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May 28, 2009

Toxic asset-maker survives again

Ineos Group, popularly described as Britain’s largest private company, has escaped the hangman’s noose again. For the second time, a sufficient majority of the 230 banks to which it owes 7.5 billion euros have granted it a stay of execution.

  Last month, the 7.875 per cent 2016 bond was trading at 7 per cent of face value, but since then the price has jumped to 28. Its other debt has also risen strongly.

May 27, 2009

A bad blow for B&B bondholders

Quick, Bradford & Bingley bonds are yielding more than 100 per cent. Oh, sorry, they’re not. They’re not yielding anything after a grim little statement from the company after the markets closed on Tuesday.

For the first time since the bank was nationalised, the board has decided to miss the next interest payments on B&B’s subordinated debt. Those who bought the 11.625 per cent perpetual bonds at 30, hoping for a return of almost 40 per cent a year on their investment, have lost two-thirds of their capital overnight.

May 26, 2009

A chink in the Chinalco armour

Xiong Weipeng has been speaking to Caijing magazine. Perhaps he was speaking in Mandarin, which might explain why something seems to have been lost in translation.

 Xiong is president of Chinalco, the Chinese state-owned aluminium group which is trying to muscle in on Rio Tinto, doubling its holding to 18 per cent and taking big minority stakes in its best mines.

May 21, 2009

One small step for Rio Tinto…

…and a giant leap for Chinalco, the Chinese state-owned aluminium company which wants to raise its stake in the miner to 19 per cent, as well as taking chunky minority stakes in Rio’s best mines.

 Smoke signals from Australia suggest that the Chinese have noticed the real possibility that their sweetheart deal will be overturned by Rio’s disgruntled shareholders, and they are suggesting new terms to limit the holding to 15 per cent.

May 20, 2009

Quick! Give that man a job!

Provided he doesn’t drink too much, it’s unlikely that David Redmond will find himself out of work for long. Redmond was a Morgan Stanley trader in the oil and freight markets who went out for a long, liquid lunch on February 6 last year, and on his return embarked on some frenetic trading in the oil market.

 Whether he fully realised what he was doing or not, he dominated the market that afternoon, culminating in a frenzy of trading into the early evening. He eventually went home leaving an open position without telling his superiors that $10 million of the bank’s money was at risk

May 19, 2009
via The Great Debate UK

Not many Marks for the Rose Report


— Neil Collins is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own —

If a company’s health can be judged by the clarity of the statements it makes, Marks & Spencer is sick indeed. Its long, comprehensive and in parts incomprehensible statement with Tuesday’s figures is stuffed with jargon, phrases designed to cheer up the troops, while some key news is glossed over.

The dividend is not cut, but merely “rebased”, to provide “a stronger foundation for moving forward”. The group is “the only retailer not benefitting from food inflation”, which is one way of explaining away a margin squeeze.

May 18, 2009
via The Great Debate UK

De Montfort adds to property gloom

As the green shoots were being trampled underfoot by the City’s (remaining) finest at the Chelsea Flower Show this evening, the bankers had more to choke down than the champagne. Some of their companies had paid 500 pounds for their copy of De Montford University’s annual Commercial Lending Report, while others had seen the summary on Alphaville and struggled to stay cheerful.

 The De Mortford study shows that there’s a vast amount of property-secured debt out there, and the loan life is getting shorter. Over two-thirds of the debts in the survey (it covers 250 billion pounds of advances) are repayable in less than five years, with 23 per cent due this year and next.

May 15, 2009
via The Great Debate UK

Barclays’ debt to Martin Taylor

Martin Taylor was a brave choice as chief executive of Barclays following its crisis-before-last in 1994. Unfortunately, nobody would claim the appointment was a runaway success, and when he quit in 1998, the disillusion was mutual.

Yet one decision he made in 1995 has now been brilliantly vindicated. He approved the purchase, for $440 million, of an obscure little fund management business owned by Wells Fargo and Nikko Securities. This business pioneered the idea of the exchange traded fund, whereby investors could effectively buy (or sell) an index, or could inject index constituent shares into it in exchange for units.

May 12, 2009
via The Great Debate UK

If only GE Jack had listened to his wife

Suzy Welch is a clever girl. She was a bright journalist who married one of America’s industrial heroes, the then chief executive of General Electric, Jack Welch. Now she has joined the burgeoning ranks of authors of self-help books (which include her husband) with the irritatingly titled 10-10-10.

 In it, Welch expounds her philosophy of good decision-making. Before deciding what to do, you should think about the consequences in 10 minutes, 10 months and 10 years. It’s impressive to spin out such a banal thought into a decent-length article, let alone a whole book, but she’s managed it.

May 12, 2009
via The Great Debate UK

Forget MPs’ perks – look at their pensions

Golly, it’s tough being an MP. All those Tesco till receipts, available for public delectation, and which among us has not wished that someone else would pay to have our moat cleaned?

It’s all grand entertainment, but these little follies, and even the grander ones of fiddling the second home designation, are insignificant when set against the most valuable MPs’ perk of all, their pension entitlements.

    • About Neil

      "City Editor, The Daily Telegraph 1986-2005 City Editor, The Sunday Times, 1984-1986 City Editor, Evening Standard, 1979-1984 Director Templeton Emerging Markets Investment Trust plc, Finsbury Growth and Income Trust plc Passion: fly fishing (and wife Julia and seven-year-old twins)"
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