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.

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