30 November 2018

Iain Gibson

30 November 2018

Good morning,

Brenda from Bristol will be livid. Or maybe as secretly excited as the rest of us. The woman who found a special place in the nation’s hearts back in April 2017 when her reaction to the news that we were all set for an unnecessary (and for the governing party, disastrous) general election was summed up in nine succinct words: “there’s too much politics going on at the moment”.
 
Sadly for Brenda and the rest of us, we are still at full throttle. So the news, amid the endless Brexit theatre, that we will get a further political set piece in the form of a live TV debate between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn on December 9th, will likely be met with another exasperated sigh.
 
The negotiations for how and when are turning out to be potentially more entertaining than the event itself. Theresa May prefers the BBC option, which would see the two leaders quizzed by a panel of experts for part of the show, presumably because she feels this extra edge of detail will be more likely to trip up her rival. Jeremy Corbyn on the other hand is more at ease with the ITV model, which is more of a straight two-person debate, with few frills.
 
For most, the idea of politics sucking up more airtime is not one they relish. I’m not against the concept necessarily, but I do wonder how much impact  a televised debate really has. It appears I am not alone, with some research on both sides of the Atlantic suggesting that the subjective nature of these contests makes it incredibly difficult to link them to the eventual election result. The example we best know here is the “I agree with Nick” phenomenon that followed the first ever UK televised leaders debate in 2010, which led to the Lib Dems, er, losing five seats at the polls a few weeks later.  
 
So, is there a point to this debate, especially given there is no election happening (I really hope I haven’t jinxed that)? Well, actually, if you subscribe to the Prime Minister’s outlook then yes there is and it might be a bit of a pioneering move. This is the first TV debate I can think of that is not preceding an election or a referendum. Instead, we have a Prime Minister seeking to sell a – seemingly doomed – Brexit deal to the wider British public, a deal on which they currently have no say, even if the dynamics appear to be moving towards a second referendum.
 
It already seems highly likely she will lose this vote, scheduled for two days after the debate airs, so we have to wonder if she is instead seeking to influence the landscape in a more meaningful way. Regardless of our views on leaving the EU, most people want this tortuous process to end, and Mrs. May knows that she can use a TV debate to tap into such public sentiment and potentially put pressure on her fellow MPs . The only problem is that, for many on this sceptred isle, the snooker on BBC TWO or I’m a Celebrity on ITV might prove a far more enticing option on that particular Sunday night.

News

The latest meeting of the G20 group of nations kicks off today in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The event is set to be one of the most contentious in recent years – Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will attend as controversy over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi refuses to die down, whereas Vladimir Putin will face tough questions over escalating tensions with Ukraine. At present, Donald Trump has said he is unlikely to meet privately with his Russian counterpart.
 
Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal lawyer, has pled guilty to lying to Congress about a Trump Tower project in Russia. He now says that President Trump kept trying to develop this tower after his Presidency began, which would raise a number of ethical questions. Mr Cohen will now share information with Robert Mueller’s investigative team, in a worrying turn of events for the 45th President.  
 
Salome Zurabishvili has become Georgia’s first woman President, after defeating her rival with 59% of the popular vote. She will be the last President to hold signifcantt power, as the role will become largely ceremonial when the new constitution comes into force upon her exit from office. Ms Zurabishvili will have to try and pursue the country’s goals of EU and NATO membership, whilst maintaining often fraught relations with Russia.  

Business & Economy

Japanese conglomerate SoftBank has this morning set an indicative price of 1,500 yen (£10.35) per share for its IPO, making the deal worth 2.4trn yen (more than £16bn) and one of the world’s biggest ever listings. The final offer price will be determined on December 10th after the book-building process and the stock is scheduled to begin trading on the Tokyo Stock Exchange on December 19th.
 
The headquarters of Deutsche Bank’s head office in Frankfurt, plus other locations, were raided by police officers and tax investigators yesterday. The probe is related to the 2016 disclosure of the ‘Panama Papers’ and the bank is suspected of having helped clients set up offshore companies in tax havens.
 
The US Department of Justice has filed criminal charges against Mike Lynch, the co-founder of software company Autonomy, over the $11bn sale of the UK firm to Hewlett-Packard in 2011. The charges include 14 counts of conspiracy and fraud and carry a maximum penalty of twenty years in prison. The DoJ is also seeking to force Mr Lynch to forfeit $815m of gains made from selling Autonomy.
 
German chemicals and pharmaceuticals group Bayer announced it would cut 12,000 jobs from its 118,000 workforce by the end of 2021. The corporate overhaul follows Bayer’s acquisition of American agrochemical company Monsanto earlier this year.

Markets

What happened yesterday?

The potentially difficult G20 summit in Argentina, with the risk of more disputes between the US and China over trade, has been cited as one reason for the three main indices in New York all dropping slightly – the S&P fell 0.2% (following its biggest one day rise since March the day before), the Nasdaq dropped 0.3% and the Dow Jones Industrial was down 0.1%.
 
Performance was slightly better across the Atlantic, with the pan-European Stoxx 600 ending 0.2% per cent higher and the FTSE 100 rose 0.5%. The Xetra Dax in Frankfurt ended the day flat.
 
Concerns about the G20 were not limited to the west, as some Asian stocks also suffered a wobble – Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.9% and mainland China’s CSI 300 index lost 1.3%.

Interims
Caffyns
Naspers Ltd
 
AGMs
Bluefield Solar Income Fund Limited
DFS Furniture
Eqtec
Hadrian’s Wall Secured Investments
Oncimmune Holdings
Purecircle Limited
Quadrise Fuels International
Range Resources
Salt Lake Potash Limited
Volta Finance Limited

UK Economic Announcements
(00:01) GFK Consumer Confidence
(07:00) Nationwide House Price Index
 
International Economic Announcements
(07:00) Retail Sales (GER)
(10:00) Unemployment Rate (EU)
(14:45) Chicago PMI (US)

Columns of Note

Writing in The Times, Philip Collins argues that Labour is playing a dangerous game with its positioning over Brexit and that it cannot hope to hang on to the vague stance that served it so well during the 2017 election.  At some point soon, he believes, the party will be forced into a concrete position and, given the varying opinions within the party, it is unlikely to be a position that will carry everyone with it.
 
A generally positive comment piece in the Financial Times praises the tenure of Paul Polman at Unilever, after he announced yesterday that he would be standing down as chief executive of the company at the beginning of next year. He wins praise for attempting to put environmental and ethical issues on a level billing with shareholder returns – described as the “multi-stakeholder model of capitalism” – although it is noted that his last significant act, to attempt to move Unilever’s HQ from London to Rotterdam, was rejected by shareholders. His installation of a performance-based culture and an expansion into emerging markets are credited as significant in helping turn around a company that was struggling when Mr. Polman joined in 2009.

Did you know?

Ever since the British Centurion MBT (main battle tank) was introduced in 1945, all British tanks and a number of armoured fighting vehicles have been equipped with tea making faciliites, known as a Boiling Vessel or ‘bivvie’ for short.

Parliamentary highlights

TODAY

House of Commons
No business scheduled

House of Lords
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Scottish Parliament
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