One common public perception of business – as I blogged earlier this week – is that the bigger it is, the worse it is. I was interested, therefore, to read in The Times on Friday that Britain’s top 50 businesses are to get a “hotline” to senior ministers. The paper writes (subscription required):
Bosses of companies, including BP and GlaxoSmithKline, will be able to telephone directly to the top of Whitehall departments in new individually tailored relationships with senior ministers who will act as their “buddies”.
Richard Lambert’s piece on Vallares and the reputation arbitrage that the £1.3bn investment vehicle is pulling off by listing on the FTSE 100 is well worth reading. It raises serious questions about how London financiers are exploiting index funds.
As Sir Richard, a former editor of the FT, points out, Tony Hayward and Nat Rothschild are pulling a neat trick by promising investors they can release the “trapped value” of commodity groups in far-flung countries with murky corporate governance:
You unlock this value by putting a respectable board of directors on top of the notepaper, by appointing managers with a strong following in financial markets, by pledging to follow all relevant corporate governance codes and by listing the shares on the London Stock Exchange, preferably on a scale that gets them into the FTSE 100 index. Suddenly investors who might previously have run a mile are queuing up to buy.
Old companies may die, but old stock market indices ought to live for ever. Certainly, the longevity of the FT30 index, first published in 1935, suggests they can go on and on, even if their relevance ebbs and flows.
In fact, there could be no better moment to revive interest in the original benchmark of British stocks.