Monday, February 27, 2012

When 1% Isn't Exclusive Enough

Heard all over Asia, the sound of the discontented Asian Tiger Moms and Wolf Dads.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Ongoing Evidence of Yuan-sanity


The queue for single $100 notes last week outside a Bank of China branch in North Point, where customers could buy two bills each.
Photo: David Wong

Despite concerns about economic slowdown in Mainland China due to the tightening of the real estate market and global concerns about the Eurozone, mainland money continues to slosh around Hong Kong, increasing pressure on local supply-demand balances. The following headlines recently appeared in the South China Morning Post:

Private Jets Face Squeeze at Airport. It seems Hong Kong’s world-class airport doesn’t have enough parking spaces for its most elite travelers.
Hong Kong’s Luxury Boat Business Suffers for Lack of Berths. Ditto for those who like to cruise the seas in style and luxury.

HK Shop Rents Set to Top Fifth Avenue. You knew this was coming, even for mass-market clothing retailers. How much is Forever 21 paying in rent for its first Hong Kong store? Try $1.4 million per month. That’s a lot of printed Tee’s.

Batches of uncut HK$100 centenary notes expected to fetch 10 times sale price. The Bank of China is issuing two million limited-edition commemorative bank notes to celebrate its centenary. The bills are “legal tender but not intended for general circulation”. There were long queues outside the Bank branches - some customers waiting overnight - to purchase or subscribe to purchase these items. Why go through the trouble, you may rightly wonder? So they can be re-sold for up to 10x the purchase price, mainly to Mainland buyers, of course. Money for nothing? Why not. Hongkongers have been known to periodically queue for long hours for all sorts of things that can be flipped for a quick profit, including the iPhone 4S upon its release in 2011, or plastic Snoopy dolls donned in multi-national costumes that came with McDonald’s meals in 1998.

At the same time, SCMP also ran a headline that, in Beverly Hills in the US, luxury homeowners are “strategically” defaulting on mortgages on homes that are no longer worth the millions that were paid for them - The Rich Homeowners Who Just Walk Away. A tale of two cities…

Friday, February 24, 2012

Be da Wolf, Hong Kong!

Looks who’s coming to town next week? Jordan Belfort, the Wolf of Wall Street! And look what he’s promoting - ways to make piles of money (and stay out of jail doing it), simply by following his time-proven formula. As if this were 2005 all over again.

This is part of his “World Tour”, which over the past year seems to only have involved Australia (which has been going through a multi-year resources-led economic boom), and now Hong Kong. Incidentally, this event has been re-scheduled twice since late last year. Earlier this week, he was making the final push to sell out two nights of his salesmanship and entrepreneurial seminars in Hong Kong.

According to the event’s promoter, attendees can either sign up for the basic, US$113 seminar or, for US$1,270 (over 10x the small-minded peasant's price), they can be a Platinum Member, with the following “unique and exclusive” benefits:

  • Front row seating, best seats in the house

  • Personally signed copy of 'The Wolf of Wall Street' book

  • Invited to attend the cocktail function after the event and hear insider stories from Jordan

  • A Photograph with Jordan Belfort

  • The opportunity to personally meet & spend time with Jordan Belfort at an exclusive business lunch organized especially for Platinum Holders the following day

It’s your choice, Hong Kong!

What does it say about his view of Hong Kong and its people that he is peddling his wares here, at a time when the world is re-assessing widely held economic theories and policies and still recovering from an easy money hangover from 2008? That people here are still optimistic that get-rich-quick schemes can be bought through one person’s system? That people here worship anyone who can build fortune and fame, sometimes through all means necessary? Does he think that Hong Kong people are lacking in its share of gods and heroes or have been living in a reality-distortion field from the rest of the world over the past two years? If so, then here's your chance, Hong Kong - let's be the Wolf! And fast, before true reality huffs and puffs and blows the whole house down!

Lifestyle of North Korea’s 0.00001%


Where does the eldest son of the late Kim Jong-Il hang out for fun and kicks while his family marauders the country? Macau, of course! And what happens when his younger half-brother Kim Jong-un takes the reins of power in North Korea? The playboy elder sibling gets his credit card cancelled and himself booted from his Macau luxury hotel suite. Maybe he should have kept his mouth shut about being peeved that another family member ascended the throne.

Read Telegraph Article

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Hubris and a Hidden Cellar

Hong Kong's former chief secretary Henry Tang, right, and his wife Lisa leave a news conference in Hong Kong 16 February, 2012

Henry Tang Ying-yen, a supposed shoo-in to become Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, seems to have buried his political ambition and his public reputation in an illegal wine and entertainment center under his family’s house in Kowloon Tong. Until now, Tang has been the leading candidate to be elected by a 1,200 member selection committee controlled by Beijing to act as Hong Kong’s leader for the next five years. He certainly has the career credentials. He has served as Hong Kong’s Chief Secretary (the #2 guy) in the previous administration and was the Finance Secretary before then. He and his family – which controlled a prominent textile business in China – have close ties to the PRC leadership.

But that was before he stepped into a wine vat filled with a stew of scandal. And he has dragged his wife into it with him. First, he paraded her in front of the press last October when he admitted to having “strayed” in the past through extra-marital relationships. Tearfully, she read a statement that she forgave him. Kobe Bryant could not have done it better.

Since then, he has been questioned about an underground structure underneath the swimming pool at his family’s residential compound at 5-7 York Road, in Kowloon Tong. The press alleged that the structure, thought to be over 2,000 square feet, had not been approved by the government’s Building Department. At first, Tang said that it was simply a “hole in the ground to store things in''. As it seems to be turning out, that “hole” contains a luxury wine cellar, a wine tasting room, a media room, and a Japanese spa. Not your average person’s hole, especially in Hong Kong, where a typical family’s residence is one-quarter the size… Tang then wheeled out his wife in front of the press, placing the blame on her for the structure. He explained that he had transferred full ownership of the 7 York Road property (held through a BVI company) to her in 2010. She, again tearfully, admitted responsibility for this whole mess.

Never mind that Henry Tang is Hong Kong’s patron saint of Hong Kong oenophiles. He owns vineyards in France. He is thought to be the owner of over 100,000 bottles of wine. He was the government official most responsible for abolishing Hong Kong’s 80% wine import duty in early 2008, which has helped Hong Kong become the world’s leading fine wine market.

Maybe he really had no idea that his wife shares his passions as intensely, independent of his knowing. Perhaps she really does share his penchant for skirting the rules and hiding him from her dealings. Then again, maybe not. If leadership begins at the top, then this is a sorry statement about accountability. If character and judgment are unquestioned qualities that leaders should have, then we should seriously question their absence in this case. Hong Kong is a great city. It deserves better. Its leader should be willing to adhere to principles of personal integrity and vision. Or, at the very least, someone who can keep his head above ground, out of the cellar.

Read More At BBC World News