Friday, 27 February 2009

It's a girl!

Abchurch sends congratulations Ariane Comstive who on 8th February gave birth to a beautiful baby girl named Thaïs Camille May. We were so excited to see the first photos of Thaïs (and pleased that Hello! has not already been given first dibs). We wish Ariane and her family all the best with their new addition.


Pedicabs at Midnight...

The Abchurch team of Justin, Tsangasaurus Rex and Jo, lead by Bozzy, put on their (green!) glad rags for the Rosenblatt New Energy Awards at the Natural History Museum last night, and headed for a night of champagne, awards, and dinner under a dinosaur.

Janet Street-Porter and Zac Goldsmith hosted the evening, which was another great event by Vitesse. The Abchurch tables were jam packed with green heavy-hitters, including Charles Stanley, Matrix, Independent on Sunday, JPMorgan Cazenove, BBC, as well as Abchurch clients Proton Power Systems, EnergyMixx and Bluewater Bio.

Legal Abchum "Fewan Two" kept our tables amused, first by orchestrating a mid-speech chime of falling glasses – you rang Sir? - and then in a curiously Oedipal way referring to his wife as his mother. She should gate him!

Congratulations from Abchurch to all the winners!


Image courtesy of johnnyalive on Flickr, through a Creative Commons License.

Word of the week

The great clean up seemed to turn, or at least begin to veer around, a corner this week as the government and the FSA progressed with new regulation and an asset protection scheme dubbed ‘Operation Broom’. Lord Turner, head of the City regulatory body, dismissed past practices as ‘fundamental intellectual failure’ and cited a ‘revolution’ in City governance that had already progressed in the last 18 months. So what does this mean? Banks are now likely to be required to hold up to three times as much capital against their trading assets and there will be far more scrutiny of whether senior bankers are fit for their jobs. And with Lloyds and RBS soon to announce record losses, Alistair Darling is also stepping up efforts to isolate bad debt in both banks. This will allow them to return to normal lending capacity and avoid a further investor sell-off that might force nationalization. The wheels are beginning to turn at least and the survival of the two banks over the weekend should (worryingly) be a good sign. If not it’s hard to see how the government itself will survive.


'Why did nobody tell us?'

Jack and I attended a fascinating debate this week at the London School of Economics: ‘Why did nobody tell us?' reporting the global crash of 08’. The debate boasted a celebrity panel of Evan Davies (BBC), Vince Cable (LibDems), Gillian Tett (FT Assistant Editor) and Alex Brummer (Daily Mail City Editor) alongside LSE professors Willem Buiter and Howard Davies. The heated and occasionally humorous debate centred on the role of the financial press and its actions leading up to the current crisis:

The role of the press: Davies argued that the bulletin nature of news prevents balanced stories and should reflect rather than disrupt wider opinion.

The scope of the business press: Tett described the ‘iceberg memos’ which she drew up as editor of the Lex column in ‘03/4. They portrayed the vast areas of the City such as credit default swaps, derivatives, securitisation and debt that remained underwater receiving negligible coverage. These now hazardous areas were isolated from the outside world in favour of a focus on equities and foreign exchange issues.

The banking model: Cable suggested that the requirement of governments to protect banks necessitates state regulation similar to that used in utility companies. And also that losses AND profits need to be nationalised.

The ability to forecast crises: Willem Buiter (LSE) illustrated that history is hard enough to plot accurately and that global crises have never been forecast. He suggested that the requirement of the media to entertain inhibited any compelling warning.

The rank of financial press: any warnings that did appear remained in the business section ‘on p86’ as Brummer put it. Tett portrayed the City as unaware of the context of their industry which has led to the unforeseen impact of its demise. This ‘Bloomberg Screen’ mentality develops from the wider public’s distaste for the alphabet soup of finance.

The housing crash: Brummer demonstrated how the Mail had continually warned of a housing bubble. Davies suggested that since ‘05 sensible homeowners should have been wary of a bubble.

Financial PR: Tett and Howard Davies (LSE) described how the time pressures on journalists have assisted the growth of financial PR. They agreed that a PR serving the private interest of clients should not prevent a journalist publishing unbiased information.
This was a incredibly informative event hosted by the LSE, and the team are looking forward to attending many more in the future.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Abchaps are hitting the award ceremonies with a whole New Energy

Have you ever had dinner underneath a dinosaur? I thought not. It’s that time of year again, the glam and the glitz of London come together in a sparkling black tie affair at the Natural History Museum for Rosenblatt’s New Energy Awards on Wednesday 25th February. The ceremony recognises the “achievements of management teams, companies and projects that have made a significant contribution to this sector during the past 12 months.”

Justin and our very own “Tsangaroo” who head up our cleantech team will be donning their gladrags and hosting the Abchurch tables at this year’s event joined by clients and City friends, and Jo will be joining Vitesse Media.

Justin has insisted that we stick strictly to the dress code of “Black tie with a green twist” which is highly open to interpretation. An organic cotton shirt perhaps? A recycled bow tie from a charity shop? Something carbon neutral? Or as fashionista Jo has taken it to mean “a full on shiny green dress, a bit like a mermaid!” If you’re a guest of Abchurch, you’ve been warned!

With a win for one of our clients at last year’s event and a nomination for a different client in the same category this year, the cleantech team will be on the edge of their seats…

Photo: Phillie Casablanca on Flickr

Friday, 20 February 2009

Team Abchurch make a Sterling effort at the Quiz

“Obviously, we deliberately answered the questions incorrectly so that we wouldn’t embarrass the bankers, otherwise they wouldn’t bring us deals” – very convincing Henry. Sadly Abchurch didn’t quite make it to first place at the Sterling Quiz on Thursday, but we definitely would have won the rowdiest table award (there was much cheering to celebrate Jack’s flashes of brilliance). The Abchallengers, determined not to be utterly humiliated, seconded Jo to the Collins Stewart table as an honorary member of team 'What's "financial"?' she did her best to lead them astray by feeding them the wrong answers. Steph offered to help Investec find alternative careers as a boyband (X-Factor here we come!), and insisted that they practice their dance moves in Abacus later on…

Heather and Toppers didn’t exactly lead the team to victory, but did provide much entertainment during the battle against the likes of Evolution, Fairfax, Noble, and RBS. Toppers’ music knowledge was invaluable, and we got an intriguing insight into what he was up to in the early 90’s…

A huge thank you to Sterling for such a fun night (although we missed PM desperately)!

Team Abchurch

Photo: Oberazzi on Flickr

Friday, 13 February 2009

Word of the week

Sir James Crosby, resigning Deputy Chairman of the FSA, has dominated the news agenda this week. PM Gordon Brown is now facing mounting criticism as it emerged he had knighted and positioned Crosby with the FSA and as a key government financial adviser. This was despite the fact that Crosby, whilst CEO of HBOS in 2005, had sacked senior risk manager, Paul Moore, over concerns that he voiced about the sustainability of the HBOS model – now nationalised by the government. With the Commons Select Committee holding grilling sessions on a weekly basis the recession seems to have descended into a blame game. Moore follows Robert Peston and Gordon Brown as claimants to the title of “I called the recession ages go, you idiots” whilst all quarters have got used to the tone of Mervyn King’s latest funeral dirge that confirmed a “deep recession”. Let’s hope someone finds the way to daylight soon to stop all this shouting in the dark.


Abchicks and the Twitterati

Ever since Chris Moyles and Phillip Schofield joined Twitter last week, the UK buzz surrounding the microblogging site has been growing. You can’t turn on the radio or pick up a newspaper without someone talking about it. Even @StephCuthbert has become a prolific Twitterer (tweeter?) this week and she’s not even sure what it’s all about. Although Twitter is by no means new, now that even more high profile media figures are endorsing Twitter as “the next big thing” it looks like the UK is finally ready to jump on the bandwagon. Twitter is going UK mainstream and Abchurch is floating on up with it.

So what’s it all about?

Thanks @CommonCraft!

Twitter is such a great platform for communicating and sharing ideas and because each ‘tweet’ is limited to 140 characters people get to the point very quickly (and usually with a good helping of wit). This is really useful to gather and spread information fast. People were tweeting during the inauguration, various earthquakes, the Mumbai attacks, today’s Buffalo plane crash and much more. It’s a brilliant way of getting real time information from a variety of sources and Twitter is fast becoming a source for breaking news.

I won’t continue to extol the virtues of Twitter here, but I’ve been a glittering member of the Twitterati for nearly a year and these are the things I love about it:

• Connecting with people who are so interesting and helpful, but who I might never have otherwise come across
• It’s easier to follow a couple of hundred people on Twitter than read two hundred different blogs
• There’s a constant stream of new and engaging content, interesting conversations to join and useful web links. It simply doesn’t stop
• It’s great when you share something and someone on another continent who you have never met before replies. (I just had a reply from a Japanese seamstress in Tokyo who hand embroiders kimonos. Where would I ever meet her in real life?)
• If you have a bizarre question, chances are someone out there will have the answer.
• There is freedom to reply to anyone. While I would never write a letter to Stephen Fry, I’ll happily reply to one of his tweets and @stephenfry is brilliant at keeping a dialogue with his fans, as is @Schofe.
• It makes me laugh out loud at least once a day
• It’s totally current and these days, speed is your best friend.

But what use is Twitter to PR? There are already so many blog posts about how to use Twitter for business and it can help enormously with branding etc., but in terms of knowledge and relationships I personally find Twitter is a brilliant tool for helping me do my job.

• With all the national newspapers on Twitter, it’s a one stop shop for news feeds. By following national papers and other newsfeeds, I will often see as soon a story breaks.
• I also like to follow journalists, their tweets often have great tips for PRs pitching ideas by virtue of the fact that they regularly tweet about how PRs screw up. Note to self: don’t do that. Journos also tweet about stories they are writing or questions they need answered. @charlesarthur and @harrymccracken are great journalist Twitterers
• I follow loads of industry channels so I get a constant stream of industry news – great for keeping me informed of issues that might be relevant to my clients.
• I also follow many media and tech trailblazers like Michael Arrington @TechCrunch and @GuyKawasaki – those guys that were using Twitter years ago are the ones who will decide which apps will take off tomorrow.
• Other PRs are also great to follow, they often point to interesting blog posts or other sites and the seasoned pros have great tips that are so useful. Their anecdotal industry chat is also pretty amusing. It’s amazing what you can fit into 140 characters.

In case you can’t tell, I'm a pretty huge advocate of Twitter! I’m not using all the features and functionality yet and I still think it’s great, so the possibilities are probably endless. I totally get a kick when I am followed by massively influential people like @stephenfry and @barakobama (and also for those in the know, @guykawasaki, @scobleizer and @chrisbrogan). They care about what I have to say and I think therein lies the greatest benefit of Twitter. It gives you a voice, and it gives you an audience. As long as you play by the rules, it seems like win-win to me.


Friday, 6 February 2009

Word of the week

The Bank of England cut interest rates again this week to 1% taking us back 300 years when this level was last reached. The decision by the Monetary Policy Committee, who voted that borrowing should be made even easier, received an ambivalent reaction despite the stated intention to assist businesses and homeowners starved of credit. The Federation of Small Businesses commented that the rate cuts were not helping but hurting savers needlessly when alternative stimulus measures were needed. This view is encouraged by the government’s continued struggle to force the hand of the corporate lending markets. Many businesses, particularly SMEs, are seeking help via state intervention but the government is uncomfortable with further action including taking board positions on the country’s biggest institutions. Such action, however, may be inevitable as the slide in interest rates has now reached unprecedented lows.


Thursday, 5 February 2009

Growth Companies’ Issues on AIM

Last week Heather attended the Growth Company Investor seminar about New Issues on AIM. As usual GCI’s team of researchers had produced some intriguing data:

£1billion raised during 2008, less than 14% of the £6.25 billion generated in 2007

Food is the best performing sector on AIM

• The most active NOMAD is Seymour Pierce with 6 IPOs, for which it helped raise
£117.9 million

• Investment fund specialist, Fairfax, raised 2nd highest amount via the single £116 million transaction for the Terra Catalyst Fund

• Leading NOMAD in terms of client price performance was WH Ireland

Cenkos, Grant Thornton and KBC Peel Hunt all completed 5 floats apiece

Collins Stewart’s two IPO clients performed strongly – acquisitive shell Marwyn Materials up 55% and Yangtze down only 8%

• The most active accountants are Deloitte and KPMG, jointly with 9 clients each followed by specialists Grant Thornton and Baker Tilly with 8 each

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Grit and bear it?!

London can cope with a lot. Political sleaze? No problem. A crisis crippling the financial world? Bring it on. But six inches of snow? Not a chance.

As if London grinding to a complete halt earlier this week wasn’t embarrassing enough, we hear that, of all things, we are now running out of grit.

Newspapers and other media outlets from the New York Times to the South African Witness were talking about the snow in London and how we were simply unable to cope. Even the LA Times had a dig, rich considering we all know how well the Californians cope with rain.

With buses left idle, trains stuck in stations and people advised not to drive, the entire transport system was crippled, more than 3,000 schools were closed, and many of those who did make it in to work were sent straight home again. A journey well spent.

The City was like a ghost town and it looked to us Abchaps like we were the only ones in the square mile with enough stealth and stamina to make it in to work. Albeit two hours late. But in true PR style we were rewarded with a glass of champagne for our worthy efforts.

But what has the snow storm done for the reputation of London? David Frost (I know, thoroughly appropriate), director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce described the situation as "not a very positive image for the UK.” A gross understatement, one might say, particularly when European TV channels were showing footage of stranded commuters and abandoned buses in snowfall that many would regard as light. With the storm having been predicted by late last week, it could be argued that we had at least a little time to prepare, and were not really, as Frost claimed, “caught on the hop”.

Hopefully by the time the snow has melted, the chaos of Monday and Tuesday will all be forgotten, but God help us if something like this hits us again and London is no better prepared. We should be if only to avoid the embarrassment of looking quite so pathetic in the face of a bit of 'adverse weather'. It is indeed a sad day when the Americans can point the finger and laugh at us. “It’s all so silly,” concludes Abchurch’s Jo, “and if we’re running out of grit, why don’t they just buy more?”



Monday, 2 February 2009

A London cabbie puts the City to rights

I bust the credit crunch earlier by getting a cab in to work (bad) but had an interesting chat with the Cockney geezer driver. It went something like this:

“It’s OK if Barclay’s CEO does OK and is minted since he provides loads of jobs and starts up loads of businesses round the world, innit.

“And all the people in the City – they are all getting into sh*t, told they’re greedy. Well, innit a capitalist world? And they help the world go round and, well… they’re just doing their job – innit.

“Oh, and by the way I think that Corus, the massive steel maker, is jumping on the bandwagon, they have been going for 30 years and they could have seen this coming ten years ago but only now they lay off 4000 people. What’s going on? Are they blind? Are they threatened by Mittel, the biggest steel maker? Maybe Corus want to be bought by Mittel, so they think - strip the assets, fire the people and it’s a cheap buy - innit.

“I remember when I got my first mortgage and it was 17% interest and I put away ten grand in a granny bond – lovely jubbly, bob’s your uncle.


Robert Peston – reassess your speed dial!


Look who’s judging…

The Abchaps were out in force on Wednesday at the Growth Company Investor's Quoted Company Awards at the Grosvenor House Hotel, scattered around the room on tables hosted by St Helen’s Capital, Vitesse Media, and HW Fischer. There was of course also an Abchurch hosted table, which included some of our fabulous clients Lighthouse, zamano, Medicsight and BrainJuicer, as well as some of the ultimate movers and shakers from Collins Stewart, Jefferies, Mazars and Canaccord. You know who you are!

Our very own Heather Salmond, Managing Director at Abchurch, was given an illustrious position on the judging panel, and took part in the interesting and lively debates about the merits of the companies and individuals in each of the categories leading up to the Awards. Owen Waft of K&L Gates’ email the next day said it all: “Highlight of the evening was, undoubtedly, nearly choking on my bread roll on seeing Heather’s visage on the Panel of Judges pages in the programme”.

The event itself was a super night, very interesting to hear Lord Seb Coe speak, and a great opportunity to catch up with contacts after the holiday period. And despite the state of the market it was a very upbeat night, with much celebration from the winners (particularly the very charismatic and lively Kate Bleasedale of Healthcare Locums – I wish they had given her a microphone!). And with plenty of alcohol, the evening went on for probably longer than strictly necessary! All in the name of Market Communications...

Congratulations to all the winners:

Investor of the Year: Gervais Williams, Gartmore Growth Opportunities Investment Trust
IPO of the Year: Hugh O’Donnell, Kentz
Deal of the Year: Anthony WP Sage, Cape Lambert Iron Ore
Specialist Investment Vehicle of the Year: Ventus VCT, Charles Conner
Finance Director of the Year: Rene Gawron, SQS
Entrepreneur of the Year: Kate Bleasdale, Healthcare Locums
Non-Executive Director of the Year: Stuart Doughty, Scott Wilson Group
Chairman of the Year: David Rasche, SSP
Chief Executive of the Year: Charles Wilson, Booker
Lifetime Achievement Award: Andy Buchanan, Octopus