Top 10 news links; Thain profligacy, O'Reilly's debt woes, Free shipping
26th Jan 09, 12:07pm
Back by popular demand, here's my top 10 news links for the day. I welcome your additions to these links in the comments below and any thoughts on the issues raised. O'Reilly's flick pass Former British Lion winger and Heinz CEO Tony O'Reilly is scrambling to reduce debt, which may mean his planned sale of the NZ Herald will have to be accelerated. Timesonline reports O'Reilly's Independent News and Media (INM) is selling assets left, right and centre to cut debt ahead of a May deadline. He may even sell The Independent. INM's share price fell 46% last week as investors punished anything Irish with debt. It was that close Britain's 'City' Minister Paul Myners has told Timesonline the British banking system appeared 2 to 3 hours away from a collapse on Friday October 10. This was the weekend when New Zealand was forced to follow Australia into government deposit guarantees. You paid how much? Details are emerging behind the sacking (requested resignation) of Merrill Lynch boss John Thain. It turns out he spent US$1.2 mln getting his office refurbished after he sold Merrill to Bank of America in September. Merrill then produced over US$15 billion of losses for Bank of America in the final quarter, forcing BoA to go to the US Federal Government for a bailout. Meanwhile Thain pushed through bonus payments for his staff of over US$3 billion just weeks before disclosing the losses. This money came from a US$15 billion payment from the TARP to Merill and BoA. Glad I'm not a US taxpayer. Included within the refurbishment was a US$35,000 'commode with legs' (toilet to you and me), a US$1,400 wastepaper basket made of parchment (I kid you not) and chairs costing US$87,000. The designer for the revamp is Michael S. Smith, who is the same guy doing the family rooms in the Obama White House for US$100,000. This on the Wall St Journal's blogs. The last thing we need New US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner won the 'foot in mouth' award in his first days in office by commenting that China was manipulating its currency to keep it weak versus the US dollar and bolster China's trade surplus. It may be true, but it's not something you say in public. It makes the Chinese very grumpy and the last thing America and the World needs is a massive trade dispute between America and China. China's Central Bank said over the weekend that Geithner's comments were misleading. The fear is that America will use the 'currency manipulation' excuse to impose trade sanctions with China. Mr Smoot and Mr Hawley would be very impressed, but the global economy would suffer. This in Business Spectator. Just like 1931 Ambrose Evans-Pritchard at the Telegraph is always worth a read, even though he scares me and is congenitally opposed to the euro (which may not necessarily be a bad thing.) He says in this piece that Obama faces a situation similar to 1931, rather than the one faced by FDR in 1933. Free shipping Another good one from Ambrose at the Torygraph. This points out that rates for shipping containers from Asia to Europe have fallen to zero (excluding the cost of the fuel to run the ship). This is a sign of extreme trade stress. A dawning realisation. The penny is finally dropping for Australian business commentators about the seriousness of Australia's economic situation, although to be fair Alan Kohler at Business Spectator has been warning about this stuff for some time. This piece lays it all out nicely. An interesting call Former Westpac CEO David Morgan has called on the Australian government to wind back the deposit guarantee scheme there from a rather generous A$1 million. This in The Australian from Glenda Korporaal. Wizard to transform Wizard franchisees in New Zealand are looking to reform as a chain of mortgage brokers, Rob Stock reports in the Sunday Star Times. Iceland redux? Nouriel Roubini explains to the BBC why he thinks Britain won't be a second Iceland.