Alex Brummer on Business

Bank bounce does not mean 'normal'

By Alex Brummer, September 28, 2010

Just 24 months ago, the financial world was in deep crisis brought to the brink by "casino banking". Two Wall Street broker-dealing houses which survived the Great Depression vanished.

Bear Stearns was bought by JP Morgan for a song and Lehman Brothers collapsed and was bought out of receivership by Barclays Capital.

Switzerland's UBS was badly holed and the Royal Bank of Scotland - with a large investment banking arm - ended up 84 per cent owned by the British government.

The recovery of the sector in 2009 looked to have been remarkable.

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The yiddishe roots of M&S and Tesco

By Alex Brummer, September 16, 2010

By the standards of much of the retail sector, the changing of the guard at Tesco has been a relatively low key affair.

There were the inevitable tributes to Sir Terry Leahy who will retire next year and short profiles of the chosen successor Phil Clarke who, like Leahy, started at the very bottom.

But there has been none of the fuss and football-style transfer fees which, for instance, accompanied the arrival of Marc Bolland as chief executive of Marks & Spencer.

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Why BP is key to our national future

By Alex Brummer, September 2, 2010

At a time when great British companies have become easy prey for buyers from all over the world, the sale of BP is no longer outside the bounds of possibility.

The immediate crisis in the Gulf of Mexico may have passed but a shrunken BP, plagued by the possibility of years of litigation, could still be vulnerable.

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Choppy float shouldn't scupper Ocado

By Alex Brummer, August 19, 2010

Successful stock market flotations are difficult at the best of times.

But the reception for internet grocer Ocado - which came to the market late last month- was peculiarly frosty. And this despite the fact that the company was brought to the market by some of the most respected investment banking names in the City.

The initial public offering (IPO) has been a salutary experience for the group's chief executive Tim Steiner.

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The crisis in Euroland is far from over

By Alex Brummer, July 22, 2010

The untroubled scene is the open air breakfast restaurant at a luxury new resort hotel on Greece's bay of Navarone, developed - after three decades of planning - by a shipowner. Just in case the guests are too lazy to walk to the main swimming baths or down to the beach many of the rooms have their own infinity pools.

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SG Warburg: a template for better banking

By Alex Brummer, July 8, 2010

It is 15 years since the investment bank SG Warburg, a pioneer of finance in Britain, lost its independence. But fascination with the firm founded by emigré Siegmund George Warburg - scion of the prominent German-Jewish banking family - remains as strong today as ever.

A new biography of Siegmund by the historian Niall Ferguson (High Financier: The Lives and Time of Siegmund Warburg, Allen Lane, £30) contrasts the caution of SG Warburg's founders Warburg and Henry Grunfeld with the casino bankers who wrecked the global economy during the 'Great Panic'.

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A radical budget: now let's pray

By Martin Lewis, June 24, 2010

Behind every budget there is a hidden hand.

In the case of Labour's last Chancellor Alistair Darling it was Gordon Brown who would keep officials up into the early hours of budget day fiddling with the numbers.

In new Chancellor George Osborne's very first budget - an action-packed affair in which almost all major taxes were adjusted - the hidden force was not at the Treasury at all.

Much of the thinking, if not the detail, which influenced Osborne's key decisions to tackle budget deficits and borrowing head on, was formulated on Threadneedle Street rather than Downing Street.

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Joe Lewis still has that midas touch

By Alex Brummer, June 10, 2010

Every so often the business pages publish a picture of a kindly, balding man in a golf buggy who is variously described as a reclusive exile, a Bahamas based billionaire or a currency trader. This spring, one imagines, Joe Lewis - who began his career working in London's hotel industry - has a smile on his face.

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Time for the chairmen to stand up

By Alex Brummer, May 27, 2010

What is the job of a quoted company chairman? Before the days of corporate governance, the jobs of the chairman and chief executive were often wrapped up in one - they still are in the United States. But a series of UK corporate scandals - including those in the late tycoon Robert Maxwell's empire - discredited the model of supreme boardroom power.

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Why we've escaped the euro storm - so far

By Alex Brummer, May 13, 2010

One suspects that inside the Treasury the calamitous problems currently facing euroland are being watched more calmly than might be expected.

First, it demonstrated that the failure of Britain to pass Gordon Brown's five tests to join the euro back in 2003 was just as well given the battering that deficit nations inside the single currency area are taking.

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