Fung in late bid for prized position

THE battle tomorrow to elect the first new chairman of the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong for three years could provide a thrilling finish to what has been regarded as a one-horse race.

Long-term favourite Edgar Cheng Wai-kin, the head of Worldwide Investments and an incumbent council member, is still widely tipped for the position.

But late runner Tony Fung Wing-cheung, who is group chairman and managing director of Sun Hung Kai Investments, is threatening to pip Mr Cheng to the post.

Mr Fung was elected a stock exchange council member on Friday by 502 votes out of a possible 564, demonstrating the level of support he has within the broking community.

John Mulcahy, managing director of UBS Securities, said: 'Tony would be the natural choice of a large number of the members of the council.' Mr Fung, 43, has wide experience of the internal machinations of the exchange, having been a vice-chairman in 1988-89 and 1989-90, a position considered the ideal training ground for chairmanship.

Sun Hung Kai is also one of the most best known names in Hong Kong stockbroking, and is considered to sit well between being a large brokerage and having supreme connections in China.

Mr Cheng, 50, has purposefully kept a low profile and some members have said this may count against him.

'It's a public job, and it needs a public figure,' one broker said.

But Mr Cheng's supporters argue ability with a calculator is needed, not a deft hand with a cocktail glass.

Mr Cheng is married to the youngest daughter of Sir Y. K. Pao and returned to Hong Kong from New York six years ago to take up the reins at Worldwide.

He was a professor of medicine at Cornell University in New York.

The winner of the election tomorrow will replace Charles Lee Yeh-kwong, who stepped down as exchange chairman on Friday. He was widely praised for his achievements.