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Bulls and bears and rock 'n' roll

Moments before ageing rocker Elton John appeared on stage for a noisy rendition of 'Benny and the Jets', Gary Coull, chairman of CLSA, the hosts of the evening's bash and Asia's only remaining independent equity broker, addressed the audience. There were 2,000 of them — fund managers, company executives and other hangers-on lucky or devious enough to sneak an invitation to what is arguably Hong Kong's biggest annual shindig.

"When people heard we had Elton John, they asked, 'How can you afford him?'" said Coull. "Well, the answer is, we can't! So you'll each be charged two thousand dollars as you exit!"

Underlying seriousness

Coull admits later he was only half joking. The Sir Elton do was simply the peak of a week's entertainment surrounding a far more serious event. For a week every year, CLSA takes over the entire Grand Hyatt hotel in Hong Kong for its investor forum. This year's was the firm's eleventh and largest so far.

"A lot of the clients said that this was the best organized," says Coull. "We had 200 companies and 500 businessmen from 1,200 institutions and 30 countries."

By the end of a long week, CLSA had run 2,020 hours of presentations, meetings and workshops and entertained 4,500 people at evening parties.

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