'No regrets' Lai shrugs off Giordano blues

GIORDANO Holdings' founder and biggest shareholder Jimmy Lai Chee-ying has no regrets over the sell-off of the company's shares by China Resources (Holdings).

Mr Lai would not speculate yesterday on the reason for China Resources' sell-off, although he said he did not feel it was an attempt by Beijing to put more pressure on him.

'I don't have strong feelings about it. I'm already distanced from the group's management,' said Mr Lai.

He added that he would not seek to renew his chairmanship, directorship or voting rights at Giordano after the Beijing-backed group reduced its 10 per cent stake in Giordano to just 0.35 per cent.

Previous press reports said Mr Lai relinquished his offices and voting rights under pressure exerted by China Resources through its influence on the Giordano board, after the July publication of a critical article by Mr Lai about Chinese Premier Li Peng.

'As my media activities conflict with Giordano's operation, I'd better distance myself from it [Giordano],' Mr Lai said.


Some observers have linked China Resources' disposal of its shares to the article on Mr Li, which was thought to have prompted the closure of Giordano's franchise store in Beijing.

Mr Lai reiterated that he did not regret his critical article on Mr Li.

'How can I regret it?' he said. 'I feel sad about the outcome, but I don't regret having done so. . . . I don't regret it.' He said political issues should be separate from business matters, especially in a market economy.

'China is gradually moving in that direction, but we should give it time,' he said.


China Resources' sell-off and the resignation of its representative, Wang Xinwen, from the company's board would make no difference to Giordano, Mr Lai said.

'It [China Resources] has never taken part in dealing with our China business. Theirs has just been a silent investment,' he said.


Giordano executive director Jimmy Chan Kui-tim said China Resources had had little involvement in the company's management.

Mr Wang had not taken an active part in the company's board meetings, he said.

'He didn't attend board meetings very often. On China business, he has just given some very general advice,' Mr Chan said.


He also declined to speculate on the reasons for China Resources' sell-off.

However, he said the share placements through which China Resources disposed of its shares in Giordano were not unusual because the group's shareholding would eventually have changed hands for different reasons.

He said he was not worried that the withdrawal of China Resources would mean that Beijing would no longer feel constrained in pressuring the group.


'Suppose Beijing wanted to put pressure on Giordano, it would not have needed to see China Resources' investment as a restraint because that only represented a tiny portion of all business concerns in China,' said Mr Chan.

He said Giordano would continue to build a good relationship with Beijing by, for instance, launching fund raising programmes for disaster victims.

He said the sell-off would not affect the group's China projects, adding: 'Unless the Chinese Government actually said it did not welcome Giordano in China, we would carry on with our China plans.' Last month, when the group's Beijing shop was still closed, Giordano even opened new mainland outlets, Mr Chan said.

He stressed that the company itself had had no political stance since its listing.

Members of the Hong Kong business community who would go on record said they viewed China Resources' move purely as a business decision.