The Curious Case of HTIL, or Honey, I Shrank the Company The tale of Li Ka-shing's Hutchison Telecommunications International Ltd reminds us of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 'a man who starts ageing backwards with bizarre consequences', according to the blurb from the hit movie. The telecommunications firm has gone from having unrelated operations in eight countries when it listed five years ago to just four after yesterday's offloading of its 51 per cent stake in Israel's Partner Communications for HK$10.7 billion. Unlike in previous sales, Mr Li only managed to dispose of the controlling stake at Tuesday's market price. The Israeli deal follows the spinning off of the firm's Hong Kong and Macau operations in Hutchison Telecom Hong Kong in May, the selling of the company's crown jewel, Hutchison Essar, in India in 2007 and the offloading of its Paraguay business in 2005. In the gradual disposal process, the firm has managed to return HK$13.50 in cash to shareholders, more than double its initial listing price of HK$6.10. But the sales and spin-off have left it with only start-up ventures in Indonesia and Vietnam and small operations in Thailand and Sri Lanka. We are not sure if the curious case of HTIL will see the firm continue to shrink to nothing and return most of its cash pile to shareholders, but we await the next chapter with bated breath. Grandtop takes another shot Carson Yeung Ka-shing is making another bid to take control of English football club Birmingham City. Two days before the English Premier League kicks off, the newly promoted outfit confirmed that Mr Yeung's Hong Kong-listed firm Grandtop International Holdings had made an approach that could lead to a general offer. Grandtop already owns a 29.9 per cent stake, but Mr Yeung's previous efforts to buy the club two years ago foundered over concerns about the funding of the deal. Birmingham City warned its shareholders yesterday that 'the issue of the funding of any possible offer will be a major factor in determining how the company responds to the approach'. That was a polite way of questioning how Grandtop, which had a market capitalisation of HK$480 million yesterday, could afford the price tag of ?0 million (HK$892 million). However, one bright spot for Mr Yeung (above) is that he can count on support from Shenzhen Capital Group, the state-owned venture capital company that bought 6.5 per cent of Grandtop just six weeks ago. Also, Grandtop's share price defied the broad index, which dropped 3 per cent yesterday, by closing up 1 per cent at 44.5 HK cents. Playing the Yankees index Forget Ben Bernanke and Tim Geithner. Wall Street, it seems, takes more notice of the New York Yankees major league baseball team. Statistics put together by Bloomberg show that when the Yankees are leading the American East division on August 12, the S&P 500 Index performs better for the rest of the year. Over the past 81 years, the S&P Index has produced an average gain of 3.3 per cent for the remainder of the year on 33 occasions when the Yankees have been in the lead on August 12. The returns are five times higher than the average gains of 0.64 per cent when baseball's most expensive franchise was not in first place in the other 48 seasons. The Yankees were on top again yesterday and look likely to be heading for the playoffs after missing the post-season last year for the first time in a decade. As New York-based financial analyst Richard Bernstein told Bloomberg: 'One shouldn't underestimate the strength of spurious correlations.' For the record, the S&P fell 40 per cent during that post-season absence of the Yankees. Looking out for No 1 Mainlanders are said to be doing better than everyone else during the global economic recession, but when it comes to giving their money away, they are among the least charitable in the Asia-Middle East region. A MasterCard survey showed fewer Chinese consumers were willing to open their wallets and purses, with only 31 per cent of respondents saying they would donate to charity in the next six months, down from 52 per cent last autumn. Comparatively speaking, Hong Kongers are twice as charitable, with 67 per cent of respondents saying they would make donations, up from 43 per cent.