views

TRADER CALLS TIME ON SPOOF BAILOUT

STRANGE happenings in cyber-space yesterday as a spoof charity site that has been causing much hilarity in the City was mysteriously whipped off the Web.

The site in question was masterminded by Standard Bank bonds trader Jim Croft, who decided last week to set up a tongue-in-cheek JustGiving page to help raise £100m for crisis-stricken Greece.

“Donating here will go along way to helping these poor people who have lived beyond their means for the last 10 years and are now struggling to pay their bills,” Croft wrote on the page. “Please think of them as they avoid their taxes and then blame evil speculators rather than face up to the fact that lying about their national statistics was probably more of a factor.”

As of yesterday morning, the site had racked up an impressive £420 in donations (in reality to Oxfam) from City folk posing as anyone from IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn to German chancellor Angela Merkel to our own PM Gordon Brown, with the succinct comment: “Happy to give money to any cause. Might need it back in four weeks, though…”

It was then abruptly pulled from the internet by Croft himself, who tells The Capitalist he was astounded by its success.

“It was meant to be a bit of fun and escalated into something much larger than I had imagined,” he explains.

“I would have loved to keep it up for longer – judging by the speed it was mushrooming, I could have raised a lot more – but though 99 per cent of people found it highly amusing, one or two didn’t and I didn’t want to offend anyone.”

TAKING NOTE

With City veteran Terry Smith having finally handed over the chairman’s reins to Tim Ingram at the start of this month, Collins Stewart has wasted no time expanding its research offering.

Analyst Robin Savage yesterday initiated coverage on inter-dealer broker Tullett Prebon, where Smith also holds the role of chief executive, with a glowing “buy” recommendation.

“Despite difficult markets and competitive conditions Tullett managed to report flat revenues of £948m, only a 2 per cent fall in operating profits to £171m and a 1 per cent rise in adjusted pre-tax profit to £157,” Savage wrote. “With £396m of cash and £387m gross debt, it is financially sound…2010 should be a year of recovery, innovation and improving prospects…”

And here The Capitalist was hoping for fireworks at Tullett’s next analyst presentation. Fiddlesticks.

DOPPELGÄNGER

Rumour has it that a life-size cardboard cutout of Gordon Brown is lurking around the halls of the Treasury, being shifted around by fun-loving worker bees posing their “leader” around the building.

According to the Treasury, the cutout is a relic from way back in 2006, when it was handed in by a group of petitioners, though there’s no word on why it’s been kept all these years...

FLYING HIGH

Calling all the iron men and women of the City: charity Action Against Hunger has launched its latest fundraising drive in the City, the London Twin Peak Challenge, and is looking for willing participants.

The challenge will see fundraisers climb not one but two skyscrapers in the City – the Broadgate Tower and CityPoint – on Sunday 23 May, a waistline-whittling total of 1,512 steps. Phew. Visit www.actionagainsthunger.org.uk/twinpeak to register.

HORSE’S MOUTH

Now, we’re all in favour of widening the appeal of the loftier arts to a broader audience, but the Reykjavik City Theatre is taking the concept a bit too far.

Yesterday, to coincide with the release of a report by an Icelandic parliamentary committee into the events and causes of the country’s devastating banking crisis, the theatre began a staged reading of the report in its entirety.

Not the most scintillating stuff, you might think – and you’d be right. For this continuous reading of the weighty document is going to last for between three and five entire days and nights, and will feature no less than 45 actors from the theatre, reading right around the clock in shifts.

The thinking behind the reading, according to the theatre’s website, is to “create a conversation within the society at large and to take on urgent societal matters”. Uh-huh.

The reading is being streamed live on the homepage, www.borgarleikhus.is, in case any readers wish to check it out, though The Capitalist would sorely advise against it…

SHAREHOLDER SPAT

Well, well, well; what do we have here? A press release arrives from one Roger Lawson, director of comms at the UK Shareholders Association, the body which campaigns passionately for the rights of small investors in the likes of Northern Rock, Royal Bank of Scotland and so on.

Only Lawson isn’t working for UKSA any more, ‘twould appear. Instead, to cut a long story short, he’s claiming that the body wrongly cancelled the memberships of 767 members to exclude them from voting at an extraordinary general meeting requisitioned by Lawson to shake up the board and how UKSA is managed.

“It is disconcerting to see an organisation that has campaigned so vigorously against the mistreatment of minority shareholders in public companies, to see the directors acting in such an undemocratic way,” Lawson writes. “Would they accept such behaviour at a public company?”

UKSA, for its part, says Lawson himself signed up the “defective” members, adding: “It is we who are ensuring a properly democratic outcome for our members, against Roger Lawson’s undemocratic attempt to take it over using those whom he wrongly admitted to membership.”

Rich tea biscuit packets at dawn, anyone?