12 March 2018

Lyle Hill

12 March 2018

Good morning,

Last week Theresa May and her government hosted the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammad bin Salman, in London. The charm offensive was almost impossible to miss, as large adverts encouraging UK trade and investment into Saudi were plastered all over our national newspapers.
For the government, the trip – which was expected to generate billions of pounds worth of investment and trade between the UK and Saudi – appears to have been a success, despite May being questioned on the Saudi's human rights record by Jeremy Corbyn at Prime Minister's Questions, and protests outside parliament.
It was indeed lucrative too, exemplified by Saudi's agreement to purchase 48 Typhoon jets from the UK. However, the elephant in the room was the UK's courting of what is expected to be the world's biggest IPO of the state oil giant, Saudi Aramco. London has been fighting off bids from New York and Hong Kong for the $2 trillion listing.
But this morning the Financial Times reports that no sooner had Mohammad bin Salman left the country, UK officials were told that the deal would most likely be pushed back further until 2019, despite a proposed date later this year.
The reason for the delay is that advisers on the deal are struggling to make the numbers for the $2 trillion listing add up. Mohammad bin Salman is adamant that this is the value and will not settle for anything less, but the finances and internal operations of the company are not well documented and the close relationship with the state raises legal and regulatory challenges.
Astonishingly, the valuation and sale only represents around five per cent of the total Saudi Aramco, highlighting the huge scale of the state behemoth and the new Saudi crown prince's determination to move the Kingdom away from its oil dependency. 
With the deal likely to be delayed, we can expect to see more courting of Saudi officials throughout 2018.


In a meeting of the UK National Security Council today, key ministers including Theresa May, will be provided with fresh evidence on the attempted murder of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury. Following the meeting, it is expected that May will publicly blame Russia for the incident and may well consider fresh expulsions and sanctions against the country.

A helicopter crashed into New York's East River last night, killing five of the passengers on board. The helicopter landed in the river around 7pm local time and a rescue attempt was conducted by divers from the New York police and fire departments. The pilot managed to free himself and was rescued by a tugboat, he is the only survivor and is in a stable condition in hospital.

An analysis by The Times has found that this parliament is the most inactive for at least two decades. In the nine months since the General Election, May's government has held fewer votes than David Cameron's or Tony Blair's. Ministerial concern over losing votes on Brexit and domestic policy has led to paralysis in government, according to the report.

The comedian Sir Ken Dodd, most famous for creating the Diddy Men, has died at the age of 90.


Business & Economy

Research conducted by the International Forum of Independent Audit Regulators has found serious concerns in over 40% of audits it inspected last year, casting fresh doubts on the quality of work produced by the top accounting firms. The inspections focused on companies in risky or complex situations such as mergers or acquisitions.

GKN will launch a last chance attempt to fend off Melrose Industries' hostile £7 billion bid today. The FTSE 100 engineering group’s defence will value the company far higher than Melrose's 415p per share offer. The move comes as GKN management has refused meetings with Melrose, which is expected to raise its offer later this week by offering GKN shareholders more of the combined group.

A study by Company Watch has found that around 400 high street retailers in the United Kingdom are in the 'danger zone' and could struggle to survive if interest rates rise considerably over the next year. The research was conducted into 1,600 retailers with assets of at least £5 million and companies at risk include New Look, Mothercare, Poundland and Debenhams.


The week ahead
On Tuesday, Philip Hammond will deliver his Spring Statement. The Treasury has announced in advance that this will be a slimmed down version of the usual announcements, as the government wants to move away from effectively having two budgets a year. Instead, Hammond will deliver a speech updating the House on the UK public finances and strength of the economy.
Also on Tuesday, EU finance ministers will gather in Brussels for an Economic and Financial Affairs Council meeting, in which they will discuss reducing risk in the banking sector and increasing tax transparency. 
On Wednesday, Adidas will be hoping to build on its strong half year results when it reports its final results for the year. In Q3, sales in China and North America leapt 28% and 23% respectively.
Finally, on Sunday, elections in Russia are set to hand Vladimir Putin a further six years in power. His closest opponent and most vocal critic Alexei Navalny has been banned from running in the election, as Putin tightens his grip on power.
Russian officials will also meet with Turkish and Iranian foreign officials on Thursday to discuss the continuing situation in Syria.

Eve Sleep PLC
Global Ports Holding
Medica Group
Polymetal International

Diurnal Group
Seeing Machines


Columns of Note

Writing in The Sunday Times, Kevin Pringleargues that Theresa May's Brexit strategy pays no attention to the multinational nature of the United Kingdom, and that despite it being late in the negotiating process for a change in stance, that may well be precisely what is needed.

Janet Daley, writing in The Telegraph, argues that globalisation has caused considerable problems for national governments and that politicians are no longer in control of economic policy. She believes that while communism diagnosed some of the problems we would face with globalisation, it is up to modern capitalists to fix it.

Did you know?

Saudi Arabia possesses approximately 22% of the world's oil reserves.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons
Oral Questions
Housing, Communities and Local Government (including Topical Questions)

Financial Guidance and Claims Bill [Lords] - Remaining stages
House of Lords
Oral Questions
How many British nationals are currently employed in the European External Action Service and the impact when those staff leave - Lord Balfe

Maintaining authoritative immigration statistics to allow the development of sound policies and plans - Baroness Neville-Rolfe

Outsourcing by police forces of digital forensic investigation work to unaccredited private laboratories - Lord Beecham

Scottish Parliament
No business scheduled.


House of Commons

Oral Questions
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (including Topical Questions)

Ministerial Statement
Spring Statement 2018 by the Chancellor of the Exchequer - Mr Philip Hammond

House of Lords
Oral Questions
Continuation of train services on the East Coast mainline - Lord Beith

Making adjustments to the Apprenticeship Levy to facilitate the improved working of that programme - Lord Blunkett

Ensuring a high standard of corporate governance at businesses that provide essential public services - Lord Haskel

Scottish Parliament
Pre Stage 2 Debate
UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill