Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Brass monkey Britain, part 1894...

Another day, another company admits that it is not set up to heat British homes during a, er, cold snap. British Gas informs customers: "Severe weather is impacting normal service in your area. If you have a central heating problem, please visit for tips from our expert engineers". Solid work.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Quote of the week

"During periods of very cold weather, we occasionally receive enquiries from customers whose boilers do not appear to be working" - Worcester-Bosch Group (yet again) on why their heating systems never seem to work during a, er, cold snap.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Bad bet

Yet more bad news for the embattled Betfair - the recently floated betting exchange (about which I am obsessed) and on which I took a notional short back in November.
Respected trade website Gambling Compliance is now reporting that the company is "facing the revocation of its [already compromised] license in Italy following an investigation by the country’s gaming watchdogs" - which adds to the gambling group's problems as it attempts to convince investors that it wasn't joking when it trumpeted overseas growth during its IPO.
So far Betfair's investor relations department is losing that battle badly. The shares were off another 6% today to a new low of 975p (a 25% discount to the 1300p flotation price) making this a woeful float by any standards - even those of Betfair's main sponsor, Goldman Sachs.

Sindy Column...

For this week's column - and the return of Ocado's Jason "Missing" Gissing, click here.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Thoroughbred float quickly looks like an old nag

In an unusual moment of SlackBelly prescience, my notional short of Betfair - the recently floated betting exchange - is looking increasingly shrewd.
Its first set of interim numbers today - already showing sluggish growth - have caused the shares to slump (again), leaving them 22% below the 1300p IPO price and 26% off the level that even some duffer like me could tell was too rich.
I had attempted to short the shares on Betfair's own financial exchange, LMAX, only to be thwarted because the new website is yet to actually take bets on individual companies.
No wonder. LMAX is part-owned by Goldman Sachs, the investment bank which apart from stuffing investors with the Betfair float is also a hero of recent IPO campaigns such as Ocado (recovering to 8% below) and Promethean World (70% lower).
Still, you'd be a fool and a communist to suggest that they didn't deserve their fees.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Clip of the week

The best explanation yet of how the Celtic Tiger turned into a Tigger...

Sindy Column...

For this week's effort, click here.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Orange out of order

"Orange is committed to providing excellent customer service so your call may be recorded for training purposes". So says the automated message when you ring with a query for the mobile phone group's over-worked call centre. But can it really back that up? For days now, that message has been followed by customers being immediately disconnected from the call centre queue - and the glitch is still happening. This is, of course, an insoluble telecommunications problem for the UK's, er, largest mobile telecommunications company. Amateurs.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Fancy that!

"When companies or people go about publishing this data without ensuring it won’t injure others, it’s a violation of our terms of service, and folks need to go operate elsewhere." - Amazon Web Services statement after it stopped hosting the WikiLeaks website, December 2, 2010.

"Mein Kampf is historically important. You can't restrict free speech." - Amazon boss Jeff Bezos defends his website's stock list, October 10, 2002.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

The future's not Orange

Mobile phone group Orange is spending a fortune trumpeting its new iPad offer, but sadly it seems to have got over excited and rushed the promotion out. The Apple gizmo is arriving with punters nicely enough, but then start the problems.
Users are asked to register the gadget's SIM card either online ("Sorry. We're having some technical problems processing your activation") or by phone (a message tells callers how serious they are about customer service, before cutting them off).
A call to the usual Orange help desk will then glean an alternative number to call. The result? Another recorded message telling frustrated users that "due to unforeseen circumstances" the office is now closed.
Still, once that's all done, you can find somebody to register the SIM and you're (almost) ready to go. All you need to do is insert the SIM by following the instructions in the handy booklet, telling you to "use the SIM eject tool to access the SIM tray". Sadly, Orange has forgotten to include one of those. Just brilliant!

Monday, 6 December 2010

Murray Pru bound

Congratulations to the Prudential, which has managed to secure the mighty John Murray as its, I am told, "interim" communications honcho.
Murray has been hired to fill the shoes of the recently departed Stephen Whitehead. Some say the men are in some ways similar.
The new man, a titan of a journalist during his career at the Express, is just what the Pru needs. Of course, like all the best journalists he has been in public relations for some time.
Murrary's last job was at the FSA, where he led the PR department through the financial crisis.
The regulator did not put a single foot wrong during this period - which is no doubt a considerable comfort for the insurer as it battles to restore its reputation in the wake of the botched $35 billion bid for AIA.

Sindy Column...

Kazakhstan president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, and his Kazakhmys hotel bill. For this week's Sindy column, click here.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Academic push-up for Mone

Another week, another insecure tycoon feels the need to paper over a lack of academic qualifications by accepting an honorary degree (either the height of vanity or a begging letter – depending on if you’re giving or receiving).

This time University of Hertfordshire (Hatfield Technical College, as was) has doled out the award to Ultimo bra founder, Michelle Mone (possibly pictured below in the outfit she chose to receive the Chancellor).

Mone left school at 15 (to help support her ill father) but snubbing academia didn’t overly hinder her as she’s now supposed to be worth about £45m. Also receiving a gong was Tesco’s clothing boss, Terry Green. Sadly, there’s no room for a snap of him sporting the supermarket’s trolleys.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Sindy Column...

Joe Bloggs founder, Shami Ahmed, crops up in IG Group legal spat. For this week's column, click here.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Former BP man to go green?

Where next for Andrew Gowers, the former PR man for Lehman Brothers (deceased) and the humiliated BP, who it was revealed last weekend is to leave the oil major? Allied Irish?

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Kill Phil

When you're a Russian lawyer, who's been working on a case involving a reputed crime boss, there are some emails you really don’t want to see.
So when the message “KILLKILLKILL” flashed up on his computer screen, it might have caused a slight a tremor in the bowels of Alexander Dobrovinsky - the lawyer working on a tax claims case against the now-bankrupt cosmetics chain Arbat Prestige, involving charges against his client, Vladimir Nekrasov and Semyon Mogilevich (one of the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted" fugitives).
It wasn’t an instruction, however, but a marginally less traumatic message from PR Newswire to its subscribers, telling them to obliterate a dodgy Dobrovinsky press release on Philip Morris. Phew!

Monday, 22 November 2010

Sindy Column...

For this week's effort, click here.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Everybody needs good neighbours

I read that Chancellor, George Osborne, is ready to be a "good neighbour" to Ireland and will help bail out the country's stricken banking system.
Is that a U-turn? It's not what he told hacks onboard the Prime Ministerial plane on the Government's sales trip to China last week.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Fate tempting

Balfour Beatty shares have had a good run of late, but is it now time to sell?
Oh dear. These books are usually a precursor to dreadful news. Standard Life dumped its mutual status not long after the release of The Building of Europe's Largest Mutual Life Company. Standard Life 1825-2000. But nobody has yet trumped the classic example, which is (of course) BZW - The First 10 Years.
The bank failed to make its 12th birthday.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Sindy column...

For this week's column, click here.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Beyond Petroleum

Congratulations to Anthony Henshaw, who was named on Friday as the new chief sustainability officer (whatever that is) of controversial Indian mining group, Vedanta Resources. He might be busy, as the company is no stranger to the odd run-in with human rights campaigners and environmental groups, but Henshaw sounds experienced enough as the press release states he’s spent 30 years in the cement, oil and gas industries while naming his previous employer as buildings material group, Cemex.

When pushed, the company’s spinners add oil and gas groups Cuiaba and Transredes to Henshaw’s CV, but strangely they omit to mention the place where he worked in his last job but one. That would be BP, where he was involved in formulating “oil spill response” plans. Why omit that detail, I wonder?

Monday, 8 November 2010

Shooting the messenger

Brunswick, the self-regarding City PR firm, presided over the recent flotation of Ocado when it assisted the internet grocer's persistent claims that it might be worth as much as 275p a share (it ended up slashing the price to 180p). It then merrily spun away as the shares have slumped below 140p. Now a fellow Slacker emails with a rumour doing the rounds that Brunswick might be about to lose the account. So harsh.

Sindy Column...

For this weekend's effort, click here.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Our survey said...

In a mistake of colossal proportions, SlackBelly has been named as the sixth most influential UK finance blog. Let's just go over that statement again, because it might surprise an intelligent reader. Yes, old Slacky is the sixth most influential UK finance blog - and that's according to media monitoring company, Cision (who must have inserted this site following a long lunch).
Anyway, trailing little old me in this highly important survey is Stockopedia, Labour and Capital, Frisby’s Bulls And Bears and Bond Vigilantes.
What have they done to deserve such an insult?

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

MCC steals a cheeky single

Much talk about consumers bringing forward purchases to avoid the VAT rise in January. Is there a section of the UK that this move does not affect? Possibly not. Even MCC, the institution's institution, has brought forward the payment date of members' 2011 subs to December - just to avoid the hike.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Yu done it

Just one week into life as chief exec of a public company, and Betfair boss David Yu has dropped his first monumental clanger. In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph over the weekend, Yu claimed that Betfair is a "bookmaker" - a startling admission as up until now the betting exchange had angrily denied this charge.
Instead, the company always claimed to be a technology platform, which high street bookies say allows Betfair to pay "around three times less in tax and levy than traditional UK bookmakers".
Their lobbyists have all noticed this cock-up and are anxiously exploring ways to convert this open goal into a taxation victory. In fact, William Hill has just put out a press release on the Yu interview. It's title? "Betfair's Identity Crisis - just who are Yu, David?"
Very droll.

Sindy Column...

For this week's column - click here.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Pure agony

In this week's Ask Louisa, the pointless "agony aunt" careers advice column in the Daily Telegraph, the paper's "jobs editor" Louisa Peacock replies to Mike, a 62-year-old former public sector worker who is having trouble getting a job in the private sector.
Having informed him that few people in the private sector rate public sector workers ("The ball is in your court, Mike, to show to the employer that you can hack it in business," Louisa patronises) she then moves on to discuss the age issue.
"I can see where you’re coming from on the age front," she waffles. "It is bizarre that despite all the anti-discrimination law out there, employers are still legally entitled to ask for your date of birth before they’ve offered you the job".
This is something that young Louisa might know something about. To most intelligent readers, it seems that the only relevant experience the 20-something hackette possesses for doling out this dross, is a rather pert-looking photo byline.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Sindy column...

For this week's column, click here.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Salmon leaps up Spreadex ladder

Ping! A press release arrives from spread betting house Spreadex. It has just appointed a new manager of its "Financial Trading Room" (caps obligatory) and I'll let the company take it from here:
"Tom Salmon has taken up the role at the age of just 25 after impressing during his four years with the firm.
Spreadex Managing Director Jonathan Hufford said: 'We like to think of ourselves as a forward thinking company and are keen to promote people to positions of responsibility when they have proved their worth, no
matter what their age.' Tom is originally from Blackpool and studied maths at Manchester University, where he specialised in applied maths."
Young maths geek in charge? There are literally no recorded examples of this ever going wrong.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Vexed and the City

It just keeps on getting worse for St James's Place, the wealth management business founded by City grandees Sir Mark Weinberg and Lord Rothschild.
Earlier this year it emerged that 31 of its clients collectively lost millions of pounds in savings after a senior partner, Peter Carron, advised them to invest in his own projects (police are investigating).
Anyway, one of the victims was rock photographer Kevin Westenberg, whose name is not among the 25 clients who have received SJP compensation. You can see from my picture that he's not happy snapper.
That's Kevin on the right holding the banner during a protest that took place outside an SJP event at the Goring Hotel this morning. My spies there tell me that his appearance caused quite a stir - so much so that SJP partner, Michael Gomme, was moved to tell delegates that the man outside was "seriously deranged" and was being "reimbursed".
That was a brave move. I'm not sure either statement is true.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Man off wire

Obviously City journalists and PRs are buzzing with talk about the resignation of Neil Collins from Thomson Reuters, after the former Daily Telegraph City editor breached company rules about journalists writing about shares they own.
Three thoughts occur.
1. Is trading after you've written about a company really such a crime? Buying shares after most newspapers have tipped them up is a very fast way of losing money.
2. Anybody who has ever met Neil Collins will be pretty sure that he hasn't done anything really wrong (except, possibly, being a bit of an arse for giving the incoming Breaking Views regime an excuse to whack him).
3. NC should have followed his own Private Eye test.
NB: the SlackBelly blogging code of conduct necessitates that the author of this post must disclose that he owes his career to owning shares in Neil Collins.

Update: here's Hugo Dixon, the co-founder of Thomson Reuters's Breaking Views website, in an interview with the Guardian in January. "Recently I think we have been quite influential in the global debate on banking regulation. We may from time to time influence a share price on the day, one way or another, but it's more these bigger strategic things where we have an impact." So what's the fuss about, then?

Sindy Column...

For this week's instalment on First London, click here.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

They think it's all over?

Another change in the interminable Liverpool FC bidding war, as I see that Peter Lim has withdrawn. A thought occurs. What are the odds that the club will end up being owned by someone other than current owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks, recommended bidder NESV or Lim?

Monday, 11 October 2010

Meltdown the sequel

Amusing to see that failed fund manager Nicola Horlick is setting up a film script development fund.
Surprising, the publicity does not mention that she has some experience in this area, having been an "executive producer" on the screenplay of her husband’s failed novel, Meltdown, two years ago.
She has yet to drum up any interest in that project, despite a costly six-month campaign of dinners and lunches with alleged movie moguls in London, New York and Los Angeles. This was a morale-sapping blow to hubby Martin Horlick (ne Baker), a former personal finance reporter, who, I hear, was also fanning his eyes at the news that Panmacmillan would only publish his sequel if, like Meltdown, Nicola paid half the costs (she declined).

Sindy Column...

Prince Andrew and BG Group meet once again. Why so cosy? For this week's column, click here.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Second inaugural profit at City AM?

"London financial freesheet City AM has gone into the black for the first time, reporting pre-tax profits of £423,000 in the first six months of this year. The first-half performance of City AM, which was founded by Jens Torpe in September 2005, marks a significant improvement over the £419,000 pre-tax loss the company reported in the same period last year. 'After 18 difficult months for all media we are now back on the growth rate we had before the financial crisis,' said Torpe. 'We are confident we can maintain this positive trend'." Guardian, October 6, 2010.

"CityAM, the London financial free-sheet, made its first profit in the six months to March, raising expectations of an eventual sale of the title. The company behind the weekday earned £47,000 in the period before interest and tax on advertising revenues of £3.5m. Jens Torpe, the City AM publisher, said that he hoped to expand and improve profits before considering a sale. 'We're hoping to progress further,' he said. 'On the figures we think we can achieve, we will be much more valuable in the next two to three years'." - The Times, June 10, 2008.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Trump on the stump?

My old friend, comb-over king Donald Trump, says he's considering running for President after some poll was apparently conducted in New Hampshire testing out his name.

My bet is this is a publicity stunt for some television show or new business, but I'm half hoping it's real - it will be an absolute hoot!

As I occasionally enjoy pointing out, the Donald's views on the Italians and Chinese are somewhat uncompromising (so foreign policy should be interesting), while I particularly look forward to him courting the female vote, where he's shown some form before.

In January last year after the death of John Travolta and Kelly Preston's son, Jett, Trump paid tribute to the family by blogging how he once tried to bed the mother of the dead boy.

"My track record on this subject has always been outstanding, but Kelly wouldn’t give me the time of day," he movingly recalled at the time. Can the Donald really be the Republicans' Trump card?

Monday, 4 October 2010

Sindy Column...

More red letter days at Red Letter Days. For this week's column, click here.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Ryder in a storm

Ping! An email arrives from some PR company called EdenCancan (no, me neither) trying to jump on the Ryder Cup bandwagon and plug one of its clients.
"We have a weather expert able to comment/predict on the weather," it begins as play in Wales is interrupted by torrential rain. "Dr Liz Bentley is one of the world’s leading weather experts. Former Chief Instructor of Forecasting at the Met Office College, she is the ultimate weather woman and climate change forecaster. Liz was BBC Weather Centre Manager before taking up the post of Head of Communications at the Royal Meteorological Society, when she founded the public membership organisation theWeather Club, in 2010, to promote an appreciation and understanding of the weather to people from all walks of life."
All very impressive. Just one question. If she's so good, why wasn't the plug sent yesterday?

Thursday, 30 September 2010

How the business of football works

Tottenham Hotspur had its first Champions League (proper) fixture at home last night so did the public company look after its paying customers? Er, nope. Many were fans are left queuing outside White Hart Lane in the rain. "I was standing outside getting drenched until 20 minutes into the game," says one. "[Chairman Daniel] Levy couldn’t run a ……you know what".

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Trump hump

I see that (as, almost, predicted) Donald Trump's honorary degree is not going down well. Who'd have thought it?

Monday, 27 September 2010

Sindy Column...

For this week's column, click here.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

The Warren Omission

I see that Warren Buffett is talking down the economy by claiming that the US is still in recession. What's the wily old hustler about to buy?

A Cable Fable

With the good doctor Vince Cable being portrayed as the devil by unquestioning supporters of the City (is he really? The Times City Comment today seems a bit nearer the mark) I'm amused to see how CBI boss, Richard Lambert, is now being billed as the great defender of capitalism.
That would be the same Richard Lambert, who as editor of the Financial Times once wrote an editorial on the eve of the 1992 general election suggesting readers, er, vote Kinnock. How times change.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Sindy Column...

For this week's column, click here.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Devilfish needs a re-buy

I see that poker minnow, Devilfish Gaming, has had its shares suspended on Plus Markets after getting down to its last few chips.
That's not great timing. Might the company's frontman Dave "Devilfish" Ulliott - one of the UK's best known poker players - now be regretting all the publicity he's been drumming up for his new book recently?

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Accounting for growth

I see Deloitte is reporting a rise in bonuses for bosses of the UK's bluechip companies. The bonanza came after major firms lowered performance hurdles, believing 2009 would be "extremely difficult", the accountants said.
Quite. And at which professional services firm did remuneration of the top execs grow by 256% to £128m in its last financial year. Er, Deloitte.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Sindy Column...

More, much more, on First London. For this week's newspaper column, click here.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010


Under pressure property tycoons - Robert Tchenguiz and his bankrupt mate Simon Halabi - at C London (formerly Cipriani) yesterday. Isn't life grand?

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Figure watching...

£557,727.58 - the cash spent by Connaught chairman, Sir Roy Gardner, when buying his stake in the company this summer.
£34,766.53 - the value of that stake before Connaught shares were suspended today.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Sindy Column...

Very worrying goings on at First London. Click here for this week's column.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Wall Street Journal axes important letters

Are there a few "fat finger" trades going on at the Wall Street Journal? Earlier this week the paper "broke" the story about Burger King being bought by a private equity firm with a "3" in its name. Unfortunately the paper plumped for 3i - when in fact it was 3G.
And today the European edition (for some reason) insists on using some ridiculous US spelling on its splash headline. Whatever happened to all of the paper's famed editors?

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Slack on the back

"Much talk about a potential sale of Virgin Active to private equity. But is it really likely? Potential bidders seem baffled by the stories and suggest that ubiquitous adviser Goldman Sachs - fresh from its Ocado triumph - is leaking the stories in a desperate effort to stuff another over-priced offer down investors' throats. Developing..." SlackBelly, July 28, 2010.

"Virgin Active, Sir Richard Branson’s gym chain, has shelved plans for a £1 billion flotation.

The company, which operates in Italy, Spain, Portugal, South Africa and the UK, had been exploring a float or sale to a private-equity firm. Insiders suggested the sale talks are also on ice although some observers believe a deal could yet be revived." Sunday Times, August 29, 2010.

Sindy column... (belatedly)

August 29, 2010

I’LL BEGIN with a case that has just hit the High Court, which gives an intriguing insight into the workings of the City. Cantor Fitzgerald, the broker that seems to have a taste for trips down the Strand, is suing a former employee, Benjamin Koskas, for the repayment of an £87,827 “forgivable” loan.
These loans are common enough in the City as an alternative bonus payment and are “forgivable” in the sense that if you work for a company for an agreed period, then they get written off. If you want to leave before you’ve served your time, however, then you have to repay the lot, and the loans are seen by many as a cunning, even draconian, method of staff retention. Cantor, which is led by Howard Lutnick (above) has the reputation of being more attached to this tactic than most.
Still, court documents show that Koskas did trouser the cash, handed in his notice before working the agreed three-year period, and has so far failed to repay his former employer. His defence revolves around restraint of trade and technicalities regarding his February resignation.
Chris McGrath, the lawyer defending Koskas and a longstanding adversary of Cantor, declines to comment on the case - as does the broker itself. So I’ll take a wild punt and guess that this case will end up being settled, adding more weight to the oft-used line about legal departments at broking firms: they are profit centres.

WHAT news of Andrew Greystoke, the Atlantic Law founder and solicitor who was banned for life from the City in May for his role in assisting share pedlars to rip off at least 130 people in a “boiler-room” scam?
That punishment from the FSA also prompted the Solicitors Regulation Authority to institute disciplinary proceedings against him - but the body seems to be taking its time as Greystoke (right) is still listed as a solicitor. He’s also quietly changed the name of his firm to Stanwick & Bond (although it’s yet to be registered with the Law Society).
“Andrew Greystoke is not back in the office until next week,” blocks one Julian at S&B - who refuses to reveal his own surname. “We are not at liberty to discuss with you when we changed our name”.
Still, despite not taking any action thus far, the SRA insists: “We have him in our sights.”

GREYSTOKE was also once a director and major shareholder in First London Securities, the defunct investment bank that attracted attention last year due to its links with a convicted insurance fraudster and its role in the short-lived takeover of Notts County, the Football League’s oldest team.
The bank also boasted former Conservative environment minister Tim Yeo and Nicholas Chance, Prince Michael of Kent’s private secretary, as directors, while a former shareholder was one-time Jersey bankrupt Kevin Leech.
Leech, I note, has just resigned from the board of Devilfish, a listed poker group, on the grounds of ill-health. I’m told the 67-year-old is suffering from high blood pressure, which has prompted doctors to instruct him to retire. Associates are sceptical that the old rascal will obey the orders for long, however.

THE return of Polly Peck boss Asil Nadir just about gives me enough of an excuse to retell a witty observation about the old fugitive. David Stoddart, highly regarded retail analyst at finnCap, and former Polly Peck worker, once recalled: “It was the only company I’ve ever been at where the fixtures and fittings appreciated.”

PROPERTY industry aficionados will know that O’Callaghan Properties scooped £48m last week by selling 20 Grafton Street to a “private German investor”, in one of the priciest office deals in the West End this year. So who was the mysterious buyer?
Step forward Baron August von Finck Jnr, one of Germany’s richest men. Forbes estimates he is worth £5bn. His family trust has interests in property around Munich, a shareholding in hotel group M√∂venpick, and stakes in fast-food chains. Still, much of the wealth originates from great-grandfather Wilhelm von Finck, who founded insurance giant Allianz and private bank Merck Finck & Co.
The bank was then expanded by Baron August von Finck Snr - a controversial figure as a leading Nazi supporter and one of a group of industrialists who met Hitler in 1931 and promised financial support in the event of a successful putsch against the Weimar Republic.
Von Finck Jnr (above) sold Merck Finck to Barclays in the 1990s. Isn’t life grand?

COMB-OVER king Donald Trump does not like the Chinese at all. He blogs: “From the gymnasts caught cheating at the Olympics to the singer caught lip-synching on international television, I don’t have the highest esteem for their ethics. It’s all a charade. I also don’t like the fact that we look like fools. I know for a fact they laugh at the stupidity of our leaders, and for good reason. They can’t believe they’re getting away with what they’re getting away with and we’re allowing it.”
Simultaneously, bosses at Aberdeen Airport say they are in talks with Chinese airlines about new services to the Granite City. Their big selling point? The new £750m Balmedie golf resort being built by, er, Donald Trump.

FOLLOWING my story that Red Molotov, the T-shirt firm, was selling designs featuring the BBC’s Robert Peston (below) comes another business-inspired garment.
The craggy features of Duncan Bannatyne, star of the BBC’s Dragons’ Den, can now be enjoyed by T-shirt wearers. The marketing bumf reads: “Everyone’s favourite Dragon. Well, apart from Peter Jones maybe. And that James Caan seems a nice bloke. Deborah Meaden frankly scares us though.” The shirt itself reads: “I don’t like the product, I don’t think it would sell, it’s not a viable business, and I’m not so keen on you ... and ... I’M OUT!” I’m sure it’s ironic.

HAS Gordon Gekko gone out to lunch at last? The initial online reviews for Money Never Sleeps, the soon-to-be-released sequel to Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, starring Carey Mulligan and Shia LaBeouf beside Michael Douglas (above), have been pretty positive. But might the studio be controlling things a little? My man at an early viewing reckons Gordon Gekko’s latest showcase has “lost its edge”, with many “punch lines coming from the old film”. Who’d have thought it?

Friday, 27 August 2010

wish I'd thought of this...

Sent in by a fellow Slacker:

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Bennett caught short in drugs bust

Former Sunday Telegraph City Ed turned City spinner, Neil Bennett, has had a run in with a team of rozzers, I am delighted to report. On his Facebook page, Bennett writes: “I am shocked to announce I have had a brush with the law, a drugs bust no less. Shocker. It was at Redhill station where I got off the train bursting for the loo. As I searched I was collared by a plain clothes copper. Apparently I had avoided a police check and needed to be frisked for crack. There were at least a dozen coppers in this ridiculous exercise - do they really have nothing better to do”

Monday, 23 August 2010

Sindy column...

August 22, 2010

SPECULATION that Betfair is on the verge of floating has been around for years, but the last whispers emanating from the online betting exchange’s advisers suggested everything could kick off as early as next month.

Want to bet? Sources close to the company now reckon that market conditions make that plan look increasingly ambitious and, in any case, I hear that finance director Stephen Morana is currently away on a long honeymoon while chief exec David Yu, chairman Ed Wray and a host of others are off on their summer holidays.

Furthermore, interviews for the group’s new head of communications continue next week – presumably to find a person to help talk up the company’s shares. That would leave the new spinner with a tight timeframe to work their notice, arrive and settle in before a September listing.

Developing, as they say.

IN MARCH, Cable & Wireless split into two separate businesses: Cable & Wireless Worldwide and Cable & Wireless Communications. Shareholders were given one share in each, with Worldwide remaining in the FTSE 100 and Communications joining the FTSE 250.

This thrilled Worldwide boss John Pluthero, who could barely resist an opportunity to wind up his former colleagues about the respective valuations. Since then, the share price of Communications has edged up very slightly, while Pluthero’s Worldwide has been forced to issue a profits warning and seen its market cap slump to the same size as its smaller sibling. It now faces almost certain relegation to the FTSE 250.

Who’s laughing now, John?

Q: Who, in 2009, said: "To be the chairman of a FTSE company, you have got to have built a reputation over 30 years. Given the current extreme volatility and difficult economic conditions, you potentially put all that at risk in a business that is bound to be different from that in which you spent your working life.''?

A: Robert Swannell, the banker who is to become the, er, next Marks & Spencer chairman.

ON August 10, investment manager Baillie Gifford decided to sell shares in Cairn Energy – triggering a stock exchange announcement that its stake had dipped below 5%. It won’t say how many it sold, which is perhaps not too surprising. Six days later Cairn shares shot up by 5%, as the company announced it would net up to £6bn by flogging most of its stake in Cairn India to miner Vedanta. A chunk of the proceeds will also be returned directly to shareholders.

A trifle embarrassing for Baillie, perhaps, as well as for Iain McLaren. He sits on the board of Baillie Gifford and Cairn Energy. It shows Chinese walls work, I suppose.