September, 2009

Sep 09

The long haul: investing in nuclear and agriculture

Hands up whoever groaned with envy at re-elected German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s tax-cutting agenda. The only disagreement with her new coalition partner is how deep these should be. Even to-bed-at-10pm-Frankfurt is beginning to look appealing compared to London.

Her new government also stands united on scrapping the nuclear phase-out. Nuclear energy provides around 25% of the country’s needs.

Someone else who is sighing with envy is Lady Barbara Judge, chair of the UK Atomic Energy Authority. At a Pi Capital breakfast she spoke about one of the (many) challenges facing the industry. Namely, people. With energy security and climate change driving the need for a new generation of nuclear plants, the dearth of specialised engineers and architects is a major issue.


Sep 09

A former bank ceo’s view of the G-20

I come from a much-married family. I prefer not to do the maths on averages, but at a recent family wedding in Vermont, I discovered a second cousin who was on his fifth, possibly a family record. I did not ask him about his ex-wives – I doubt the comments would have been favourable.

This behaviour is not unlike that of governments. The UK government’s love affair with the City has now come to an abrupt, acrimonious end. Gordon Brown recently said: “There is no going back to the bonus structure of the past. I am personally appalled (my italics) by some of the practices that have been going on at some institutions.”

Sep 09

The new powers in the land

Outspoken EU Commissioner Charlie McCreevy told the gathered chiefs of hedge funds, private equity and public companies that a new political power had arisen in Brussels. The EU Parliament is now on an equal footing with the Council of Ministers and the European Commission, he informed the Pi Capital lunch crowd.

This does not mean that all 736 MEPs need to be lobbied on measures such as the controversial draft Alternative Investment Directive – currently being modified. However, influential figures like Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, president of the European socialists’ group, chairs of specialised committees and rapporteurs (those who present reports to Parliament) are of key importance.

Sep 09

Of wine, women and the G-20

To dinner at the Michelin-starred Ledbury with restaurant entrepreneur Nigel Platts-Martin, who is feeling rather cynical at a change in the law from October that is being marketed by the UK Government as fair wages for restaurant staff on the minimum wage. Without going into the nitty-gritty of it – everyone in the UK will be an expert on the issue as the media goes into hyper-drive – it is yet another ruse by the Government to raise taxes by stealth.

Meanwhile, local restaurants may be seeing a rise in "domestics," as they are known in the trade. A couple are having dinner, they have an argument, she leaves the restaurant. He either asks for the bill or, more sensibly, orders an extra-good bottle of wine for himself and drowns his sorrows.