Themes of the Week: Tim Geithner stress-tests the US banks, several of whom immediately raise billions of capital; the equity markets like what they see, but some analysts/players warn that of irrational exhuberance; Fiat’s Sergio Marchionne unveils plans to create a new global car company; Amazon launches a new version of the Kindle and the newspaper industry spies a new business model.
And if you missed the FT or ft.com this week, you would have missed out on the following unique items and scoops. 1) Guy Dinmore’s courageous investigation of the Mafia’s involvement in green wind power projects in Sicily. On-the-ground reporting included a knee-trembling interview with Mr Big. Guy’s articles were among the most read on ft.com all week.
2) Kate Burgess revealed that 3i and Taylor Wimpey were mounting rights issues to restore depleted capital, a trend to watch. Kate and William McNamara also reported that Xtrata, the mining giant, suffered a stinging rebuke over its remuneration policy – the latest FTSE 100 company to be singled out for criticism by activist shareholders.
3) Jamil Anderlini and his Chinese assistant Joyce Du (who has just won a full scholarship to study journalism in London) produced a riveting video and story on life in Sichuan on the first anniversary of the devastating earthquake. Jamil was punched by several goons and forced to leave the area – but not before capturing the violent incident on film for ft.com.
4) Tony Barber notched up the most quotable interview of the week with Mirek (Je ne regrette rien) Topolanek, the iconoclastic Czech premier. Topo confessed that he still loves his “road to hell” comments and hates Sarko’s grandstanding on the world stage.
5) Ed Luce revealed that the top US sub-prime lenders spent $370m toward off tighter regulation of their industry, according to an advance copy of an investigation by the respected Washington-based Centre for Public Integrity. Ed detailed the gory lobbying story inside.
6) Javier Blas revealed that a decade of gold sales has cost Europe’s central banks $40bn. The story was widely followed on ft.com and Javier also reported on how China’s central bank is investing heavily in commodities such as aluminium and copper.
7) Roula Khalaf and Andrew England produced a rare inside look at the players and institutions driving the investment strategy of Abu Dhabi, the oil- and gas-rich emirate.
8) Varun Sood, our talented intern in Mumbai, and James Fontanella-Khan revealed that Hyundai is shifting production of one of its models from India to Europe because of repeated industrial action. The story has important implications for other Asian (and non-Asian) manufacturers who have started investing heavily in Indian production lines.
9) Lex enjoyed an exceptionally strong week. Notable notes including a dissection of UK industrial policy; a call for (Sir-to-be) John Kingman at UKFI to sack Eric Daniels and Sir Victor Blank for wrecking Lloyds Bank; and the EU 2, Locusts 0 on Brussels’ new directive on hedge funds and private equity.
10) Peter “Big Brother” Bazalgette called for an end to British party political broadcasts in favour of virtual hustings online to be hosted by the likes of the BBC (and the FT?). Plus a top-notch headline: “Party broadcasts are so last century.”
A short note on innovation: Global insight on the world pages is now making an impact. Pick of the week: Gideon Rachman’s call for an enlightened “AfPak” strategy; Tony Barber’s dissection of the EU’s new “Eastern Partnership” strategy; and Chrystia Freeland’s analysis of the Bush administration’s “confidence” policy to rescue the US economy.
Column watch: Martin Wolf drew plaudits for his column on UK public finances and a number of high-quality letters for his other weekly column on the need to keep a watch on the inflation dragon. Philip Stephens took a well-aimed swipe at Boris Johnson’s record in office, drawing a mayoral counter-swipe in the letters columns. (The Mayor says cancelling the CrossRail project would be insane). Lucy Kellaway summed up the public mood in her Monday column, arguing that the public really is fed up with being fed up.
Analysis page watch: Robin Kwong wrote an informative account of how the government of Ma Ying-jeou is nestling up to Beijing and the economic rewards it appears to be reaping. The piece followed the pioneering China Mobile investment into a Taiwanese mobile company and Beijing’s “permission” for Taipei to attend a WHO meeting, the first in 40 years. Look at how Taiwan stock market is soaring since the start of the year. John Reed wrote a very readable big page on the changing shape of Europe’s car dynasties. Brian Groom captured the UK govenrment’s half-hearted industrial “strategy”.
Corporate column of the week: Haig Simonian cast a discerning eye over Sergio Marchionne’s ambitions to turn Fiat into a global auto giant. Sharply researched and clearly written, Haig’s European Comment column drew on his past experience a decade ago the FT’s auto correspondent.
Stress test coverage: Our Washington and New York teams – orchestrated by the Herbert von Karajan of news editors Gary Silverman have performed excellently against tough US opposition. Notable and quotable items included:
1) Saturday’s front-page scoop from Saskia Scholtes, Francesco Guerrera and Krishna Guha on the private deal between the government and the banks allowing the lenders to reduce their capital needs if they post strong earnings in the next two quarters.
2) Fresh news lines all week from Francesco on the ever-changing capital requirements front. On Sunday, he reported that BofA would need more than $10bn in capital. BofA issued a denial. It was subsequently revealed they would need $33.9bn. Francesco also reported that Citi would need as little as $6bn in fresh capital – less than the $10bn many analysts and the WSJ expected. The actual number was $5.5bn.
3) Saskia Scholtes’ scoop that US homeowners could save up to $18bn on their mortgage payments this year as record low mortgage rates allow millions of borrowers to refinance into cheaper home loans, according to economists at Freddie Mac.
4) A scoop by Sunny Tucker and Greg Farrell on BofA’s weighing the sale of its $8bn stake in China Construction Bank
5) Our thoughtful editorial on the value of the stress tests and the comparison with laggardly Europeans.
UK news watch: Some excellent on-the-ground reporting in the regions. Chris Tighe reported from a politically-marginal bit of Tyneside which captured the disillusion with Labour, albeit the lack of enthusiasm for the Tories – a theme picked up with George Parker’s scoop on how the mainstream parties are planning a cross-party to thwart the threat from the BNP in the upcoming local and European elections. Jonathan Guthrie had an eye-catching Saturday report on how disgruntled homeowners in the Midlands are considering suing Barratt for selling parts of their private estate for social housing.
Stakhanovites of the week: Vanessa Houlder worked hard and fast on her day off on Bank Holiday Monday to give news and background to President Obama’s tax avoidance package. Emma Saunders worked until 4am to get the stress test interactive graphic up and running.