August 2010 Archives

The real digital divide is one that transcends socio-economic barriers, and one borne of a reluctance to participate in social media.

Are you in danger of becoming a digital hermit ?

Read my latest column to find out.


Chris is MD of Social Media and Online PR agency Friend Digital. Email: Twitter: @ChrisTomlinson1

If you can't sleep tonight then have a flick through the massive tome that is the S1 filing lodged by GM with the US Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) ahead of its Initial Public Offering (see here for the full document). It runs to several hundred pages. GM has to get SEC approval before it can start, in effect, being privatised.

In approaching the SEC to seek approval for its IPO, GM has had to lay its card on the table in terms of what risks it faces.

In fact, the section entitled "Risks Relating to Our Business" makes a pretty frank assessment of where GM is now and the challenges it faces in the future. While GM has made a remarkable turn-around thus far, with hefty profits in the first two quarters of this year, the $64 billion question is whether it can succeed longer term.

On that the jury is still out, and the challenges GM faces are spelled out clearly in the S1 filing. Some of the highlights (or lowlights) include the following, which I've selected from the S1 and have grouped under headings for this blog:

R&D and innovation are increasingly recognised as playing a key role in delivering economic prosperity (for example, the EU will shortly be producing an 'innovation union communication' linked to the EU2020 Strategy).

And regional policy looks more and more towards the development of brains and not bridges, linked to an increasing interest in creativity and added value through design.

But what's this got to do with regions? Well, some of the key advantages of the regional dimension to policy development and delivery regarding innovation involve the following...

A sports-averse Mrs Gabriel recently joined me in front of the telly, excitedly cheering on a stirring Team GB performance at the European Athletics Championships. Over the same weekend, England's cricketers gave Pakistan the kind of metaphorical spanking that David Cameron hamfistedly attempted earlier that week.

Encouragingly, The Sun devoted its front page on a sporting story on the following Monday. Did it go for athletics? Cricket? Both?

Neither. It chose football, in a manner of speaking. 'Wayne Rowdy' was the declamatory print headline - rather than celebrate actual national sporting success, The Sun went for a non-story about an out-of-season footballer having a night out.

Our country's media wants us to rule the sporting world. So why harp on about someone who 'let us down' at the World Cup, when the nation actually has something worth shouting about?

General Motors will take a huge step towards being privatised later this week when it makes an 'S1 Filing' ahead of a planned Initial Public Offering (IPO) later this year. This will reduce the US government's stake holding in the firm from 61% to under 50% and will pave the way for the Obama administration to get out completely.

What a turn around. So far, that is.

GM emerged blinking in the post Chapter 11 sunlight just over a year ago, having eradicated a big chunk of debt, shifted health costs for retired workers to an independent trust, cut a quarter of its US dealership network, renegotiated hourly wage rates with unions and cut brands like Hummer and Saturn. Unions, by the way, were part of the solution here and not the problem as some 'shock jocks' have made out.

After some 20,000 job cuts and numerous plant closures, GM has been quietly engineering one of the most remarkable turn-arounds in corporate history by returning to profitability this year.

It was mystifying to see a report last week that suggests that only about 1,200 of the estimated 5,000 or so businesses and public sector organisations expected to be caught by the new CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme (CRC) have so far registered.

plane fummy money.jpg
So all of the UK-based banks, including those we own, have now reported their half year results. Just half year ones, mind.

They are all essentially in massive 'profit' and our investment as taxpayers, as judged by the share price only, is again in 'profit'. Whoopie! I predicted here in June that the banks could reestablish their pre-crash profits high of £31billion per year as early as next year. These half year profits show them to be well on target.

Of course none of this makes any sense in the real world. (You know, the one that real business folk live in.)

The underlying value of private housing construction projects starting on site fell between May and July after 6 months of sustained growth according to the latest data from industry analysts Glenigan.

Back in the summer of 2007 BBC Radio rang me to talk about the gathering financial storm. I remember the moment well as I was on the way to a christening south of Dublin and my wife pulled over so I could do a quick interview before finding the party.

Three years on, what has changed? Everything and nothing, it seems.

'Everything' in the sense that we as citizens have had to pay the price in terms of lost jobs, higher taxes, and now cuts in public services. The economy is roughly 10% smaller than what it would have been without the huge downturn.

And hundreds of billions' worth of 'toxic assets' that were once on the banks' books have been shifted over to the state and added onto fiscal deficits which anyway had shot up during that downturn both through lower tax takes and higher government spending.

What is clear beyond doubt is that the UK tax system is among the most complex in the world.

It is a deterrent to businesses looking to move into Europe and a nightmare for those that have to understand and interpret it.

Legislation by cross reference and arcane English are just two of the issues that have added to the problem.

The fact that there are no deliberate gaps in our legislation where new law on the same subject can be added has made matters worse. Law covering the same area could be scattered across different Finance Acts.

Business authors

David Bailey

David Bailey - Professor of Industrial Strategy at the Aston Business School, Birmingham
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Stuart Pemble

Stuart Pemble - Construction Lawyer, Mills & Reeve
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John Clancy

John Clancy - Birmingham City Councillor and director of and
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John Samuels

John Samuels - Professor of Business Finance, Birmingham Business School
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Chris Tomlinson

Chris Tomlinson - Chris Tomlinson is the founder of social media and online PR agency Friend (
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Andrew Whitehead

Andrew Whitehead - Senior partner at law firm SGH Martineau, leading the firm's Energy & Climate Change practice.
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Keith Gabriel

Keith Gabriel - A Birmingham-based PR Account Manager
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Beverley Nielsen

Beverley Nielsen - Lecturer, Design Management, at the Birmingham Institute of Art & Design, BCU
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Mike Loftus

Mike Loftus - Director of News from the Future Ltd. Writing on the trials of setting up your own business
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Richard Halstead

Richard Halstead - Midlands region director for EEF, the manufacturers organisation.
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Karl Edge

Karl Edge - partner at KPMG in Birmingham, specialising in automotive, manufacturing and house building sectors.
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Peter Owen

Peter Owen - Managing director for construction firm Willmott Dixon Midlands.
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Dr Steven McCabe

Dr Steven McCabe - director of research degrees for Birmingham City Business School.
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Francis Greene

Francis Greene - Professor of Small Business and Entrepreneurship, at the University of Birmingham.
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Alan Gilmour

Alan Gilmour - Director at Cogent Elliott, experienced in marketing, brand development and customer relationship management.
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Paul Noon

Paul Noon - Paul Noon, OBE, West Midlands International Trade Director at UK Trade & Investment.
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