The pawn king sets his sights on the city

WITH credit tight, the UK has witnessed a significant increase in pawnbroking in the past few years, with the number of outlets increasing to 1,300 in the UK compared to 2003 when there were just 800.

But pawnbroking is no longer the preserve of the shabbier end of the High Street.

One of the power brokers of the sector and one of those looking to service the upper end of the market is Paul Aitkens, who tonight is the subject of a Channel 4 documentary entitled The Pawn King. (7.30pm).

Aitkens, whose online company Borro is based in the City’s Chancery Lane, keeps his customers’ Ferraris, Porsches, and art pieces such as a Banksy or a Picasso on his premises, and tonight’s programme tells the stories of five of his customers. They range from the tale of the ex-wife of a millionaire to the story of a watch addict who has 24 watches to his name.

Aitkens says he is trying to legitimise pawnbroking through the use of top-rated valuers from the auction houses and a lending rate of around 4.5 per cent a month.

He’s attracted the former founder of Egg to his board, Paul Gratton, as well as the former Sportingbet boss Mark Blandford.

He’s close to putting the final touches to some money-raising of his own and expects an IPO to be a possibility in two to three years.

IMF GETS INTO WINE
ONE piece of IMF research particularly caught The Capitalist’s eye this week, appealing to her devoted interest in both fine wine and commodities prices.

According to the study, “the statistical behaviour of crude oil and fine wine prices has shown remarkable similarity, with a correlation of over 90 per cent during the sample period”.

The formula used to calculate this would fly over The Capitalist’s head even before a large glass of Chablis, but the outcome seems to be that the factors driving wine and oil prices are the same, disputing the fashionable conviction of the last few years that wine offers a more stable investment.

Wine funds have, unsurprisingly, been quick to dispute the research, questioning why the IMF was studying wine prices in the first place.

And the recent listing of a wine fund on the Aim market implies investors are willing to toe the vintners’ line. The IMF has rather unwisely called its study: A barrel of oil or a bottle of wine? Investment diversification aside, The Capitalist knows what she’d prefer.

FUN IN THE MUD
IT’S time for fund managers to get down and dirty in the mud with a football tournament for the funds industry on 20 January fast approaching.

Hosted by independent transaction network for the global mutual funds industry, Calastone, bopping the ball about on the City’s Powerleague pitches is all in a good cause with the money raised being in aid of charity Help for Heroes.

A total of 23 companies, including the likes of JP Morgan, HSBC and Charles Stanley, have signed up so far for the five-a-side battle sure to display some of the City’s finest footwork. But there’s room for more. If you’re keen to show off your headers and goal shooting skills, and help Calastone boost its current £7,000 to its aimed for £10,000 email charityshield@calastone.com.