BetonSports plays last-ditch hand

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August 11: BetonSports has cut 800 of its workers in Costa Rica and Antigua and is abandoning its business in the US in a last-ditch attempt to escape from the legal charges and fines facing it there. It may be the most sensible thing for it to do, but it rips the heart out of its business.

Other news: disappointing first half results from Schroders (shares off 7 per cent) and Mike Parton is stepping down as chief executive of Telent, following the collapse of Fortress’s takeover offer.

We will do more today on investors’ opposition to a private equity bid for Signet. We ran a story about this in today’s paper, based on a letter sent in to us from Alastair Mundy at Investec. This letter suggests that publicly-quoted companies can themselves do much of what private equity would do in terms of financing. Kate Burgess and Chris Hughes are exploring the options (and have a lovely chart to illustrate the issue).

We are also working on more about BP’s Prudhoe Bay disaster. Meanwhile, the conspiracy theories about why BP shut its Alaskan operations when it did are flying nicely on the web. “Did BP Purposefully Allow its Alaska Pipeline to Corrode in Order to Shut it Down and Boost Oil Prices?” asks Gerard Dupin on the Ecademy blog.

This conspiracy theory is promoted by Greg Palast in his blog: “Why shut the pipe now? The timing of a sudden inspection and fix of a decade-long problem has a suspicious smell. A precipitous shutdown in mid-summer, in the middle of Middle East war(s), is guaranteed to raise prices and reap monster profits for BP. The price of crude jumped $2.22 a barrel on the shutdown news to over $76. How lucky for BP which sells four million barrels of oil a day. Had BP completed its inspection and repairs a couple years back — say, after Dan Lawn’s tenth warning — the oil market would have hardly noticed.” This is nonsense of course but it has gained some currency among bloggers.

A much more sensible discussion of some of the issues can be found in a transcript of an interview with Chuck Hamel, who speaks on behalf of oil workers, on the Democracy Now radio programme in the US. Mary, in the Pacific Views blog, says: “It looks like BP’s greenwash has been just as manufactured as Chevron’s ‘People Do’ campaign where more money was put into the ads than put into programs that the ads talked about.”

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