Sajid Javid will surely see his appointment as business secretary through the framing device of Star Trek, a favourite TV show:
David Cameron: (back in the captain’s chair) Phew! That was close! Status reports, please.
Douglas Alexander: I cannae hold her!
DC: The ship?
DA: No. Nicola Sturgeon.
Lieutenant Osbo: But we’ve survived the space battle.
DC: What about the Clingons?
LO: We’ve blasted the Lib Dems out of the air lock.
DC: We can send a new representative to Planet Business, in that case. How about the Vulcan?
John Redwood: Time I was back in the cabinet.
DC: You’re not our only pointy-eared Thatcherite. I’m talking about Sajid Javid. He’s one of the new generation.
Sajid Javid: Are you sure,? I was a bit out of my depth on Planet Arts. The culture was totally alien to me.
DC: Don’t worry. You’re perfectly adapted to Planet Business. Your parents ran a corner shop and you’ve worked in the City. So you’ll have no trouble slagging bankers off to SME borrowers, and vice versa.
SJ: Will I have any other duties?
DC: No. When Nick Ridley held the job, he said: “I’ve got bugger all to do and 10,000 staff to help me do it”.
SJ: (Beaming down) I come in peace!
Business Guy: You’re nothing like Vince Cable, then.
SJ: I’m from the Starship Free Enterprise. My mission is to sympathetically listen until I get a better job or my career craters.
BG: Hurrah! You’ll lift diversity too.
SJ: Because I’m Asian?
BG: No, because you represent the deprived West Midlands.
SJ: Bromsgrove’s very noyce, eckshally.
Civil Servants: (emerging from behind faux boulders) Is it safe to come out?
SJ: Phasers to kill!
CS: You said you’d come in peace!
SJ: No chance! Osbo has fiscal targets to hit. I’m firing half of you and merging the Department for Business with HMRC.
BG: About time, too.

Ewe’ve been warned

Loading whopping fees on to the price of car or home insurance for the flexibility of paying in instalments is more opportunism than mis-selling, writes Kate Burgess. Nonetheless, the Financial Conduct Authority says that some businesses are pulling the wool over consumers’ eyes. So now the watchdog is herding insurers, brokers and price comparison websites into the sunlight. The FCA hopes, that by exposing poor practice, customers will be prompted to look harder and make better choices.

The premiums paid by individuals are big business — about £18bn a year in total for motor and home insurance with between 40 per cent and a half of customers choosing to pay annual premiums in chunks over the year. Esure reaps a fifth of pre-tax profits and Direct Line earns 15 per cent of profits from instalment charges.

So far the regulator is new to its powers to oversee consumer credit and is using a cold nose to nudge the industry into improving transparency and treating customers more fairly. But it has already begun to clamp its teeth into add-ons and has its eye on sales of long-term contracts and retirement incomes. Wise sheep will go quietly. As retailers of superfluous insurances and warranties have found in the past, it only needs a regulator to impose compulsory cooling-off periods or standardise payment terms to end a lucrative sideline.

Lonmin loses glam

The glamour of platinum, a precious metal used in vehicle exhaust systems as well as jewellery, has always been questionable. Its appeal to investors is weakened further when they have to buy into Lonmin to gain exposure. The South African group, which made a pre-tax loss of $118m in the year to March 2015, has high costs and a history of bloody industrial unrest.

The loss represented an improvement on the same period of last year, when the group carried $165m in charges for a strike that in 2012 saw police kill 34 demonstrators. Ben Magara, chief executive, says industrial relations are much better now. They will need to be for him to shed 3,500 staff without difficulties.

Mr Magara plans to shrink Lonmin’s costs to cope with a drop in the platinum price that he expects to persist for at least two years. Citigroup recently warned Lonmin’s ratio of net debt to underlying earnings could rise to a steep 7.8 times.

Even Glencore wants no part of Lonmin. The usually intrepid commodities group plans to distribute a 23.9 per cent stake to its investors.

Lonmin said on Monday it would reduce forecast capital expenditure for 2015 from $185m to $160m. Whether this is enough for the company to avoid a rights issue or assets sales will depend on platinum prices and the pliability of a politicised workforce. Scary.


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