Monthly Archives: June 2012

Andrew Hill

Les Echos, the French financial journal, begins its tribute to Antoine Bernheim, who died this week aged 87, by describing him as a “véritable Talleyrand” of business. So it’s worth asking, as Metternich reputedly did when news of the wily French diplomat’s death reached him: “What do you think he meant by that?”

Bernheim had been entrenched at the centre of a network of French and Italian finance for so long and with such influence that it is tempting to assume that his passing means the whole edifice is in jeopardy. Tempting, but, alas, wrong. Read more

John Gapper

The dismal performance of Facebook’s initial public offering, after several years in which it was expected to crown the emergence on public markets of social networks, is bound to dampen the mood in Silicon Valley.

Paul Graham, who runs Y Combinator, a start-up incubator, says the effect will be what you might expect – early-stage valuations will suffer. His email to portfolio companies, obtained by Business Insider, contains this warning:

“If you haven’t raised money yet, lower your expectations for fundraising. How much should you lower them? We don’t know yet how hard it will be to raise money or what will happen to valuations for those who do. Which means it’s more important than ever to be flexible about the valuation you expect and the amount you want to raise (which, odd as it may seem, are connected). First talk to investors about whether they want to invest at all, then negotiate price.”

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Of the many career appraisals I’ve perpetrated on team members, two stand out. In one, I spent so long probing the weaknesses of a star performer they eventually asked: “Was there anything good about my performance last year?” In the other, I added a colleague’s lofty goal to the box on the form labelled “career aspiration”, only to be told by my own manager to go back and inform my team member that the dream was way beyond their reach.

John Gapper

The latest tussle between BP and the billionaire oligarchs with whom it owns BP-TNK, its Russian oil joint venture – this time over BP’s wish finally to sell out – reminds me of the controversial way in which it started.

I wrote a column in 2003 arguing that, despite all of the risks of becoming partners with AAR in Russia, BP probably ought to do it. The rewards were worth the obvious prospect of being double-crossed. Read more

Andrew Hill

Corporate governance can be dull. But Nomura’s annual meeting on June 27 will be livened up no end if the Japanese bank’s chairman allows any discussion of shareholder proposal 12, “regarding overhaul of basic daily movements”. Here it is in full:

Details of Proposal: It should be stipulated in the Articles of Incorporation that all toilets within the Company’s offices shall be Japanese-style toilets, thereby toughening the legs and loins and hunkering down on a daily basis, aiming at achieving 4-digit stock prices.

Reasons for Proposal: The Company is on the verge of bankruptcy. In other words, it is the time to hunker down. The Company cannot avoid bankruptcy if it merely adopts a spiritual approach such as encouraging sales persons to speak in a loud voice, but the Company can surely avoid failure if they straddle over a Japanese-style toilet every day and strengthen their lower body. If it cannot, it can only be accepted as a bad luck.

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