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It's tough getting over the wall (Hong Kong and People's Republic of China financial collaboration).


These are galling times for Simon Murray, chief executive of Hong Kong management and investment holding company Hutchison Whampoa.

Here's Hutchison, "with the capacity today to buy a company overseas for a billion US', as he put it, while over the border the billion-people-strong Chinese market beckons tantalizingly--always with the big deal remaining elusive.

"After committing ourselves to HK$12 billion [$1.54 billion] last year for our expenditure programmes in Hong Kong, we're touching the ceilings and the four walls locally,' said Murray. "We are trying to invest in China; we keep a never-ending dialogue going in an effort to find something worthwhile on a commercial basis. Yet,' he lamented, "we're not in China in a big way in terms of investment, but in terms of sweat.'

A Chinese official confirmed: "This point Mr Murray makes to us whenever he gets a chance.'

Hong Kong's financial community in general shares Murray's frustration. And most companies don't have the advantage, as does Hutchison Whampoa, of an American-dollar billionaire chairman with the best possible connections to the Beijing government: Li Ka-shing.

For banks, the effort of opening a costly representative office in the People's Republic has rarely paid off, although China departments are starting to break even.