Few people retire at 32, but then few put their retirements to as good use as former Hong Kong investment banker David Webb.



Now 35, Mr Webb's Webb-site.com has built a reputation for sabre-sharp analysis and has been described as required reading for anyone in need of a financial markets reality check.



His aim: to improve the shaky corporate governance of companies in Asia. And since his former analyst peers are often "conflicted" either by business or Government relationships, or simply the fear of being fired, from giving the analysis they should, he has taken it upon himself to do so.



Measured in conversation, the Englishman's caustic commentaries on the dealings of Hong Kong luminaries such as tycoon Li Ka-shing have irritated powerful interest groups while offering a counterbalance to the excessive optimism of Hong Kong's small investors.

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The companies reviewed by Mr Webb are of limited relevance in this part of the world, but some of the themes are, sadly, less than unfamiliar; for instance, shares being issued to promoters as deep discounts ahead of initial public offerings.



And his analysis of the Pacific Century CyberWorks deal and the $A5 billion ($6.3 billion) investment to be made by Telstra are of more than passing interest.



Mr Webb's primary objection to the PCCW and its associated takeover of C&W Hong Kong Telecom is the inflated value at which PCCW is priced, still at three times Mr Webb's valuation.



"The current pricing basically reflects a very high probability of things going extremely well for many, many years to justify just standing still with the share price. That's not the correct way to look at it," he said.



The deal is a delicate one since Cable & Wireless still has $US2 billion ($4.76 billion) in PCCW shares it wants to place in the market - about a quarter of its total stake.



Although Telstra is not a participant in that, its subsequent entry to PCCW is vital to market perceptions and could be disastrous to PCCW's price if it does not go ahead.



Mr Webb says the site, which he works on one day a week from his apartment in Hong Kong's Happy Valley, provides a cheap way of getting his message across, without being exposed to the whims of newspaper proprietors.



It costs him around $US20 a month to operate, and his free e-mail newsletter list now tops 4000 subscribers and is growing at 100 a week.



Mr Webb, meanwhile, spends his time investing in small companies, combing through the ones who fail his corporate governance tests, for the gems who are overlooked by the mainstream analysts.



But success, even of Webb-site's not-for-profit kind, has also attracted interest from a less desirable type.



His report of the bumbling investigation by a corporate private eye Kroll after he criticised tender processes in a Hong Kong property development makes glorious reading.



Having twigged from the fax header that the investigator was not the freelancer for a Washington trade journal as claimed, he lunched the sleuth, bringing along the business editor of the South China Morning Post posing as a broker source.



The result was simultaneous coverage with the Post.



Mr Webb said: "Whoever appointed Kroll [and your guess is probably as accurate as ours], the resulting publicity to Webb-site.com was invaluable and we thank them dearly.



"It later emerged that the public relations agent for the opposing developers was also under investigation."