Only In Hong Kong

Following last week’s endurance test at the cinema (see Mamma Mia! I Wasn’t Bjorn Yesterday) I was recently roped into driving Mrs. Hu to the supermarket.

It was quite an education.

The memsahib purchased an onion to go in my beef stew. Quite a large onion, I grant you, and yes, it was organic - and not only organic but Australian organic – and at a bone-shuddering, mind-numbing, wallet-wobbling HK$38.

(That’s £3.75 in pounds sterling give or take a farthing or two.)

She then went on to buy two large carrots. I did not have the nerve to look at the price. Shopping in Hong Kong is not for the faint of heart. I balked recently at Mrs. Hu’s suggestion that we buy a box of premium Scottish strawberries. They looked premium too (possibly even from Linlithgow), But £17? And then I would have to buy cream too.

I am sorry but there are limits.

Every Little Helps…?

Earlier today I read a report that a Hong Kong developer is to sell flats the size of a table tennis table; 43 square feet. And while I have not been able to confirm the source I did find an article in the Standard that says:

“Meanwhile, a new upcoming development at Area 1A/1B in Discovery Bay is set to test the limits on how small nano flats can go, according to JLL's latest research. The smallest units at the project have saleable floor area of less than 90 sq. ft.”

Just let that sink in for a while. 200 square feet is the equivalent of a decent car parking space. Whether it is 43 or 90 square feet I am struggling to fathom how you could live in an area so small. It’s barely enough room for an onion and two carrots let alone a box of strawberries.

Fame Hungary…

This morning I did what every sane person does.

I woke up and googled “Hu News”. 422,000,000 hits in 0.6 seconds.

There is clearly a media bias against me as most of the articles were about Hungary. I would like to make it clear that I have never been to Hungary and any such suggestion is fake news.

I have asked the dog to look into this and see if there is a need for her to regulate search engines more rigorously. She once urinated on the South China Morning Post so she is a dog of sound judgment.

Wonga No Longa…?

On the news front it seems Wonga may be not with us much longa.

My prior knowledge of Wonga is limited to a vague idea that the Archbishop of Canterbury thought dimly of the firm.

But then he probably thinks dimly of quite a lot of things. There is I believe a list of forbidden fruit, starting with Scottish strawberries at £17 a box.

My extensive due diligence has revealed that Wonga is some sort of moneylender.

Apparently if you are in desperate need of an Australian organic onion and can’t afford it then Wonga will lend you the money.

There is a catch however and that it the interest rate. You need an awful lot of shallots to pay off the onion loan.

The Beeb reports that: “One Wonga customer told the BBC about the sleepless nights caused by her £300 loan soon mushrooming into a £2,000 debt.”

And that’s the problem – it’s the classic financial mismatch – you borrow in onions but repay in mushrooms.

And the further up the vegetable curve you go the more expensive it becomes.

This worked beautifully until the FCA woke up [Editor’s note: please check this as it seems rather unlikely]. It regarded the rates of interest as unfair and started capping them.

It also required Wonga to pay compensation to many of its customers. Business nose-dived. A lot of onions were written off. A 24-carrot business suddenly turned into a turnip.

Now Wonga needs to borrow money fast (a phone call to Mr. Musk for advice, perhaps?).

Wonga has been hoisted on its own petard.

Uneventful

This week Mr. Hu’s award for stating the bleeding obvious goes to the author who reveals that corporate team-building events ‘can be terrible’.

Over a timeframe of roughly 40 years I can reveal that I have endured many such events.

Most drove the participants to drink.

I have seen senior executives well up in tears as they discover that far from being highly respected members of the team, they were in fact they universally loathed and mistrusted.

I consider this par for the course.

Building a scale model of the Taj Mahal out of 4 bamboo canes, 14 miscellaneous pieces of Meccano, 5 left over parts of IKEA furniture, a ball of string and an organic Australian onion is unlikely to end happily.

But on the bright side, it may cost you less than a box of premium Scottish strawberries.

Author
Hu Ziss in Hong Kong
This letter is the personal view of Mr Hu, and is not necessarily the view of Alan Steel Asset Management.