Themes of the week: The Geithner plan to save the US banking system receives a raspberry; Rio Tinto agrees to a rescue plan with Chinalco, the Chinese metals giant; HBOS reveals appalling results driven by reckless property lending; Lloyds admits it failed to do due diligence ahead of the purchase; bankers are barbecued in the House of Commons and Capitol Hill; Israel’s elections produce deadlock; and a Dr Strangelove satellite collision takes place in space.
And if you failed to pick up and read the FT or ft.com, you would have missed the following unique items.
1) Martin Wolf’s seminal column on why Barack Obama’s plan to save the banks will fail. At the latest count, the column on ft.com had attracted a record number of hits.
2) Lina Saigol’s scoop on the terms of Rio Tinto’s plan to raise $19.5bn through an asset disposal and convertible bonds plan with Chinalco. We were several hours ahead of the pack, a superb piece of dogged digging supported by Rebecca Bream, Sunny Tucker, Peter Smith and Kathrin Hille providing news and analysis. A special mention too for two tough but fair Lex notes.
3) Henny Sender cornered a senior Chinese banking regulator in New York and elicited an explicit commitment to buying US treasury bonds. “We have no other option,” said the official, adding: “We hate you guys.” This quote of the week was Drudged and ran and ran on ft.com
4) Jeremy Grant’s scoop revealing that the Frenchman Xavier Rolet would be the new head of the London Stock Exchange replacing Clara Furse. Jeremy penned a nice next day profile of the beekeeping, car-racing, wine-growing Frenchman.
5) Roula Khalaf and Najmeh Bozorgmehr’s Analysis page on Iran ahead of the presidential elections – a must-read for Middle East experts and Washington spooks.
6) Andrew Parker and Ben Fenton’s agenda-setting interview with Ed Richards, head of Ofcom. Andrew revealed that Ofcom’s plans to entice BT to invest £1.5bn in plans for super-fast broadband network by easing rules on the rate of return.
7) Jennifer Hughes’ scoop revealing that the Financial Services Authority had raised questions about HBOS’s lending practices and its capital position on several occasions in the past six years. The story was lead item on the Today programme next day.
8 Francesco Guerrera and Ed Luce revealed a little-noticed clause in the US stimulus package which will clamp down on Wall Street bonuses.
9) David Pilling’s superb Analysis page on how Asian economies have fallen off a cliff in the past quarter.
10) Frederick Studemann’s Outside Edge in praise of aristocrats. Timely and exquisitely written.
Sleuth of the Week: Francesco Guerrera listened carefully enough during the all-day House hearing on Wall Street Wednesday to hear the eight bank chief executives in attendance pledge to suspend foreclosures for several weeks, a story that appeared on our front-page on Thursday.
The Geithner/Obama bank rescue plan: We reported the market’s lack of enthusiasm for the bank bailout plan, but we dug deeper than the competition. After the initial disappointment, the market sensed that the plan might have more teeth than investors had previously thought, sending shares in US regional banks plummeting. Krishna Guha led the way from Washington, while Francesco Guerrera delivered an ahead-of-the-curve story that named the names of the US banks coming under the greatest pressure.
Separately, Ed Luce wrote a wonderfully perceptive news analysis overnight examining why Obama’s appeal for bipartisanship has run into trouble.
Brooke Masters delivered good coverage of the boom in certain areas of consulting services such as corporate restructuring. John Murray Brown filed in the middle of the night on the latest Irish banking disaster (Anglo Irish/Irish Permanent). Andrea Felsted resolutely chased after the life assurers and landed a scoop late Friday on L&G’s perilous position.
US corporate watch:
- Julie MacIntosh delivered a front-page scoop on restructuring plans for Chrysler that could cut the equity holdings of the current owners to just 10 per cent.
- Justin Baer kept us ahead of the pack with a story explaining the importance of GE’s capital infusion for its finance arm, maintaining the momentum from the previous week, when he reported that GE has raised doubts about its dividend.
- Jonathan Birchall detailed the latest marketing strategy of companies facing the global economic downturn – delivering coupons to cost-conscious consumers rather than spending more money on advertising.
Weekend FT: Matthew Vincent’s Money team produced another very strong section, and gave us a strong savings package. The magazine led with an original and exclusive story on the new synthetic cannabis, topped off with a beautiful cover image.
Life & Arts continues its strong run, with highlights including a book review from the Archbishop of Canterbury, plus a minute-by-minute account of Tyler Brule’s ideal bathroom regime. House & Home revealed that houses in gated commuities hold their value better than the wider market. John Gapper, meanwhile, delivered an elegant opinion piece on whistleblowers, with a clever ref to Shakespeare’s King Lear.