, although the pricing may not have been. Mr Li sold his 2 billion shares at HK$1.98 apiece, making a net gain of HK$1.7 billion based on the pre-initial public offer price of HK$1.13. But it was 33 per cent below the IPO price of HK$2.95 that his Cheung Kong (Holdings) and Hutchison Whampoa paid when they subscribed to a total of 473 million shares 2 1/2 years ago. Why Mr Li was in such a hurry to sell his Bank of China shares at below book value is anybody's guess, but he has been warning investors to limit their exposure to equities even before the Lehman Brothers fiasco. His actions usually speak louder than words. Mr Li's dual blue-chip flagships dumped HK$9 billion worth of shares in three mainland logistic plays - China Cosco Holdings, China Shipping Container Lines and China Southern Airlines - early last year when they were trading at least three times the current prices. Of course, there have been exceptions. The world's largest private port investor dumped shares of former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa's Orient Overseas International at about HK$9 each in 2003 just before it began its steady climb to almost HK$90 in those heady summer days of 2007. In another big miss, Mr Li's companies also sold half of their strategic stake in China Life Insurance at HK$5.30 each soon after the end of the lock-up period in 2005. China Life closed at HK$23.65 yesterday. So, Mr Li may not be a stock god, but going on form, it looks like things are going to get worse for Bank of China shareholders before they get better. Accumulated ignominy How the mighty have fallen. Spare a thought for poor old Henry Fan Hung-ling, the Citic Pacific group managing director who took leave of absence from the Executive Council and all his other public duties following the company's foreign currency accumulator debacle. A spy tells us Mr Fan was at the Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital for an eye check-up last weekend when a nurse strode through the waiting room calling out his name before his wife swiftly interjected to spare him the embarrassment. A case of out of sight, out of mind. Fingers burnt The pessimistic results of HSBC's small and medium-sized enterprises survey on the economic outlook for the region are a cause for concern, but some reporters at yesterday's press conference seemed more bothered about a blister on the back of Margaret Leung Ko May-yee's hand. HSBC's global co-head of commercial banking told them she suffered the injury during a trip to Sanya on Hainan island, where she was accidentally burnt by joss sticks while attending a ceremony at a Buddhist temple. Mrs Leung said she wasn't very familiar with Buddhist rituals. When asked what she had been praying for at the time, she just smiled but gave no answer. Soothing numbers These may be the best set of figures Citic Ka Wah Bank has produced for a while. The bank says its 1,500 workforce contributed more than 7,500 volunteer service hours last year, which works out at about five hours per employee and puts it ahead of one of the city's most charitable banks, HSBC. Citic Ka Wah launched 16 community service and donation projects as well as more than 330 green education programmes at primary and secondary schools and organised two summer camps for mainland immigrants. Given the state of the bank's finances, we're reminded of the phrase: charity begins at home. Digging deep This brings us to another act of charity by a bank which we hope bears no relation at all to the lender's current situation. Hang Seng Bank staff have been taking part in a project to finance and build 300 biogas toilets for villagers in Yunnan province. With the guidance of Conservatory Association, a team of volunteers dug holes for the toilets during a three-day trip last month.