Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Knowing FA about the FA

More on Virgin Atlantic and its puzzling efforts to suck up to the England football team.
After being kept waiting with other England fans flying home from Johannesburg as the airline prioritised the players' charter flight (see below), my eye's caught by Virgin's woeful effort to ingratiate itself with the team's supporters.
One of the onboard telly channels is currently showing the 1966 World Cup final and the inflight magazine's teaser to potential viewers drones: "All together now: 'Some of the crowd on the pitch. They think it's all over...'."
Oh dear. That's England's most famous footballing quote and Virgin's marketing amateurs can't even get that right. Such perfect partners for the FA.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Virgin on the offensive

Is Virgin Atlantic attempting to make British Airways look like a customer-focused airline? There's a queue of disgruntled England fans forming at Johannesburg airport who chippy Virgin staff are making wait for an hour to check-in for their delayed flight home.
No such problems for the alternative Virgin charter flight back to Heathrow, which just happens to be carrying the England team. Personally, I'd leave that useless shower in Departures.

The Fagan twist

I've been meaning to write about Neil Fagan, the City lawyer who, a court is hearing, had his face slashed by his mistress during a drug-fuelled S&M session at the Waldorf Hilton hotel.
When he was a partner at Lovells and advising Trinity Mirror, Fagan carried out the internal investigation at The Mirror into the City Slickers scandal - even giving evidence which observers thought notable for its "high, moral tone". What goes around, comes around.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Sindy Column...

For this week's column (again from South Africa) click here.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Mahut and Isner odds on for an advertising deal

With Nicolas Mahut and John Isner locked at 59 games all in the final set at Wimbledon, it seems more likely that an advertising deal will arrive before a conclusion to the Court 18 match.
Inevitably, bookmaker Bodog is already offering odds on Isner, Mahut or both being used in a commercial by end of 2010. They are:
Fitness Centre Chain 7/2
The Rabbit (better than any man, however long he may last) 5/1
Red Bull 6/1
Hummer 8/1
Andrex (soft, strong & very long) 10/1
Viagra 12/1
Duracell 16/1
Long Life/UHT Milk brand 25/1
BP (it never stops) 100/1
(ok, that's enough - Ed.).

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Joke job number 7,082...

Usually the Guardian merely advertises these hilarious vacancies. Now it is giving them to staff...
Guardian News & Media
Georgina Henry is now The Guardian’s Head of Culture, responsible for the integration of cultural output on The Guardian, The Observer and
guardian.co.uk. She can be reached on +44 (0)20 3353 3784 and georgina.henry@guardian.co.uk.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Sindy Column...

For this week's column (unusually from South Africa), click here.

Friday, 18 June 2010


Apologies for the paucity of posts - but being as ITV seems intent on ruining the World Cup for all its viewers I've decided to go to South Africa to watch it live.
Anyway, a couple of early thoughts occur.
1. Everybody seems upset by the noise of the vuvuzelas, but is that constant whine any worse than listening to Clive Tyldesley?
2. Investment bank, JP Morgan, decided to get itself lots of publicity last month by using its quant models to predict that England would beat Spain in next month's final. So far, its picks for the tournament have produced one point and one goal from two games. That might all change, of course, but will the US bank care? Like its real equity research, it's unlikely that JPM has backed its hunches with much of its own money.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Laura Jane gets another distress call

More peculiar goings on at West Register – the secretive vehicle created by Royal Bank of Scotland in which it dumps its distressed assets. You'll recall that there seems to be a policy of constantly switching directors at West Register (Investments) and West Register (Property Investments). Now I note that one Laura Jane Barlow (already a director at the property group) has joined the board of the investment company. Oddly, virtually all the directors seem to be based in south-east England, despite West Register being located in Royal Bank's buildings in Edinburgh, while construction sources reckon the bank and its off-shoots are impossible to reach to do any deals. Developing…

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Sindy Column...

IG boss admits spread betting punters make no money! For this week's column, click here.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma

Is this the most ridiculous statement ever issued to the stock market? "BP IS NOT AWARE OF ANY REASON FOR SHARE PRICE MOVEMENT" it screams. "BP notes the fall in its share price in US trading last night. The company is not aware of any reason which justifies this share price movement."
Indeed. What a mystery. What could possibly be causing investors to fret?

Three Lions lose your shirt

Is World Cup fever finally starting?
I hear that publicly-listed Ladbrokes has just taken a £100k punt on Spain at 4/1 from an international customer, while the worrying (for the bookies) absence of bets on England seems to be alleviating. A few mug punters are now starting to back the Three Lions, making an England win the second worst result for the layers. The worst result? An Argentina victory - in more ways than one.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Pelican brief

Here's a BP spinner thinking out loud: "Those pelicans are brown pelicans. They are brown anyway. It's not because they are coated in oil."
Sort of. But will BP boss Tony Hayward be brave enough to try that line out on Obama?

Monday, 7 June 2010

FT hires its biggest fan

Congratulations to my old friend Mark Kleinman, the City editor of Sky News, for landing a new column at the FT to replace the one he lost at the Times.
Kleinman's scoop-getting qualities are renowned across Fleet Street, but does he rate his new colleagues quite as highly as he and others rate himself?
Tweeting on the Pink 'Un last year, Kleinman mused: "FT just put out a news alert on RBS story I broke on Jeff Randall's show tonight - well done for watching the TV!"

Sindy Column...

This week's column...

BP's embarrassing windfalls

BP shareholders have watched the value of their investment slump by a third since the leak in the Gulf of Mexico. But some canny investors saw significant profits before disaster struck.

Who were these prophets? Step forward BP chief exec, Tony Hayward, and Andy Inglis, boss of exploration and production, who respectively trousered £1.4m and £498,000 via share sales in March, just a month before the blast that killed 11 workers and triggered environmental catastrophe. I wonder if the pair might make a magnanimous gesture and donate their profits to charities helping the local flora and fauna get their lives back?

"Ha!" said a BP spokesman, before composing himself: "Er, erm ... I'll get back to you." Like a Gulf of Mexico solution: still waiting.

A deafening silence

Ocado, the unprofitable soon-to-be-floated online retailer co-founded by ex-banker Jason Gissing, right, has hired UBS, JP Morgan Cazenove, HSBC, Barclays, Lloyds Banking Group, Numis, Jefferies and Goldman Sachs to assist. Might handing so many banks a slice of the pie come with a price - i.e., no heckling about the float from their analysts? "I think there are a few more analysts around than just those at these banks," blocks a mouthpiece. Possibly, but the tactic seemed to work on the laughable Prudential rights issue, which boasted a team sheet that read like the Who's Who of investment banking. Coincidentally, it attracted virtually no objective comment by their biddable analysts.

A Wanless wonder

Sir Derek Wanless defiantly refuses to allow career embarrassments keep him out of the public eye. Having spent the credit crisis as the head of Northern Rock's risk committee, he followed that triumph by accepting pointless honorary degrees from former polys before moving to the speaking circuit. His latest appearance came last week at Durham University, during a seminar on water. Has the man no shame?

Music, maestro!

For 20 years, Nigel Brown, the founder of NW Brown Group, has been supporting promising musicians by forming syndicates to buy them instruments - which they can then buy for themselves during the span of their careers.

These are decent - tax efficient - investments, as these rare instruments tend only to rise in value ("Antonio Stradivari has given me an undertaking not to make any more," says Brown). If you want to hear how they sound, pop along to Cambridge's West Road Concert Hall on 14 June, when the businessman is staging a concert featuring his prodigies. They include Natalie Clein, pictured, the cellist and former Young Musician of the Year. Nigel Kennedy was also given a boost by these syndicates, but let's not hold that totally against Brown.

Friday, 4 June 2010


Numerous fire engines and ambulances outside the offices of the Financial Services Authority earlier this afternoon as firemen attempted to coax some poor soul down from outside the building. A banker about to jump? Sadly not. A window cleaner whose rig had jammed.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Lax Lex fails to plug the gaps

As BP struggles to plug its leaky well in the Gulf of Mexico, I wonder if the Financial Times's once respected commentary column, Lex, is struggling to fill its own holes left by a recent reshuffle.
Bollocks. Back then, David Simon (later Lord Simon of Highbury) had just been appointed chief exec - and he hung around in that role until 1997. Might Lex actually be thinking of former BP chairman, Bob Horton, who resigned five weeks before the oil group cut the dividend?

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Does Alan Parker also want his life back?

As BP's share price slumps day by the day, and chief exec Tony Hayward feels unable to resist gaffes about wanting "his life back", how is the oil group's hired PR help bearing up to the inconvenience of this unscheduled trip to America?
I hear that Alan Parker, the supremo of City spinners Brunswick, is holding Hayward's hand out in the US having done a deal at the start of the crisis whereby he'd mind Hayward, while senior partner Nick Claydon was apparently tasked with looking after BP chairman, the invisible Carl-Henric Svanberg.
The best laid plans, and all that. That arrangement was cooked up when it was believed that Svanberg would be going to the US, with Hayward staying in the UK.
For some reason, Svanberg has not travelled, meaning Parker has had to.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Test Match Special Offer wide of the mark

Much talk on Test Match Special on Monday that MCC nearly had to fork out £42,000 if young bowler Steve Finn had taken 10 wickets in the First Test (he ended up with nine). The Beeb reports: "[TMS presenter] Simon Mann reveals that it will cost MCC £42,000 if Finn takes the final wicket (because of their promotional offer offering refunds to anyone who bought tickets online between 16 April and 4 May if someone takes 10 wickets in the match)."
But would MCC really have been £42,000 out of pocket? Of course not. That deal was hedged with a bookmaker, so a 10 wicket haul would have been financially irrelevant to MCC. Arguably the club would have preferred to have paid out, as it would encourage future deals.