Guoco Group lifts the ante on Bank of East Asia Guoco Group's Quek family is upping the ante on David Li Kwok-po's Bank of East Asia. According to the latest disclosure, Guoco spent HK$16.6 million acquiring 745,000 shares in the blue-chip bank, raising its stake to 6.03 per cent on July 15. The stake is now worth HK$2.65 billion, or more than 10 per cent of Guoco's market capitalisation. The Malaysian conglomerate, which cashed out HK$20 billion from Dao Heng Bank in 2001, first disclosed it owned 5 per cent of BEA in February when it bought 800,000 shares at HK$15.27 each. Shares of BEA closed at HK$24.10 yesterday. Guoco now owns more than double the stake held by chairman Mr Li (above). Last month, Mr Li formed a strategic alliance with Criteria Caixa Corp allowing the Spanish financial company to increase its holding to as much as 20 per cent, from the current 9.85 per cent. Was that deal done to fend off a possible hostile takeover of his bank? Certainly, there have been some odd signs. At BEA's recent annual general meeting, Kwok Siu-man, a company secretary at property firm SEA Holdings, was nominated as an independent non-executive director. The nomination, which was made by an unspecified shareholder and not Mr Li, was defeated. In March, Mr Li told reporters he welcomed the Guoco investment in his bank, calling chairman Quek Leng Chan his good friend. Another Tsang making news Standard Chartered's appointment of Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's sister to be chairman for Greater China provided some interesting chatter around Central yesterday. Promoting Katherine Tsang King-suen, the Standard Chartered Bank (China) chief executive, to the newly created position had some rival bankers speculating that the 52-year-old executive was moving a step closer to retirement. They reasoned that Ms Tsang's successor Lim Cheng Teck, currently Standard Chartered chief executive in Singapore, would not be reporting to her, but instead both would be reporting to Asia chief executive Jaspal Bindra. Also, the fact that Ms Tsang will be moving back to Hong Kong for the new job raised some eyebrows about managing Greater China from here rather than Shanghai where she has been based for the past four-and-a-half years. However, we understand she and her partner are keen to move back home. Star rises for younger Swire Another member of the Swire family has landed a top job within the group. Samuel Swire, 29, is to become Cathay Pacific Airways' China general manager in Beijing in September in the latest management reshuffle in the conglomerate. The younger brother of Merlin Swire, who was promoted to chief financial officer of Swire Group in London earlier this year, Samuel is currently working at Swire Pacific Offshore Operations in Singapore. He has also served in the group's property and beverage units at different times. He is the son of Sir Adrian Swire, the former chairman and great-great grandson of the founder of John Swire and Sons. Fluent in Putonghua, Samuel will be returning to Cathay after once working as a check-in officer at Chek Lap Kok airport in his first job after university. Tong takes Dragonair helm Cathay subsidiary Hong Kong Dragon Airlines is to have a new head next month. From August 17, James Tong will take over as chief executive from Kenny Tang Kwok-kit, who will join Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering as a director. Mr Tong is currently Cathay's general manager of sales for Pearl River Delta and Hong Kong, having joined the airline in July 1987. He rejoins Dragonair after serving as regional manager in Beijing from 1994 to 1996. Yuan's gain is our loss Yesterday marked the fourth anniversary of the People's Bank of China scrapping its decade-old currency peg with the US dollar. So how much has the yuan gained in the past four years? Yesterday US$1 was worth 6.83 yuan, which was 21 per cent higher than July 21, 2005 when the mainland central bank allowed a wider trading band of the currency and the dollar was worth 8.28 yuan. In other words, the Hong Kong dollar, which is still pegged to the US dollar, is worth 21 per cent less than it was four years ago. That's the reason we're spending more for less on mainland imported goods and services.