TODAY’S FAYRE – Thursday, 10th August 2017
“Sprawled on the crates and sacks in the rear of the truck,
I was gummy -mouthed from the sun and the dust of the track,
And the two Arab soldiers I’d taken on as hitch-hikers
At a torrid petrol-dump, had been there on their hunkers
Since early morning. I said, in a kind of French
‘On m’a dit, qu’ il ya a une belle source d’eau fraiche,
Plus loin, a El Aghir’…..
It was eighty more kilometres
Until round a corner we heard a splashing of waters,
And there, in a green, dark street, was a fountain with two faces
Discharging both ways, from full-throated faucets
Into basins, thence into troughs and thence into brooks.
Our negro corporal driver slammed his brakes,
And we yelped and leapt from the truck and went at the double
To fill our bidons and bottles and drink and dabble.
Then, swollen with water, we went to an inn for wine.
The Arabs came, too, though their faith might have stood between.
‘After all’, they said,’ it’s a boisson,’ without contrition.
Green , Green is El Aghir. It has a railway station,
And the wealth of its soil has borne many another fruit,
A mairie, a school and an elegant Salle de Fetes.
Such blessings, as I remarked, in effect, to the waiter,
Are added unto them that have plenty of water.
Norman Cameron – poet – 1905-1953
Old Trafford produced the most wonderful result to the test match on Monday. You could not have scripted the course of events, if you tried. A thumping England victory against South Africa with Jimmy Anderson amongst the wickets, having had an end/stand named after him, Moeen Ali for producing a virtuoso performance with bat and ball to win him man of the match and series and fabulous contributions from Ben Stokes and our new skipper Joe Root!
On Tuesday, my wife and I enjoyed the most pleasurable of evenings – a visit to the Covent Garden to see the Mariinsky Ballet from St Petersburg, dancing three short exquisite ballets – ‘Carmen Suite’, ‘Infra’, Grand Pas from ‘Paquita.’ It was a truly memorable occasion, with dancing of the very highest quality to scintillatingly beautiful music. What was depressing was that a large part of the audience rocked up in jeans, sandals, T-shirts, trainers, tatty sweaters and even shorts – showing utter contempt and disrespect for the occasion. I doubt 20% of the audience wore appropriate attire. If a person can afford £60-£120 for a ticket he/she can afford to climb in to a ‘whistle’, jacket & trousers, dress or trouser suite as a mark of respect and esteem. It was a memorable occasion and the entire audience should have acknowledged that fact.
Yesterday there were some extremely erudite comments coming from the waves of Radio-4’s Today programme very deftly led by Dominic O’Connell, which included comments from luminaries such as the former Chancellor Lord Darling and one of the FT’S leading intellectual financial experts, Gillian Tett, on the 10th anniversary of the banking crisis. Many poignant comments were made, but I’d like to make a couple of observations. Firstly no one acknowledged that HSBC was the first to flag up that there was going to be a problem with sub-prime lending. HSBC had erroneously bought Household in the US from that lending sector for $14.3 billion. It actually cost HSBC over $50 billion to clear the losses. News of BNP Paribas and the lack of liquidity that forced it to freeze three of its funds because of an inability to value the complex, mortgage-backed securities that were on their books, though, important, paled into insignificance in terms of importance.
There was a very unpleasant and rather worrying bellicose exchange of threats between US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. Considering the level of very inflammatory rhetoric, though markets did not come out unscathed, the net result could have been a great deal worse yesterday. The FTSE 100 eased by 44 points to 7498. European bourse fared even worse with the DAX shedding 1.1% and the CAC 1.4%. US markets shook off the clouds of geopolitical unrest with a degree of contempt and disdain.
The Street of Dreams closed as follows – DOW -0.17%, S&P -0.04%, NASDAQ -0.28%. Not surprisingly defense stocks enjoyed a run on the rails, whilst other market activists expressed concern – Raytheon, the maker of the Patriot – up 2.5% and Lockheed Martin +1.3%. Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics also made modest progress! Despite the relative turmoil that prevails around the world, there are still enormous deals in the offing, such as Altice provocative and cheeky swoop to buy Charter Communications in a deal valued at $185 billion. Softbank have already set down their stall. The bid was rejected. However Altice and its billionaire chief Patrick Drahi have over the years, made acquisitions in Portugal, France and the US. Altice is debt-ridden. However it will be interesting to see whether Charter, which has 26 million subscribers, thinks there is any synergy.
Asian markets suffered today, especially Chinese markets. At the time of writing the various bourses stood at the following levels – ASX +0.23% (closed), Shanghai -1.06%, HS -1.58%, Nikkei unchanged (closed).
Markets in London were quite calm yesterday, with few absolutely key companies posting numbers, apart from L&G where CEO Nigel Wilson posted encouraging results. Fund management under Helena Morrissey had performed with aplomb. Premier Foods, the makers of Bisto, Mr Kipling, Paxo and Ambrosia, appointed a well-known board-room-firebrand in Keith Hamill, currently on the board of easyJet and Samsonite, as their chairman. It looks as though there may be a delay in the acquisition plans of 21st Century to buy Sky. Crispin Odey, who owns 1% of Sky, is not that concerned as he believes the price being paid of £11 billion is starting to look rather parsimonious.
WorldPay’s deal with Vantiv in a £9.3 billion acquisition, valuing the joint operation at £22.2 billion was finally consummated yesterday with Goldman and Barclays pulling out all the stops to secure their £35 million fee. Observers will recall that JP Morgan’s interest was brushed aside at the outset. The deal was flagging but was sweetened by WorldPay ending up with 43% of the company rather than 41%. There was a 23% premium paid for WorldPay’s shares. Nick Ogden developed this payment process operation; sold it to RBS, who were forced to divest, by selling 80% of it to Bain & others for £2 billion by the EU under bail-out terms. Glencore posted decent numbers but expectations were high as commodity prices rose. At 8.15am the FTSE 100 was down 51 points (ex-Div -41 points) at 7447. Early calls were – Card Factory +1%, Glencore -2%, Evraz +2.5%, Cineworld +2.75%, Amec Foster Wheeler +1%, PageGroup +1.5%.
UK companies posting numbers this week – Thursday – Card Factory, Coca-Cola EP, Prudential, Amec Foster Wheeler, Evraz, Cineworld, PageGroup – Friday – Old Mutual
US companies posting results this week – Thursday – Macy’s, Nvidia, Nordstrom, Friday – JC Penney
Economic Data – Thursday – RICS House Balance, UK Construction, Manufacturing output and Industrial production
Market Commentator – Panmure Gordon & Co
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