Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Champions Trumped

Here's a great new competition from my favourite comedy business site - the blog penned by property tycoon Donald Trump in the style of David Brent.

"My latest book is called Think Like a Champion, and if you haven’t read it yet, I would recommend that you do so as soon as possible," Trump begins modestly. "These are challenging times and all of us need to have as much training as possible to get through the race that lies ahead."
"I have signed some of my books for the purpose of sending a few out to those of you who can tell me why you think you’re a champion--and why you deserve to be singled out. No doubt a lot of you are worthy, and the fact that you are furthering your education is an obvious sign to me."

My entry has yet to be approved by the Trump Blog moderator, but I'm hopeful:

Dear The Donald,
I'm confused by your competition.
Why are you giving copies of your book, Think Like a Champion, to people who write to tell you that they are already champions? Surely it would be more logical to send them to people like me, who are less self-regarding.
I'll take my copy unsigned please.
Best regards,

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

How (modern) market reporting works - part 2 ...

"Advertising giant WPP was the biggest loser on the Footsie this morning after Citigroup warned that now is not the time to buy.
The big-hitting broker has cut the rating on Sir Martin Sorrell's company from buy to hold and slashed its price target from 552p to 440p.
WPP's shares dropped 6p to 397 1/2p in a widely higher London market after analysts said that the seasonal nature of the business, with the last three months of its year proving its most profitable thanks to a Christmas advertising rush, means it no longer thinks clients should snap up the stock." - Evening Standard market report, Monday March 23.

"Advertising giant WPP was one of the biggest losers after Citigroup warned that now is not the time to buy.
The heavyweight broker cut its rating on Sir Martin Sorrell's company from buy to hold and slashed its price target from 552p to 440p.
Citigroup analysts argued that now is not the time to buy the company's shares because of the seasonal nature of the business, with the last three months of its year proving its most profitable thanks to a Christmas advertising rush.
WPP shares shed 33/4p." - Daily Telegraph market report, Tuesday March 24.

Monday, 27 April 2009


Treasury Select Committee chairman John McFall engrossed in conversation with Lord "just take the pension, Sir Fred" Myners at the launch of some credit crunch book by FT hackette, Gillian Tett. What can they have been discussing?

Friday, 24 April 2009

The list de nos jours

Being as the Sunday Times is heavily trailing its Rich List (scheduled for this weekend) I feel free to shamelessly plug my own version.
SlackBelly's Less Rich List (admittedly not my invention, but appearing here next week with the permission of its creator) surely trumps the ST's effort as the list de nos jours, and a quick preview of this year's lucky entrants reveals such newly impoverished luminaries as Brian Myerson, Nicola Horlick and David Ross.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Michael down-Grades

I see that Michael Grade, executive chairman of embattled ITV, is going part-time. When he arrived at the media group in 2006, Grade strolled into the company's HQ to a tumultuous reception from beleaguered staff - a welcome that later emerged had been stage-managed by the telly group's press office. What a fall from grace!

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

How telly works...

Sky News is broadcasting from the trading floor of CMC Markets as part of its Budget coverage today.
Presumably this is to provide a busy backdrop of banks of City traders taking lots of spread bets - but the best plans and all that.
My man laying the punts tells me that CMC has asked junior employees to spend the day on the trading floor and to sit in camera shot to make the room look fuller.
Another Budget con trick, then.

Do you expect me to talk? No, Mister Stanford I expect you...

"Sir" Allen Stanford - who still stands accused of running a Ponzi scheme - is back in the news after giving an interview to Scott Cohn at CNBC.
It was pretty dull stuff, to be honest, save one exchange, which caught my eye. I publish it below without comment, on the grounds it's tricky to satirise satire.

Cohn: "Somebody in your position would be useful to the authorities in the US trying to find out what was going on in places like Venezuela. Can you tell me about any sort of role you played that way – were you helpful to the authorities in the US?"
Stanford: "Are you talking about the CIA?"
Cohn: "Well, you tell me."
Stanford: "I'm not going to talk about that."
Cohn: "Why not?"
Stanford: "I'm just not going to talk about that."

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Setanta staying up?

Just as the Premier League's relegation battle intensifies, the survival struggle at sports television station, Setanta, is also hotting up.
Its shareholders have written off the value of their investment while the subscription channel is seeking to renegotiate its agreement with the Scottish Premier League (among other deals).
So is an early bath for the station assured? Well, possibly not. Television execs suggest that the demise of Setanta would be a significant inconvenience to market leader Sky Sports - which needs a competitor to appease the EU but would prefer the opposition comes from a weak Setanta than, say, the galacticos at ESPN.
The problem for Sky execs is a tricky one, however. How do they prevent Setanta from going down, without upsetting the competition referee?

Monday, 20 April 2009

The charming Mr Balls

Wannabe Chancellor Ed Balls has denied weekend reports that he's been using disgraced spinner Damian McBride to smear ministerial rivals and advance his own ambitions.
I'm sure he's speaking with conviction, but Balls can hardly get too uppity about accusations that he might consider stitching up the odd friend and colleague.
When he and fellow minister Yvette Cooper hosted their wedding reception at the Cavendish Hotel, Eastbourne, in 1998, the pair secretly arranged with the venue for an extra £9 to be put on guests' overnight hotel bills to save the happy couple £2,520 on the cost of the reception.
Gordon Brown and then girlfriend Sarah Macauley were star guests at the bash which also included several senior ministers such as Chief Whip Nick Brown, multi -millionaire Paymaster General Geoffrey Robinson, Treasury minister Dawn Primarolo and more than a dozen Labour MPs. Charming.

Friday, 17 April 2009

How (modern) market reporting works...

"Cash-strapped Barclays closed back above 200p for the first time since October"- Evening Standard market report, Thursday April 16.

"In fact, cash-strapped Barclays climbed above 200p for the first time since October" - Daily Telegraph market report, Friday April 17.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Time to warm up the subs at the Tel?

I know I said I was having an extended Easter break, but the pisspoor subbing of today's Telegraph Business pages has forced me out of my armchair. It seems that those responsible for checking the section's front page can't even be bothered to spell the name Damian Reece - their own City Editor (or Head of Business as he now prefers to be called) - correctly.
So there's more ammo, it seems, for those churlish souls who insist that standards have slipped at the once great rag (which now outsources some of its sub-editing to, er, Australia).

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Lazy old SlackBelly

Sorry for lack of entries, but I've decided to take an impromptu extension to the Easter break.
I'll be back in the City on Thursday - although probably still feeling pretty idle considering all the chocolate I've scoffed.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Barclays's African Charity case

Here's a strange one.
My man in Africa drops me a line with news running in Kampala that Barclays has moved its Uganda MD, Charity Jinya, to Kenya after a troublesome 15 month tenure.
Intriguingly, Uganda's Daily Monitor implies that the transfer was triggered by a visit last week from Barclays's Middle Eastern shareholders.
Admittedly the paper's report contains some howlers about the bank's shareholder register - but the DM's self-effacing tag-line informs readers that they receive "The Truth Every Day".
So can we believe that the paper has lived up to its own billing and that Barclays shareholders are now micro-managing the African ops? Surely not.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Some employment perks are more equal than others

The Equality and Human Rights Commission caused a right kerfuffle the other day with its proposals about maternity rights - recommending that statutory maternity leave should be cut from nine months to six to give fathers more paid time off to spend with their children.

This nonsense (which would cost around £5.3bn to introduce) comes from an organisation which, insiders tell me, offers its employees an incredibly generous year off when they add to their brood (six months of which is on full pay). As usual, however, the hypocrisy of these pinkos fails to surprise.

The EHRC was sired after a merger between the Equal Opportunities Commission, the Commission for Racial Equality and the Disability Rights Commission a year or so ago. Under the old regime, EOC new mothers were entitled to a year off on full pay and were apparently rather resentful when, under the merger, this was watered down.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Myerson sticks to one last Principle

It just keeps on getting worse for activist investor, Brian Myerson, who I read is now facing an investigation into a £3.2m share purchase.
That follows him being ousted from the board of Principle Capital Investment Trust (PCIT), where he was chief executive, and him losing a highly public court battle to reduce his wife’s £11m divorce settlement (a case he's now taking to the House of Lords).
The challenge looks courageous to those who have studied the 2007 accounts of his fund management business, Principle Capital Holdings, a year when Myerson was the only executive on the board and when the highest paid director trousered £1.06m. Since then, PCH shares have lost more than 90% of their value, which begs one simple question.
Might Myerson demonstrate his devotion to the principle of retrospectively renegotiating pay-outs by handing some of that cash back?

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Rozzers 1 Soap dodgers 0

I'm not a natural supporter of the rozzers, but a word of praise for the police's magnificent performance during the G20 demonstrations in the Square Mile today.
They completely outwitted those dreadful soap-dodgers by arranging (I suspect) for that (empty) Royal Bank of Scotland building to leave its windows exposed.
This clever little tactic gave the rabble a target window to break on their pre-arranged route, with the police only intervening when some grubby little fellow attempted to enter the premises.
So now they can all slope off back to their student unions claiming to revolutionaries. Laughable, really.

Update: obviously, this post has the potential to become something of an embarrassment. But, as politicians like to say, let's await the outcome of any inquiry.

Inconvenience for the Greek who bears gifts

News that Achilleas Kallakis has drawn the interest of the Serious Fraud Office (and the media) must be doubly galling for the property tycoon.
Friends recall how he's long argued for draconian privacy laws and wide-ranging restrictions on the press to prevent awful hacks from probing the activities of rich and powerful indivduals - just one example of how Kallakis doesn't always believe that normal rules apply to him.
Another favourite involves a Kallakis flunky handing some punter cash in order to vacate their table in a busy bar, just to allow the boss a seat. Will that Kallakis swagger remain intact now, I wonder?