Friday, 23 May 2014

Weekly Wrap Up: AstraZeneca - protectionist or practical?

This week, Pfizer’s potential takeover of AstraZeneca continued to draw huge attention from the media. Whilst AstraZeneca defended the bid and retained its integrity, it now has to deal with criticism from angry shareholders for turning down Pfizer’s offer of £55 per share, which could have resulted in an immense boost of the share-price and reduced tax liabilities for the company.

In several outlets, AstraZeneca’s rejection of Pfizer’s offer has been portrayed as an attempt of retaining British ownership in the multi-national drug company. Some have criticised the company and the UK scientific community for being protectionist; putting personal sentiment before professional. They question why a company of such size and scale should allow British sentiment to triumph over economic benefits.

Surely, British superiority should not have been the only reason for AstraZeneca to turn down the offer from Pfizer. The deal could have brought structural changes to the UK economy and R&D capabilities, changes which raised concerns amongst the wider public. In addition to this, the company’s rejection of the deal might also have been an attempt to negotiate a better deal. Indeed, AstraZeneca told Pfizer that it needed at least £58.85 per share to start negotiations, implying that the Company could have been prepared to sacrifice independence for a deal of just £3.85 more per share.

No matter what the real motive of the company was for rejecting the deal, it is interesting to see how the protectionism vs capitalism debate continues to dominate public discourse. Despite how dramatically the global society has evolved over the years, nationalistic dialogue continues to stimulate interest and public engagement, even in the private sphere.

Abchaps were  busy in the City this week. We kicked off the week at an Investis seminar about the importance of Digital communications at IPO.

We attended some brilliant adviser events including Hub Capital Partners Summer Party, Pinsent Masons Spring Drinks Party, as well as joining Hill Dickinson in their offices for drinks.

Abchaps also attended a very interesting roundtable discussion by Farrer & Co on ‘Economics and climate change – implications for investment in the UK’.

This week, BDO welcomed Chris Bellairs as a Partner in the firm to the Financial Services practice, whilst Addleshaw Goddard appointed John Joyce as managing partner of the law firm

Big Pharma” - The nickname given to the pharmaceutical industry. Critics of the industry often use this nickname when discussing abuse by the industry, however the term is also used to describe M&A at an international scale.

Having dominated the pages of the weekly papers, it is time for the petals of the one of the most famous flower shows to flutter across and be wrapped up in our weekly report. The last day of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, Chelsea’s world renowned annual show, will take place on Saturday 24th May. Held in the grounds of the Royal Hospital, it will present the work of more than 800 botanical brains. Head to the RHS website for more details.

Saturday 24th May will also be the last day for the run of “Moonrock Boombox” at the Udderbelly Festival, London. Held in Southbank Centre, this performance is the latest installation of the Abandoman band, a band that hilariously combines hip-hop rap and comedy to create a bubbling period of entertainment. The Udderbelly Festival will continue to run in the Southbank Centre until 13th July.

Fancy seeing something a little more conventional? A new exhibition has just opened up at the Natural History Museum: Mammoths – Ice Age Giants. As the title suggests, this exhibition tells the story of the woolly creatures that once walked the earth. The exhibition will feature life-size models, fossils and will reveal how these ancient creatures used to live, and survive.

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Friday, 16 May 2014

Weekly Wrap Up: Big Brother's Watching You

This week has been a week of M&A with the Pfizer / Astrazeneca deal taking centre stage. Business leaders and politicians debated the merits and effects that the largest ever foreign takeover of a British company could have on the UK economy. Meanwhile Dixons and Carphone Warehouse released their plans of a £3.5bn merger. Also, Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox announced its intention to enter into a Joint Venture with Apollo Global (owner of TV production companies Endemol and Core Media Group).

All of these deals are interesting within their different spaces, indicating the current appetite for big moves breaking international boundaries. Whilst the multibillion pound pharma deal is stealing the lion’s share of the media coverage, however, the media deal is particularly intriguing as it will not only have financial implications for the television production companies involved, but will also allow the media personalities involved to flex their already strong muscles.

The 21st Century Fox company that will be brought together with Endemol and Core Media Group is that of Shine, a Company chaired by Rupert Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth.

The Murdoch family is well-known for its position in and over the media industry; it has been described as a monopoly. Without detailing the scandals of the past few years, the Murdochs have featured heavily in the newspapers that they publish, and just this week BSkyB was detailed as being in talks to buy Sky Deutschland and Sky Italia.

This entertainment JV sees the next stage of development of the Murdoch monopoly - the purchase of Park Lane and Mayfair. With Shine set to partner with Endemol and Core Media Group, Elisabeth Murdoch will now have a bigger part to play within the media industry, following in her father’s footsteps and rivalling the power of her charming brother James (NED of BskyB).

This forthcoming increase in Murdoch power is nicely, if ironically, illustrated when considering the TV programmes that Endemol and Core Media Group currently produce - Big Brother and American Idol (respectively). Both of these reality-TV shows have made their names through the portrayal of a group of participants being controlled and manipulated. Although it would perhaps be too far to suggest that the nature of these shows were the reasons for 21st Century Fox taking a Shine to the Companies owned by Apollo, it does feels slightly indicative of the control that the Murdochs currently have and will continue to have over the international media community.

We must, however, be fair. Yes, the Murdochs are infamous within global media and have a huge influence over what the public thinks, but it is in-arguable that Rupert has grown his businesses effectively and successfully. What Elisabeth Murdoch will bring to this new venture is the experience and scale that her background has instilled in her, and if this JV increases the capacity and scope for success for these companies, than who can argue that it will not be a positive thing?

For now, however, the general public will have to turn their Big Brother eye towards the future to see how the story of this merger, and of the Murdoch family as a whole, plays out.

World. The Murdochs are watching you.

This week, Abchaps had a great time sharing insights at Smith & Williamson's "The changing environment – a briefing for the financial services sector" event. We also enjoyed a great night of horse betting at Marriott Harrison Connect - Race Night with other advisers.

At our market lunches this week, we discussed with other City advisers how the City has evolved to embrace opportunities from Asia, as well as the trends and opportunities of the mining sector.

This week our friends over at Smith & Williamson Investment Management hired Ed Rosengarten as Head of Funds for the pooled funds division, whilst Adrian Rainey was appointed partner in the corporate technology practice over at Taylor Wessing. Eversheds have been joined by new partner Jonathan Brooks in their commercial dispute and investigations practice.

Head to the roof this weekend if you want to make the most out of London and its finer weather! We suggest taking a trip to Radio Rooftop Bar to get a world-class view of the City whilst sipping on some fairly delectable cocktails. Put your glad rags on, this place is teeming with glammed up Londoners and model-types. Even more, the Bar is even well heated, allowing its customers to party on into the night in total comfort.

Keen to make the most of the sun but with a slightly more relaxed vibe? The Queen of Hoxton is running its Roof Top Cinema evenings once again. Lounge on your deckchair, make the most of the BBQ and watch some of your favourite 80s classics and retro Hollywood films.

If whisky is your tipple, then it’s also The London Whisky Weekender over in Bethnal Green at the Oval Space. Try some of the finest drinks from over 20 different distilleries. Yes, we know it’s finally sunny but sometimes it’s just got to be done!

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Friday, 2 May 2014

Weekly Wrap Up: Jeremy Paxman & Drama at the BBC

“All the world's a stage and most of us are desperately unrehearsed.” – Sean O’Casey

It is a well-known fact that humans love drama. As unfortunate as it is, it's the world’s population’s fascination with the grotesque and shocking that drives the content of our papers into the realms of the bad, the tragic and the ugly.

Jeremy Paxman, of BBC television fame, is well known for creating drama on his evening news show “Newsnight”. With a direct approach and nerves as hard as steel he can turn the driest of political topics into an argument worthy of an appearance on Game of Thrones. Under his leadership, the famous Newsnight has recorded a number of squirming business leaders and politicians stammering to answer his controversial and provocative questions and, consequently, good audiences. One particularly memorable show was in 1997 when Paxman asked Michael Howard the same questions 12 times over, a technique that clearly unsettled the Home Secretary and made for very entertainment watching. Although it was later revealed that this repetitive technique was actually an error on the part of the Producer’s scripting, it still stands as a threateningly over-ruling point that Paxman is a dramatic and talented reporter.

This week he announced that he would be leaving the BBC’s Newsnight programme after 25 years. Whilst Ian Burrell of The Independent points out that many a politician may be relieved that he will no longer be able to humiliate them or their parties on national television, it's a great loss for both journalism and a news outlet (the BBC) that is reportedly struggling to engage the younger population with the news and current affairs.

In a recent report conducted by the BBC Trust, it was revealed that the BBC is “failing to stand out” next to rivals in terms of its news content. The awareness of the BBC’s audience of current affairs is reportedly falling, and the number of people watching the BBC’s news output has significantly fallen over the last two years. It's said that the broadcaster’s journalism standards are dropping and that the producer is failing to engage with younger audiences.

Paxman’s departure from the BBC’s most controversial (and therefore engaging) programme is therefore a big blow for the outlet. Without its hard-hitting and watch-able presenter, will the BBC stand to lose even more of its young audience to arguably more exciting rivals such as Channel 4 and ITV?

What the BBC needs now is for the next generation of investigative journalists to move up from the desks and into the spot-light. There is undoubtedly a great deal of young investigative talent within the journalism community, one only needs to glance at the results of the British Journalism Awards 2013 to appreciate this. With sufficient nurturing of this talent, the BBC has the opportunity to allow its reporters to take take up Paxman's flame and drive the broadcaster forward in terms of the quality and entertainment factor of its news.

Mr Paxman; we salute you. May your life post-Newsnight be full of intrigue and suitable drama.

From technology to Sino-British relationships, Abchaps are always engaged with timely topics. Social impact investment was at the heart of this week’s market lunch, where advisers and companies enjoyed discussing the role of the financial markets in initiating social changes.

 We also joined Grant Thornton at the British Museum, gaining valuable insights from its enlightening panel discussion on Sino-British relationship. Abchaps also learnt the value of innovation in Cleantech at the 2014 New Energy & Cleantech Forum.

Henderson Global Investors appointed James de Bunsen as co-manager of its value trust division, whilst BNP Paribas Real Estate made two senior appointments to its London valuation team; Gillian Bowman joins as a senior director, and Robert Dagwell who has been appointed director. Pinsent Masons also hired Nicholle Kingsley to its planning team, specialising in the commercial real estate, housing, retail and hotels markets.

"Reportage" - the reporting of news by the press and the broadcasting media. Reportage is the word often used to describe the quality of a journalist's output.

Love animals? Love cake? The Great Hampstead Bark Off may be just the ticket. For just £5 you can show off your pooch to London’s other animal aficionados whilst chowing down on some home made baking – what more could you ask for?

Keen to entertain your tastebuds without the animal community in tow? Head over to Shoreditch where the Urban Food Fest is offering a whole host of culinary delights from Jerk Chicken to Hallmoumi Souvlaki. Performances from top local bands and entertainers will add a little more ambiance to the festival.

It seems that this bank holiday is bring out food lovers everywhere. On Putney High Street you can go to the ‘Toast Temple’, a travelling shrine that is frequenting several spots in West London as part of the Wandsworth Arts Festival!

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