Royals for rent

Royals for rent
Jan 24, 2020 (WiC 480)

In the week that Harry, Duke of Sussex, gave up his royal title for the chance to make money independently, Queen Elizabeth’s oldest grandchild has been earning a crust of his own in China. Peter Phillips, the son of Princess Anne, is starring in adverts about a milk brand called Jersey Cattle, sold by state-owned Bright Dairy.

Phillips has never served as a working member of the royal family, which makes his situation different to his cousin Harry’s. However, it’s still clear that the milk ads are relying heavily on his regal roots, describing him as ‘British Royal Family member Peter’ and playing up the connotations of royalty whenever it can.

“I love to drink Jersey Milk,” the 42 year-old explains, grabbing a glass of it from a butler – the Daily Mail points out there’s another reminder of royalty with the appearance in the ad of the kind of coach and horses that carries the Queen on formal occasions. Cows then chew the cud in an implausibly Alpine-looking meadow, with the caption ‘The royal estate of Britain – Jersey Island’ and there are pictures of a hugely grand house – although it’s actually Longleat, a stately home in Wiltshire, rather than Buckingham Palace.

The next day there were more revelations that Lady Kitty Spencer – another of Harry’s cousins, this time through the family of his mother, Princess Diana – is promoting another brand of Jersey milk from a rival Chinese firm. “The day of the Royal Family usually begins with a cup of milk or a cup of tea,” she explained to Chinese journalists at a photoshoot.

The campaigns show that – ultimately – it’s the royal persona that attracts the advertisers. Maybe that’s a lesson for Harry as he puts distance between himself and the House of Windsor. Or perhaps it’s a signal that he needs to get an agent in China…

Tycoon sets London record

Tycoon sets London record
Jan 17, 2020 (WiC 479)

There was a new record for a house purchase in the UK last week in what The Times described as “the latest sign that London’s languid housing market has received a boost from Boris Johnson’s decisive election victory”. It will come as no great surprise that the landmark property transaction involved a Chinese billionaire.

Cheung Chung-kiu paid £210 million ($274.5 million) for a 45-room mansion in Knightsbridge. Nor is it his first big bet on the London market – his company CC Land splurged £1.15 billion on the office tower known locally as ‘The Cheesegrater’ in 2017. His latest purchase comes after a period of prolonged uncertainty over Brexit, with Prime Minister Johnson’s large parliamentary majority having voted for Britain to exit the EU at the end of this month.

The mansion in question is 2-8a Rutland Gate, which overlooks Hyde Park. It was previously owned by Rafic Hariri, the former prime minister of Lebanon, and Sultan bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, once crown prince of Saudi Arabia. The new owner is known back in China as ‘Chongqing’s Li Ka-shing’, a nickname that likens him to Hong Kong’s most successful tycoon.

The Times reports that Cheung (for more background on how he made his fortune see WiC357) has not decided whether he will use the mansion as his London residence or redevelop it into luxury flats. A redevelopment of the property, the British newspaper estimated, could see it valued at as much as £700 million. It added that the purchase “is being seen as a huge vote of confidence in the market” with prices of prime London property having fallen 20% over the past five years, according to Savills. The largest London home purchase last year was considerably smaller than Cheung’s: £65 million for a penthouse in Belgravia.

Musk moves in

Musk moves in
Jan 10, 2020 (WiC 478)

Stripping off his jacket, he began what was soon being described as a ‘dad dance’ on Twitter. Video of Elon Musk’s none-too-funky moves were soon viewed more than four million times online. But the Tesla boss had much to dance about in Shanghai, were he was joined by the local mayor in opening Tesla’s brand new factory. The $2 billion facility is delivering cars just 357 days since construction began, a record for a foreign carmaker in China, the South China Morning Post said.

To mark the moment, the first 10 customers took delivery of their China-made Model 3 sedans directly from Musk on Tuesday. The billionaire CEO also announced that Tesla’s Model Y electric SUV would be built at the new Shanghai factory as well.

The new plant can make as many as 500,000 cars a year and, in a first for a foreign auto firm, it is wholly-owned by Tesla. So what’s the main advantage? An imported Model 3 would have cost its owner in excess of Rmb439,000 ($63,272), according to China Daily. Minus the tariffs (and a 9% price discount from Tesla and a Rmb25,000 government subsidy) the Shanghai-made version will cost considerably less at Rmb299,050.

Only 30% of the sedans’s components are produced locally, but Song Gang, the plant’s manufacturing director, told China Daily that by the end of this year all of the components will be domestically made too.

The stock market is pleased. On Monday Tesla’s market value reached $81.39 billion, the highest ever for an American carmaker.