Monthly Archives: June 2008

John Gapper

This morning’s Wall Street Journal story on Martin Broughton, chairman of British Airways, predicting that US airlines will soon start lobbying for the relaxation of foreign ownership rules has the ring of truth to me.

The reason is that one senior executive of a US airline said precisely that to me recently (off the record). He said that he could no longer see the point of the US law barring a foreign airline from owning more than 25 per cent of a US one and would not object to it being abolished. Read more

John Gapper

There is a lot of financial action in Qatar at the moment, and that means fees for investment banks. Last week’s announcement of a strategic partnership between NYSE Euronext and the State of Qatar to boost the local stock exchange is being followed by an IPO of Vodafone’s Qatar business.

What strikes me about the latter is the financial advisers to the deal: HSBC Middle East and Qatar National Bank. Neither of these is one of Wall Street’s big swinging investment banks, which are now sweeping into the Gulf in the hope of gaining petrodollars. Read more

John Gapper

I am on leave for a couple of weeks. Normal service will hopefully resume on or about June 30.

John Gapper

The glass ceiling on Wall Street is getting lower.

The abrupt removal of Erin Callan as Lehman’s chief financial officer yesterday (along with Joe Gregory as Lehman’s chief administrative officer) is first and foremost a sign of Lehman’s fight to regain credibility among investors.

But it also means that Ms Callan, who was dubbed “Wall Street’s most powerful woman” in the April issue of Portfolio magazine is powerful no more. She is being unceremoniously bumped down to “a senior position” in the investment banking division.

Ms Callan’s move follows the firing of Zoe Cruz, the previous holder of the “most powerful woman on Wall Street” title. She was dismissed as president of Morgan Stanley last November by John Mack, its chairman and chief executive. Read more

John Gapper

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My Financial Times column this week is about the global food crisis and the stand-off about how to solve it between the US government, Monsanto and environmental activists such as Greenpeace that are opposed to genetically-modified crops. I come down on the side of the former, with caveats. You can read it here and comment below.

John Gapper

Lou Dobbs is very annoying.

Having got this off my chest, I can go on to say why the CNN cable news host, who takes to the air most nights in the US to complain about illegal immigration and free trade has riled me.

As detailed admirably by Andrew Ross Sorkin in the New York Times, Mr Dobbs’ latest populist crusade against foreign ownership of US assets concerns CSX, the US railway company that has been attacked by The Children’s Investment Fund, the London-based hedge fund.

Mr Dobbs described it the other night on CNN as “a new threat to national security and sovereignty” because investors in this “shadowy foreign investment fund” may include sovereign wealth funds. You can see the video hereRead more

John Gapper

I was reminded the other day that it currently costs £13 to enter Kew Gardens as a visitor. Since I grew up in Kew, I happen to be an expert on the history of the entrance fee to Kew Gardens and it is mind-bogglingly high compared with the past.

Forgive the middle-aged reminiscence but, when I was a child, it cost three pence (yes, a thrupenny bit)  to get into Kew Gardens. Upon decimalisation in February 1971, they put the price down to one new penny, or 2.4 old pence. Read more

John Gapper

Lehman Brothers’ announcement this morning that it is seeking $6bn in fresh capital after making a $2.8bn loss in the second quarter shows that things remain tough on Wall Street.

To go with it, here is an anecdote about employment conditions in investment banking that you can treat with as much seriousness as you wish. Read more