Lex – the way to better buttock care?

There have been many rights issues during the past few months. Most of them would have been repulsive to individually franchised rational investors because they are really fee-fertile rescue issues in disguise (BDEV, SHI, NTG, YELL, etc, etc, etc).

Some financial columnists writing in 2009 about rights issues hint at the reality, speculating about the prospects of ‘getting them away’ (i.e. ‘getting away with them’) or focus on the fat underwriting fees and issue expenses .  I can’t recall once having seen an objective piece of analysis of a rights issue from an investment perspective. Probably because no case can be made in most instances.

Issues are subscribed by institutions on behalf of (in theory),  the myriad individual investors they collectively represent. However the  individual constituent investors  are never consulted, reminiscent of the once notorious block vote wielded at labour party conferences by the trades unions, where constituent members were not consulted before their votes were assigned to whatever barmy cause the leaders supported.

Why would real investors, by real I mean individually franchised rational investors with their own money at stake, subscribe to new shares in banks?  World markets are already awash with bank shares. Even in the UK there are billions of them already available.

Lex tries to say something about the possible Lloyds rights issue. As usual the sum of the comment is zero. On the one of Lex’s hands:

“A successful cash call would enable a beefed-up Lloyds to avoid the government’s asset protection scheme, so saving a £15.6bn insurance premium. It would still have to pay a break fee for APS cover over the past six months, rumored to be £2.5bn. On top of that, Lloyds must pay advisory and underwriting fees, perhaps another £300m. The net saving, therefore, may be about £13bn. Not bad.

 Subscribers, meanwhile, would increase their bet on the UK’s largest domestic retail banking franchise. If they share chief executive Eric Daniels’ optimism that bad loans have peaked, the mega-bank may finally start to deliver earnings too. There are cost savings from the HBOS merger, and reduced competition could spell meatier margins. One day, Lloyds’ dividend might reappear.”

And on the other of Lex’s hands:

“But loan losses could still rise, not least in HBOS’s private equity and property lending areas. The European Commission is likely to force disposals. Removing, say, the branch networks of Cheltenham & Gloucester and Lloyds in Scotland would lop some £300m off earnings. Eventually, the government will also sell its 43 per cent stake, a huge overhang. Finally, the UK economy, to which Lloyds is fully exposed, remains flat on its back.”

Lex, would you buy Lloyds shares?  We should be told.  

Bun rating: 200% bun. A bun filled with another bun, placed under Lex’s bottie for cushioning the effects of all that fence-sitting.

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Snow is in the air..

I have been feeling excited for days waiting for the first snow of the year to fall in the city. I know that snow has already been falling on some of the nearby slopes because a few snow roofed cars have been arriving for work some mornings.  

Last week  I had winter tyres fitted to the car and checked out our snow boards and kit in the Keller.  At the edges of the city,  roadside snow poles are back in place – we are ready!

Over the next weeks the temperature gauge in my car will drop from +2 as I drive out of the underground car park at 05.45 am, to -10  in the seven  minute drive to the swimming pool

Often I read the newspaper for a few minutes before the Bader Meister opens up, but after a couple of years here, I am now  so acculturated that I feel guilty dumping the supplements of the Financial Times I won’t read in the changing room bin before I swim.  I know someone else will have to empty the bin and separate out the newspapers to a waste paper box for recycling.

What is happening to me? If you scratch me, soon I may bleed Emmental

Lex – once rumoured to be authoritative

Alexander Justham of the FSA’s markets division has  said: “Spreading false or misleading rumours about companies, particularly in volatile or fragile market conditions, can be a very damaging form of market abuse. While we pursue individual cases of rumour-mongering, it is of equal concern to us that market practitioners handle rumours properly and avoid giving credibility to false stories.”

 There are a deluge of rumours in the financial press recently concerning the actual size, or existence of a potential Lloyds Group “arrangement fee” to exit from participation in the government’s Asset Protection Scheme. Lloyds Group have made no statement about the possible amout of an arrangement fee, so all comment must surely be rumour?

The FT’s report in today’s main paper states that

 ‘one person familiar with the government’s stance on the issue said a £1bn fee, which would be in lieu of the support that has already been provided to Lloyds was “definitely the floor”

and later in the same report:

“one person close to the government” described reports that the fee could be as high as £2bn as “understandable”

For some reason though, Lex in the same FT edition, quotes Bloomberg as the source of the rumour that “the Treasury may be eying as much as £2bn”.

As so often, I have been unable to find any substance in the Lex commentary. But since the actual amount, if any, of the ‘arrangement fee’, if there is one,  for Lloyds exiting, if it does,  the ASP,  is acutely material to the market value of Lloyds shares, this is one area where facts, not more speculation by once respected commentators are required.

Bun rating:  One person close to the kitchen is reported to have suggested that the bun, if there is one,  may contain 1% meat.

Lex – embedded in the new Pravda?

The military have learned to exert some control over media reports of their operations by ‘embedding’ journalists into operational units. Embedded journalists are not free to choose where they go and what they see, instead they have to remain with the unit they are embedded into and to the extent that they identify with the culture of the unit they are in, they lose a critical measure of objectivity.

Currently, the crisis of the financial establishment is largely reported in the financial press and financial columns by journalists effectively embedded in the financial establishment. This is exemplified clearly in the extent to which the Lex column has itself, become embedded in the financial establishment. Who benefits from the absence of  robust criticism of a rotten system?

Is The Financial Times is an example of a newspaper dependant upon the financial establishment for sources of news.  Is the F.T. the new  Pravda* ?

Today, Lex writes about the revival of the ‘carry trade’. The borrowing of low-yielding currencies to buy in a higher yielding one. After a rambling account of the current revival Lex concludes without an explanation. But Lex comes close to stumbling on the only rational explanation when he states:

“For the truth is that carry trade opportunities should not exist at all: the whole point of flexible exchange rates is to rebalance things when interest rates get out of whack”

There is only one explanation which fits and that is for one significant investing class, the carry trade is a penalty free trade.

A carry trade by a fund whose managers would keep 20% of any profit but would bear no personal losses if it became loss making.

It’s called a hedge fund stupid!

 *Pravda (Russian: Правда, “Truth”) was a leading newspaper of the Soviet Union and an official organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party between 1912 and 1991

Bun rating, 10% meat but no gut is embedded in the steak.