Lionel Barber’s pick of the week

Introduction: The Federal Reserve introduces quantitative easing to revive the US economy; the House of Representatives passes a punitive law on bankers’ bonuses; Lord Turner calls time on light-touch regulation; Switzerland buckles on banking secrecy; President Obama extends the hand to the Islamic republic of Iran; and an Ivory Coaster takes over the reins at the Pru, the first black CEO in the FTSE.

And if you failed to read or view the FT or ft.com this week, you would have missed the following unique items…


1) Sunny Tucker’s scoop on Beijing’s decision to block Coke’s $2.4bn acquisition of Huiyuan in what would have been the biggest takeover of a Chinese company.

2) Tim Geithner, US treasury secretary, is losing the confidence of top lawmakers, as well colleagues in the White House.

3) Goldman Sachs has asked investors in its $15bn private equity fund for approval to re-deploy funds into distressed debt – a sign of how the buy-out market has become dysfunctional. Henny Sender spotted a big – and worrisome – trend.

4) Krishna Guha’s coverage of the Fed move was authoritative, while Mike McKenzie caught the eye with a great piece of reporting on the difficulty traders have had in interpreting the Federal Reserve’s statement on buying Treasuries.

5) Nigel Lawson‘s op-ed on why we need a new Glass-Steagall was a model of coherent argument and economy of language. A fine contribution to our much-noted Future of Capitalism series, followed by Hank Paulson’s op-ed.

6) Libya’s $70bn sovereign wealth fund is on the look-out for investments in western real estate markets. Heba Saleh’s series on the Libyan Investment Authority was original and eye-catching.

7) Brian Groom’s front page news story and background feature on how the UK recession is hurting the manufacturing heartlands rather than being confined largely to the services-driven South-East, as originally predicted.

8 Jamil Anderlini’s investigation into billion-dollar losses made by China’s SAFE on mistimed diversification into foreign equities, much commented on by bankers and well-read on FT.com.

9) Gillian Tett’s capital markets column “Where is Gordon Gecko when you need him?” was a top-notch take on risk averseness in the credit markets.

10) An alert reader spotted the story behind the Gem of Tanzania, a 2kg ruby. Jonathan Guthrie, assisted by Dr Watson and Jennifer Hughes, wrote an excellent column and follow-up news stories.

FT.com watch: The energy source blog run by Kate Mackenzie, came online at Opec and is already winning an audience. Clive Cookson launched a science blog.

A vast new array of money and personal finance tools came online on Friday increasing significantly our service to readers. Thanks to Mustafa Sogancilar and Lucy Warwick-Ching.

The quantitative easing explainer continues to land in the top 10 showing the value the audience places on lucid guides to complex matters.

The future of capitalism blog (run by Sarah Laitner) has attracted more than 1300 links from outside sites.

Notable and Quotable: Leon Black, the private equity titan who rarely gives interviews, offered a dire prediction on the commercial real estate in a View from the Top video interview with Henny Sender.

John Gapper wrote a searing column on why the AIG bonuses are a humiliation for Wall Street and a travesty for taxpayers.

Stacey-Marie Ishmael’s provided stylish news analysis on the complex challenge facing the court-appointed receiver to the (Sir) Allen Stanford empire.

The juice scoop and the FT’s China coverage: Sunny Tucker’s story led to a 20 per cent fall in Huiyuan’s shares and they were suspended. Even then no one could confirm Sunny’s story, with some wires insisting the deal was still set to go ahead. Only in the afternoon did Beijing announce it had stopped the takeover, sending bankers and lawyers into an angry fizz, but delighting those in Australia who oppose Chinalco’s $19.5bn bid for Rio Tinto.

Asia watch: Good colourful coverage by James Lamont of the Indian election, which begins next month; and an interesting interview with Thailand’s central bank governor who said the crisis was nothing for Asian economies compared with the home-grown catastrophe of 10 years ago. Plus a very good Investing in Japan Report, replete with a video interview of Kaoru Yosano, economy, finance and FSA minister conducted by Mure Dickie.

Weekend FT watch: William Leith’s lunch with Wilbur Smith was riveting; good to see Merryn Somerset Webb back in Money after her maternity leave; and a special mention to Natalie Whittle, who edits the Pursuits section of the Magazine and expanded it into a first-time special edition.

UK corporate news watch: Andrea Felsted did a fine job reporting on the Pru and its new CEO Tidjane Thiam replacing Mark Tucker. Peter Thal Larsen and Jennifer Hughes performed with skill and authority in the coverage of the Turner report (supported by a sharp column by Martin Wolf and a stylish Lombard by Andrew Hill on Saturday). Paul Davies and Anousha Sakoui identified the boom in corporate bond issuance and cash hoarding.

Sunny Tucker (with David Pilling) also nabbed an exclusive interview with Sir Philip Hampton, chairman of RBS, where he identified a turn in wholesale bank lending and revealed that Sir Fred was still “mulling” returning part of his pension.

Analysis page watch: A great run this past week: Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson’s take-out on the newspaper industry was grim but compelling (and it had a ray of sunshine at the end); Tony Barber told us everything we need to know about the state of the European Union ahead of the Brussels summit; Chris Giles and Peter Thal Larsen wrote very well on the lessons of the Swedish banking crisis and James Wilson’s report on how high-flying Hypo Real Estate fell from grace was a piquant antidote to those who talk about “conservative” German bankers.

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