Carson Yawn Very Chinese

October 20, 2009

Better times will surely come to Birmingham City FC, so it was probably a very bad idea for Carson Yeung to bring along the wife, mistress, girlfriend or perhaps sister to watch his first match as the new owner of the Blues. From the looks of things, she did not appreciate being made to sit and watch the match between Birmingham and Arsenal.

[Carson Yeung and guest unimpressed and bored, respectively]

Cultural Note
When Chinese people laugh, especially Chinese girls and also many Asian women, the social norm is for them to cover their mouths with one of their hands. But when Chinese people yawn (or burp), they usually don’t bother covering their mouths. It’s quite distasteful.
Why is this? Why the inconsistency?
Perhaps bloggers from the highly irreverent Dark Side will provide their unique take on this sometime?

#35 Hong Kong Hocus Pocus

October 16, 2009

It’s a heartache
Swathi Maa leads a workshop on how to avoid heartbreak and depression, ahead of a healing and meditation session. Workshop, HK$700 (US$90); healing, HK$350 (US$45), both at New Age Shop, 7 Old Bailey St, SoHo.

[NOTE: If one fails the ‘preventive’ workshop, at least there is the ‘curative’ session available to further waste one’s time, money and brain cells.]

About Hong Kong Hocus Pocus

Breaking New Wind Together

October 15, 2009

Sorry, but that was my immediate thought when I first learned Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang’s 2009-2010 Policy Address was called “Breaking New Ground Together”.

Wouldn’t “Reclaiming New Ground Together” be more appropriate for Hong Kong?

Anyways time, and further analysis, will tell whether this policy address is full of hot air or not!

#34 Hong Kong Hocus Pocus

October 13, 2009

Bigger and better
Renee Claire leads a magnified healing workshop. New Age Shop, 7 Old Bailey St, SoHo, HK$1,900 (US$244).

About Hong Kong Hocus Pocus

Former Policeman and Barrister Becomes an Executive of Birmingham City FC

October 10, 2009

What can Birmingham City FC, under the new Carson Yeung reign, possibly want with Peter Pannu, a former senior anti-triad police officer and barrister?

Edit: Phrase deleted.


[Peter Pannu has experience with undercover law enforcement as well as legal affairs in previous careers]

Carson Yeung Ka-shing is apparently making astute appointments at Birmingham City FC. It will be interesting to observe how Birmingham City FC will develop as a team in the Premiership and as a marketing strategy in Greater China.

Buyer of UK soccer club stands by choice of cleared officer (SCMP; subscription required)

Barclay Crawford
Oct 09, 2009

Grandtop International Holdings has stood by the appointment of former Hong Kong police officer Peter Pannu to a leading management position in its HK$731 million takeover of English Premier League soccer club Birmingham City.

Pannu was cleared of corruption, assault and criminal intimidation charges during his career.

A company spokesman said the former senior anti-triad officer and barrister had the legal knowledge and appropriate management experience to serve the club.

Pannu has said he will be vice-chairman of finance and executive matters, while chief operating officer Sammy Yu Wai-ying will be responsible for the soccer-playing side of the business.

In January 1993, Pannu was charged along with a colleague with accepting HK$20,000 from Sun Yee On triad boss Andely Chan Yiu-hing. Pannu was alleged to have accepted the bribe to protect the gangster, known as the “Tiger of Wan Chai”, from a police operation against him.

Pannu’s trial was halted more than three years later because of a missing witness and because Chan had by then been murdered. Pannu was also cleared of assault and criminal intimidation charges.

The court said missing witnesses could have helped Pannu’s case and without them he could not receive a fair trial.

Former Hong Kong police detective David Fernyhough, who now heads the Hong Kong office of corporate-risk investigation firm Hill and Associates, said investigations into Pannu stemmed from a far wider investigation into the Sun Yee On’s lucrative stranglehold on the entertainment industry in Tsim Sha Tsui East in the early 1990s.

During the years he was suspended from the force on full pay, Pannu completed a law degree.

A spokeswoman for the Hong Kong Bar Association said Pannu was admitted as a barrister of the High Court of Hong Kong in 1997. He resigned from the police force in 2000 and finished practising as a barrister in the middle of last month.

The Grandtop spokesman said the company had no comment on previous connections between Grandtop and Carson Yeung Ka-shing, the former hairstylist turned businessman who has been the public face of the takeover.

Referring to Pannu, he said: “We have taken advantage of his knowledge and experience … at this stage, Peter has no formal status within the club or exact position.”

#33 Hong Kong Hocus Pocus

October 10, 2009

Same old song
Kirtan chanting with Lawrence and Nina. New Age Shop, 7 Old Bailey St, SoHo, donation (i.e. synonym for “tithing”).

About Hong Kong Hocus Pocus

#32 Hong Kong Hocus Pocus

October 7, 2009

We’ve only just begun
Elisabeth Jensen leads a beginners’ Isis Lotus healing workshop. Bishop Lei Hotel, 4 Robinson Rd, Mid-Levels, HK$2,900 (US$372).

About Hong Kong Hocus Pocus

Carson Yeung Failed Hairstylist

October 6, 2009

Judging by his haircut, it’s little wonder Carson Yeung turned his back on being a hairstylist and became a typical Hong Kong tycoon instead. His company controls English Premier League club Birmingham City Football Club.

Kinda makes one wonder why his successful company is called Grandtop International Holdings!

[Carson Yeung was a hairstylist in a previous career.]

Budding tycoon sets sights on big league (SCMP; subscription required)

Former hairstylist has goals for Birmingham City
Neil Gough and Ben Kwok
Oct 05, 2009

Ten years ago, Carson Yeung Ka-shing was a struggling Kowloon hairstylist fending off lawsuits from credit card companies.

But as he arrived last week to meet the press in a conference room at the swanky Island Shangri-La hotel, dressed to the nines in a tailored white suit and a white shirt accented with silver buttons and a collar bar, Yeung, 49, looked every bit the budding billionaire.

Indeed, as his HK$731 million takeover of English Premier League football club Birmingham City nears completion, the once low-profile Yeung appears to have been catapulted firmly into the limelight.

Speculation and rumour about Yeung’s background and plans for Birmingham City have abounded since his firm, Grandtop International Holdings, first bought a 29.9 per cent stake in the football club two years ago.

Until now he has held his cards close to his chest, and repeatedly declined to be interviewed for this article. However, a closer examination of Yeung’s track record, Birmingham City’s business prospects and previous statements by Grandtop executives yields a picture of an ambitious if expensive gamble on China’s appetite for football and a test of Yeung’s own talent as an entrepreneur.

Not much is known about Yeung’s background before he entered the professional football business. Hong Kong companies registry filings dating back to 1991 show him living in a Tsuen Wan flat and list his occupation as a hairstylist. For several years in the 1990s, Yeung operated a hair salon in Tsim Sha Tsui East’s Royal Garden Hotel, according to corporate filings and press reports.

Following the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis, however, Yeung appears to have run into financial trouble. In late 1998 and early 1999, several credit card companies and banks, including American Express and Hang Seng Bank (SEHK: 0011, announcements, news) , filed lawsuits seeking to enforce their claims against a modest Mid-Levels flat Yeung bought for HK$5.35 million in 1996, according to Land Registry filings.

The lawsuits appear to have been either settled out of court or dismissed since no judgments were entered into the judiciary’s database.

Fast forward 10 years and Yeung today shows every sign of being a wealthy man with an increasingly diversified portfolio of investments. In addition to Grandtop’s bid for Birmingham City, Yeung emerged last year as a white knight investor in ailing SMI Publishing Group.

SMI, which publishes the Chinese-language Sing Pao Daily News, was having trouble paying rent and salaries until Yeung stepped in with a HK$60 million bailout loan in April last year that gave him an option to acquire up to a 62 per cent stake in the group.

Yeung, who according to press reports now lives on the Peak and is transported around town in a Maybach, is also listed in companies registry filings as a director of Universal Energy Resources Holdings, Universal Management Consultancy, Universal Properties Group Holdings and Super Promise International. However, little or no additional information is available about these privately held firms.

Asked at last week’s press conference about his business interests and background, Yeung said he had several successful investments on the mainland in areas including property, resources, coal mining, gold and water supply.

“Our businesses have gone very well in China,” he said. “I’m a work-hard man [sic].”

Part of Yeung’s rapid rise from struggling salon stylist to media-to-mining industrialist can be explained by a keen participation in the local stock market.

In 2004, his dealings attracted a reprimand from the Securities and Futures Commission for failing to disclose a holding in Cedar Base Electronic (Group), now known as China Water Affairs Group.

The securities watchdog found that he held 25 per cent of Cedar Base on June 1, 2001, and on four other occasions had interests consisting of more than 20 per cent of the firm.

He pleaded guilty and was fined HK$43,000 and ordered to pay the SFC’s investigation costs.

Yeung has also been linked to investments in small-cap Macau casino firms. Sources said he made a significant profit dealing in shares of A-Max Holdings, which bought a 49.9 per cent stake in Macau’s Greek Mythology casino in March 2006.

In 2007, he also bought and sold a stake of more than 5 per cent in Kanstar Environmental Paper Products in the space of three months and later that same year he bought and sold a stake of more than 5 per cent stake in Macau casino operator Golden Resorts Group, controlled by Pollyanna Chu Yuet-wah.

Chu’s Kingston Securities and Kingston Corporate Finance acted as the underwriter and financial adviser to Grandtop on its deal to raise funds for the purchase of Birmingham City.

Last year’s purchase of the stake in troubled SMI appears to have been a break from Yeung’s previous investments, several of which followed relatively quick buy-hold-sell patterns.

SMI’s shares, which are listed on the Growth Enterprise Market, have been suspended from trading since 2005. The company booked a loss of HK$14.29 million in the final quarter of last year and has delayed reporting results since.

But the acquisition yielded other non-financial returns: Yeung’s takeover bid for Birmingham City received prominent coverage in Sing Pao, including a series of glowing articles following last week’s press conference that took up the first four pages of the newspaper.

One long-time Sing Pao staffer said Yeung was a frequent sight around the paper’s Shau Kei Wan offices and was a “pretty hands-on guy”.

Yeung sometimes sits in on editorial meetings and tells senior staff the kind of things that he likes to see in the paper, but overall he is regarded as a good boss by most of the employees. “At least he pays us on time,” said the staffer.

It is not clear how Birmingham City will fit into Yeung’s burgeoning empire. He is no newcomer to the football scene, having served as chairman of Hong Kong’s Rangers football club from 2005 to early 2007.

But a Premier League club is a business of a different calibre entirely, and Grandtop executives have hinted at several potential plans for growing the business and tapping new revenue streams.

Birmingham City booked £49.84 million (HK$612.02 million) in revenue last year and reported a net profit of £2.59 million. However, in the six months to February, the club swung to a net loss of £2.79 million on turnover of £15.61 million.

Like most big football clubs, Birmingham City’s business is supported by three main revenue streams: ticket sales, television broadcasting income and sponsorships and merchandising.

Last year, ticket sales accounted for about 42 per cent of total revenue, broadcasting accounted for 38 per cent, and sponsorships and merchandising made up only 20 per cent.

That division of revenue is much more heavily weighted towards the sponsorship and merchandising side at leading clubs such as Manchester United.

Grandtop executives say they aim to bolster Birmingham City’s performance in this area, mainly by tapping into the mainland’s growing appetite for the “beautiful game”.

Signing new players is a stated goal, and observers wonder if some top Chinese players might soon be donning Blues’ jerseys.

“With the concept of Greater China in mind, I think that next year significant profit will be brought to the group, and we are not just talking about football,” Grandtop chief executive Vico Hui said last month.

“I’m sure that the income from entertainment and other segments will be very significant and I will give you good news next year.”

Moreover, Birmingham City’s healthy balance sheet and physical presence in England’s second-largest city may offer other profit potential – perhaps as a property play.

“First, this football club is free of debt,” Yeung said last week after being asked why he pursued the acquisition. “Secondly, the football club owns its own stadium, so in the future we can incorporate some commercial elements.”

Still, the details of how Yeung plans to go about selling Birmingham City to the Chinese market remain largely unknown except to him and his top executives.

And for now, no one is giving away anything more than vague clues.

“Regarding the plans for Greater China, it’s too early to confirm every little bit now,” chief operating officer Sammy Yu said last month.

“Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool – all these successful teams have given us a very good example. We will learn from them. We are not geniuses but we will learn.”

#31 Hong Kong Hocus Pocus

October 5, 2009

Chakra it out
Aimie Mok leads a chakra healing workshop. New Age Shop, 7 Old Bailey St, SoHo, HK$180 (US$23).

About Hong Kong Hocus Pocus

Hong Kong ExCo Convenor Says Even He Can Tell When Wine Is Spoiled. WTF?

October 3, 2009

Price is everything to Hong Kong’s elite. CY Leung (touted by some as a future candidate for Chief Executive) tries to sound humble by saying that even he, a rich privileged Hong Kong businessman who wanders around public housing estates and who no doubt enjoys the odd expensive bottle of wine, can tell when cheap plonk is not worth having. And that’s without even tasting it. Impressive. He has truly amazing powers! Perhaps just the Right Stuff that is needed for a future Chief Executive of Hong Kong!?

Bargain wine was spoiled (SCMP Letters)

Oct 02, 2009

Harry’s cartoon on September 28 carries the following lines: “Apparently, there are 1.23 million Hong Kong people in poverty”. “I dread to think what wine they’re drinking”.

I came across an HK$18 bottle of red wine in a Tin Shui Wai public housing estate.

This was before the duty on wine was abolished. Even I could tell that it was spoiled.

C .Y. Leung, convenor, non-official member of the Executive Council