So, did Mervyn King do enough? It isn’t clear that he did. Appearing before the Treasury select committee this morning to defend his very uncertain handling of the Northern Rock crises, he was quite good, not too defensive but, said one of our Merv-watchers, it was “one of his least convincing performances”.
Those MPs on the committee are a pretty hopeless bunch, though – not one of them actually asked the governor if he planned to resign or would seek a second term. The closest they came was when one asked what impact he thought the crisis had had on his reputation and the governor said: “You’ll have to make that judgement. Not me.”
However, it was deputy governor Sir John Gieve, who is charge of monitoring financial stability, that the MPs really went for at one point. He took two weeks off last month last month to go on holiday in France and to attend a funeral, and Sir John – who is also a non-executive director of the FSA – admitted (as did King) to not having read the Rock’s interim results statement in July. That doesn’t look good.
There are various accounts of the meeting to choose from online. You can watch the meeting itself on the parliamentary website or read the account of FT Alphaville’s Helen Thomas, who was in the room, blogging real-time. Our economics correspondent Shari Daneshkhu has also written a great account and the Guardian have done a nice piece, too. See what our readers think and add your comments on our online forum where we ask “Can Mervyn King survive?” No, say 43 per cent of our online readers.
Quick note: RAB Capital has bought 5 per cent of Northern Rock. We must check out the Times’s very interesting story about Lansdowne Partners made a killing from shorting the Rock. That must be that clever clogs, William de Winton, again.
Today’s big corporate story is the fact that, as of this morning, the London Stock Exchange is 48 per cent-owned by Gulf investors. In fact a new Gulf war could be on the cards after it emerged that Borse Dubai had bought 28 per cent from Nasdaq but Qatar picked up 20 per cent in the market. Dubai looks like the aggressor here and LSE shares have jumped 10 per cent to an amazing £16 today in very heavy trading.
Nasdaq, meanwhile, is buying Borse Dubai’s stake in OMX and could be set to take control of the Nordic exchange. It’s all go in exchanges and Norma Cohen is on the case. Senator Charles Schumer, who has form in this area, has already said he objects to the deal because the Arab exchange could end up with 20 per cent of the US exchange. Bonkers.
“I’m sooo bored of the ‘Exchange war’. Why can’t they do M&A like other companies?” says a reader in a comment posted on FT Alphaville. “In any case, at these valuations, it’s plain crazy. (NYSE Euronext down 30% since close of deal in April!) With Miffid and the fact that typically before a bear market you get extra trading activity (until people start noticing shares aren’t going up anymore), the only way for prices is down - better stay away from those financial ebays…”
It’s all go, too, in retail. The OFT says the UK’s largest supermarket groups – Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury and Tesco – colluded to raise milk prices, costing consumers an estimated £270m. They could be fined hundreds of millions of pounds in fines if the OFT’s findings are confirmed. All the retailers say they’ll vigorously defend their position.
Finally, Rusal seems to be pulling its IPO. Sources close to the company told Vedomosti this was because of market conditions. That’s one way of putting it. Another might be to say that not enough people right now want to own shares in a controversial company like Rusal.
Rumours of the day from FT Alphaville (those guys are on fire today): Zurich Financial Services is eyeing a 210p a share bid for Friends Provident (unconfirmed). Peter Cummings is leaving HBOS (denied by HBOS).