Thursday, July 31, 2008

China to Africa part 2

I have commented before on this blog about the Chinese colonisation of Africa. International and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) which is the largest Chinese bank is working with Standard Bank, the largest bank in Africa in which ICBC has a 20% stake, to look for acquisition targets in African oil and gas, telecommunications, base metals and power sectors. Beijing expects trade with Africa to reach $100bn by 2010.
I'm looking forward to a day at Glorious Goodwood tomorrow and hope that the weather will be better than my last expedition there when it was so cold that I had to invest in a pashmina at the course. I shan't see my old favourite, Henrythenavigator, who won the Sussex Stakes on Tuesday but expect some fun nevertheless.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Japanese water torture

Forgive me if this blog is getting rather dull but I was amazed to receive this response from a Japanese water analyst in answer to my question as to whether I should be buying shares in a company whose price is now one third of what it was in February:

"It is thought that the possibility that the middle period greatly falls below the company plan is high as well as 1Q.
It seems that the price imputation of the raw material can hardly be done due to deterioration of customer's achievement in the background of the crude oil amount.
Stock prices adjust up to one time with PBR, and are thought to have woven some anxiety.
However, the profit deterioration of the project is serious, and, now, I think that the situation to which the anxiety to the achievement cannot be wiped out continues.
Because the enterprise of the charm suffers from the profit securing of one's feet, vigor thinks that it takes time for the repulsion of stock prices.
My best regards.

Can anybody shed any light on the meaning of the final sentence?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Chinese corporate culture

One of my favourite Chinese water companies has published its results statement today which contains some interesting insights on Chinese public relations. In a section about water quality supervision, it stresses its principle of "Safety First, Prevention Foremost", saying the company "implements accountability, with the aim to be fair and strict in meeting out rewards and punishments, and to carry through the corporate mission of the Group of Supplying Water with Safety and Quality, Serving the Society Sincerely."
It has established a Water Care Fund which raises money for charity including helping rebuild Sichuan post-earthquake. In recognition of this it has been awarded "such honorable titles as 'Model Enterprise With Harmonious Labor Relations' at the state and municipal levels, 'Model Enterprise of Female Civilization' at the provincial level and "Model Enterprise of Youth Civilization" at the municipal level." Meanwhile, "'The Prettiest Lady' of Xinyu Water Affairs Group has won the Best Service Award." No more details are given about her, nor a photo.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Deer, oh dear!

One of the highlights of my hols was seeing the red deer come down from the hills to feed in the meadow in front of my friend's house every evening. The first hinds and calves would venture down at around 7.30pm and a few stags would join them a couple of hours later. Some nights there would be around 130 deer to see just outside our windows, although we saw only seven stags. The calves had been born about six weeks earlier and would skip about, sparring with each other and annoying their mothers. One young male was particularly feisty, putting his head down to the ground and charging at one of his siblings who soon tired of the game and reared up on his hind legs, fending his brother off by knocking him on the head with one of his front legs. Later, the feisty calf could not resist taking on one of the stags and charged up to him, head down. The stag stood no nonsense: he lowered his head, displaying his magnificent antlers before the calf who was in such shock when he felt his head knock against them that he backed off sharply and scampered to the other side of the meadow to hide behind his mother.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Taking the high road

I'm off for a week's Highland fling. Toodle pip!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

You can't buck the market

The US has banned naked short-selling (ie selling shares which have not been borrowed first) in a variety of US financial companies, including their main worries Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae and Lehman Bros starting from next week with the possibility of extending the ban for another 30 days. These stocks are now rallying as some traders are being forced to buy back those shares to comply with the SEC rules.
Perhaps the SEC in the US should take note of what is happening in Karachi. Pakistan had banned short selling and limited share price falls to 1% per day because the SEC of Pakistan was worried that political instability could cause a huge drop in the stockmarket. These trading restrictions were lifted recently and the market is in freefall causing hundreds of investors to riot today, throwing stones at the stock exchange building, breaking its windows, smashing plant pots in the car park and burning shareholder statements.

Chinese investor relations

One of my favourite small Chinese investments has been hit hard in these turbulent markets so I wrote to its Head of Investor Relations to ask him if there had been any bad news at the company which I'd missed. He sent me this e-mail:

"Hi, that’s truth and we are trying to confirm with the management for any special event that need to update the market for such share price drop. We received the message from the CEO, that he do also not understand why there is such a drop in the share price and there is nothing special and change of the company that he may think of to lead to this drop.

We also check with the banker in Germany that those share drops are from the small orders….. and we get a reply that this will only be due to the general market factors.

We are still enquiring on it and if there are anything special we will get to you know immediately.

Thanks for your email
Best regards,

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Feast of St Swithun

I was in London yesterday so had no time to post on St Swithun's day. At least it didn't rain. Last year, true to form, it rained for 40 days after a wet 15 July. The only feast going on in my immediate vicinity was in my garden where, early in the morning, about ten birds were eagerly pulling out tufts of grass from the middle of the lawn to enjoy a hearty breakfast of chafer grubs. We had a plague of these grubs two years ago. The lawn was destroyed and had to be reseeded so I was grateful in a way for St Swithun's rain last year. It is so distressing to see the hungry birds ruining all that effort.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Epitaph of the day

In Memory of Thomas Thetcher a Grenadier in the North Reg. of Hants Militia, who died of a violent Fever contracted by drinking Small Beer when hot the 12th of May 1764. Aged 26 Years.

Here sleeps in peace a Hampshire Grenadier,
Who caught his death by drinking cold small Beer,
Soldiers be wise from his untimely fall
And when ye're hot drink Strong or none at all.

An Honest Soldier never is forgot
whether he die by Musket or by Pot.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Bread and circuses

The world we live in is becoming more and more like a cartoon strip. On the one hand, there is Brigadier General Salami orchestrating the Great Prophet III war games in Iran. On the other, there's Gordon Brown (happy to be out of the country at the G8 course Summit) lecturing us about food waste whilst his Labour Party colleagues are considering giving away free doughnuts as an incentive to vote in the local elections. I think they call them "donuts", however, following the Clinton tradition.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Sir John Templeton

The legendary investor, Sir John Templeton, died yesterday. He had been a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford in the mid-30s, and after that he returned to the US and made his first investments, buying all the stocks under $1 which had been hit by the Depression. One of his most famous quotations is, "Bull markets are born on pessimism, grown on scepticism, mature on optimism and die on euphoria." On that basis, the bull market can't be too far away.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Readers of this blog have complained of pedantry on this subject in the past but I must say that all this talk of "women Bishops" is very annoying. Now that women may become Bishops, will traditional Bishops be described as "man Bishops"? I think not. And for the record, my view on the matter is that if women can be priests, why on earth should they not be allowed to be made Bishops? The appointments will presumably be made on merit so may the best priest win!

Monday, July 07, 2008


Here's a poem for King Lear:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,'
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

Friday, July 04, 2008

Sporting sanctions

I can see the argument for banning Zimbabwe from playing cricket here but on balance I think that the people of Zimbabwe are having such an awful time that to deny them the pleasure of watching their side play Test cricket is a shame. The message is, "Don't idle around watching cricket, get a move on with the revolution!" One would think that if the world were serious about imposing sanctions on the country, it would be banned from the Olympics but that won't happen as China supports Mugabe.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Beijing breakfast

These days Ms. Yuqing Li does not cook like she used to in the morning. She goes out to buy fried pancakes – a traditional Beijing breakfast served by vendors – from a farmers’ market next to her home at six in the morning. Vendors in the farmers’ market aren’t allowed to sell fried food after eight in the morning – one of the government’s new rules to improve air quality. Like Li, many of Beijing’s residents must get up early to buy their breakfast. It’s all part of helping to make Beijing’s air cleaner before the Olympics begins on Aug. 8. According to the local media outlet Qinghe Community Public Information Service, cooking fried foods using coal stoves is prohibited all day long in the capital. Since most vendors still use coal stoves to cook, they find a way to do business under the new restrictions – cook and sell their food in the early morning – before the enforcement starts at 8:00 a.m.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The ipod generation

Insecure, pressurised, over-taxed and debt-ridden (18-34)

France on Italy

The Italian government announced last week that all electricity, gas and water contracts will be cancelled in 2010 and put out for tender. Yesterday I had a meeting with a French water company which does some business in Italy and I asked them what they thought of that recent statement. The Finance Director replied, "Ah, Italy...a great place for a holiday but very difficult for business!"