ad info

TIME Asia Home
Current Issue
Magazine Archive
Asia Buzz
Travel Watch
Web Features
  Photo Essays

Subscribe to TIME
Customer Services
About Us
Write to TIME Asia
TIME Canada
TIME Europe
TIME Pacific
TIME Digital
Latest CNN News

Young China
Olympics 2000
On The Road

  east asia
  southeast asia
  south asia
  central asia

Other News
From TIME Asia

Culture on Demand: Black is Beautiful
The American Express black card is the ultimate status symbol

Asia Buzz: Should the Net Be Free?
Web heads want it all -- for nothing

JAPAN: Failed Revolution
Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori clings to power as dissidents in his party finally decide not to back a no-confidence motion

Cover: Endgame?
After Florida's controversial ballot recount, Bush holds a 537-vote lead in the state, which could give him the election

TIME Digest

TIME Asia Services
Subscribe to TIME! Get up to 3 MONTHS FREE!

Bookmark TIME
TIME Media Kit
Recent awards


about Asia Buzz  |  more Asia Buzz

Asia Buzz: Hot Property
An ex-banker turns a blowtorch on, and turns heads

April 13, 2000
Web posted at 3:30 p.m. Hong Kong time, 2:30 a.m. EST

One of the most keenly studied pieces of financial commentaries circulating Hong Kong this week hasn't been a prospectus, a column in a newspaper or magazine, or a stockbroker's advice on bear market strategies. It was, in fact, a devastating summary of how Hong Kong does business, produced in a flat in Happy Valley by a 34-year-old ex-investment banker who is fast developing a following as one of the sharpest financial analysts in Asia.

Subcontinental Drift: Crooked Cricket
And how the Gentleman's Game can be saved
- Thursday, April 13, 2000

Asia Buzz: Thought Police
Sex and drugs irk China's cultural mandarins
- Wednesday, April 12, 2000

Asia Buzz: Cyber Tombs
Paying your respects to the dear departed has just become a whole lot easier
- Tuesday, April 11, 2000

Asia Buzz: The World Game
Baseball may be slow, but it's plenty boring
- Monday, April 10, 2000

Culture on Demand: People Power
Let your fingers do the talking
- Saturday, April 8, 2000

Market Q&A
Each business evening with analysts around the region
The story behind today's news from the editors of Asiaweek

From Our Correspondent
Personal perspectives on the news
His name is David Webb and his medium is the Internet, via his own website, appropriately addressed Webb has been analyzing and distributing his sharp takes on Hong Kong companies for the past year or so. But few have had more impact than this week's effort on the upcoming float of Hong Kong Internet incubator Check it out.

Ticked off at Asia Buzz? Turned on? Talk back to TIME

Due to the overwhelming response of this Asia Buzz message board, we have opened another on Subcontinental Drift -- Aparisim Ghosh's weekly look at South Asia's current affairs. Thanks for your comments!

Titled "Try Not To Laugh," Webb dissects in brutal and compelling detail the proposed valuation of the year-old company as it attempts to float on Hong Kong's Growth Enterprise Market next week. We learn that despite a 25% fall in the bellwether NASDAQ in the last month, Techpacific's notional value has actually tripled during that time as the company issued discounted stock on favorable terms to employees, friends and family, much of which is eligible for sale on the first day of the listing--if it gets that far.

It's a solid piece of journalism, well-written, well-argued and a bit gossipy to boot. We also learn that a veritable Who's Who of Asian investment banking has their share of discounted Techpacific stock, and stand to gain massively when the company is floated at the price it wants. Indeed, we learn the precise shareholdings of these so-called "friends and family" of Techpacific's principals.

Webb calls it, ouch, "pyramid selling." It goes without saying that Webb's URL was gleefully e-mailed around the world so others could read it. I know of one company in Hong Kong that even convened a board meeting to discuss it. Webb's report was written when was shooting for a price somewhere between $HK1.38 (17 cents) and $HK1.68 (21 cents) a share. Interestingly, two days after it was posted on the Net and while Techpacific's prospectus was landing on the desks of fund managers, the company decided to pare back that number to $HK1.05 (13 cents).

Now, with NASDAQ tanking again overnight by another 7%, the question is whether Techpacific will list at all. As Webb himself puts it, "I don't think authorities will have to worry about crowd control with this one." That's a reference to the mania seen just two months ago when Hong Kong investors went crazy for, the undeveloped China portal play backed by tycoon Li Ka-shing. Webb savaged that too and in retrospect he was right to do so.'s shares have since flopped. Investors seem to agree with Webb about Techpacific. Details released today, just four days before its expected debut, show it has been subscribed by just 1.053 times. In Hong Kong terms, accustomed to oversubscriptions in the hundreds, that means it's a flop and that backers Banque Nationale de Paris Peregrine have much work to do if it gets to the GEM board.

Interestingly, Webb's remarks have been largely ignored by the traditional media. It's possible they have been embarrassed by Webb's sleuthing: that his analysis exposes that Hong Kong's media may not have the intellectual firepower to dissect companies like Webb can. Of course it's easier for Webb: he's rich, having made millions as an investment banker during the '90s, so he can indulge his personal passions, such as his chairmanship of the Hong Kong chapter of Mensa. He now invests some of that pile and says his website analyses articulately the processes he undertakes when considering investments on his personal account.

Webb's raison d'etre is a simple one: he would like to see more transparency applied to corporate Hong Kong and for it to become less of a casino and more of a level playing field for investors. Webb also captures the essence of the Web in his reports. He says a number of German technology investment clubs are among the more vigorous adherents to his site. doesn't make money--Webb says he gets about $20 a month in book sale commissions from the banner. But that's not why he hosts and writes "I pursue these ideals because I hold them," he says. Holier than thou? The people at might beg to differ.

Ticked off at Asia Buzz? Turned on? Talk back to TIME
Write to TIME at
Search for recent Asia Buzz

TIME Asia home



U.S. secretary of state says China should be 'tolerant'

Philippine government denies Estrada's claim to presidency

Faith, madness, magic mix at sacred Hindu festival

Land mine explosion kills 11 Sri Lankan soldiers

Japan claims StarLink found in U.S. corn sample

Thai party announces first coalition partner


COVER: President Joseph Estrada gives in to the chanting crowds on the streets of Manila and agrees to make room for his Vice President

THAILAND: Twin teenage warriors turn themselves in to Bangkok officials

CHINA: Despite official vilification, hip Chinese dig Lamaist culture

PHOTO ESSAY: Estrada Calls Snap Election

WEB-ONLY INTERVIEW: Jimmy Lai on feeling lucky -- and why he's committed to the island state


COVER: The DoCoMo generation - Japan's leading mobile phone company goes global

Bandwidth Boom: Racing to wire - how underseas cable systems may yet fall short

TAIWAN: Party intrigues add to Chen Shui-bian's woes

JAPAN: Japan's ruling party crushes a rebel at a cost

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans need to have more babies. But success breeds selfishness

Launch CNN's Desktop Ticker and get the latest news, delivered right on your desktop!

Today on CNN


Back to the top   © 2000 Time Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.