Hello All, and welcome to our latest edition of the Financial and Professional Services Friday Fiver. Two things have happened in the UK this week – firstly, it’s been very, very cold. And secondly, corporate Britain has turned into something of a witch hunt. There’s more on that below, as well as our thoughts on Facebook, Mega mergers and a new magazine launch for our sector. Happy weekend everyone, and stay warm.
THE BUSINESS OF FRIENDSHIP…..“It is a good thing to be rich… but it is a better thing to be beloved of many friends.” Euripides
A wise quote, but of course if you’re Mark Zuckerberg you have all of the above. This week Facebook announced its much anticipated Initial Public Offering. It may not be the biggest IPO, of recent years but it’s likely to be a theme of the business pages for many weeks to come. The company is looking to tap up investors for $5bn but the investment community is divided both on the rationale for the listing, as John Gapper explains in today’s FT [recommended read] and also the long-term investment case for the company.
Whatever the merits of the decision, it can be easy to forget the wealth that start-up businesses create, particularly when they experience success on the scale of Facebook. We were warmed to hear the tale of the graffiti artist who took stock instead of cash for painting the company’s office. The value of the stock could now be worth as much as $200 million. All in a day’s work…
SICK (MEDIA) NATIONS…..This weekend sees the beginning of the RBS Six Nations. England approach the tournament as fourth favourites, humbled by their world cup exit and off the field escapades. Ireland are third favourites and will be without their talismanic skipper Brian O’Driscoll. And Wales, so often the nearly men of northern hemisphere rugby (sorry Rach), lie second in the odds, without their impressive and youthful fly half Rhys Priestland. The French once again lead the pack.
But unlike their rugby team, it seems the French print media landscape is in a more rapid decline than ours. This week saw the last ever daily print edition of La Tribune, one of the leading economic newspapers in France. It will be replaced by a weekly print edition and an active website – of course. Established in January 1985, it was read by CEOs, managers, professionals, political and institutional decisions makers for twenty-seven years.
The success of the website and the weekly edition will no doubt be closely monitored by the British print media. As in the rugby, the question is, when will England take a lead from the French? The closure of the News of the World, the Leveson inquiry and the emergence of ‘i’, ‘Britain’s fastest growing quality newspaper’ no less, suggests the long mooted change in our media landscape is a foot. Quite who will win the sweepstake however is anybody’s guess.
ECONOMY, ECONOMI, ECONOMIA…..Not all print titles seem doomed however – this week, Ed and Dave attended the launch of the ICAEW’s new magazine, ‘Economia’ (thanks for the champagne and chocolates guys, we loved it!). The inaugural edition certainly featured a grand line-up of interviews and contributors, and it will be interesting to see if the magazine can maintain the high standard it’s set itself in future editions. However, there must have been one or two nervous faces on Tuesday evening as the front cover was unveiled – perhaps not the greatest timing….
IT’S COLD OUTSIDE – ENJOY IT…..Our annual cold snap arrived with a bang this week and the forecast for the weekend is decidedly of the ‘icy-white’ variety. Then again, according to The Times’ Eureka magazine this week, we’d better enjoy the pretty white stuff while we can. Snow it seems, is in danger of becoming as rare as a snow leopard within the next 50 years or so as global warming takes a grip. While the debate over warming continues to take precedence over actual action, there are some upsides to a less snowy/icy planet, not least the opening of the Northwest Passage and access to the Arctic’s oil, gas and mineral reserves – something that a newly merged Xstrata/Glencore would undoubtedly look to get to grips with…
GOOD WEEK/BAD WEEK…..As it turns out, it’s been a good week for shareholders, and in particular, anyone with a FTSE tracker fund. As the BBC’s Hugh Pym noted a short time ago, the FTSE100 closed up this week at 5,901 – the highest the index has been since July last year. Will it last? Perhaps not, but for a brief moment at least, pension pots and stocks & shares ISAs are looking a little rosier.
On the bad week front, it’s hard to look past anyone sitting in the chief exec or chairman’s seat on a large company’s board really. The combination of Stephen Hester’s bonus backdown and (Sir) Fred Goodwin’s ‘de-robing’ have caused some commentators to speculate that Britain is now ‘closed for business’. With reporting season still in full flow, the pay gauntlet is looking increasingly long and spiky for company bosses for at least the next four weeks.