THE Capitalist caught up with minister of state for business Mark Prisk yesterday during his afternoon of cold-calling potential customers for small business DIY Kyoto. The minister dropped in to the small Bethnal Green-based firm, which sells energy monitors for the home, as part of a project to learn about the current environment for small businesses.
“It’s been refreshing to get back into business,” said Prisk, who ran his own property services firm for ten years. “One day isn’t going to give me instant expertise but it gives you a sense of the way small firms have to juggle different tasks.”
Prisk is due to visit four other firms between now and September and chose to drop into DIY Kyoto after a breakfast with one of the business’ founders Richard Woods. The firm’s management spent the morning exchanging questions with Prisk before putting him to work making sales calls. What had he learned about priorities for his own department, I wanted to know? “The stuff government churns out often wastes time and blocks stuff.”
But I was only allowed to speak with him for a few minutes – he had to get back to work on his unimpressive progress through the sales calls list. “He actually needs to make some calls now,” said DIY Kyoto co-founder Greta Corke. It’s a hard life outside the House of Commons, Mark.
Better Capital’s Jon Moulton was billed to be giving a post-Budget analysis yesterday morning in FinnCap’s Moorgate offices, but he couldn’t keep solely to the topic because, he declared: “The Budget really is too dull to prompt a whole presentation.”
Instead, his City audience was treated to his colourful take on what he views as the shrunken potential of today’s private equity world. From defining alchemy to employing shipwreck metaphors, he conveyed his rather pessimistic view in a thoroughly cheerful manner, declaring: “I’m really depressed at the lack of depressing news.” According to Moulton, the UK economy is facing the problem that not enough firms are being liquidated, rather than that too many are collapsing. That’ll be news to some.
As for the current private equity environment? With an average of 0.6 deals being done per firm per year, he says: “It’s like being parked on Iceland during World War Two – very quiet.” And on debt Moulton coined what should surely be a copyrighted phrase. Just remember: “A rolling loan gathers no loss.”
IN ANOTHER LEAGUE
Never mind the banks – it’s the Premier League we ought to have our eyes on, according to a report released by AT Kearney this week. Five analysts from the consultancy firm conducted an investigation into the finances of Europe’s top five football leagues and have concluded: “Running as normal companies, the leagues in Spain, England and Italy would be bankrupt within two years.” Ouch.
The report highlights the leagues’ poor return on assets (ROA) as of particular concern: all three of them have negative figures, with Italy’s Serie A division getting back 12 per cent less in profits than the value of its assets.
It might be no surprise to depressed England fans to learn that Germany’s Bundesliga tops the ranking with its two per cent ROA and an equity-to-assets ratio of 36 per cent. While the Premier League makes the most from selling players at €489m, it manages to overspend that by buying back €580m worth of players. One of the problems highlighted is a non-alignment of aims: “Money scores goals, but goals are not profitable.”
Still, at least Fabio Capello doesn’t have to worry about this particular sub-par performance. His nine-figure salary is paid by the completely separate Football Association.
Clearly the banker-bashing atmosphere is getting dangerous for City denizens. Bankers from Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Deloittes and JP Morgan spent last Wednesday evening engaged in an “ultimate violence” training session sponsored by tailors Cad & The Dandy. US Navy Seal trainer Tim Larkin taught them how to kill and avoid being kneed in the groin – essential know-how nowadays for our battered financiers.
Larkin says: “I try to impress on students that violence is just another tool. You need visions in your head so you can replicate them when you try to do them.” But thankfully he wasn’t teaching his pupils how to bring these violent visions into the workplace. After training a group of New York traders, he said it was all about the thought processes behind the actions: “The combat training somehow helped them focus their priorities and read the situations better.”
Plus when the pitchfork-waving crowds arrive, you’ll be glad your firm brought Tim Larkin in for a training day.
City dwellers might be wondering about the curious appearance of a number of pianos and beehives around town this week (see City Eye). Both items have been dotted about as part of the City of London festival that goes on all this week, with the hives there to “highlight the current plight of the honey bee” in the face of its hard work. Many a sorry banker will sympathise, no doubt.
Meanwhile, St Paul’s Cathedral will host an evening rendition of Haydn’s Creation, with tickets from £5. But if you prefer your music free, drop by Guildhall Yard where an outdoor stage will feature a series of live performances. Today’s playbill includes the winners of the Music in Offices’ 2010 office choir of the year award, the Rhinegold Choir of Rhinegold Publishing. If your office doesn’t have a choir yet, bet you wish you did now.
Victoria Bates is away.