Wednesday, May 21, 2008
The 40” Samsung LCD wall mounted television in our department was turned on a few days ago when news started to filter in about the quake in Sichuan province of China. The official toll started off with 1 killed, 4 injured and 900 students buried but gradually grew to about 10,000 by the time the next day’s newspapers went to press. Our technical analyst, a middle aged bachelor fond of deciphering charts and eating junk food, immediately sprung up and asked around if any company had exposure to the region (before you ask, I am part of an equity research house and we issue recommendations to investors on stocks we follow). Colleagues looked at their coverage and started calling up corporates to enquire about their assets in the region around Chengdu and Chongqing in Sichuan province. Nobody called up to express concern and ask whether their employees or their families were safe, though. Struck me as very odd. I couldn’t bring myself to call up any of my companies to enquire about possible delays in project completions and the like. Guess I am not cut out for this industry. As our technical analyst joked “Your pain, my gain” and issued calls to short any stocks with projects in the affected region, to the accompaniment of quite a few snorts and sneers from other colleagues, I wondered whether the scent of money has indeed, become stronger than the scent of pain, blood and suffering. Or, for that matter, the scent of power, as the military junta in Myanmar has strived to prove.