Russia, Tesco and Alex Salmond feature in the seven biggest losers of 2014

 
Joe Hall
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It’s Christmas. The time of year when we’re all supposed to be a little more caring, charitable and considerate of those not feeling so swell.
But for every champagne toast to success, there is regret at the bottom of a bottle. So summon some of that Christmas spirit for this sorry lot, the seven biggest losers of 2014.

1. Russia


Oil prices do not paint a pretty picture for Putin (Source: Getty)

There’s a little more time for things to pick up before Russia celebrates Christmas (the Russian Orthodox Church observes the event on 7 January). But barring a Christmas miracle, things are still likely to look pretty grim for the Russian economy, which has taken a battering in 2014. A confluence of factors, including tumbling oil prices worldwide, rising inflation and economic sanctions that came out of the Ukraine crisis have contributed to its slide toward contraction.
After the rouble tumbled 11 per cent on Tuesday, Russia seems to be spiralling towards a full-blown financial crisis in 2015. Deputy governor of the central bank Sergey Shvestov said: “I couldn’t imagine even a year ago that such a thing would happen - even in my worst nightmares.”
The brent crude benchmark oil price fell below $60 for the first time in five-and-a-half years this week. With oil and gas making up around 75 per cent of Russia's total exports, the rouble will continue to suffer unless prices pick up quickly.
Since March a series of economic sanctions from Nato countries have been placed on Russian state finance, energy and arms firms. State banks and oil firms such as Rosneft are now excluded from raising long-term loans in the EU.
Still, none of this was apparently enough to stop Russian president Vladimir Putin being voted Russia's "man of the year" for the 15th time in a row this week.

2. Tesco

Perhaps the most high-profile loser on the FTSE 100 this year, Tesco’s share price has plummeted nearly 50 per cent. Only one other company - Tullow Oil - has fallen more sharply this year.
It’s been hard to keep up with the continuing crisis at the beleaguered supermarket. There have been four profit warnings, a cut in credit rating, the suspension of senior staff and Gazprom, of course, the revelation of a £263m profit overstatement that sent its share price tumbling in September.

3. Quindell

If you thought the fall in Tesco's share price looks steep, consider what happened to insurance outsourcer Quindell. Less a slide, more a vertical drop off a cliff: Quindell's shares have fallen 89 per cent since the beginning of the year.
Since April, when mysterious US short seller Gotham City Research published a paper harshly criticising its model and accusing it of having "magical... paper profits", the company's stock has been subject to something of a fire sale. A series of figures have cut their losses and jumped ship, including former directors Rob Terry and Steve Scott and the company's broker Canaccord Genuity. Investor Fidelty has cut its stake in the company by half.

4. Alex Salmond


Alex Salmond concedes defeat in the independence referendum. (Source: Getty)

It was a narrow loss, but a loss all the same for Alex Salmond and the SNP in September’s Scottish Independence referendum.
Despite favourable polls that triggered Westminster’s big hitters into a last-gasp plea for votes for the union, a majority vote for independence couldn’t be reached. A distraught Salmond promptly handed in his resignation as First Minister of Scotland, and admitted independence for Scotland may not be seen “perhaps for a lifetime”.
Yet Salmond has not given up the fight just yet. The politician, dubbed a “paranoid loser” by a former BBC chairman, will stand for a seat in UK parliament at next year’s general election in order to push through further powers for devolution.

5. Jonathan Burrows

Jonathan Burrows, the man dubbed the City's "artful ticket dodger", has not enjoyed a good year. Officially the biggest fare dodger in history after avoiding a mammoth £43,000 of travel costs on his commute from Stonegate to Cannon Street, the former Blackrock director was forced to resign from his £1m a year role and this week was banned from working in the city by the Financial Conduct Authority.

6. Sony

After falling to victim to one of the biggest cyber hacks of all time, 2015 can't come soon enough for Sony's Hollywood division, Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Yet that will not necessarily spell the end for a the company who have been battered and bruised by the image-damaging and profit-hitting hack. Sensitive corporate information, employee's personal details, private email exchanges and even entire films have all been made public by the shadowy hackers.

Sony's share price has fallen in recent weeks, while the company has cancelled showings of new release The Interview after the hackers made an insidious threat to stage terror attacks at screenings of the film starring James Franco and Seth Rogen.

What's more, all of this follows what had already been a tough year for the tech giant. The company issued a profit warning issued by the company in September after being hit with a 180bn yen impairment charge for its mobile division.

This year marks the first time Sony will not be paying end-of-year dividend to shareholders.


Heavy security was present at the premiere for The Interview in Los Angeles (Source: Getty)

7. Co-Op

This week's news that the Co-operative failed the Bank of England's (BoE) new stress test is (probably) the final blow in a year that has been full of big hits on the beleaguered bank.

In April the crystal meth scandal which engulfed the bank finally came to an end after former chairman Paul Flowers was charged with possession of class A and class C drugs.

Seven banks were tested by the prudential regulation authority (PRA) to see how they would handle a financial meltdown, and only the Co-op came up short. In its defence, the Co-op argued it has begun to turn a corner this year, yet it is still not expected to make a profit until 2016. For the first half of 2014 it reported a £76m pre-tax loss.

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