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Going for broke with a million imaginary bucks

LAI SEE is today following the lead of almost every other publication in Hong Kong by starting an imaginary share portfolio, starting with $1 million.

The difference is that we're trying to lose the money as fast as possible.

If we'd started in January it would have been easy to lose half the cash. In fact, quite a few funds have contrived to do this, effortlessly - although they wish they hadn't.

But with the index now down 30 per cent, it's getting trickier and requires stock picking.

No more than 20 per cent will go into derivatives, and we can't give it away like Richard Pryor in Brewster's Millions, so don't ring us up asking for some.

Among the suggestions proffered yesterday were: Cheerful Holdings, a unique play on a market collapse; Star Paging, which has had a remarkable upward rise recently; and Golden Resources, a rice firm hyped by brokers as benefiting from a rice shortage in Vietnam which is largely imaginary.

There's also Daido Concrete, which says it doesn't expect to pick up much work if the airport is built and has diversified into electronics, a business which seems somewhat removed from its main area of operation.

Shun Tak Holdings warrants, which expire in 2067, were tempting - simply because they're a bit odd - but they're rather too long-term.

The goal here is to lose $500,000 in three months.

Yes, no shortage of options. But which are the surest bets? Nuclear core AND now the initial picks. One core holding will be Cathay Pacific, thanks to its unique exposure to rising oil prices, the row between China and Taiwan, additional competition on prime routes, over-capacity, currency movements and war.

It's probably got loads of terribly performing US Treasury bonds as well . . . hopefully.

There's a worry that Swire may sell Cathay to CITIC or do some form of share swap which will put the price up, but we'll worry about that when the rumours get stronger.

Despite its recent falls, Sino Land remains an eye-catching choice and even more so are the 1994 warrants.

They have a strike price of $5.70 against yesterday's close of $7 and they expire in September. Another core holding.

And finally some Shanghai Petrochemical which is an H share and a new issue by Standard Chartered.

Anyone who knows how to buy shares in North Korea's nuclear industry please get in touch on the above number.

Pooh-l THERE was a nasty little incident that required extra-special investigation on Sunday afternoon at the swimming pool of the Police Officers' Club in Causeway Bay.

Was it one of the officers, their spouses or one of the kids who had a truly gigantic and rather nasty-smelling accident requiring the pool to be emptied of swimmers and drained? Actually the guilty party has been revealed as the local drains, which somehow managed to flow backwards and wash raw sewage into the pool.

Incidentally, following a tender advertised in the Government Gazette, security services at the club are now to be provided by Securall Security Services.

Couldn't the members do it themselves? Down-rated GOVERNOR Chris Patten didn't seem too enthusiastic at yesterday's conference run by the Pacific Area Travel Association.

He was given a long, glowing introduction by PATA's Don Curran, which Chris described as an ''obituary''.

Maybe it was yesterday's newspaper articles about him no longer being one of Hong Kong's top five heart-throbs. Don't worry Chris: read them closely and you'll realise the numbers are largely meaningless.

He pointed out that one of the favourite pastimes for tourists is shopping - or retail therapy as Lavender calls it.

One odd tourist activity favoured by at least one visitor from Beijing is spending the holiday in meetings with largely subservient tycoons.

Swallow this PROFESSOR Milton Friedman is responsible for a lot of wise sound-bites, and his quip about there being no such thing as a free lunch is surely the wisest.

The increasingly wild marketing people at Regent Financial Services, however, are trying to prove the professor wrong by offering free lunches worth $1,000.

Any existing unit-holder who introduces a friend who subsequently invests more than US$10,000 can get one of these free feeds at Faces restaurant.

It's an intriguing idea. But could this constitute remunerated investment advice by unregistered parties and therefore fall foul of the Securities and Futures Commission? Not that this should deter anyone. In fact, there's plenty of dubious firms around who would regard an employee who ended up in court after trying to score a free meal as prima facie evidence they should be promoted.

Nutcase AFTER the copy watch, here's the copy chocs.

Seen in the duty free shop at Kai Tak airport, a glossy chocolate box with the words ''Hong Kong almonds'' in big letters.

A traveller unable to remember any almond plantations in the territory had a closer look. The small print said the ''Hong Kong almonds'' were grown in California.