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Zheng and the art of relationships

One-upmanship is the norm in investment banking and UBS Warburg and Goldman Sachs have proved it's alive and well after the listing of Bank of China Hong Kong. But rather than the usual "our execution was better than yours" routine, this time the boasting is over who gave the snazziest gift to a client.

It started at the post-listing party in Hong Kong. Liu MingKang, chairman of the Bank of China, opened the floor for speeches. Rodney Ward, chairman of UBS Warburg Asia, was first up. "Rodney would never give up the opportunity to stand up and speak very loudly," says a banker who was there.

After a rousing speech, Ward presented Liu with a framed envelope from the 1930s that was posted from one branch of Bank of China to another. Ward claims it was from his personal collection. Cynics suggest it came from a junk store. Either way, it did the trick: Liu was touched and Goldman's bankers, who were empty-handed, were totally blindsided.

Not to be outdone by a brown envelope, Goldman spotted its chance to make amends. At a second party at the Great Wall of China, modestly entitled "We are Heroes", Goldman presented Bank of China and the finance ministry with maps showing the journeys of 15th-century Chinese explorer - and eunuch - Zheng He.

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