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Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Stonewalling leaves few clues on value

 DAVID EVANS


  

There was more hot air coming from the executives of Stone Electric Technology yesterday than from a hair-dryer manufacturers' convention.

After the red-chip's annual general meeting, incoming chairman Duan Yongji reiterated the company's commitment to restructuring and turning around its fortunes.

The problem is that Mr Duan has been restructuring the low-margin electronics manufacturer and distributor for the past six years. Bar a brief foray into the black in 1999 the company has been languishing in the red for the past four years.

According to Mr Duan, Stone is moving away from a manufacturer of low-end calculators, printers, circuit boards and monitors and into a provider of high-end information technology solutions to mainland enterprises. It has just taken some time.

Unfortunately, he was unable to furnish shareholders with exact details as he might fall foul of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing.

However, Mr Duan said it was now time to "trust me".

Asked what the main revenue generator would be for the coming year, Mr Duan turned to his right-hand man, executive director Chen Xiaotao, who promptly replied: "The distribution of electronics."

Fake forum: Chinese officials may have been slapping their foreheads last week after 15 years' work to enter the World Trade Organisation appeared to disappear down the pan.

Visitors to www.gatt.org (GATT is the abbreviation for General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the forerunner of the WTO) learned the organisation had decided to "effect a cessation of all operations".

"The WTO will reintegrate as a new trade body whose charter will be to ensure that trade benefits the poor," it said.

The cessation would be complete in September, less than a year after China became the WTO's 143rd member.

The announcement forced Keith Rockwell to issue a statement saying: "The communique is a hoax".

Confused? You aren't the only ones.

Mr Rockwell is the WTO's bona fide director of information and media relations and www.gatt.org is the brainchild of the "Yes Men".

"The release is quite cleverly written and it expresses noble sentiments which include addressing the problem of market access for poor countries and the importance of considering the development dimension in trade negotiations," Mr Rockwell said.

"Through the use of their Web site and other media tools, the Yes Men have had impressive success in duping various organisations around the world into believing that they are representatives of the WTO."

Lai See checked the credentials of a media official at the WTO's headquarters in Geneva (www.wto.org) who then told us that the bogus site appeared to originate in Washington DC.

"It does dupe people," he said.

He said the site broke international trademarks on design and logos and could be sued in its national jurisdiction.

However, the site jumps from one server to the next.

"We know who owns gatt.org. But we write to the host servers telling them about the site," said the official.

According to Mr Rockwell: "While we can appreciate their sense of humour, we would not wish for reputable organisations like yours to be counted among those duped."

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