Friday, 22 February 2013

Abchat Weekly Wrap Up: Hacker's delight

On Monday, Burger King’s Twitter account was hacked. The company’s profile picture changed to a McDonald’s logo and the background picture on the account showing something called Fish McBites. Also, bogus and slightly amusing tweets such as “We just got sold to McDonald’s! Look for McDonald’s in a hood near you” were being tweeted from the corporate account for about an hour before 1815hrs (GMT) when Twitter, after a request from the fast food giant, suspended its account. Burger King’s arch rival, McDonald’s, did tweet in response to what happened, saying We empathize with our @BurgerKing counterparts. Rest assured, we had nothing to do with the hacking." The PR surrounding this whole debacle was handled quite well by Burger King which issued an apology through its Facebook page.

This week has seen other high profile Twitter hijacks with the famous hacker group, Anonymous (@Anon_Central) even becoming a victim! One has to worry when a Twitter account which is run by a hacker gets hacked itself. Also during the week, Jeep, and Jeremy Clarkson’s Twitter accounts were targeted by hackers, prompting technology security experts to inform users to make their passwords more sophisticated. Anonymous was in the news for most of 2012, however some experts believe its influence is starting to dwindle with new links between cyber crime and China, and some key Anonymous members have now been arrested.

The Twitter hacks for the likes of Burger King and Clarkson do not really represent a PR disaster as with both incidents it was blatantly obvious that someone had hacked their accounts and the matters were dealt with in a timely manner. A great infographic from social media monitoring company Synthesio showed that actually there was a net benefit to Burger King which acquired 30,000 new followers in just one day and there was a 300% increase in conversations in which Burger King was mentioned. The PR for Anonymous however, is a little bit more of a disaster as the number one hacker in the world has been hacked! How does Anonymous recover from this? Let’s hope it does not feel the need to prove itself by going on an all out attack!

House-builder Crest Nicholson announced its intention to float around 35% of its stock next month in a move that would value the group at around £500m. This could be a step in the right direction for kick starting the gloomy IPO market 

The pound plummeted against the dollar and euro this week following continued concerns about the health of the UK economy  

Nat Rothschild has lost his power struggle to clear out the Board of coal miner Bumi, after he disagreed with them about the way forward for the beleaguered company.

Novartis bowed to pressure from shareholders and other stakeholders this week and withdrew its planned payment of a $78 million ‘golden gag’ to Daniel Vasella, its outgoing chairman, preventing him sharing his knowledge with competitors. The decision comes just days before the Board has to face investors at its AGM

A group of online entrepreneurs including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Google co-founder Sergey Brin, have joined forces and pledged $50m over the next two years in a financial award to rival the Nobel Prize, rewarding innovation in science

This week the team has hosted two themed market lunches, one on China and the other on Resources. Both had excellent guests and the conversation was positive for 2013.

Staying on the Resources theme, we hosted our Abchums from VSA Capital for some drinks and canapés at our offices this week and were pleased to hear how well they have been doing recently having just come back from Indaba in South Africa.

Jamie attended the Gorkana breakfast briefing with the Sunday Times’ business editor Dominic O’Connell and deputy business editor Iain Dey and live tweeted the event. Stories need good subjects – “people like to read about people” said O’Connell.

On Thursday, Anna jetted off to New York to join the IPREX Global Leadership Conference hosted by Makovsy - we look forward to her reporting on what she learned when she returns next week.

The City isn't changing much this week, the only move we have to report is John Parry joining business advisory firm Baker Tilly as a forensic partner. John has had over 20 years experience in the field.

Splogs – Spam blogs, where content provided is either fake or does not belong to the blog creator. They are created very link-heavy from other sites, with the intent of boosting SEO results.

See the largest collection of James Bond vehicles ever assembled at the National Motor Museum in Hampshire. All the vehicles have featured in the epic Bond films and you can get up close and personal with Aston Martin DB5, the Lotus Esprit S2 as well as all the older classics. 

Delight your tastebuds tonight at “After Hours Dessert” pop-up which is running this weekend in Store St Espresso, Bloomsbury, and on selected March dates.

Tonight, Topham Supper club is happening at the Amadeus in Little Venice. Bodega Raffy is providing the wine menu.

Oh, and don't forget the Oscars on Sunday night!

Follow us on Twitter @AbchurchComms

Thursday, 21 February 2013

The Digital Audience

In an email to staff a few weeks ago, Lionel Barber, editor of the Financial Times, announced a ‘digital first’ strategy for the pink paper as more and more content is consumed online. A recent survey by @Investis  found that 40% of FTSE 250 companies now have a presence on social media, compared to just 14% this time last year and PR giant Brunswick surveyed investors and found that 30% have made investment decisions based on information they first heard about on Twitter.

As communications professionals we have to ask ourselves – how does online content differ from print and how can we make sure that our media strategies cater to an increasingly digital audience?

Richer content
If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is the value of a video embedded in a relevant article? What about a five minute podcast you can download and listen to on your way into work? What about being able to immediately read a reference because there is a link to it as you read it?

The days of two dimensional newspaper articles are over so journalists need to skill-up to provide the ‘extras’ that we now expect as standard. Journalists continually have to consider how stories can be enhanced with multimedia, so companies with predominantly visual stories are already on a winner.

If you read an article about a company that had developed a new time machine, you would expect a video interview along side the words, wouldn’t you? And then you’d want to share it with friends using email, Facebook or Twitter. For this very reason, we have so many more opportunities to develop exciting, dynamic content. And for a media outlet, sharing is priceless – you would generally trust information coming from your friends and contacts, wouldn’t you? Shared information has already been endorsed so it is considered more reputable and more useful than similar information found by other sources. And when it comes to online content, the source of social media matters less than the sharer.

Twitter breaks major news stories these days, there’s no doubt about that, and often online, news articles are written briefly to get the story out, and then updated as the story develops. Due to the nature of online content, it can often (but not always) be considered a work in progress, with the opportunity for it to evolve. Speed is of the essence so the timeliness of stories is paramount.

The dynamic nature of news today also provides many more opportunities to engage and contribute, but sifting through the vast amount of content is a skill in itself. Gareth Price, brand researcher at business intelligence firm Precise used the phrase ‘interpassivity’ in a recent blog post to describe the fact that we may actually be reading and digesting less information now, under the misguided belief that we are accumulating vast knowledge by reading headline tweets and titles

Perhaps in this information age, when we are bombarded by online content from every direction, we need to find an effective way to filter all this information and digest the relevant parts. It’s a steep learning curve, particularly in the corporate world where this one-to-many communication has historically only taken place through controlled and regulated channels.

Limitless possibilities?
A printed newspaper or magazine has a finite number of pages which has meant fierce competition for space. The internet has seemingly erased competition for space, and replaced it with competition for quality content. In theory there ought to be limitless opportunities to get a story out, but everyone knows online information is only valuable if it comes from a trustworthy source, be that the sharer or the author. Misinformation is quickly and easily spread online so very often, stories that are broken on Twitter or other online platforms, will require verification among the wider public by a reputable news agency or paper.

As professional communicators, we must constantly ask ourselves who are the influencers in the space? Who do I trust to give me the information that I need? These might be journalists, bloggers, vloggers, the twitterati – each are unique and, importantly, have different audiences. So, while online may present more opportunities for PR, it’s more important than ever to make sure that rich content is reaching the right channels.


Follow us on Twitter @AbchurchComms

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Five minute Abchat with Simon Bonnett, Head of Wealth Management at Fiducia Wealth Management Limited

Simon Bonnett has over 25 years experience in Financial Planning; his career began at Norwich Union in the West End.

Simon is experienced in both Private Client and Employee Benefits planning and held several senior positions at Private Banks, Accountancy Firms and IFAs. At Fiducia, he specialises in Retirement Planning, Later Life Planning, Protection for the Family and Financial Planning.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
My father was into photography as a hobby and so I wanted to be a photographer; I was into portrait and sports photography.

How did you get into Wealth Management?
A school friend asked me to support him on a visit to the Job Centre in St. Pauls. I thought I should get interview experience so I picked up an advertisement (salary £3,427 ...); it was for an Administrator role with Norwich Union. I was offered the job following the interview, and haven’t looked back.

Describe your role in ten words or less (if that’s possible!):
Client-focused, business developer, jargon-translator, people educator, practice manager.

What is the most interesting thing about your work?
The people I meet and work with and for. You get to know them and share their passions with them.

How has the industry changed in the last couple of years?
It’s becoming even more professional; the RDR has focused advisors to adopt further professional practices and it’s raised the minimum standard from a qualification point of view. The profession has grown up, the attitude of people has changed, and thankfully it’s now about the client relationship rather than the sale of product.

We’re a profession and not an industry, and its all to the benefit of the client which is the most important point.

Is there a common misconception about Wealth Management?
People sometimes think it’s only about investing, whereas it’s about financial strategy including investments. It’s a holistic view. It’s a family office view; you look after your client’s welfare.

In which emerging market do you see the best potential in 2013?
Indonesia, Vietnam, or South Korea (naturally, take advice before investing ...)

If I wasn’t talking to you now, what would you be doing?
Developing relationships or tinkering to improve something.

Thank you Simon!

Follow Fiducia Wealth Management on Twitter @FiduciaWealth

Friday, 15 February 2013

Abchat Weekly Wrap Up: WWW: What a tangled Web we Weave

Apparently crime fighters are going to be able to predict when future felons will commit a crime by monitoring social networks. US security firm, Raytheon has developed software called Riot (Rapid Information Overlay Technology) which will monitor people’s interests and photos on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. The technology uses photographs and ‘check ins’ on social networks to help map individuals’ activities through latitude and longitude lines automatically embedded by smartphones. Riot then predicts where people are likely to be based on analysis from previous ‘check ins’ and social media activity. One can see why this project is in partnership with the US military, although its doubtful that any serious criminals or terrorists will be highly active when checking in at the gym or uploading a picture of them with their mates having a slap up meal. Many people quite rightly question the morality of governments and intelligence agencies tracking all of our activity? One question that needs to be asked though is; is this acceptable for PRs and marketers to adopt?

One of the key rules of marketing is to know more about your stakeholders, so surely software such as Riot will only be beneficial to marketers? Marketers will be able to tailor their products and services to an even greater extent to suit stakeholder needs and demands if they were to use Riot. Campaigns will be specifically tailored following Riot’s results, regional press outreach could be perfected and big influencers will be targeted. As PR’s our influencers are journalists, so by using Riot you could see where/ what/ when and how a journalist is in order to help with your press outreach. Is this as morally questionable as governments using this kind of software to help defend us, the citizens? Would it be less moral to stalk people via social media for corporate gains over national security?

As PRs we need to keep on top of our rapidly changing industry, making skills in social media and the more digital side of communications increasingly essential. However do we really need to start stalking influencers and target audiences’ every move? The more a person engages in social media, the more likely they will be to leave themselves open to information being used for corporate gains. That is, unless they have a particular knack at keeping all activity private, but even then you’ll be surprised at how exposing being social online can be. So is this just a predictable eventuality that all future campaigns will be carefully orchestrated by PRs and marketers who have been stalking their prey on the social web? Or will the tried and tested method of targeting audiences with decent and relevant products, some solid key messages and a good old fashioned bit of PR be suffice?

See how Riot works

Warren Buffet looks set to buy Heinz for a whopping $28 billion which translates to roughly £18 billion. That’s a lot of tomato soup and Ketchup.

House builder, Crest Nicholson completed the largest public (re) listing so far this year, sparking hopes this might ignite the IPO market. Crest Nicholson who largely build high-end homes in the south of England raised £553m.

Pinnacle Technology (AIM:PINN) successfully raised £2.65 million in a very over subscribed placing. The new stock began trading on AIM on Monday 11 February. An encouraging sign about raising finances in tough market conditions.

Manchester United’s shares are trading at $19, giving the football club a valuation of over $3 billion. This came after an announcement that the Red Devils saw a 74% rise in profits for Q2 of 2012, owing to increased revenues. Revenue increased thanks to large sponsorship agreements with companies such as Nike and DHL.

As part of the China New Year celebrations, Abchaps were guests of one of our Chinese clients at VSO’s China event at Buckingham Palace, hosted by their royal patron, the Princess Royal, on Wednesday.

Our cleantech team attended Cleantech Investor’s Water Tech Invest conference at K&L Gates’ London headquarters where companies demonstrated innovation in the water sector. Among the insightful talks and workshops, calls for a UK and worldwide coherent water management policy were made, along with for improved VC monitoiring to help get technologies currently locked with companies to reach commercial fruition.

Abchaps hosted a life sciences market lunch and a cleantech market lunch. Co-hosting our cleantech lunch was our newest addition to the team, Janine, Associate Director of Cleantech.

As part of the Abchurch Academy, 2013’s second monthly Accelerator Day was hosted this week, where our product specialism progress was shared, as well as some highly productive training sessions.

Gavin Lewis has been appointed business development director at UBS’s global asset management division. He moves to the Swiss bank from Russell Investments.

Oriel Securities has appointed Paul Howard as vice chairman in their corporate division. Paul makes the move from JP Morgan Cazenove.

Paul Lyons will join law firm Goodwin Procter as partner, primarily focusing on real estate debt finance. His most recent post before was at Travers Smith.

Press reports from last week were correct and Cantor Fitzgerald confirmed buying the broking division from Seymour Pierce.

'Startpage' – a constantly evolving multi-purpose aggregator; a web page that you can organise to pull in content from a range of online sources including email, feeds from blogs and news services.

Tonight you can enjoy authentic Indian Kerala Food from Kavitha’s Cuisine Pop-Up restaurant, which includes a food demonstration in at the Soho Kitchen Club, W1F.

For the next two weeks, you can discover how to pot and grow your own exotic orchids and get a rare glimpse into the orchid nursery at Kew Gardens.

Tomorrow night, nerds and bad dancers are welcome at Beauty and The Geek Party at Belushi’s Bar in London Bridge. Sponsored by TNT and Topdeck Travel, tickets are £5.

Next Thursday 21st February, oyster specialists The Mother Shuckers are taking over The Muse Gallery in Portobello Road for a decadent night of delicious oysters and whisky, for £25 a head.

Follow us on Twitter @AbchurchComms

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

The phrase that launched a thousand acronyms

As we mentioned in the Weekly Wrap up last Friday, Jim O’Neill, Chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management and coiner of the ubiquitous ‘BRIC’ acronym has announced that he will retire this year.

In 2001, Mr O’Neill’s paper ‘Building Better Global Economic BRICs’ outlined the huge growth potential of the emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, India and China and their rivalry to the West’s economic dominance.

“Jim’s BRIC thesis has challenged conventional thinking about emerging markets and, as a result, has had a significant economic and social impact.” Goldman Sach’s: Chief Executive: Lloyd Blankfein and President Gary Cohn.

It was an acronym that launched a thousand acronyms, with others including: the ‘CIVETS (Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey, South Africa)’ and the less than complimentary ‘PIGS’ (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain).

Jim’s persistent interest in emerging markets is further evident in his final note this week to investors, “Are things that good?” In which he urged investors amongst other things to focus on the “quite cheap” markets of Turkey, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Korea and Russia.

Hailing from Gately in Manchester, Jim studied Geography and Economics at Sheffield University. He started his banking career with brief stints at Swiss Bank and Bank of America, before joining Goldman in 1995 as a Partner. His rise within Goldman Sachs mirrored that of the countries he championed. He was appointed head of global economics, commodities and strategy research in 2001becoming chief economist before being made Chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management in 2010, a role created specifically for him.

Jim is also known for his avid love of Manchester United football club and in 2010 he led a consortium of fellow supporters, the Red Knights, in a failed bid to take over the club.

Follow us on Twitter @AbchurchComms

Friday, 8 February 2013

Abchat Weekly Wrap Up: A Hoarse Cry

My doctor told me to watch what I eat, so I went out and bought tickets for the Grand National.

This is just one of the many jokes to have surfaced over the last couple of weeks in regard to consumers eating horse meat, having previously been blissfully unaware that selections of processed beef products have been made from horse. Over the past month Tesco, Iceland and Lidl have been exposed for serving horse meat in their burgers, sparking jokes like “What do you call a burnt Tesco burger? Black Beauty” or “Have you heard? Now traces of zebra have been found in Tesco barcodes”. The latest finding is that a Findus ready meal lasagnes contain somewhere between 60% and 100% horsemeat – and quite rightly the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has ordered UK retailers all processed beef products, and Findus has withdrawn all lasagnes from sale. Opposition figures are being understandably opportunistic and Mary Creagh, Shadow Environment Secretary, has attacked senior ministers for some guidance as to what to do. The government’s response given by Owen Paterson was also obviously bland by saying that the government is working closely with businesses to “root out any illegal activity” and enforce FSA regulations – the FSA has blamed criminal activity for this.

Now the question is how the exposed corporate retailers handle what is quite simply a PR disaster? The clearest answer (and one which we would advise any industry related client of our own) is to take to social media to handle their crisis communications. Social media exposes companies to constructed customer service forums where criticisms and complaints are openly vented in a public environment. On the flip side, companies can respond to customers’ complaints and concerns in the most public of domains. Tesco, being the size that it is, has a dedicated customer care Twitter handle called @UKTesco. One can guess how many horse related complaints and jokes they have received! Tesco don’t remove negative posts, but make sure they respond with an agreed set of answers which would have been approved by their PR team and Board. This is the right course of action to take, and once the dust has settled Tesco will be relatively unscathed.

Findus, on the other hand needs to improve its social media game immediately in order to capitalist on potential customer services benefits of the various platforms and of course minimize the damage. Currently if you go through the Findus UK website and click on their Twitter link, you are directed to a to a Twitter feed dedicated to crispy pancakes which has been dormant since October 2010 – nothing to do with lasagne ready meals!!! The Findus UK website is equally poor for enabling access to a Findus UK Facebook page. The only Facebook pages for the Company appear to be in Czech. The comments are starting to amass on said Facebook page – most of them being “too blue” in tone to repeat here. Findus needs to gain a presence in the UK fast in order to gain some consumer confidence, and to make a statement - not to politicians and governmental organisations - but to the consumer. The best way to create this is through social media. Jokes such as What’s the fuss? For years we’ve been told that Ready Meals contain too much Salt and Shergar. #findus are already spreading on Twitter at their expense. Not addressing this problem will only make it worse for them in the long run.

Let’s hope for all our sakes that the FSA does impose strict regulation and some kind of stamp of authority to provide consumers with confidence in what they are eating is implicated.

EU leaders agree a seven-year budget deal following a 24-hour bargaining session in Brussells. Despite a lack of details being disclosed, European Council President Herman van Rompuy has reassured the public stating it was “worth waiting for”…

"BRICS" inventor Jim O’ Neill formally announced his retirement as Chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management arm. The highly regarded Mr O’Neill won global recognition upon coining the term "BRICS" in order to provide the emerging markets with a core set of economies which were big and powerful enough to influence investors. The invention of such a label helped to significantly raise the importance of emerging markets in the public mind.

Cable giant Liberty Global has confirmed it is to buy Virgin Media in a deal estimated at £15bn. The merger will generate 25 million customers in 14 countries and will form the UKs second biggest pay-TV business after BSkyB.

George Osborne announced a crackdown on banks who fail to follow new reform rules. The Banking Reform Bill and its ‘electrified ring fence’ should help protect core retail banking activities from investment banking losses. Inability to comply could result in regulators splitting up individual banks altogether.

Mining Indaba, the world’s largest mining investment event, took place this week in Cape Town, South Africa. With 7,700 delegates in attendance representing 100 countries, it was the most successful conference held to date. Influential key note speakers highlighted how the mining industry can contribute to sustainable development, how it can play a role in overcoming poverty and inequality and how investors need to move away from its traditional, short-termism extractive model.

STOCKWATCH: Ophir Energy suffered a severe set back this week as two of its major shareholders, Och-Ziff and Mittal Investments sold a total of 36 million shares. The placing constituted 9pc of Ophir’s share capital and was made at the bottom of its 475p to 490p price range, raising just £171m. The sale caused the biggest share drop on the FTSE 250 that day with the Company’s share price closing down 44 ½ p.

The life sciences team attended a One Nucleus BioWednesday event. Rewarding innovation in biotechnology was discussed at great length, as well as the progress being made for drugs to treat Alzheimer’s Disease.

The Cleantech team attended a seminar at Bird & Bird about energy and market manipulation.

Abchaps attended the Chinese Icebreakers New Year celebration dinner at the Dorchester Hotel with one of our Chinese clients.

We also hosted two very productive Market Lunches this week, with one focused on the hot topic of Agriculture.

Jonathan Wright has joined specialist oil and gas investment bank FirstEnergy Capital. Wright previously spent 13 years at Seymour Pierce.

Law firm Stephenson Harwood has appointed Tom Nicholls a partner in its corporate practice. Tom was previously head of the energy and natural resources sector group at Lawrence Graham.

We were pleased to hear that our friends at Manchester based law firm Cobbets have found a new home at DWF, which has bought the company (with the exception of a few teams) and saved it from administration. The Cobbets teams from across the UK will be joining DWF at their offices over the next few weeks.

According to various press outlets, Cantor Fitzgerald are in talks to buy Seymour Pierce.

Warner Music acquired Parlophone from Universal Records for £487 million, recouping some of the money Universal shed out on EMI. Parlaphone has acts such as Pink Floyd, David Guetta and Coldplay on their books.

'Dim Sum' – a type of bond which is issued outside of China, but denominated in Chinese Yuan, rather than the local currency. The dim sum bond market is the first offshore market for Chinese currency investments with its name deriving from the bite-size delicacies served in Hong Kong tea houses.

Celebrate the Chinese New Year with Mei Mei's Chinese New Year Pop-up in Kensal Rise, tonight and tomorrow night, where you can enjoy traditional Beijing street food and cocktails.

For fans of architecture visit the Sir John Soane’s Museum at 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields Sir John Soane's Museum to marvel at one of London’s most famous Georgian architects.

Follow us on Twitter @AbchurchComms

Building BRICS of the future

Competition in Emerging Markets

Unsurprisingly, we are seeing more and more consumer-orientated firms coming out of emerging markets that have huge brand power and global presence. For example, Mexico’s Grupo Bimbo, the world’s largest baking company, South Africa’s Aspen Pharmacare and Chinese e-commerce, Alibaba Group are advancing into foreign markets yet they remain largely unknown in the UK. It’s estimated that together the emerging market countries generate sales of over $1 billion.

The opportunities in emerging markets are immense: according to analysts’ forecasts China’s economy could surpass the US’ within just two decades. The Chinese economy is a hot topic in economic circles with analysts fiercely debating whether China is going to experience a crash or continue its unprecedented growth.

It was interesting to see in a recent survey from McKinsey that less than 20 per cent of decision makers are targeting China at city rather than country level1. The report suggested that marketing strategies should focus on city-specific targeting in China and other emerging markets, due to the sheer scale of each city and growing consumer demand. This is certainly a strategy we have adopted as we work with increasing numbers of Chinese companies – there is much more value in targeting specific areas and understanding them well, than trying a blanket approach in such a vast geography.

Source: McKinsey & Company

Demand on commodities

There is little doubt that we are experiencing the biggest growth opportunity in the history of capitalism. In the past decade, worldwide consumption of coal, palm oil and iron ore has grown by up to 10% per year, and there has been a similarly substantial rise in the consumption of oil, copper and wheat.

According to Bernice Lee, Research Director of Energy, Environment and Resource Governance (EERG) of Chatham House, “demand from emerging economies has driven up commodity prices and made them more volatile”2. This poses new challenges for risk management in public policy and business strategy between sectors, communities and nations. BRIC countries have started to put their foot on the break in fear of limited future supplies. For example, China has used export controls to support its industry’s raw materials, and Brazil and India are considering similar measures for iron ore2.

In an attempt to resolve supply disruptions, the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) and its 28 member countries have agreed to store oil 90 days. In practice this should ensure that there is always a supply available. Last year, the IEA called on its members to release emergency oil stockpiles to balance market disruptions tied to the civil unrest in Libya.

Industrial and political disruptions were played out last year in front of the international community, when the Marikana massacre in South Africa and similar wildcat strikes spread across the country and left the sector in turmoil. Shares in companies such as Coal of Africa were hit hard and Anglo American Platinum has reported an annual loss.

This week companies and industry leaders gathered in Cape Town for the annual Investing in Africa Mining Indaba, the largest mining conference on the continent. In keeping with tradition, companies threw dinners and cocktail parties, and as usual, meetings were held by the Cullinan pool. Conversation centred on the state and business, the revival of the country and its mining firms, and how it can still benefit from China’s growth.


Follow us on Twitter @AbchurchComms

1Recent survey conducted by Mckinsey Global Institute

2Bernice Lee, Research Director of energy, environment and resource governance of Chatham House in Financial Times Guest post: let’s start an R30 Group to manage global resources.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Five minute Abchat with Janan Paskaran, Partner at Torys LLP, Canada

Janan Paskaran is a corporate and securities Partner at international business law firm Torys LLP in Calgary, Canada. He was a member of the judging panel for The Oil Council’s 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award in London.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Like most kids in Canada, I wanted to be a hockey player!
(That's ice hockey to us Brits)

Describe your role in ten words or less (if that’s possible!):

Our aim is to provide practical legal advice and come up with creative solutions to ensure the goals of our clients are achieved.

What drew you to the natural resources sector?

I was born and raised in Alberta and so I grew up with the backdrop of the oil and gas industry. It is an unbelievably dynamic and interesting industry and I enjoy the variety of work I do on a daily basis.

What is the most interesting thing about your work?

Finding creative solutions is always the most interesting part of the job. With difficult capital markets, lateral thinking is key to ensuring our clients’ needs are met.

What is the main difference between advising companies in the UK and Canada?

There are some small nuances between the legal systems, however for the most part advising companies in both jurisdictions is fairly similar.

Is there a common misconception about the legal profession?

I think the biggest misconception is that lawyers are simply out to generate fees without regard to what clients actually want or need. Our Firm has always looked to establish a long term relationship with our clients so we are able to understand their business and become part of their team so we can work together to achieve their goals.

What developments do you expect to see in emerging markets in the next twelve months?

I think we will see continued investment in emerging markets as investors look for places where they can earn a significant return.

If I wasn’t talking to you now, what would you be doing?

Working or in the gym!

Thank you Janan!

Janan Paskaran has been involved in numerous transactions including Dana Petroleum in its C$240 million acquisition of Bow Valley Energy, Premier Oil in its US$505 million acquisition of Oilexco North Sea, General Electric in its US$4.8 billion acquisition of the aerospace business of Smiths Group and many more.

Follow Torys LLP on Twitter

Friday, 1 February 2013

Abchat Weekly Wrap Up: Beckham, a PR gift from above

The hashtag #Legend was trending yesterday afternoon on Twitter. It trended rapidly on one of the two days a year when every Tom Dick and Harry takes to Twitter, i.e. the Transfer Window Deadline.

Whilst the event sparked a variety of hashtags, #Legend was in particular reference to David Beckham’s short term move to big spending Paris Saint Germain and subsequent surrender of his reported £3 million salary to a local children’s charity. Was this a move of kindness or a great bit of PR by 'brand Beckham'? We are clearly meant to believe that Beckham ‘the legend’ did this out of pure altruism, as it’s not like he needs the money at all! He is by far the most famous football player (and probably sportsman) in the world and his brand power is huge. His fame rivals that of even the Queen or Pope. There is also his highly successful popstar turned fashion designer wife, Victoria aka, Posh. The two certainly strike up a quite fierce commercial and monetary union and their PR advisers will be getting a packet too.

David Beckham is a unique PR and promotional find. This charitable gesture, even if not completely selfless, further entrenches him in people’s hearts therefore boosting his ability to endorse and sell a product. His brand appeal not only transcends the realm of football fans (of which there are over a billion) but also defeats that of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi – both of whom are far superior footballers.

Goldenballs' earning power and amassed personal fortune are huge, so this this gesture won't impact the Beckhams' life at all. Regardless of whether Beckham did this out of generosity, or as an investment in himself for future endorsements, at least there is a children’s charity in Paris that will be £3million better off!

Antony Jenkins, Chief Executive Barclays Bank has decided to waive his large bonus for last year, as the bank experienced what he called a “difficult” year.

The highly anticipated Government ‘Green Deal’ finally launched on Monday; an energy efficiency programme which has been promised since 2010. The scheme aims to encourage Britons to make energy-saving home improvements through the provision of various financing schemes, loans and cashback offerings, in a major bid to accomplish the 2020 carbon reduction commitments.

AstraZeneca revealed the effects of patent cliffs as the Company reported large losses to its sales figures. The loss of exclusivity on some of its big-name drugs helped drive a 15% decrease in sales, totaling £18bn worth. However, despite fears, Pascal Soirot remains keen to drive organic growth rather than delve heavily into the acquisitions market.

Dragons Den entrepreneur Peter Jones bought the collapsed camera retailer Jesspos. The investor has decided not to take on any of its 187 stores in a bid to shift the brand purely online.

Heightened investor confidence was confirmed as data illustrated the FTSE 100 had played witness to its best January performance since 1989. The benchmark index rose 6.4%, adding a total of £96bn to the value of blue chip companies.

Rumours are rife and chattery has been churning regarding the future of the 130 year old broking house Seymour Pierce. The small-cap brokers, who have struggled to maintain profitability in an oversupplied, saturated environment, are thought to be approaching rivals regarding an investment or a takeover.

Similarly, the Manchester-based law firm Cobbetts, who suffered a series of financial setbacks since the buoyant mid 2000 economy collapsed, confirmed that they are to be bought by rival firm DWF.

Stockwatch: William Hill announced its third consecutive year of strong online growth which helped the betting group generate a £330 million operating profit as well as a 12% rise in total revenues. This much better-than-expected profit figure helped add £2.7 billion to the Company’s value as shares soared 4.1% in early trading.

Abchaps were guests at three different tables at the Grant Thornton Quoted Company Awards dinner, hosted by Shore Capital, Vitesse Media and Growth Company Investor. Rory Bremner entertained the crowds with his brilliant impressions, with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown going down particularly well!

We also attended Octupus Investments VCT seminar, at which Octopus highlighted (among other things) the significant tax relief available to investors who invest in AIM stocks and unquoted smaller companies through VCTs.

Cenkos and Shares Magazine: co-hosted a fantastic Innovators and Investors Forum, with a very strong turnout from the investment community. A number of well known fund managers followed the corporate presentations and met with the companies exhibiting. Katie Potts of Herald Investment Management gave an excellent Keynote speech with a blow by blow account of the decline of the quoted UK technology sector over the past decade. Surprisingly though the FTSE IT index outperforms both the US Russell 1000 index and also Asia Tech (excluding Japan). Abchurch client Acta SpA exhibited at the show with the event coinciding with its RNS about increased production capability. The market was impressed and the shares closed up on the day.

Abchaps also held two market lunch discussions this week, one focused on the increased use of social media use in the City and the other on trends in the resources sector.

Baker Tilly has brought in Laura Howes and Amy Lewis to join the Leeds corporate finance team, and has promoted Martin Athey to Associate Director and James McDonnel to Manager. Also in the professional services space, BDO has appointed Kevin Cummings as a tax partner.

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'Bourse' – A stock exchange

The View From The Shard opened today! The viewing platform is at the top of the Shard, nearly twice the height of any other viewing platform in London, at 800ft. at a cost of £25 per person.

This weekend sees The Mussel Men’s Pop-up in Morning Lane café in Hackney, where you will get some of the best mussels, fries and prosecco in town.

Electronic music pioneers, Kraftwerk are performing for eight nights at the Tate Modern, Turbine Hall from 6 February – 14 February 2013.

The Hayward Gallery’s Light Show opened on Thursday, and runs until 28th April. The stunning show features impressive free standing light sculptures by 22 artists, exploring the mysterious properties of light.

Next Thursday 7th Feb, Funthyme are holding an historical “Food Through The Ages” supper club at The Geffrye Museum in Kingsland Road, featuring traditional dishes from the 17th – 19th century, and BYOB!

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Britain’s doors are only partly open to Chinese tourists

Chinese tourists are getting tangled in British visa red tape, so large numbers are heading to the Continent instead.

Britain is losing out on an estimated £1.2bn each year form a loss of Chinese tourist trade, as tourists are flocking to other European countries like France and Germany who have “easier” entry rules and requirements. In 2011 according to figures from the World Tourism Organisation around 1.1m Chinese visited France, 637,000 to Germany and only 149,000 to Britain. The spending power of Chinese tourists and the resulting impact on the UK economy is undisputed, especially when you consider that on Boxing Day alone they spent £1,310 per sale compared to £120 by the average British shopper. This would instantly benefit the British retail sector, as well as having knock-on benefits for the hospitality and transport industries.

Simon Walker, director-general of the Institute of Directors, said: “It is clearly a good thing for visitors to come to a country and spend their money. Products are sold, services are bought and jobs are created as a result.”

UK Visa Red Tape

Any Chinese National wanting to come to Britain has to first get their fingerprints taken, fill out a nine page document in English and pay £80 for a visa. This all has to be done in one of the 12 application centres across China. By contrast, the simpler “Schengen” visa allows access to 25 continental European Countries, with one short visa application and no fingerprints required and costs just £47, hence the discrepancy in the numbers.

Higher Education

Not only is the cumbersome visa process reducing the number of tourists to the UK, migration targets are damaging the reputation of one of our export strengths; Higher Education. Numerous chairmen of parliamentary committees have written to the Prime Minister urging him to remove overseas student numbers from migration targets. These students are not only providing short term economic benefit whilst they are studying, but they need to be viewed as our trading partners of the future. We as a country need to grow and cultivate our business links with the undeniable economic power house that is China.

Relaxing the Restrictions

The government has announced that as of April this year the visa application will be shortened and translated into Chinese. Is this sufficient? Visa policies are of course meant to protect our national security but they are also meant to encourage and facilitate legitimate trade and commerce across borders. The Telegraph Media Group is launching a campaign to urge the Government to relax the rules further. Along with the visa restrictions, limited aviation connections to many emerging cities in China are making it even harder for Chinese tourists, investors and students to come to the UK.

Simplifying the visa process is in the best interest of British trade, competitiveness and future growth. If we get this wrong we could very well lose the global race for Chinese commerce, investment, spending and talent.


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