Lai See

Why StanChart might have dropped own relocation plan

With HSBC chief executive Michael Geoghegan relocating from London to Hong Kong next month, there have been murmurs in the city of others who might follow suit.

This is not to confuse the move with the current gnashing of teeth over Prime Minister Gordon Brown's super tax on bankers. Geoghegan's relocation has to do with the bank recognising the importance of its Asian operations and the eastward shift of the world's economic centre of gravity.

His departure does not leave a power vacuum in the bank's London headquarters since Stephen Green, HSBC's executive chairman, will continue to preside there.

But Geoghegan's move has prompted some to wonder whether Standard Chartered might try the same wheeze. In many ways, it has more reason than HSBC since most of its operations are in Asia and unlike HSBC it has no retail network in Britain.

The bank has raised the prospect of its chief executive Peter Sands (above) moving to Asia with the Financial Services Authority in London. This would be a problem, the bank was told, since it had no executive chairman in London.

But we gather that the plan foundered on an entirely different issue. If Sands were to go to Asia, Singapore and Hong Kong were the obvious choices. But choosing either city would involve snubbing the other so the plan was dropped.

Casino resort hedges bet

We see that the Genting Group is proudly announcing the opening of Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore's first casino resort, or integrated resort as they like to say in Singapore.

The phased opening of the project, which at an awesome US$4.7 billion is one of the most expensive in the world, is due to start on January 20. Over the next few weeks the staff and their families will be the guests at two of the four hotels.

'The phased schedule allows the resort and its 10,000 employees to run in the operations and deliver the expected guest experience,' said Resorts World Sentosa chief executive Tan Hee Teck.

Well not entirely. One key part of the development, the casino, which will be the main revenue earner, will not be open as things stand at the moment. A discreet note at the end of the company statement says: 'The opening date for the casino will be announced when it gets notice of its casino licence.'

This could be another first for Singapore - the first casino resort to open without a casino. The casino is expected to get its licence in due course, but maybe the regulators are for the moment just bluffing - as they like to say in poker.

Tainted cash

Standard Chartered and ING Bank are apparently the recipients of an unwelcome source of funds.

Indonesia's attorney general has reportedly been in contact with the authorities in Hong Kong and Switzerland over the disappearance of assets worth more than US$1 billion from Bank Century. The bank, which has since been renamed Bank Mutiara, was bailed out by the Indonesian government in 2008 after years of mismanagement, doubtful loan allocations, and embezzlement.

Indonesia's Attorney General's Office is keen to track and seize assets belonging to former Bank Century shareholders Hesham al Warraq and Ravat Ali Rizvi. They are alleged to have stashed US$650 million belonging to Bank Century in Standard Chartered and another US$388.8 million in ING Bank in Hong Kong.

A spokesperson for Standard Chartered said the bank had no comment. An ING spokesman said: 'As a matter of policy, we never comment on client relationships.'

So how well did these banks know their customers we wonder?