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Sun Hung Kai slumps after arrests (2)

By By Oswald Chen and Kahon Chan (China Daily)

08:14, March 31, 2012

Shares in Sun Hung Kai Properties were trading at HK$111.1 before trading was suspended on Thursday. The company announced later in the day that all 10 members of its board agreed that both Kwok brothers were still suitable to run the company and that trading in its shares was to resume on Friday.

"Uncertainty will linger on as the whole incident is not finished yet," said Linus Yip, chief strategist for First Shanghai Securities Ltd. "The risk-reward ratio will not be high for investors to make even short-term bets on (Sun Hung Kai Properties). Investors should keep on the sidelines."

If charges ultimately are pressed against Raymond and Thomas Kwok, the company's board should seriously consider whether it is appropriate to keep the brothers in their positions, said David Webb, an independent commentator.

A third brother, Walter Kwok Ping-sheung, had been the chairman of Sun Hung Kai Properties until the board took the title and power away from him in 2008. A family feud between the three siblings and their mother also led to Walter being removed in 2010 as a beneficiary in the family's trust.

Although Walter was still with the company when Rafael Hui was serving in public posts, he was not picked up in the Independent Commission Against Corruption's investigation. The possibility that Walter had played a role in the investigation became a topic of press discussion on Friday.

No official statement has been given about the ties between the Kwoks and Hui. Press reports, though, suggest the former official received rewards for providing insider information.

It is widely known that Hui had been paid as a consultant to advise Sun Hung Kai Properties and that he has lived in a 371-square-meter apartment owned by the Kwok's company.

Hong Kong ranked 12th in a corruption perception index released in November 2011. But a similar survey conducted by the Political and Economic Risk Consultant, which was brought up to date in late March, showed that Hong Kong's score had increased, indicating that the business leaders surveyed thought corruption had become more common.

"This will no doubt further strengthen the public's impression that there is collusion between businesses and the government," said Shiu Lik-king, a lecturer on public policy at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. "Politics is all about perception. Once the public thinks you've done it, it won't matter, even if you're not convicted in the end."

The case of the Kwoks and Hui is unprecedented in the amount of damage it has caused to a company's market value. Hui is also the highest ranking Hong Kong government official to be arrested in the Independent Commission Against Corruption's history. Hong Kong Chief Executive, Donald Tsang has come under investigation, being accused of accepting passage aboard private yachts and jets. In reply to the allegations, he has said that he paid the "going fare" after he had accepted the rides.

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