It has been a week rich with financial mysteries of one sort or another.
Javier Blas excelled with his coverage of the rogue trader whose night-time dealings caused a huge spike in Brent crude. Meanwhile, Brooke, Stanley Pignal and Matthew Vincent produced a strong Saturday package on another mystery – the disappearance of assets backing bond products associated with a dead fugitive from British justice.
The sentencing of Bernard Madoff produced excellent on-the-day coverage from Jo Chung and Alan Rappeport in New York, backed up by Brooke in London, and a powerful courtroom column from John Gapper.
Citigroup’s decision to raise interest rates on 15m credit cards prompted politicians and unions to ask new questions about the bank – there was a scoop the next day by Francesco Guerrera, Saskia Scholtes and Tom Braithwaite. Francesco also broke the news that Morgan Stanley and its Japanese partner MUFG plan a $100bn joint venture to boost lending to US companies.
Matthew Garrahan landed a great Hollywood scoop about Paramount’s talks with Fox and Sony to unite their home entertainment divisions – and also provided strong coverage of California issuing IOUs to get it out of its budget mess.
Andrew Parker, Neil Hume and Gerrit Wiesmann revealed that Vodafone was thinking of buying T-Mobile UK – which set in train lots of interest from other potential buyers. A George Parker interview with Peter Mandelson revealed the Royal Mail privatisation legislation was being put on hold.
Kim Jong-il son’s secret visit to China was revealed by Jamil Anderlini and Robin Harding, and Norma Cohen unearthed UK government proposals for softer terms for local authority pension funds. Finally, Daniel Thomas revealed a new celebrity business link-up, this time between Alex Ferguson and David Frost.
Analytical highlights of the week included: Chris Giles once again cut through the political claim and counterclaim on UK public spending trends, while George Parker explained how Gordon Brown had kick-started the election campaign. Sunny Tucker and Jamil Anderlini had a strong article on the Western banks’ exit from investments in China, and the likely consequences. Carola Hoyos analysed Iraq’s far from successful oil auction (with a good online interactive graphic), while Richard Milne, Brian Groom and Jonathan Birchall wrote an excellent and very timely piece on the flexible working hours trend. Mure Dickie analysed the battle for power between Japan’s bureaucrats and politicians, Ralph Atkins and Krishna Guha explained the policy dilemmas facing central banks, and David Gelles examined Facebook’s future.
Kathrin Hille and Richard Waters provided a series of great articles on China’s attempts to force computer makers to put controversial internet filtering software on all new computers, while Anousha Sakoui examined restructurings that don’t go far enough and James Boxell explained how UK private companies were hoping to benefit from the state financial crisis.
Comment highlights included Clive Crook on Obama choosing to be weak – a massive online hit – and a strong run of Global Insight columns: Peggy Hollinger’s nice dissection of Sarkozy’s national savings bond plan, Roula Khalaf on the Iranian political balance, Quentin Peel on Russia-Georgia relations, and William Wallis on China and Africa. Philip Stephens explained the unexpected post-election complications of Israeli policy towards Iran; John Gapper wrote a powerful critique of Chris Anderson’s free model – together with an online discussion with Mr Anderson. Martin Wolf explained the need for more radical action on the banking industry, while Mike Skapinker pointed out the drawbacks of the world’s supposedly most “liveable cities” – they are small and dull – provoking a lively batch of readers’ letters.
Among colourful writing, Matthew Engel provided a string of entertaining pieces from Wimbledon on the Murray effect, Joe Leahy explained how Mumbai’s big new bridge is bringing more gridlock to the city; Amy Kazmin explored the high life among Burma’s elite and Vanessa Friedman wonderfully captured the over-the- top character of Manolo Blahnik in a lunch with the shoe designer. On UK companies, John O’Doherty and Eddie Heathcote combined to produce a very good news story and architectural review of the first hospital designed by Norman Foster. House and Home’s luxury rent-to-buy article was original and the Life and Arts piece on summer holidays had a good seasonal feel.
One of the most inspiring features this weekend was Justine Lau’s brave account in the magazine of her journey back to health after she suffered serious brain injuries when she was hit by a bus in 2007. Justine returned to her reporting job in Hong Kong just 10 months after the accident.