Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Madoff house arrest latest...

(SlackBelly will be back after Christmas).

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Brunswick delivers again

It just keeps getting worse for City PR firm Brunswick, which I read has now suspended its executive Nina Devlin, whose husband has been charged with insider trading based on confidential information supposedly obtained from her.
This is clearly bad publicity for the City spinners (Dow Chemical has apparently dispensed with its PR services), even though Nina has not been charged and Brunswick says that hubbie Matthew obtained the information without her knowledge. Still, it's even worse timing for the Devlins. I'm told that Nina has just given birth.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Spot the difference...

"A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation that pays returns to investors out of the money paid by subsequent investors rather than from profit."
Source: Wikipedia

"Pension arrangements provided by the state in most countries in the world are unfunded, with benefits paid directly from current workers' contributions and taxes. This method of financing is known as Pay-as-you-go."
Source: Wikipedia

Credit Squisses further

More bad news at Credit Squisse, the credit squeezed Swiss bank that is making swingeing cutbacks.
I hear that 3,000 staff were axed last week, leaving banks of empty desks in the UK HQ and the remaining staff feeling decidely isolated as they rattle around the deserted football pitch-sized trading floor.
Meanwhile, management is apparently imposing a new limit on expenses, where Credit Squisse's bankers can no longer spend more than £100-a-head on a spot of lunch. Now that really is a crisis.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Arki gets his second kiss of death

The curse of the award strikes again! Arpad "Arki" Busson's EIM Group managed to lose $230m when Bernard Madoff allegedly made off with $50bn of investors money, but (as so often) the warning signs were around for everybody to see.
Busson scooped one of those lifetime achievement gongs (kiss of death award?) from Hedge Fund Review magazine only two weeks before the "fraud" hit the headlines, when the rag was typically gushing in its appraisal of their star guest. In its piece on the awards, HFR describes Busson as being "widely recognised as having exceptional knowledge of the hedge fund industry" which has meant he has been "invited to serve as an industry expert on a number of panels" for French, Swiss, German and, er, US regulatory bodies. Oh well. It could happen to anybody, I suppose.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Horlick's costly little luxury

Nicola Horlick, whose Bramdean Alternatives fund lost almost 10% of its assets after investing with Bernard Madoff's get-stitched-quick scheme (allegedly), says her greatest luxury is taking a bath. Which is apt.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

And another thing...

While I'm on the subject, British Land bought Meadowhall in 1999 for £1.17bn. It spent £100m on refurbishment (and more on clearing up after last year’s floods, when the asset was literally under water). So even if the sale values Muckyhall at the notional September price of £1.4bn, BL would have made an approximate capital return of just 1% a year on its investment; about the same as a generous current account.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

How property works

In 2005, redoubtable property entrepreneurs Raymond Mould and Patrick Vaughan (both 60-odd) sold their company Pillar to British Land at a healthy 10% premium to net asset value (and, rumour has it, on a yield of less than 4%). The deal netted them millions. Mould scooted off and was later followed by Vaughan, but their sidekick Andrew Jones (then 37) stuck with BL.
Fast forward three years and young Andrew is in a pickle. His chief exec Stephen Hester has jumped ship to run nationalised RBS and BL needs to raise funds. Happily, Andy’s old chums Mouldy and Vaughan are on hand to help out – at a price.
They’ve teamed up with some Abu Dhabi lads to buy half of BL’s flagship asset Meadowhall. The shopping centre was put up for sale last year with a price tag of £1.7bn, but withdrawn due to lack of interest. Now it’s going for a song – under £1.4bn. That’s an 18% drop in value and a new yield of almost 6%. A little bird tells me the deal could close by Friday. Merry Christmas boys!

Monday, 15 December 2008

Get well soon, DR

Many a blogger has taken great glee in the suffering of Telegraph hacks recently (myself included). But it gives me no pleasure to bring you genuinely distressing news from Buckingham Palace Road.
I'm told that Damian Reece, the Telegraph's head of business, has broken his neck after a fall at home which - while he has movement in his limbs - will necessitate an operation.
Only last week I had a (small) pop at Reece's City Comment. So I hope it doesn't sound hypocritical if I say that I hope to be reading his next column very soon.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Making a Horlicks of real thriller

You can’t keep a good man down – or, even, Mr Nicola Horlick (aka Martin Baker, the "author").
Despite his financial thriller Meltdown being less than thrilling, the former journalist is convinced he can do for capital markets what John Grisham did for law.
Not only has he tossed off a sequel (edited by his wife), but he has also been touting his original masterpiece around Hollywood. He hopes that shooting will begin next summer, but the holy grail of production appears somewhat elusive as Le Horlick is now on a fourth version of his script.
Undeterred, he has already begun compiling Meltdown's dream cast list: John Malkovich for the baddie, James McAvoy for the hero and Michelle Pfeiffer for the beautiful broad who digs women.
I do hope they’re all available, especially as wife Nicola now looks in need of a pick-me-up after falling for an alleged Ponzi scam. Now that really was a ripping yarn.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Fancy that!

"What's good for Stelios, however, isn't necessarily good for other shareholders. I don't agree that easyJet is being incautious. Not paying dividends conserves cash and the company can easily delay major airline deliveries if it wishes," Damian Reece, Daily Telegraph, November 15, 2008.

"But [easyJet’s] lack of returns can’t continue. Either pay a dividend or boost earnings. Either way, I reckon it’s time for a re-think, don’t you?" Damian Reece, Daily Telegraph, December 11, 2008.

It (no longer) Pays to Watch

Here's a surprising credit crunch victim. It Pays to Watch, the pisspoor money saving television show of professional meanie Martin Lewis, has been axed by Five just as Lewis and his team prepared for the filming of a fourth series.
"It's quite bizarre that the credit crunch programme’s been credit crunched [and] I’m sad to see such a worthwhile public service programme go," muses the rather self-regarding Lewis on his blog. "But I’ve been overcommitted for a long time and am relieved I may only need to work six days a week at the start of 2009."
Still, my man on the cutting room floor reckons that filming IPtW was not as time-consuming for Lewis as it could have been, chiefly because he insisted on all footage being shot close to his west London base. Anyway, Lewis was still believed to be trousering around £20k a series, so no doubt he'll now be looking for a few cuts of his own.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Flash Gordon: he saved every one of us!

I doubt I'm the quickest blogger to post this, but it is well worth a re-run:

Monday, 8 December 2008

History written by the losers

Andy Hedley Hornby, the boss of failed bank HBOS, is so famous that he has an entry on Wikipedia. That's the free online encyclopedia that is written by volunteers and is the starting (only?) point of reference for many an internet researcher. So, predictably, the authors of the Hornby page have been pretty busy lately keeping everything up to date.
Among the numerous changes recently deemed necessary to the former Asda exec's tale include the axing of a reference to Hornby considering a return to "greengrocering"; the addition of the words "agreed to" in a description of HBOS being taken over by Lloyds TSB; and the introduction of another line about Hornby staying on as "a consultant to the Lloyds Banking Group for a fee of £60,000 per month" as soon as the takeover is completed.
All of these changes have been made from IP addresses emanating from one company. Its name? HBOS.

Lehman Brothers in arms

Can this be true? Divorced Lehman Brothers staffers are asking top alimony lawyers to get their settlements altered to reflect the fact they no longer have large stakes in the collapsed investment bank. Not so Decree Absolute, then.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Secrets of CEOs remain secret

Here's the Evening Standard's snap illustrating its page seven story yesterday about hundreds of Harry Potter fans packing London's bookshops to buy JK Rowling's latest book (click on image below).
It looks like a decent day's sales of Tales of Beedle the Bard, but sadly less so for The Secrets of CEOs, the weighty City tome that is stacked high next to the queue of underwhelmed Rowling fans.
The business book is currently charting at a respectable (for the genre) 6,909th in Amazon's best-seller list and was penned by Telegraph financial hack Andrew Cave, with a little bit of help from some recruitment consultant called Steve Tappin.
Being a co-author has gone straight to the rather self-regarding Tappin's head. A copy of The Secrets of CEOs that does not contain his autograph, is now considered something of a City collector's item.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Spitzer: put this one on the Slate

Eliot Spitzer is back. The former Governor of New York, who resigned in March after some unfortunate business with a pricey prostitution ring, has a new gig.
He is to write a fortnightly column for online magazine Slate which will deal with the fascinating topics of government, regulation and finance - rather than offering readers tips on how to book a room by the hour at the Mayflower Hotel.
Spitzer's move into journalism is a remarkable turnaround for a figure who, only eight months ago, was savaged by the media, when unkind pieces included: "Eliot Spitzer's Escort Service", "Spitzer gets Spitzered" and "How to Prosecute Eliot Spitzer". All of which were published by, er, Slate.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Wanted: more civil servants

With Government borrowing soaring, is the Public Sector gravy train about to grind to a halt? Not a bit of it. The Civil Service jobs website is currently advertising an historically weighty 214 vacancies, including Insolvency Support Officers at the, er, Insolvency Service; Research Knowledge Brokers and a Research Uptake Team Leader at the Department for International Development; an Architecture Assurance Manager at National Savings and Investments; a Welsh Translator at HM Revenue & Customs and a Head of Finance Professionalism (sic) at HM Treasury.
Happy days!

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

White outperforms Buffett

Another day, another "buy" recommendation by Garry White - the cub editor of the Daily Telegraph's share tipping column Questor.
Warren Buffett finds approximately two stocks a year that he likes. This bloke unearths one a day!


Sir Philip Green, Baroness Vadera and Lloyds TSB chief exec Eric Daniels talking very animatedly in a corner far removed from the main crowd at the Sunday Times business desk Christmas drinks reception at Claridges last night. What can they have been discussing?

Monday, 1 December 2008

Revolution, not Evolution...

I see that New Star Asset Management has asked to have its shares suspended, on talks with its banks about a debt-for-equity swap that would leave the lenders owning a majority stake in the beleaguered fund manager.
That hardly comes as a surprise to many in the City, who have long been sceptical about the group's prospects, but it will still shock those ace share-pickers at Evolution Securities.
They have tipped New Star a mere 18 times over the past two years with the highest price target of 580p (click on table below).
We need a revolution, not Evolution, as the broker's poor clients might now say.