Monday, 29 April 2013

Surprise surprise! The press rejects state-regulation

So the newspapers have finally rejected the politician’s proposals for press regulation enforced by the state, in favour of their own. The original proposals, hastily cobbled together during a late night meeting between all three parties and the Hacked Off campaign, are finally dead in the water. On Thursday five leading newspaper groups, and other industry associations such as the Newspaper Society, rejected the plans citing “unworkable” and instead published their own self-regulating proposals that will still be backed by Royal Charter (brief explanation of RC).

The media’s alternative plan The main difference between the politician-proposed regulations and the new one is that it prevents what the Newspaper Society call “state-sponsored” regulation. The press genuinely believe that the proposed regulations would limit the freedom of the press, making it harder for them to do their job. Some outlets were vocal early on; the Spectator wrote a big ‘NO’ on the front page while others such as News International were more diplomatic in their concerns (which is understandable given their newspapers were the biggest offenders in the Hacking Inquiry). Although it was quite clear to see at the time that the Sun wasn’t too pleased.

Hacked Off is hacked off
The demise of the state-regulation proposals has not been welcomed by all. Hacked Off is not happy and said in a blog post on Friday that the newspapers have defied the will of parliament in rejecting the proposals. They believe an industry-backed regulator would be akin to the discredited Press Complaints Commission which was far too close to the editors, making it difficult for individuals who had been abused by the press to make a complaint and receive compensation without using an expensive lawyer.

Government Response
The rejection puts top politicians such as David Cameron at risk of ridicule. He said in March “My message to the press in now very clear – we have had the debate, now it is time to get on and make this system work”. A couple of months on, he has had to backtrack, saying that he is happy to look at the alternative proposals but needs time to examine what the industry is proposing. However, others in his administration have suggested that the government is not going to scrap the plans and that the original royal charter will be sent to be sealed by the privy council on 15 May.

The Future
The problem is that if the press doesn’t believe in the regulations, how can politicians push them through? If the press had been invited to the multi-party talks, they could have had their say. It also shouldn’t have been agreed over a late night meeting in Miliband’s office without Cameron in attendance. There is no doubt going to be conflict ahead as the two powers try to come to an agreement. If you are getting a little tired of hearing about press regulation, I’m sorry. But, it’s not going away any time soon…

Richard Sowler

Follow us on Twitter @AbchurchComms

Friday, 26 April 2013

Abchat Weekly WrapUp: Don't Bite the Blues

Liverpool striker, Luis Suarez has justifiably been handed a whopping 10 match ban for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic on the arm during Liverpool’s 2-2 draw with the Blues at Anfield on Sunday. This is a huge loss for the club, as it will be without its star asset for effectively a quarter of a football season. He will undoubtedly be an enormous loss on the field; but how will this affect the brand that is Liverpool Football Club? Whilst their pedigree on the pitch is no longer that of the Hansen and Souness days, Liverpool’s reputation as a brand in world football is still pretty formidable in spite of Suarez’s best attempts to ruin it.

This is not Suarez’s first highly controversial incident and unfortunately it probably will not be his last as his history is littered with controversy, even before arriving on these shores. Around 18 months ago Suarez was famously awarded an eight game ban for racially abusing Manchester United left back Patrice Evra. The Merseyside club’s comms strategy following the Evra racism incident was widely criticised as being ‘na├»ve’, ‘weak’ and ultimately ‘too little too late’ with Liverpool only accepting his ban and the severity of Suarez’s actions once they had received out right condemnation from the world of football, and more importantly for Luis and the Liverpool coaching staff from their American owners the Fenway Sports Group. The club stupidly did not condemn his actions and actually rallied behind Suarez in the form of the entire team (including Glen Johnson) wearing Suarez t-shirts in a pre-match training session, highlighting how out of touch Liverpool was with PR and public perception.

This episode hit tipping point when Suarez (back after serving his ban) refused to shake Evra’s hand when their two clubs faced each other next at Old Trafford. This lead to Red Devils boss Sir Alex Ferguson quite rightly labelling Suarez a ‘disgrace to Liverpool Football Club’. The then Liverpool boss, Kenny Dalglish again supported his racist forward which some argue ultimately cost him his job as Liverpool manager.

Following this latest mishap, the Anfield club has responded in a very different manner, and has even been commended on its PR strategy this time.  Unlike the Evra incident, this time Liverpool has taken the correct course of action. So what did the club do differently this time?

Firstly, as with most well planned and managed crisis comms situations, the Uruguayan took to Twitter almost immediately apologising to Ivanovic and the wider world for his ‘inexcusable behaviour’. Suarez’s use of Twitter highlights the micro blogging site as the instant news line and widely accepted channel for making a statement. Importantly though in a situation such as this, the communications should not cease with Twitter.

The reaction of the club’s hierarchy in the proceeding hours was far improved if not a spectacular change from the Evra incident with Managing Director Ian Ayres cancelling a trip to Australia and stating that Suarez’s behaviour ‘was not befitting of any player wearing a Liverpool shirt’. Manager Brendan Rodgers also condemned the biting and talked up the fabulous history of the club. By Sunday night, the Liverpool FC website had statements from the hungry striker, Ayres and Rodgers – a marked contrast to Evragate. Liverpool ticked all the boxes without going over the top on PR so it will be interesting how preseason and next season unfold.

Liverpool has learnt its lesson, and time will tell whether Suarez has, although history will suggest he might not have. The 18 time league champions should cut their losses on Suarez as no one individual is bigger than a football club, but unfortunately in such a results driven industry the owners will not risk league and financial prowess in favour of doing the right thing.

Abchaps attended the LSE’s Paving the way for growth, from start-up to FTSE100 with keynote speakers George Osborne and Xavier Rolet, the NUMIS 12th Annual Media Conference focusing on tablet usage; Farrer’s Breakfast Seminar on Professional Advisers: A Guide to Future Press Regulation; Women in Mining's Sense and Sustainability; the London Cleantech Cluster Event; EcoConnect's Exporting UK Cleantech Expertise: Nobody Does it Better? and Internet World. Our CIPR committee members also attended the monthly committee meeting.

Our friends at finnCap have brought Russell Jackson and Steve Asfour into the market making team. They join from Fox Davies Capital, where Jackson was a head of market making and Asfour head of sales trading. David Loudon has been appointed sales trader.

Nick Jones has joined the M&A advisory firm Cavendish Corporate Finance as a senior adviser in its technology, media and telecoms division.

Jupiter Asset Management’s growth and income fund and UK Alpha hund has a new manager in the form of Chris Watt, who has jumped ship from its UK equity desk.

Prudential poaches rival insurer Standard Life’s CFO Jackie Hunt to head up its UK and European business.

Showrooming’ - Smartphone users browse merchandise in shops, but then check online to see where they can buy it cheaper.

There are plenty of festivals taking place in London this weekend with Sundance Film and Music Festival at the O2; Alchemy Festival at the Southbank with delicious Indian street food and celebrating south Asian culture; and the London Coffee Festival at the Old Truman Brewery.

Baking enthusiasts should head to Brixton tomorrow for a fun day of “The Great Brixton Bake-Off”, where there will be plenty of sampling.

You can see Harry Pye’s renowned “100 Mothers” exhibition this weekend at The Other Art Fair in Marylebone, showing work from some of the UK’s most renowned artists.

Follow us on Twitter @AbchurchComms

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Is London Recession Proof?

There has never been a clear definition of exactly where the ‘North-South divide’ is but according to figures released last month it might as well be the M25, because London’s share of the total UK economic output has reached an all time high of 21.9%. Furthermore there was an 11.5% increase in active businesses between 2007 and 2011 compared to just 1% across the rest of the UK. This is a sign of a growing economy within the capital, but a very stark difference to the rest of the country. However, it is possible that optimism across the whole of the UK could return soon. The Office for National Statistics this morning reporting that the country has narrowly avoided a dreaded triple dip recession and that the UK economy actually grew by 0.3% for the first three months of this year in spite of the appalling weather we have had. Whilst most politicians and reporters are relatively optimistic, the harsh reality of how this affects – or perhaps more correctly does not affect – the majority of UK citizens is apparent when you take a look at some of the comments posted on the BBC website. At 9.46 this morning for example Mike in Gateshead commented “Double dip. Treble dip. Have any of you people ever ventured north of the Watford Gap? Here in the north east we’re still in the first one.” The North-South divide is one thing, but it seems that London has become an independent little bubble.

Economic Microclimate

London's figurehead Boris Johnson
London certainly seems to be its own economic microclimate and many think it will continue on this path for many years to come – experts believe London will have the largest meaningful jump in GDP of any city in the world between now and 2025. It’s no wonder that many people around the world aspire to live and work in London. It is one of the only truly global cities and the diversity of its residents can only add to its attractiveness and success internationally. It also helps that we have a popular and memorable figurehead for London, in Boris Johnson. He wows the international press with the charm of a typical English eccentric and can reel off London trivia such as “London has more Michelin-starred restaurants than Paris” and that it rains more in Rome with ease. Both of these are actually true.

Worldwide Promotion

Recently Boris went on a trade mission to India to promote London and opened an office there solely to champion the city. And that’s not London’s only overseas office. We have six worldwide, including in China and the USA, there exclusively to promote tourism and business investment in London. London is the financial capital of the world according to the Global Financial Centres Index, with New York second and Hong Kong third. Despite the global financial crisis London has managed to maintain that top position and this years trading is looking positive with the FTSE closing at an all time high in March. While the EU seems to do everything it can to try and restrict the City, the government has so far largely managed to prevent these measures, with the notable exception of the bonus cap.

The Future

The Shard, tallest building in
Western Europe
Source: Telegraph
London needs to stay ahead of the game to keep its prime position. There are potential problems ahead that need to be addressed, and the cost of living is a good example. It is hard to speak to a Londoner without mention of the prohibitive house prices and rocketing rent costs. Without affordable living, London risks pricing itself out of the market for low skilled workers, a vital factor of the city’s economy. And with the population expected to grow to 9 million by 2020 it is clear we need to build more housing as well as a transport system that will be able to cope with this increase. Large projects such as Crossrail will take some of the strain but work should be done now to secure funding for Crossrail 2 as well as other transport projects. When it comes to housing, personally I am a supporter of skyscrapers - I’d rather London rose up than widened out. Buildings such as the Shard create a precedent for more tall buildings because once planning permission is given, it is much easier to build others nearby.

London’s dominance in the UK economy looks set to remain for the foreseeable future. It is the London mayor that provides the vision and leadership to move the city forward as well as promoting it to the rest of the world. If other cities in Britain want to follow in the footsteps of London perhaps they should consider mayors too. But during the mayoral referendums last year, Bristol was the only city that chose to create the position. The others may have missed out on a good opportunity to have a figurehead of their city.

Richard Sowler

Follow us on Twitter @AbchurchComms

Friday, 19 April 2013

Abchat Weekly Wrap Up: The Amanda Show

As the nation laid Baroness Thatcher to rest this week, amidst both George Osborne’s cringeworthy tears and SamCam’s dubious choice of head and neck-wear, a little-known 19 year old named Amanda ‘Pippa Middletonned’ the funeral.

Since dubbed The Iron Granddaughter, Amanda Thatcher, daughter of Sir Mark Thatcher, delivered an emotional lesson from the bible with both confidence and grace. This was no small feat, considering that amongst the 2,300 attendees, were the Queen of England, powerful politicians and other global dignitaries. Ms Thatcher was no doubt aware that the funeral would be broadcast to millions across the world as well. In a world where the Thatchers have been mired with controversy and scandal, this will be a welcome PR change.

Tipped by her high school class mates as “the most likely person to change the world”, the confidence with which she delivered the emotional passage commanded attention. Amanda told an MP that she did not feel nervous about giving the reading, adding that public speaking is ‘sort of in my blood’. The cynical among us might suggest it was a brilliant opportunity to raise her profile on the global stage and get her future career off to a flying start.

Margaret Thatcher’s reign over Britain left very mixed feelings, but the media reaction from her funeral leaves little doubt that Amanda did the Iron Lady very proud.

This week Abchaps had a credentials swap with integrated corporate finance boutique firm SP Angel.

Our Life Sciences Team hosted a great Market Lunch, focused on the funding climate for UK biotechs, specialist expertise within the City and valuation of early stage biotech companies. The team also participated in the monthly One Nucleus Cambridge Life Science networking event.

Richard Sneiders has been appointed investment manger at Hargreave Hale, the stock broking and investment managing firm. He was most recently an investment manager servicing private clients at Quilter. Prior to that he was fund manager on Deutsche Bank’s private wealth management team.

Claude Brown has joined Reed Smith as a partner in its structured finance team. Brown specialises in derivatives, commodity derivatives and prime brokerage. Most recently, he was head of structured solutions at Clifford Chance.

Crowdsourcing” – asking a group of online users for opinions, suggestions, ideas, resources or services for a particular issue, query or project.

Kensington is the place to be this weekend with a pop-up Ping Pong Party with street food and film screenings in Russell Gardens, W14.

Art lovers should head to Soho for 50:50 An Art and Food Adventure, pairing art with creative food to satisfy multiple senses.

Tomorrow is "Record Store Day", where many stores around London are celebrating music and the value of local record stores, by releasing an abundance of new records, hosting live DJ sets and live band performances. The main action will be taking place in Notting Hill, Soho and Brick Lane's Rough Trade.

Follow us on Twitter @AbchurchComms

Friday, 12 April 2013

Abchat Weekly Wrap Up: Trumpingdown the haters

Margaret Thatcher’s death has certainly provoked some controversy in Britain this week with the emergence of “death parties” popping up in some parts of the country. Sure Thatcher had enough enemies, but when looking at the profile of most of these party goers, they were probably not even a dirty thought during Thatcher’s premiership. If anything their parents would have felt the full force of the Thatcher government’s policies, not them. Social media can yet again take credit for the latest spout of ‘civil unrest’ with death parties being publicised on Facebook and Twitter. Attendance to these events was in actual fact modest (a credit to the British people) however the coverage the parties have gained is pretty extensive – a questionable bit of PR from the anti-Thatcher brigade as they have received (quite rightly) virtual universal condemnation from the political left. The haters have done themselves more harm than good with these parties.

Us Brits are often noted internationally for having a stupendous sense of humour, and frequently we buy a music record in order to make a comedic protest statement with the end goal of getting a record to Number One in the singles chart. The latest protest song is Ding Dong The Witch is Dead from the Wizard of Oz and is on course to be Number One – a movement which started on Facebook. Politicians are now debating as to whether the BBC should play the track. If you were to take the Trumpington view, it should not get any air time, however even the most right wing and Thatcher supporting politicians, such as UKIP leader Nigel Farage have said the song should be aired as a matter of free speech. Prime Minister, David Cameron said that whilst he personally viewed it as distasteful, it was a matter for the BBC to decide upon, not politicians.

Abchaps took part in a fundraiser brainstorm for international development charity VSO; and also attended Allenby Capital's whisky tasting event at Albannach in Trafalgar Square.

Ex-FSA advisor Jeremy Bennett is to head the European division of the Japanese Bank Nomura. The move supports the City’s recent shift to appointing more senior roles with those of regulatory experience

JP Morgan Asset Management have appointed Simon Crinage as head of its Investment trust business, replacing David Barron following his departure earlier in the year

Mike Johnson has been appointed as the new Chairman at Alecto Minerals, the AIM-listed exploration and development company. Mr Johnson’s extensive experience includes sitting on the boards of Columbus Copper, African Mining and Exploration and Antractor Mining.

Sylvia Auton, Chief Executive of IPC Media announced her retirement from the company after a 36 year career with the publishing Group.

Publishing giant Reed Elsevier acquires London-based academic social network site Mendeley for £45m in a bid to build its business and position in digital media

'Neoliberalism' - the politics of conservative people who support a laissez faire economy and limited government intervention, whilst upholding the traditions society was built upon. The expression really sprung to prominence to describe the politics of the late President Ronald Reagan and late PM Margaret Thatcher. This represented a significant shift in the mind set of conservatives who rejected the traditional all interfering Government and One Nationism in favour of more liberal economic and political policies whilst upholding the status quo.

We look to the emerging markets this week which provide much inspiration: Russian creative genius Veronika Olkhova is showcasing her debut British solo exhibition at Baku Knightsbridge from now until the 19th April. The exhibition will highlight her paintings, silks and more.

The Asia House Fair kicks off in a beautiful grade II listed building in Marylebone today and is on for the duration of the weekend. The building will be transformed into a magical marketplace, with over 35 exhibitors from China to Afghanistan, India and Turkey presenting beautiful textiles, clothes, furniture, homeware and jewellery. Entry is free.

We round off our Emerging Markets focus with a Mexican treat in the form of ‘Death by Burrito’ , contemporary Mexican Street Food in the heart of Shoreditch, where The Rebel Dining Society are on a residency at Catch.

Follow us on Twitter @AbchurchComms