Jupiter gamble paying off for now

David Hellier
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FUND management group Jupiter defied the odds earlier this year when it pressed ahead with a stock market flotation despite concerns that it was an injudicious time to do so.

First there were general worries about market volatility and by June more than 30 companies had already shelved plans to float, including London Eye owner Merlin and discount retailer New Look.

Then Jupiter faced a second, more specific problem in that rival fund manager Gartmore saw its shares tank after one of its star fund managers became embroiled in a regulatory investigation. Would-be investors worried that Jupiter might be similarly vulnerable to a star fund manager leaving or becoming embroiled in controversy.

The background noise surrounding the Gartmore problem persuaded Jupiter to postpone its flotation for a few weeks but in the end – to the surprise of many – the flotation went ahead.

Jupiter joined the market at a valuation of £800m rather than the £1bn it previously hoped for, but all the same it made the grade.

Yesterday Jupiter released first half figures, showing a healthy swing into profit, with assets under management climbing 1.6 per cent to £19.8bn.

Revenue climbed 39 per cent to £131.1m, mainly driven by a £29m gain in management fees and fund inflows, Jupiter said.

“The quality of this income is excellent, with 89 per cent being net management fees,” said James Hamilton, an analyst at Numis Securities.

Chief executive officer Edward Bonham Carter said that it might have looked distinctly unfashionable to float in such conditions but that the move helped Jupiter to bolster its balance sheet and incentivise its extremely mobile staff with tradeable shares.

The shares themselves may have been sold at a knockdown 165p each in June but they are now trading around 23 per cent higher.

Better to leave some upside for the aftermarket, it seems. In contrast online retailer Ocado pressed ahead with a valuation the market felt was too toppy and its shares continue to struggle. For the time being, Bonham Carter’s gamble appears to be paying off.

Just as we head into the busiest period of the year, London is threatened with a series of 24-hour tube strikes in September.

If the strikes go ahead, they will inevitably cost the London economy - £48m a day, according to the London Chamber of Commerce - and they will inconvenience many millions of commuters.

Monthly 24-hour strikes are expected to be held, as well as a ban on overtime, unless plans to axe 800 jobs are scrapped by Transport for London and Mayor Boris Johnson. Strikes are expected to begin on September 7. Relations between the main tube union, the RMT, and the Mayor are not good.

But all is not lost. There is still time for the dispute to be sorted out. The conciliation service Acas did a fine job recently at reaching a solution in the proposed walk out at BAA’s airports, thereby avoiding traffic chaos over the up coming Bank Holiday weekend. Let’s hope it can sort this one out too.

Allister Heath is away