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Thursday, March 9
Diary of a day: Bear Stearns’ chief executive James Cayne on anchoring a personal home page, choosing stories, columns and photos of the day.
I’ve just arrived at the FT building to make my news picks and am having my photograph taken on the steps when Gary Parr of Lazard walks by. This is a real coincidence since I rarely see him and we were just together for the opening bell ceremony for the initial listing of NYSE Group, for which Bear Stearns is the specialist.
In the news conference, I ask where the NYSE has opened. “You can look at Bear Stearns too,” I add as one of the news editors leaves to check the stock. The answer comes back, “NYX is up again; over $87.” Nobody really thought it would go to $80 the previous day [It subsequently goes into reverse, finishing 2.5 per cent lower.]
Getting back to the newslist, the FT.com site is currently leading with the move by the Bank of Japan to end its ultra-loose monetary policy signalling its belief that there is virtually no danger of the economy slipping back into deflation. This is something we knew was going to happen for years and now its happened. I ask what the reaction of the Treasury market has been. Not much. You can’t avoid the story but its not really “news” because everybody knew it was happening.
I’m more interested in Iran’s ambassador to the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency warning that the US could suffer “harm and pain” as the dispute over Tehran’s nuclear programme moved to the Security Council. What does that really mean?
One of the FT reporters who has covered the Middle East explains that this type of rhetoric is expected of an Iranian official. Because they routinely use dramatic language there is a divergent interpretation of what is stated. The local people have one interpretation which tends to get overblown in the western media. Although these statements can be explained away as “typical rhetoric” I still think the issue is important enough to have as the lead on my page.
One of the reporters says he has had a lot of feedback from a piece he wrote the previous day on a McKinsey report about earnings guidance. The report suggested that this fails to reduce share price volatility but encourages short-termist management. I say giving earnings guidance is not a good idea, we don’t do it.
The FT’s M&A reporter says he will be following up his story in that morning’s paper on the fight over Dubai Ports World’s acquisition of five US port terminals, as part of its purchase of P&O.
The story said that the Dubai company had been approached by private equity groups offering to buy the US ports, which are a small part of P&O.
There are two sides to this story. There is an obvious emotional reaction from the average American. You cannot ignore that. The other side is that we already have foreign countries running ports and this is a basically a business and trade issue. The political implications of this are another story. I eventually decide to run this story in the second slot on my home page.
An editor asks what I think about the figures showing a widening US trade deficit in January. “Boring.”
The conference has a very good atmosphere for discussing issues and thrashing things out.
FT.com is giving prominence to an investment bank (not Bear Stearns) missing out on a role in the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China’s $10bn listing overseas. I don’t think this is really newsworthy and I take it off my page.
In its place I suggest the story about the head of Eon, the German utility, warning about the current wave of protectionism in Europe. But this later has to be dropped due to space considerations.
For a moment I change my mind about leading with the warning from the Iranian ambassador. But in the end I stick with the choice and ask for the picture to be changed from the head of the Japanese central bank to the president of Iran addressing a crowd.
I ask for a Google story that broke late the previous night to be taken off and replaced by the story about the Justice Department pursuing civil fraud charges against money manager Mario Gabelli.
A story about the US Chamber of Commerce criticising the Securities and Exchange Commission’s enforcement division for being too harsh and unfair, is added to the line up.
I think the line-up of news stories now looks pretty good.
I also ask for the site’s special section on Mittal Steel’s hostile bid for European rival Arcelor t o be highlighted. Lakshmi Mittal is someone who seems to have a good idea of what he wants and how to go about doing it.
This has been a terrific experience…as I leave, Chrystia Freeland, the FT’s US managing editor, asks whether I want a job. Although I had a great time doing the guest spot, I respectfully decline - some people at Bear Stearns might not like the idea.
To view all four online diaries, click here