Jan 31

China Watch Blog has learnt that casinos tycoon Stanley Ho Hung-sun revealed last night he has dropped his legal action in his fight to recover his fortune.

The 89-year-old billionaire said he does not “see any point in continuing the legal action” against 11 defendants, including members from the second and third families.

Earlier, three of Ho’s families agreed to an equal split of his fortune, with only one – third wife Ina Chan Un-chan – against the idea, according to Ho’s lawyer.

Gordon Oldham said the arrangement was agreed to by Pansy Ho Chiu- king, daughter of Ho’s second wife Lucina Laam King-ying.

SJM announced on Monday that Ho had transferred his stake – valued at about HK$13.3 billion – in STDM, parent company of SJM, to Lanceford Co, in which Chan holds a 50.55 percent stake and the second family 49.95 percent.

Oldham said that after taking proceedings to court on Wednesday, a meeting took place in Macau between Angela Ho Chiu-yin – Ho’s daughter from first wife Clementine Leitao – Pansy Ho, and fourth wife Angela Leong On-kei representing the first, second and fourth families.

They agreed in principle that Ho’s wishes would be carried out in redistributing the Lanceford interests equally among the four families.

Pansy Ho was quoted as saying she was willing to do so but would have to consult with her four siblings and mother. She also said she would have to seek Chan’s agreement on the arrangement.

Angela Ho did not show up at a press conference on Thursday

initiated by herself while Stanley Ho was seen leaving Chan’s home in the evening for the second family’s home.

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Jan 30

China Watch Blog has learnt that the Southwest Jiaotong University in China’s Sichuan Province is endeavoring to develop the vacuum tube high speed train with a speed of 600 to 1,000 kilometers per hour and is expected to release the train model in the next two to three years.

According to Voice of China, the China’s national radio, on Jan. 30, limited by the energy consumption, noise and other factors in the atmosphere, the actual operating speed of a train is expected not to exceed 400 kilometers per hour at present.

In order to build the higher speed train, scientists proposed a new vacuum tube technology. Its principle is to build up an isolated vacuum tube separating from the outside air to run the maglev train in it.

The vacuum maglev train is then capable of running in a higher speed without wheel track friction and with much lower air resistance.

It was reported that this technology is expected to be widely adopted in around 2030, when the traveling time between Beijing and Guangzhou is expected to be cut into one to 2.5 hours to run the 2,300 kilometers distance.

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Jan 30

China Watch Blog has picked up this report that “Global investors are bracing for the end of China’s relentless economic growth, with 45 % saying they expect a financial crisis within five years”.

The report headlined “Investors brace for China crisis” published in a Your Money report in the Sunday Morning Post stated that in addition 40% anticipate a Chinese crisis after 2016, according to a quarterly poll of 1,000 Bloomberg customers who are investors, traders or analysts. Only 7 percent are confident China will indefinitely escape turmoil.

“There is no doubt that China is in the midst of a speculative credit-driven bubble that cannot be sustained,” Stanislav Panis, a currency strategist at TRIM Broker, was quoted as saying by the report.  Panis likes the expected fallout to the aftermath of the US subprime mortgage meltdown.

The report says that investors concerns over China contrasts with government statements on the outlook for the economy. The Politburo said last month that the nation had a “sound base” for stable and fast growth in 2011 after consolidating its recovery.

Fifty-three percent of poll respondents say they believe China is a bubble, while 42% disagree. China’s neighbours are the most concerned:  60% of Asia-based respondents see a bubble in the world’s No. 2 economy.

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Jan 29

China Watch Blog has learnt that ten years ago when China laboriously won membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO), many were doubtful. Who would be the biggest losers, they asked, China, or the rest of the world?

Looking back and reflecting on the debates on China’s WTO entry during that time, the organization’s chief Pascal Lamy disappointed the doubters, China Daily reported.

Admitting that China joined under terms much tougher than those imposed on any other developing country – a “bitter pill” which turned out to be “an insurance policy against protectionism” – he concluded during an interview with China Daily. “It seems that nobody has been a loser it is win-win.”

At a panel discussion with Lamy on the tenth anniversary of China joining the WTO, the country’s Minister of Commerce Chen Deming offered a list of figures to support Lamy’s conclusion.

Describing the entry as a “courageous and tough” but the “right” choice, Chen said that in the past decade, China’s average duty rate has dropped from 15.3 percent to the current level of 9.8 percent.

Meanwhile exports have increased 4.9 times and imports by 4.7, with a two-fold increase in economic output.

Meanwhile, Chinese consumption grew at an average rate of 15 percent between 2001 and 2010 and the nation ended up as the world’s second-largest importer in 2010, with a total import value of over $1.4 trillion, accounting for 10 percent of the global total.

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Jan 29

China Watch Blog has learnt that authorities in the South China province of Guangdong Friday denied media reports it plans to create the world’s largest metropolis.

Foreign media, including The Telegraph and Daily Mail newspapers, reported that Guangdong plans to merge nine cities in the Pearl River Delta – including Shenzhen and Guangzhou – to create a megacity.

Guo Yuewen, spokesman for the Guangdong Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China, said the reports are false and that the province has no intention to merge the nine cities.  “There is no such thing,” Guo said.

The government aims to promote the development of three economic circles, each of which has three cities, by integrating infrastructure, industrial distribution, urban and rural planning, environment protection and basic public services, he said.

“We want to speed up economic and social development in the Pearl River Delta and boost its competitive edge through the sharing of infrastructure, cooperative management of public affairs, and coordinated urban planning,” he added.

The delta region, a major manufacturing center, accounts for about 10 percent of China’s gross domestic product.

The nine cities, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Jiangmen, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Huizhou and Zhaoqing, have a population of more than 40 million and cover an area of 41,700 square kilometers.

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Jan 28

China Watch Blog has learnt that many small businesses in Shanghai are refusing to take 1 and 2-jiao notes from customers because their low value means they are difficult to pass on as change and time -consuming to count.

A Shanghai Daily study found owners in nearly half the local small shops investigated, including convenience stores, fruit stalls and news-stands, especially those run privately, rejected 1 and 2-jiao notes and asked to be paid in coins instead.

Nigel Upstone, from the United Kingdom, told Shanghai Daily he was astonished when a Tesco Express store on Dingxi Road refused to take a 1-jiao note from him.

“I can’t believe that it can be lawful to refuse legal tender,” he said.

Staff in half of six convenience stores in Changning District rejected the jiao notes, according to the investigation. Staff from two other stores said they would take no more than five from each customer, while the cashier in the last store said the notes must be clean and not torn.

A fruit stall, newsstand and cigarette store flatly refused the notes.

The shop owners explained that it would be impossible for them to spend the notes because nobody wants them, especially with the country’s rising prices, and it would take them a long time to count when settling their accounts every day. As well as this, the jiao notes were usually old and dirty, they said.

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Jan 28

China Watch Blog has learnt that the nation’s largest e-commerce firm Alibaba Group has postponed indefinitely its listing plans for its subsidiaries, China Daily reported, citing a company source.

Alibaba Group, which is 40 percent owned by Yahoo, owns China’s largest consumer e-commerce platform Taobao and its largest e-payment system, Alipay.

Alibaba Group’s Chairman Ma Yun has reportedly said in an internal e-mail to employees that the subsidiaries are not yet mature enough for initial public offerings.

He added that Alibaba will instead speed up investment on e-commerce infrastructure over the next few years, the China Business News reported Thursday.

A company source confirmed Ma’s e-mail to employees and its content about the postponement of the subsidiaries’ listing plans.

Taobao, one of Alibaba Group’s crown jewels, handled 400 billion yuan ($60.78 billion) in transaction value last year, an Alibaba Group executive said last week. Its valuation is a point of contention between the group and Yahoo.

The group, which dominates the country’s e-commerce industry, announced plans last week to invest up to $4.5 billion over the medium term to build a nationwide warehouse network to boost China’s logistics industry.

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Jan 28

China Watch Blog has learnt that Wal-Mart (China) has apologized to customers after being blacklisted by Chinese authorities for cheating on prices.

The Wal-Mart (China) Investment Co., Ltd. expressed “sincere apology” to affected customers in a written interview with Xinhua.

Further, the company has been cooperating with authorities’ investigation into the cheating. It has also launched self-examinations in stores nationwide.

As the Spring Festival approaches, the company will strengthen its price monitoring, the company said.

The company, which entered China in 1996 and has opened 189 stores in 101 cities across the country, promised to continue the self-examination regularly. Its 700 price inspectors perform millions of examinations weekly.

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Jan 28

China Watch Blog has learnt that online shopping fraud cases are on the rise, and police dealt with 405 fraud cases involving Internet auctions or e-shopping in the first 10 months of last year, accounting for 80% of the total number of online commercial fraud cases.

Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee says the number of cases involving fake bank websites in 2008, 2009 and 2010 were six, 10 and 22.

Lee told lawmakers the increase is due to the growing popularity of Internet auctions and e-shopping.

The trick swindlers often use is to fail to deliver goods after receiving online payment from buyers. There have also been cases in which swindlers disguise themselves as staff of Mainland banks.

To prevent and combat such crime more effectively, police have set up a task group to investigate Internet auction fraud cases. In addition to strengthening intelligence analysis, police have contacted major Internet service providers and inserted publicity messages in websites to enhance awareness on Internet auctions and e-shopping.

Police have also produced videos on the common tricks swindlers employ for broadcast in the programme Police Magazine.

“Police will continue to formulate education and publicity programmes having regard to the trend of technology crimes. They will also review the effectiveness of related measures from time to time and make adjustments in the light of any changes in the modus operandi of such crimes,” Lee said.

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Jan 27

China Watch Blog has learnt that the Macau tycoon Stanley Ho is today suing relatives he has accused of trying to steal his vast casino empire, the latest twist after a bizarre TV appearance yesterday that seemed to end the nasty family feud.

Within hours of appearing on a local television station yesterday to say the spat had been resolved, the colourful tycoon filed a lawsuit late Wednesday in Hong Kong’s High Court. The suit seeks an injunction to stop relatives from claiming ownership over his SJM holdings, the centrepiece of Ho’s $3.1 billion fortune.

The claim, which appears to be signed by Ho, also seeks unspecified damages against four of the 11 defendants, including three of his children – two of whom, Pansy and Lawrence Ho, run rival gambling concessions in Macau, according to Hong Kong TVB and CableTV reports.

The TV reports allegs the group “improperly and/or illegally” moved to change the share structure at a holding company that ultimately controls Ho’s flagship firm, whose interests including 17 Macau casinos and several hotels.

On Thursday, Gordon Oldham, a lawyer acting for Ho, insisted Ho had been coerced into reconciling with family members on live television on Wednesday, with the wheelchair-bound Ho struggling to read a giant cue card.

“I asked him for an explanation about his earlier appearance on TV,” Oldham told Hong Kong broadcaster Cable News.

“He said that he felt very pressurised by his family to read out that statement. He wasn’t at all happy in doing so”, he added.

Oldham could not be immediately reached to comment further.

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