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.