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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 February 2019

Hong Kong gas firm's 'Excellent Wife' course ruffles feathers

Shareholder activist David Webb questions thinking behind cooking course offered by energy major Hong Kong & China Gas' Towngas unit

People buy Chinese New Year decorations at a street in Hong Kong, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. Chinese will celebrate the lunar new year on Feb. 5 this year which marks the Year of the Pig in the Chinese zodiac. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
People buy Chinese New Year decorations at a street in Hong Kong, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. Chinese will celebrate the lunar new year on Feb. 5 this year which marks the Year of the Pig in the Chinese zodiac. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

A Hong Kong company has raised eyebrows by promoting an “Excellent Wife” cooking course.

“If you aspire to be the best girlfriend or wife in town, ‘Excellent Wife’ cooking course is perfect for you,” says the text on a flyer by Towngas Cooking Centre, which is operated by Hong Kong & China Gas. “Excellent Wife Certificate” is written in bold on the top.

The HK$2,500 (Dh1,175) course consists of five lessons covering areas such as how to treat a new wok, steaming skills and abalone preparation, the company website shows.

Hong Kong’s “Equal Opportunities Commission would be interested to know whether men are allowed to go to this course”, said shareholder activist David Webb, who posted a caption of the flyer on his Twitter account.

“Perhaps Towngas needs to modernise its marketing people. Hong Kong is a very conservative and old-fashioned society in many ways - they still don’t allow ... civil unions for example.”

Hong Kong & China Gas said: “Based on the sharing with our customers from time to time, they would like to learn cooking skills to make nice meals for their husbands and boyfriends, so we designed this course for our members, and men are also welcome.

“We will launch a series of cooking courses for different market segments and this course is just part of our promotion.”

It is not the company's first foray into the kitchen. Towngas organises a national cooking competition for children every year, a brand-building activity based on the idea of contributing to the community, according to its website.

Research by the Equal Opportunities Commission and Chinese University of Hong Kong last year showed women aren’t favoured in hiring by Hong Kong employers, according to Bloomberg, while the percentage of female directors in the city’s benchmark index – though many companies on the gauge are from mainland China – lags behind international peers.

Founded in 1862, Hong Kong & China Gas was the first public utility in the former British colony and now supplies town gas to about 1.9 million customers in the city, according to its website. The company bucked the overall equity market trend over the past year, rising 22 per cent as investors bought defensive stocks.

For the first half last year, Towngas profit attributable to shareholders came in at HK$4.78 billion, up from HK$4.47bn in the same period 2017.

Updated: February 4, 2019 02:12 PM

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