Friday 17 April 2015

Weekly Wrap Up: An Affair to Forget

True to the core values of its business, the company that owns adultery website Ashley Madison has decided to stray from its home market when it goes public. The Toronto-based Avid Life Media made headlines this week when it announced its plans for a London listing this year. But it wasn’t the announcement itself that generated extensive press coverage. It was the Company’s reason for deciding to list in Europe that has received the attention.

The Company’s Head of International Relations, Christoph Kraemer, told Bloomberg that “Europe is the only region where we have a real chance of doing an IPO”. Why is that? Even though half of the adultery site’s users are based in the United States, Kraemer claims they have to list in London because Europe is more tolerant of adultery.

Except that’s not exactly true, according to the Pew Research Centre. In a poll asking respondents if “married people having an affair is morally unacceptable”, 84% of Americans did agree that cheating is bad. And in France, less than half of the respondents condemned affairs, with only 47% agreeing.

Avid Life Media is not, however, planning to list in France. And the UK has much less of a laissez-faire attitude towards infidelity: 76% of those who were asked considered it wrong. That is the same percentage as Canada, and not too far behind the Americans. Simply put, listing in London doesn’t make sense based on society’s attitude towards adultery.

Avid Life Media and Ashley Madison are obviously not concerned with this inconvenient fact. It’s also hardly believable that Ashley Madison is worried about investor morality in the US. Anyone who has seen the Wolf of Wall Street knows that stateside investors wrote the book on immorality. But claiming otherwise gave the story of the Company’s potential listing an angle that was picked up in much of the mainstream media in the US and the UK. It’s simply a tasteless PR strategy – and based on what the Company represents, no one should be surprised by this tactic.

Here’s what’s really happening: Avid Life Media is desperately trying to drum up interest after a failed attempt to raise money in Canada. But even an amateur investor could see that their growth strategy of expanding into new markets is limited – and potentially dangerous. Women will inevitably suffer far greater consequences if caught committing adultery; in many parts of the world it still results in ostracisation and violence. Investors would have to be prepared to accept this uncomfortable truth.

In the UK, Ashley Madison is currently banned from advertising on television because it is not deemed morally justifiable. And given that the UK’s attitude towards this type of business is on par with Canadians, it is likely that Ashley Madison’s attempt to raise money in London will soon be an affair the UK can altogether forget.

This week, Abchaps attended an interesting CIPR Speaker lunch with Ashley Armstrong, M&A Correspondent at The Telegraph. She touched on multiple topics, predicting 2015 to be a good year for M&A and purchasing influence of the Asian market to increase. As well as hosting a successful Malaysia focused Market Lunch, we attended the Election Debate Seminar, chaired by Vincent Wood, business Tax Partner at Moore Stephens. Discussions at the seminar included the truths behind the different parties’ pre-election pledges and asked the question whether the parties can realistically implement them.

Steve Frizell has been appointed Partner in PwC’s UK financial services risk assurance internal audit services team. Meanwhile, Standard Chartered has been promoted to Chief Economist and hired Ding Shuang as Head of Greater China Economic Research from Citigroup. Ian Sadler has become Partner and National Global Compliance and Outsourcing Leader at Baker Tilly.

“Morality” – usually considered the differentiation of intentions, decisions and actions between those that good and those that are bad. Although derived from Latin, this word apparently has a completely different meaning in French.

The Tweed Run is happening on Saturday, which sees cyclists take to the streets in their well-pressed best, cycling past London’s most iconic landmarks kitted out in the far more flattering tweed and brogues, compared to the de rigueur Lycra.

The Southbank Centre have an interesting take on election season, with their Changing Britain series this weekend taking in the period from 1945-1979, a seminal junction in British political life, with the welfare state as we know it today being born.

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