Getting shares in IPO lottery far from being a sure bet There is no longer any such thing as a free lunch in the initial public offering market. More retail investors are putting money into the share sales because of their relatively high returns and low risks in a short period. But securing a piece of the action is getting more difficult. Take Sinopharm Group, which lists today, as a case in point. It attracted 423,277 subscribers but allocated shares to only 6 per cent of the 123,853 who applied for a minimum board lot of 400 shares. And if someone had also applied for the minimum number of shares in two previous offerings - China All Access (Holdings), which allocated shares to 10 per cent with the smallest board lot, and Bawang International Group, which gave shares to 20 per cent - we figure the investor would have been lucky if just one of the applications succeeded. Because of the quick returns available, the rules of the lottery have changed. In the past, many listing candidates gave at least one lot to all applicants, but that has not been the case for a few years. Three years ago, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China allotted shares to 70 per cent of its record 969,298 applicants. At that time, three investors subscribed for the maximum amount of shares, worth HK$2.65 billion, but in the end received just under 2 per cent of the amount. There may be fewer people willing to pay that kind of money for new companies, but there are definitely more people willing to pay up to get on board. In the case of Sinopharm, 168 investors applied for the maximum number of shares available, worth HK$436 million; however, they each got only 108,800 shares, worth HK$1.74 million or 0.4 per cent. Tsang mum on SFC leadership There are only 24 hours left before Securities and Futures Commission executive director Mark Steward's contract expires, but Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah (left) is still not letting on. South China Morning Post podcast producer James Moore met him yesterday and took the opportunity to ask the question everyone in town wants to know. 'If there is to be an announcement, then it will be delivered in due course,' said Tsang. 2-month subscriptions only After having been on life support for the past five years, the Far Eastern Economic Review finally had its plug pulled by Dow Jones yesterday. The 63-year-old regional news magazine, which offloaded most of its staff when it changed from being a weekly to a monthly in 2004, will close in December. Bit of a surprise then to see in yesterday's Asian edition of the Wall Street Journal, also owned by Dow Jones, an advert encouraging people to 'Subscribe Today' to FEER. Obviously, someone forgot to tell marketing about yesterday's announcement. Watch this space Hong Kong is reportedly the world's biggest luxury watch market, so we can't help being intrigued by changes at two brands that are familiar names in the city. On Monday night, Baume & Mercier chief executive Michel Nieto said he had quit the Swiss watch brand, citing a disagreement over strategy. Strangely enough, yesterday Fabian Krone, chief executive of A Lange & Soehne, another Richemont brand, resigned owing to 'strategic differences'. Richemont's website lists a who's who of luxury brands in the group's stable, including Purdey, Alfred Dunhill, Piaget, Mont Blanc, Cartier, Jaeger Le Coultre and Hong Kong's Shanghai Tang. We'll let you know if we hear of any Shanghai Tang executives wandering in Central asking people for the time. ADB goes digital Financial institutions far and wide have pledged to cut down on excessive use of paper, in a bid to protect the environment. Among them, the Asian Development Bank has certainly put its money where its mouth is. At its semiannual outlook meeting yesterday, the bank handed out a press kit that included a few pages of background information, a thin pamphlet highlighting its new report, and a CD-ROM containing the massive 180-page document, which included everything from projections of Malaysian private consumption to a five-year table of economic growth data for the Solomon Islands. The environment will undoubtedly benefit from the ADB's approach, and so did Lai See's posture, since we didn't have to lug the weighty report back to the office.