September 2011 Archives
"Are we nearly there yet?" That plaintive call from the back seat during countless journeys. This time however the small voice isn't a frustrated four or five year old but rather a worried niggle from inside my own head pondering as ever the state of play of my current venture - and some bigger issues, too.
When a company chief starts her talk by highlighting rising poverty levels in the UK you begin to sit up and take notice.
So when Amanda Sourry, Chairman, Unilever, UK & Ireland, elegantly attired in an understated black dress, delivered her visiting lecture representing 'Britain's Most Admired Company, 2010' in Birmingham last week (22/09/11)and pronounced that the 'UK was facing its biggest fall in disposable income in 35 years,' she certainly made an impression.
The survey of Britain's Most Admired Companies, run by Professor Mike Brown, Birmingham City Business School, since the early '90s, reflects the sum of nine elements assessed by senior executives and city analysts that go to making up corporate reputation including the quality of management, products and services, marketing, community and environmental responsibility, financial soundness including efficient use of assets and prospects for longterm value as well as ability to attract top people and to innovate.
PublicFinance.co.uk reports that Barclays is actively backing a serious market in U.K. Municipal Bonds with credit ratings for U.K. Municipal Authorities on the way to facilitate it, possibly by the end of this year.
Finally, something from Barclays which makes real sense.
It's time to run with this, Birmingham, and it should be the start of the renaissance of confident economic self-determination in this city.
According to the reports, council bond issues remain 'on the agenda' for the 'back half of next year', so apparently says Chris Hearn, head of local authorities and education at Barclays Corporate bank.
This is an exciting opportunity. I hope that one of the reported 6 authorities who are working on this with Barclays is Birmingham. We'll see. If not, we need to get on board immediately.
It's time to stand on our own two feet and make real decisions about what to invest in and how to invest it in Birmingham.
Instead of the nonsense of going cap-in-hand to London begging for a loan from the Public Works Loan Board (the old traditional route, which centralises) there is now a real likelihood of a new financial independence for this city. Literally independent, because we are not dependent on streams of finance simply from central government or traditional city routes.
It will require brave and bold thinking and a break with the past.
It's probably passed many companies by but new legislation came into force today requiring them to consider every available option before disposing of waste and if you're an SME it might mean big trouble
George Osborne made a powerful statement at the end of last week in Washington which, though widely reported, led to little analysis of its implications.
He said, "I have made it a priority for the Financial Services Authority and the Bank of England to make sure that the UK banking system is adequately capitalised and have sufficient liquidity to deal with all eventualities. We have stress-tested sovereign writedowns."
Firstly, can we see the stress tests please? The European Banking Authority published the results of its stress tests earlier in the year involving 'sovereign shock' and including the 4 UK banks. What's the position now, George? Publish these stress tests so everyone can see the confidence you have.
Secondly, the Chancellor has made quite a hefty commitment there: he will ensure the UK banks are adequately capitalised and have liquidity.....and 'in all eventualities'?
To this second point - are we as taxpayers ready for this? Can we as taxpayers afford this?
The UK government is prepared to re-rescue our banks in the event of a Eurozone sovereign and banking collapse, is it?
If there is a Europe-wide banking collapse are we (are you?) prepared to do it all again? Prepared to pump money back into failing British banks who let the country down when it needed it most and instead saved the skins, and paid out the bonuses, of bankers?
I'm not sure we are, actually, Mr. Osborne.
Stock markets and commodity markets around the world have collapsed today, Thursday, even though, as predicted here on 7th September, the Fed did go ahead and do 'the twist'. It started buying long-dated assets with the sales of short-dated assets and maturing mortgages.
But the markets were not convinced.
It was enough to cause a panic. Enough of a worry in itself that it would be inadequate, it combined with sudden bad news from China: the screens went red this afternoon in the States and across the financial world.
The China Flash Purchasing Managers' index showed deceleration for the 3rd consecutive month.
China's biggest builder in the eastern province of Zhejiang, Greentown, appears to be in trouble and may provoke the start of contagion in Chinese property. Chinese property stocks are plunging (by 10% a day in some cases). Developers in China are starting to have their liquidity challenged and their access to finance locally and globally is drying up.
Property prices in the big cities are starting to show sharp declines. Sound familiar?
As German Chancellor Angela Merkel currently works out how to steer the euro out of its current troubles, there are profound consequences for the UK in another policy area where Germany has a pivotal role, namely the energy markets. In March of this year, Merkel announced her monumental political U-turn over the future of the country's nuclear power programme.
A very short supplemenatry blog to my earlier pieces on JLR and the wonderful news of the new engine plant planned for the i54 site in Staffordshire, near Wolverhampton.
Of course, the key thing here is that JLR is investing heavily in the Midlands, and who takes the credit for that politically is a secondary issue.
But we should note that a number of public agencies have played a role here. The local authorities have been key, as has the Black Country LEP in getting enterprise zone status for the site (and I guess that faster planning and enhanced capital allowances will help the JLR investment). The national government also played a role in supporting the investment.
But let's also note the role of Advantage West Midlands in getting to this point. It's worth remembering that:
1.It took almost ten years' of AWM effort in remediating the i54 site, putting in infrastructure and attracting tenants - think MOOG, Eurofins and now JLR.
2. AWM agreed the deal with JLR for the purchase of the site months ago, and then had to secure BIS approval for the deal.
3. AWM owned the site until one minute past midnight on 18th September 2011 (i.e. the day before the announcement was made).
With AWM being abolished and use of the 'R' word banished, it's inevitable that AWM will get airbrushed out of the picture - but let's not forget the positives coming out of AWM's record - whether the Rover Task Force, Regional Rask Force, or its work in regenerating sites like i54.
One day the need to join up the work of LEPs through some sort of intermediate scale will be back on the political agenda. The lessons from RDAs (positive and negative) will need to be remembered. AWM wasn't perfect but it did a lot of good work for the region's economy and i54 is one example of that.
Professor David Bailey works at Coventry University Business School
When we talk about innovative technologies and high growth businesses, we tend to think of software services, mobile phone technologies and ipads.
It's perhaps less well known, that here in the West Midlands, one of our biggest technological success stories is in the fields of gaming and digital media.
We have a wealth of gaming companies across the region which develop and produce innovative apps and games used by commercial and retail markets worldwide.
Yet many of these small, innovative companies are not maximising their potential and selling direct to the likes of Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo and other international customers.
JLR's huge £355 million investment in a new engine plant in the region is indeed a massive boost for the region's auto industry and the wider economy.
The plant is likely to directly employ some 750-900 workers and will increase demand for apprenticeships, skilled workers and graduates. Those workers will spend money in the wider economy, bringing multiplier benefits, and will pay tax and national insurance to the government.
In addition, the plant will require components from the auto components industry, creating further jobs in the supply chain. While some media reports have whipped up hopes of 4000 jobs overall at JLR and in the wider economy, the reality is likely to be a smaller but still welcome figure of around 1500-1800 jobs.