Friday, 31 May 2013

Weekly Wrap Up: Happy Birthday WordPress, we salute you!

This week WordPress celebrated its tenth birthday. In 2003 two Houston University students had the dream of generating a basic blogging platform through which users could publish content easily to the web. Since the day this vision was born, it has successfully evolved to become one of the largest Content Management Systems (CMS) in the world. It generates more than four billion page views a month and powers an estimated 18% of the web – evidence that it has well and truly changed the way people communicate their story to the world.

WordPress has developed into a global service. It doesn't just provide a place for individuals to share and express their opinions, music and culinary concoctions but through the addition of features such as plug-ins, analytics services, shopping carts and forums, it has taken on a user base of more than 66 million and includes corporates from small start ups to Fortune 500 conglomerates.

From a news dissemination perspective, its ease of use and ability to upload material has led to its adoption by some of the biggest publications in the world, with The New York Times, CNN, Reuters and Forbes using it to publish blogs. Similarly, corporates can use it to distribute press releases, market products, and through WordPress’s ability to design your own theme, help build brand identity. Blogging has become an essential marketer’s tool. It acts as a place not just to educate its readers, market products to consumers, but it acts as a space to generate a dialogue. Through utilising features such as forums and comments pages, companies can listen to its audience, acknowledge feedback and essentially help to build brand loyalty and increase returns.

In an ode to the site, creator Matt Mullenweg blogged on its 10 year anniversary, “You’re so beautiful… I’m continually amazed and delighted by how you’ve grown. Your awkward years are behind you. Best of all, through it all, you’ve stuck with the principles that got you started in the first place. You’re always changing but that never changes… I see you all over the world now, glowing from screens, bringing people together at meetups and WordCamps — you’re at your best when you do that. You’re my muse; you inspire me, and I’ve seen you inspire others. You become a part of their life and they become a part of yours. I hope we grow old together.”

To the creators of WordPress who have achieved something which makes managed websites, internet marketing and brand communications less daunting and totally accessible to anyone with an internet connection, we salute you and thank you.

On this short bank holiday week Abchaps were out and about. On Tuesday we attended a lunch organised by Bird & Bird to discuss investment trends in Asia. On Thursday four of the team went down to Sandown Racecourse for a fantastic evening at the races kindly hosted by Cantor Fitzgerald. Also on Thursday one of the team went down to the uber cool Bar Kick in Shoreditch for drinks and table football organised by Marriot Harrison.

Asset Management firm BlackRock has hired Daniel Whitestone of UBS to act as director it its UK small / mid cap equities team. Similarly, Altium, the investment bank, has a new director appointment in the shape of Mr Andy Clarke. Law firm Stephenson Harwood has poached Dentons’ Tammy Samuel to the rail team, from Dentons and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

'FOMO' – Fear of missing out; the phenomenon has long applied to all social activity; but is now a major factor in the increasing addiction to social media.

Kew Gardens’ celebration of edible plants IncrEdibles has kicked off. The festival will be running all summer.

The Southbank Centre is running the London Literature Festival for a month, celebrating all things literary; including live poetry, short plays and music.

Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens are running a series of free outdoor films, courtesy of Luna Cinemas.

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Friday, 24 May 2013

Weekly Wrap Up: The New Newsmakers

The barbaric murder of British soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich this week has shocked and appalled the public. The violence of the act was horrific in itself, but the brazen and boastful justification of the murderer is perhaps the most sickening part of all.

Far from being concerned about being caught, the suspected murderer – we have to call him “suspected” despite multiple eyewitness accounts – and his accomplice stood by their victim, waiting for police to arrive and the opportunity to cause more political damage. One of the attackers allegedly encouraged witnesses to take his photograph and to call the police, whose slow response time was somewhat staggering. These were people who wanted their cause to be heard and wanted the public to hear from them directly about their crime. In some ways, they played the media perfectly into their own hands.

The murderer was filmed on a mobile phone shortly after the attack, appearing holding a meat cleaver and covered in blood. He explained that the murder was in revenge for Muslims killed by British servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan and went on to talk about the fact that the British public will never be safe and future victims will be the “average guy”. It is likely he was aiming to incite hatred for Muslims within the British public, creating further conflict and violence in its wake. The video is now plastered all over the web and has been published by all the national news outlets, taking this directly destructive message to a much wider audience than those who actually witnessed the attack and aftermath.

Was the media right in publishing this video – wouldn’t it have been enough to publish a transcript without the graphic images? It is surely the image of the cleaver and the blood that is going to stir up emotion – and perhaps the desire for revenge – much more effectively than words alone. On the other hand, it might have been classed as censorship not to publish, and in any case we have to assume it would have made its way into the public eye through YouTube in any case.

So, with the average Joe becoming a newsmaker (as long as he has a mobile phone and internet connection) does the media have any responsibility not to pander to extremists? To avoid censorship issues, it could be argued there was really no option. Perhaps the decision on whether to publish should, in the end, have come down to old fashioned taste. As an industry professional, I would suggest that publishing that type of propaganda on respected news websites, is not in good taste at all.

We've been out and about this week at EcoConnect - De-mystifying EIS, VCTs, R&D Tax Credits for Green Businesses; the LSE Group RAG meeting in Leeds, Cambridge Life Science Networking and a special dinner hosted by Cavendish Corporate Finance/ Kleinwort Benson on 'Capital value from digital innovation'. Abchaps also benefitted from comprehensive LinkedIn training, along with CIPR time management.

It's been a busy week in the City with Brewin Dolphin's double appointment of Rob Burgeman and Peter Long as the new co-heads for London office. Baker Tilly appointed Sarah Lang as a forensic services division manager and Steve Railton as a managing partner. Grant Thornton hired ex Ernst & Young corporate tax specialist Alan Richardson; whilst Charles Stanely announced that Ben Money-Coutts has been appointed chief operating officer of its financial services division. Marriott Harrison also appointed Catherine McLoughlin as a partner in its corporate department.

'LION’ – LinkedIn open networker; rather than connecting only with people you know, as LinkedIn recommends, 'LION's actively connect with anybody and everybody. The concept is often criticised, but LIONs are nonetheless becoming increasingly common.

The London Canal Museum is now running summer tunnel boat trips down Regent’s Canal. The tours are running two Sundays a month until October.

Michelle Obama’s favourite American retailer J.Crew has a pop-up shop today and tomorrow in King’s Cross, ahead of opening their flagship UK store.

National Vegetarian Week starts on Monday and there are plenty of events to get involved with.

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Friday, 17 May 2013

Weekly Wrap Up: Print isn’t dead yet

This week shares in Centaur Media, the publisher of the Lawyer and Corporate Adviser trade magazines, fell by 28.7% after it issued a profit warning and sacked its Chief Executive. The company blamed a loss of print advertising from recruiters and independent financial advisors for its profits coming in 25% lower than analysts had forecast. Trade publications are usually the first to experience an upturn of the economy, but industries such as personal finance have faced prolonged uncertainty following the new rules for financial advisers.

Geoff Wilmot the Chief Executive who has pursued a “digital-first” strategy over the past few years has now been dismissed in a sign that Centaur will reverse this decision and put a greater focus on print in the future. Chairman, Patrick Taylor said “the print products are nicely profitable. They are not ready to be closed at all.” While the company is still seeking to reduce the share of print revenue to just one-sixth of its total revenues it will take the steps to get there at a slower pace. This is a sign that despite the decline in sales of many print products, there is still apparently a market for specialist publications. Don’t give up on paper quite yet.

This week we hosted two lunches, one up in Leeds for our Northern friends, and the other, a larger China themed lunch at our office in London. The China lunch was attended by 24 key influencers and advisers to Chinese companies, and a thought provoking debate was had over the reception Chinese companies receive when listing in London.

We attended other events including The Gulls’ Egg City Luncheon in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support, the Pinsent Masons Drinks Party in Leeds and the Sanlam Securities Spring Party at the City favourite, Paternoster Chophouse.

On top of all that one of our Graduate AE’s went off to a CIPR training day all about writing perfect press releases.

Tracy Collins has joined the bank’s wealth management business as a director in its charities team. Collins was most recently at Sarasin and Partners, where she was a senior associate partner in its charities team. Prior to that, she launched and co-managed the Asparta Fund.

The accountancy and business advisory firm has appointed David Fletcher as head of restructuring advisory within its business restructuring team. Fletcher previously worked at KPMG, and was a partner there for 12 years.

The technology company has hired Jack Godfrey as business development director for its finance and legal client acquisition team. He joins from Pareto Law, where he held various business development and consulting roles.

London design festival kicks off next week, with some great exhibitions:
100% Design, the UK's largest trade event opens tomorrow and is open until Tuesday at Earls Court.
Independent design festival Clerkenwell Design Week features a wealth of creative businesses and architects; it runs from Tuesday until Thursday next week.

There's still time to sign up for Nike's We own the Night Women's 10k run tomorrow night at 8pm in Victoria Park.

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Thursday, 16 May 2013

Key insights into Chinese London listings

Today we hosted a China Advisor lunch in our London office to discuss the City’s reception to Chinese business and how it could be improved in the future. The idea for the event came about at the beginning of the year when one of our Chinese clients Camkids plc, based in Fujian province, received a spontaneous round of applause at the end of its presentation to a group of private client investment managers. The audience was clearly impressed to see this Chinese business performing ahead of expectations and the share price enjoying a healthy climb since its first day of dealing on AIM. We know that other Chinese companies do not always experience the same positive reception in London and were keen to find out what could be done to improve the situation.

The lunch was co-hosted by John McLean who has been involved in China since the late nineties and has significant experience as a UK Director of a number of Chinese businesses. He is also a Board member of the China-Britain Business Council and Chairman of VSO China. 24 China advisors and key influencers attended what was the first ever gathering of its kind in the City to address the specific issues of lack of institutional appetite, actions the City could take, and what Chinese companies wishing to list in London should do. Some guests gave short speeches which encouraged the debate; these included an analyst viewpoint of recent Asia deals, the LSE’s strategy towards China and institutional attitudes to Chinese business. Our office was transformed into a beautiful Chinese influenced dining space.

To get a better understanding of the City's opinions of Chinese business, we sent out a brief survey with the invitees asking three questions:
  • Why is the investment community often reluctant about investing in Chinese business?
  • What actions could be taken in London to improve this situation?
  • What actions should a Chinese company consider to make a successful London listing?
We received a lot of very insightful responses and are currently undertaking a keyword analysis to determine the findings of the survey.

However, a snapshot analysis has given some interesting insights. The top reason given for the reluctance to invest was poor market performance, with corporate governance issues being a close second. Respondents to the survey thought that the best action London could take to improve the situation was better market/ City education for Chinese businesses, and the top-line action a Chinese company should consider before a London listing is to appoint English speaking Directors to the Board. While it is already a requirement to have at least one English speaking Director, it shows that the Chinese businesses may not be communicating their updates effectively enough.

We thoroughly enjoyed hosting the event and engaging in some challenging and thought provoking discussions; judging by the feedback that we have already received the guests had a great time and learnt a lot too. We look forward to hosting more events similar to this in the future.

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Friday, 10 May 2013

Weekly Wrap Up: The Ultimate CEO

What a week it has been! Firstly Nigel Farage’s one policy party, UKIP, seemed to be taking big fat chunks out of the Conservative Party, only for TV chef Nigella Lawson’s high profile father, Nigel, to ignore the Tory Party three line whip on the EU by calling for Britain to quit. Thatcher’s former Chancellor said that Britain’s membership in the EU is hurting one of our most important industries, financial services. Many thought this would prove to be a problem for David Cameron, but the PM used a clever bit of spin by claiming that Lord Lawson’s calls have actually strengthened his promise to have a referendum on Britain’s membership in the EU if the Tories get re-elected. He also used this as ammunition against UKIP, and the Farage bandwagon.

The Queen’s Speech took place on Wednesday, the day after Lord Lawson’s comment, when David Cameron (through her Majesty) was expected to assure both the country and the Lib Dems that no such referendum on EU membership would take place during this term. It was expected that the speech would dominate the UK news that day; however a dour Scot had other ideas… Reports began to appear on Tuesday morning of bookmakers slashing their odds on David Moyes, the current manager of Everton football club, becoming the next manager of Manchester United. Then, bam, on Tuesday just before 10:00am, Manchester United announced that Sir Alex Ferguson, its manager of 26 years, was going to retire at the end of this current season! Twitter and the social networks went berserk, hashtags galore were generated and practically no-one cared about the Government’s policy. Why did the country chose to follow a sports story over something as important as the Government’s outline on policy? Well, it is simply because Sir Alex Ferguson is like a CEO of one of Britain’s most well known companies, which the mass public is actually interested in reading about.

It is clear that Ferguson, or Fergie, was not just the leader of a meagre football club, he was the brains behind one of the world’s leading brands. Manchester United’s club emblem is one of the most commonly recognised brands across the globe, and dominates the international language of football. The club’s modern day profile is arguably entirely credited to Fergie. Love him or hate him, love the club or hate the club, or simply don’t care, you cannot deny that Fergie has helped develop a genuine British institution. From high profile spats with players such as Roy Keane or the FA, Fergie has always been at the epicentre of everything Manchester United, and everything football. He paved the way for the belief that no one individual is bigger than the club when he famously booted David Beckham in the eye, and sold (probably regrettably) Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid.

Like the conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, or the CEO of a mighty corporation, he succeeded so much and survived for so long in arguably one of the country’s toughest industries where job security is as questionable as Newcastle United’s defence; because he understood people - how to motivate them, how to discipline them and how to inspire them.

Maybe one day in the not too distant future Fergie will be sparring with Nigel Lawson over Europe in the House of Lords; he seems destined for the role.

Abchaps hosted some city chums over a Market Lunch, and entertained some keen Tottenham fans at the Chelsea v Tottenham match. Crowd disputes were kept to a minimum as the scoreboard concluded a neutral 2 -2 draw. We also networked amongst some of the City’s property-minded finest at Norton Rose’s property drinks evening as well as be graciously entertained by Grant Thornton at the FD Excellence awards.

The City’s law firms have had a hive of activity this week. Our friends at Norton Rose have a new face in its legal practice in the form of Kirsty Hick. Meanwhile, Osborne and Clark appoint three new partners: William Gay adds his specialism of industrial space warehousing development to its real estate practice, Emily Jones to its technology and privacy sector, and Charlie Wedin becomes the new face in its commercial disputes team.

Canaccord Genuity Wealth Management gains the extensive skills and experience of Mr. Richard Burden as he becomes the Company’s new business development manager.

"FERGIE TIME" - the widely held belief that if Manchester United are trailing after full time, they will be gifted as much injury time as necessary by the referee in order to score a winner or draw level when playing at home.

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May Films at The Breakfast Club in Hoxton kicked off this week and the classics are running throughout the month.

The Sound Tracks One Day Music Festival Around London is happening tomorrow all over the Overground.

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Thursday, 9 May 2013

Five Minute Abchat with David Hart @DSDanielStewart

David Hart, Director of Corporate Finance at Daniel Stewart is a Qualified Executive under the AIM Rules. He started his professional career at BZW (latterly CSFB) in 1990 and has spent the subsequent years providing corporate finance and broking advice to UK and overseas companies listed in London. David has a particular focus on the mid and small cap markets and has undertaken a wide range of capital markets and M&A transactions across a range of sectors, including technology software and hardware, support services, biotechnology and medtech, financial services and renewables. He has spoken at a number of international seminars for overseas companies considering raising capital in London.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
A lack of any depth of skill ruled out most sporting dreams. I therefore focused my pre-teen efforts on being a fighter pilot. For the record, this was some years before Top Gun.

How did you get into investment banking?
At the time I was at university (St Andrews), investment banking was seen as a well paid and exciting career. On leaving university I joined the graduate scheme at BZW…and it’s been investment banking ever since.

Describe your role in ten words or less (if that’s possible!):
Trusted adviser/counsel. Regulator/policeman. Myth debunker. Colleague.

If I wasn’t talking to you now, what would you be doing?
Cooking in my own restaurant (which I don’t have).

What is the most interesting thing about your work?
The wide variety of industries/sectors that I am exposed to.

Is there a common misconception about investment banking?
That it is well paid across the board.

How has the industry changed over the last couple of years?
There has been a phase of consolidation in the mid and small cap advisory/broking sector in recent years – a function of oversupply. This will continue. Separately, there has developed a significant mismatch between the equity/financing needs of listed businesses and the supply of that financing – particularly from institutional investors in the mid and small cap arena.

What developments do you expect to see in investment banking over the next 12 months?
Expect or hope? If it’s the former, I fear that the next 12 months will be a continuation of the last – low levels of transaction volume driven in the main by a lack of financing availability against a backdrop of increasing regulation. If it’s the latter, then the inverse of the above.

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Friday, 3 May 2013

Abchat Weekly Wrap Up: Welcome to the future, @WarrenBuffett

Warren is in the house. That was the first tweet from legendary US investor Warren Buffett, as he made his Twitter debut yesterday. Joining the social network is an interesting move for a man who famously shuns technology: he has no computer on his desk and does not own a mobile phone; in fact his biggest foray into technology until now was playing bridge online. Perhaps it shows how far social media has come, to get Buffet on board.

In a weird coincidence, Buffet joined Twitter that same day that it took on Cynthia Gaylor, an ex-employee of Morgan Stanley who has experience in acquisitions and IPOs. This has fuelled speculation that Twitter might float on the stock exchange some time in the near future. Although Buffet will probably not be investing, given his opinion that it’s too hard to estimate the future value of social media companies.

Buffet was always going to be popular, judging by the amount of fans he has as ‘America’s favorite investor’. This certainly rings true online: within ten minutes of signing up, 10,000 people were following – the number now stands at over 260,000 just eighteen hours later. However he has not started following anyone and has only tweeted twice so far, which suggests he may not be the most active of users. If he could just start tweeting investment advice (better still, direct message!) that would be much appreciated. Come on Warren!

Abchaps were busy this week hosting two Market Lunches; one Natural resources focused, and the other focused on Digital Media use in the City. We also attended the Bloomberg PE Mining event; BioWednesday and the Digital Youth Academy’s launch of the first London Social Media Apprenticeship, hosted by Penny Power.

Twitter appoints Cynthia Gaylor, an investment banker from Morgan Stanley with extensive financing experience, fuels speculation that the technology media company is preparing for an IPO.

Oriel Securities and Cenkos, the stockbroking houses, are said to be in talks over joining forces to compete with big banks for corporate advisory business. They hope a joint marketing and education campaign will make potential client companies more aware of their services offerings and UK-focused sales desks.

Law firm, Taylor Wessing, appointed a new partner in its private client practice. Sanjeev Shah joins from Speechly Bircham and has a wide experience in advising wealthy foreign domiciled individuals and families on personal affairs.

'Economic Moat' - The competitive advantage that one company has over other companies in the same industry (phrase coined by Warren Buffet)

Soak up the sun this bank holiday weekend at one, or many of London’s buzzing events scattered round the City this weekend:

North London Vintage Market on Saturday 4 May plays host to 23 stallholders selling ‘50’s through to ‘80s fabrics, furniture, clothing and ceramics.

Canalway Cavaclade 2013 (4 -6 May) in Little Venice makes for a very English family affair, with a colourful gathering of canal boats mooring along the stretch of the Grand Union Canal, real ales, jazz bands, Morris dancers and Punch and Judy shows

For the foodies, the Southbank Centre plays host to the Real Food Festival and Streets of Spain Market. Running from Friday 3 – Monday 6 May, the two free food festivals celebrate both the evocative culture and culinary delights of Spain as well as the more British-specialities of hand-made chocolates, artisan cheeses, breads, olive oils, cooking demonstrations, live animals and music.

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