I was told yesterday that a private equity group has approached a former star from Hoare Govett to look at ways of extricating the group from its troubled parent RBS.
Though the identity of the individual is a mystery, there is some logic to the idea. Hoare Govett, despite years of being in the hands of hapless management at RBS, remains a household City name, especially in corporate finance, broking and equities.
It is true that in recent years the firm has lost a number of brokerships, such as Informa and Sainsbury’s, and Amlin yesterday (see page 3) as well as key employees, but the name remains a powerful one and some big clients remain, such as G4S.
Bringing somebody in to try to restore the group to former glories would make sense, especially if that person was already imbued with the culture of the firm and had a feel for its history and traditions. Especially if that person had worked with the legendary Peter Meinertzhagen, a man who was never far away from a big deal or a clutch of FTSE 100 chief execs.
The problem is that the equities business, which employs about 1,000 people, is said to be losing up to £20m a year. Even if a bidder secured the business for £1 there would be redundancy costs to pay by the bucketload. And there is no certainty that the markets will recover any time soon, and even if they did the equities markets in London remains crowded.
A few months ago one could have seen the likes of Deutsche, BarCap, Nomura or RBC Capital Markets being interested in a deal. They will be more circumspect now, as brokers face the chop at Collins Stewart following the merger with Canaccord and at Evolution, where redundancy notices were being handed out yesterday. Yet the Hoare Govett name remains synonymous with success in the City and it’s difficult to say how much somebody might be prepared to pay for it. There will be lots of interest, albeit much of it irrational.
When the likes of Sir Richard Branson, Paul Marshall, Sir Mike Rake, Sir Martin Sorrell and Lord Brittan get together to urge the government to engage in the EU at every level, it is hard to dismiss too readily.
This illustrious group of business leaders has been brought together by Roland Rudd, perhaps the best connected financial public relations executive in the City.
As he was getting his illustrious gang of business leaders together, Rudd took time to set out his thoughts on Europe in our Forum pages in Monday’s City A.M. (you can still read them at cityam.com).
Not surprisingly, Rudd’s views are contested by many of our readers, who distrust Brussels and were more than satisfied by David Cameron’s recent decision to veto planned changes to the EU treaty. Three of our readers set out their criticisms of Rudd in today’s Forum, on page 15.
Auction and out
We are coming to the end of our Christmas charity appeal and I am delighted to report that our readers have exceeded expectations in their generosity. Our online auction closed last night, with some last minute bids helping to push up our grand total to close to £400,000. On Friday, I will outline exactly how much has been raised, as well as giving details on how you can still donate.
Allister Heath is away