REGAL DITCHES BROKER MIRABAUD AFTER TUSSLE OVER LEADERSHIP

IT WAS the end of an activist era yesterday for broker Mirabaud Securities and oil and gas firm Regal Petroleum, which parted ways on, shall we say, less than friendly terms.

Regal’s terse termination statement to the stock exchange came after Mirabaud questioned the tenure of the company’s chief executive, David Greer. That’s not a procedure which is unheard-of in the City, of course, but sources close to Regal said the company’s beef isn’t with Mirabaud’s feelings towards Greer but in the manner in which it went about expressing them.

Mirabaud, for its part, is understood to have sent a letter in early August to Regal chairman Keith Henry, claiming that a significant investor had called for Greer to be replaced with ex-Burren Energy chief Atul Gupta. The broker also claimed to have elicited the support of several other shareholders concerned at the dramatic slide in the firm’s share price.

But though sources close to Regal admitted that the share price performance has been less than ideal since a $1m capital raise last year, they said Mirabaud should have approached Henry much earlier and that its hesitation constituted a breach of duty, causing the contractual break.

Regal declined to comment, while no one from Mirabaud was yesterday available to talk to City A.M.

For now, it seems the firm is happy with its relationship with ongoing broker Bank of America Merrill Lynch, though whether or not the shareholder unrest settles down may turn out to be quite another matter.

UNSUNG HERO
Tullett Prebon boss Terry Smith was a happy man indeed yesterday as a statue was unveiled in Waterloo Place of Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Park, the “unsung hero” of the Battle of Britain.

Smith has been campaigning for over a year for a permanent statue of Park in central London, to recognise his valiant efforts in defending southern England from the Luftwaffe as commander of 11 Group Fighter Command.

“My background in studying history and my love of flying as a private pilot perhaps partly explain why I instigated the campaign,” Smith said. “Park’s central role in the Battle of Britain has not been suitably recognised – until now, that is.”

SAFE AS HOUSES
A robust defence of the attractiveness of fine wines as an investment play, courtesy of the Fine Wine Investment Fund.

The fund – which is up 25 per cent for the year to date – took issue in its monthly update at a recent suggestion that fine wine prices were never likely to exceed residential property prices as no one would ever pay more for a case of vino than they would for a house, no matter what the vintage.

Not so, the fund argues. Apparently, on a historical basis (going back to 1988) there is almost no evidence of correlation between the two markets, with fine wine hugely outperforming residential property over the past two decades.

“As fine wine prices increase as a fraction of property prices, if the argument was correct then their rate of growth would slow, whereas the opposite is true,” the fund wrote, indignantly. “Nor does it make sense on a qualitative basis. Fine wine is a tightly supplied luxury consumable good purchased for pleasure whereas UK residential property is a large market with very different value drivers, not least of all interest rates, the supply of credit and affordability ratios…”

Apparently, the average UK residential property in 1983 was worth 89 cases of Lafite Rothschild 1982, but is now worth a little under five. “We would not bet against them reaching parity in our lifetime,” ventures the fund, bravely.

BOOKISH TYPES
Ping! In zooms an email from law firm Latham & Watkins, which seems disproportionately excited about a new service it’s just launched on its website and on a free iPhone app.

The app in question – called the “Book of Jargon” – is an interactive glossary of capital markets and banking slang, the firm informs me, though it’s more an encyclopaedia of serious terms than a collection of humorous examples of cringeworthy “business-speak”.
“We had a lot of fun putting together this glossary of Wall Street lingo,” explains Kirk Davenport, co-chairman of the firm’s capital markets practice group. “The Book of Jargon is definitely one of the most useful things we have ever published and the new iPhone app is by far the coolest thing we have ever done…”

Someone get that man to a boozy business lunch, and pronto.

ACTION MAN
Finally, a note of congratulations to Hugh-Guy Lorriman, leisure research guru over at Seymour Pierce.

Lorriman at the weekend completed a gruelling 140 mile coast-to-coast endurance event, biking, kayaking and running his way from North to South Devon in aid of Trinity Hospice, and all despite recent Achilles tendon and knee injuries.

Our action man – so-called because he sometimes wears combats into the office, a little bird tells me – is fundraising at www.justgiving.com/

Hugh-Guy-Lorriman, if you want to chuck him some cash.