Editorial update

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.

Introduction: Upstart Xstrata makes a multi-billion dollar approach for Anglo-American, the establishment mining company; the turf battle over banking regulation intensifies in the UK; the Iranian authorities tighten a noose around the opposition; and Michael Jackson, the Peter Pan of pop, dies in California, aged 50.

Award watch: Barney Jopson’s articles on the political and economic impact of water aid in Asia and Africa won a distinguished mention in despatches in the Martha Gellhorn prize.

And if you missed the Financial Times or ft.com this past week, you would have missed the following top ten items:

Two big stories dominated: the wave of street protests in Iran and the Obama administration’s plans for overhauling financial regulation. But there were some spicy runners-up: the break-up of Formula
One
, Sir Fred Goodwin’s sudden display of remorse when he handed back part of his generous pension settlement, Mervyn King’s eloquent power grab on banking reform, Lord Carter’s blueprint for a Digital Britain, and British Airways’s artful pay cut, via a plea for staff to (temporarily) work for nothing to save
costs.

First, a very special mention to Najmeh Bozorgmehr and Roula Khalaf in Tehran who provided expert coverage in print and online in a dangerous and unpredictable environment. Roula Khalaf wrote a splendid analysis.

Second, we provided strong coverage on the financial regulation story in the US. On the day of the announcement, we explored the possibility that the plan would give the Federal Reserve the power to regulate an industrial company such as General Electric and the differences between the new regulatory thinking in the US and Europe.

Third, we produced extensive print and online coverage, including a video package, of our (fifth) Business of Luxury Summit, this time located in Monte Carlo. We had more than 400 guests, including Bernard Arnault of LMVH, Angela Ahrendts of Burberry and Malcolm McLaren, founder of the Sex Pistols, pop icon, cultural commentator and artiste. And if you missed the FT this past week, you would have missed the following special items:

1) Glencore, the publicity-adverse trading house with far-reaching influence on world commodity markets, is considering a stock market flotation. William McNamara broke an important story that was widely read among commodity cognoscenti.

2) Martin Wolf’s column – the recession tracks the Great Depression - was among the best read on ft.com for several days. His Friday column skewering Gordon Brown (and Ed Balls) - Honesty is the best fiscal policy - was cited at length by Martin Ivens in his own op-ed column in the Sunday Times.

3) George Soros’ column on the best way forward for financial regulation was among the most read on ft.com.

4) Andrew Clark’s Lunch with the FT with Simon Rattle, conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, was a sumptuous blend of art, history and politics which penetrated the German soul.

5) Richards Waters delivered double scoops: on the return of Credit Suisse banker Frank Quattrone to Silicon Valley and the other on European regulatory challenges to Facebook’s hopes for profitability.

6) Jonathan Birchall produced, a detailed exploration of the new frontier in men’s shaving.

7) Paul Taylor’s column on the best in beach-proof technology for the summer was a good example of how we are getting better at consumer journalism.

8) Chris Giles wrote an excellent news feature explaining why the UK labour market is proving more flexible than might have been expected during the recession. Pay-cuts or de facto pay-cuts through reduced working time are an important factor.

9) Richard Milne wrote an eye-catching analysis on how Norway’s equality law has produced a revolution in the boardroom, triggering interest and scrutiny in other countries.  The feature attracted plenty of letters.

10) Kevin Done’s swan song from the Paris air show included the true reason why Ryanair won’t be charging people to visit the toilet mid-flight.

Humour watch: Best column by a mile by Robert Shrimsley on Mervyn King’s Mansion House speech in which he likened the Bank of England to a church which could draw the congregation to weddings and funerals but has proved unable to compel people to listen to its sermons.  Here is an excerpt…

“Across the City, Mervyn saw a great storm brewing. He saw the Royal Bank of Nineveh with its 125 per cent mortgages and doubtful hedging strategy. He saw the low capital adequacy ratios at the Banks of
Sodom and Gommorah.  Mervyn became angry and stormed over the City and with mighty voice and much fury said: “Steady on a bit, would you.”

Europe watch: Tony Barber and George Parker covered the EU summit with skill and judgment, focusing on differences over the management of systemic risk and the reappointment of José Manuel Barroso as Commission president, albeit amid ructions in the European Parliament.  Nikki Tait wrote a very good analysis on state aid in the recession and the challenge for EU competition authorities.

Trend to watch: Sam Knight’s arresting feature in the Weekend FT magazine on how climate change is about to trigger the biggest migration in history.

Graphics watch: We are becoming more and more confident about innovating in design and producing graphic imagery. The best example this week was the splendid graphic on the global car industry, supporting John Reed’s feature.

Comment watch: A magisterial contribution from Philip Stephens on how Iran has exposed the gap between idealism and realism for Barack Obama. Max Hastings wrote the last word on the UK government’s
decision to hold another public inquiry into the Iraq war in private, sorry partly in public, sorry…..please contact Downing street for the latest developments.

UK companies watch: Dan Thomas produced a great scoop about retail property gloom and also provided a well-written and timely interview with Vincent Tchenguiz ahead of the Bramdean showdown. Gill Plimmer delivered a strong exclusive on National Express’s debt talks.  Plus a scoop from Matt “Mr Hollywood” Garrahan and London’s Salamander Davoudi on a possible bid by ESPN for English Premier League football television rights.

And finally, please note Mrs Moneypenny’s campaign for a place for Sir Keith Park, the New Zealand air ace and Defender of Britain in 1940 has paid off.  A statue of Sir Keith will appear for six months on the fourth
plinth of Trafalgar Square – and he will gain a permanent berth elsewhere soon thereafter. Well done, Mrs M – ably supported by Mr Terry Smith and many other FT readers.

Election fever in Iran, election torpor in Europe, and febrile politics at Westminster were among our top stories this week, and on each occasion our newspaper and online stories meshed extremely well.

A great week for big news and the FT news operation has performed with flair and professionalism in print and online.

First, the Westminster team and the UK news desk led by George Parker and Sarah Neville – supported by the night news desk – did brilliantly under pressure on the Brown meltdown and Lazarus-like recovery.

Alex Barker and Jean Eaglesham wrote penetrating analysis and spot news. We were earlier than the rest on Darling and Miliband staying and our pro-Darling leader was reportedly produced to persuade Brown to keep on his chancellor. Philip Stephens wrote pre-midnight comment for the paper as well as a doing a video for FT.com and Robert Shrimsley wrote a trenchant opinion piece for the weekend FT.

Introduction: General Motors moves inexorably toward bankruptcy; North Korea explodes a nuclear device; Microsoft and Google go head-to-head on search; oil prices continue to rise on the back of a grudging economic recovery; and more British MPs, embarrassed by their expenses, signal they will stand down after the next election.

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

Themes of the Week: The dollar weakens sharply against leading currencies, Congress party wins the Indian elections with a better-than-expected showing and stocks soar, Sir Victor Blank is eased out as Lloyds Bank chairman, President Obama unveils a weak(ish) car emissions plan, and more revelations about British MPs expenses creates a groundswell for institutional and constitutional reform.

And if you missed the Financial Times or ft.com this past week, you would have been deprived of the following juicy scoops and premium insights:

Themes of the Week: The Obama administration unveils sweeping proposals for regulating the opaque over-the-counter derivatives market; a Hollywood media mogul eyes up buying the New York Times; Sri Lankan government forces strangle the Tamil Tigers; and Westminster MPs suffers their worst week since 1641 (with apologies to the Daily Telegraph…)

And if you missed the Financial Times or ft.com this week, you would have missed the following top ten gems:

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.

Introduction: Stock markets stage a big (bear market?) rally; Chrysler files for bankruptcy; swine flu shuts down Mexico city and spreads around the world; Citigroup scrambles to raise capital; Gordon Brown stumbles in the face of the Gurkhas; and one of India’s billionaire twins is the target of a dastardly murder plot.

And if you missed the Financial Times or ft.com this past week, you would have missed the following top ten stand-outs…

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