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Tories put the cheque in the post early for hedge funds

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Issue 2402

One of the “priority investors” offered cut-price shares in the government’s privatisation of Royal Mail is a major donor to the Conservative Party. Asset management firm Fidelity Worldwide has given nearly £975,000 to the Tories.

Around 20 percent of the shares the government had allocated to 16 preferred investors had gone to hedge funds and other short-term investors. This would equate to around £150 million of Royal Mail shares—13 percent of the entire stock. 

The companies bought in at the float price of 330p a share. The shares shot up peaking at more than 600p, allowing the hedge funds to bank vast profits 

One hedge fund run by George Osborne’s best man secured profits of £210,000 per day—then totalling £36 million—on the deal.

Lazard Asset Management (LAM) was another of the 16 priority investors who received preferential treatment in the allocation of shares. It is also the investment arm of  the government’s independent adviser on the privatisation.

Lazard & Co, the corporate advisory part of the business, advised the government against raising the price of Royal Mail shares to investors and helped oversee the allocation of shares.

The asset management arm of Lazard’s received £19.8 million worth of shares.LAM sold the shares within days securing an £8 million profit. Lazard & Co also received a £1.5 million fee for advising on the sale of Royal Mail.

Royal Mail’s share register shows that Och-Ziff, an aggressive US-based hedge fund, had a holding of ten million shares on 15 October, the day the company’s shares started trading. 

A week later it had reduced its holding to 3.5 million shares. Lansdowne, another hedge fund known for its close links to the Conservative Party, appears to have received an allocation of around 18 million shares, at a cost of just under £60 million. 

Lansdowne said the owners of the shares are Lansdowne’s clients, not Lansdowne.

Philanthropic fracking in Fylde

Cuadrilla’s charm offensive is in full flow as it prepares to file two planning applications to frack for shale gas on Lancashire’s Fylde coast within the next month.

The fracking company has donated £10,000 to the Lowther Pavilion theatre near Blackpool, which is within drilling earshot of Cuadrilla’s proposed Preston New Road exploration site.

Other lucky beneficiaries include Blackpool and The Fylde College, which received £24,000 jointly from Cuadrilla and Centrica.

lClare Salmon, the marketing chief at Royal London Group renamed the pensions company’s fourth-floor meeting rooms “Jam Roly Poly”, “Custard Room” and “Pooh Sticks”, “Braveheart” and “Vindaloo”.

The names were dropped after they didn’t curry favour with managers. But Salmon has continued with a “recognisably different” company rebrand.

Royal London’s logo now features a pelican—because “it’s a royal bird”. The annual report contains pictures of dogs, one of which appears to be compiling the accounts on a typewriter.

Millionaire sets up ‘grassroots’ group

The BBC and the Guardian newspaper announced a little breathlessly the new grassroots campaign for a No vote in the Scottish independence referendum. The registered office of Vote No Borders, a private limited company, is at 24 Chiswell Street, London.  

Vote No Borders has acquired £400,000 from somewhere. The directors are Malcolm Offord and Fiona Gilmore.

Fiona Gilmore is boss of Acanchi, a PR Consultancy which specialises in “country branding”. Its clients include Israel, Dubai, Bahrain and “England”.  

Malcolm Offord donated over £120,000 to the Tories and £2,500 to Michael Gove. He wrote “Bankrupt Britain” for the Conservative Home website. He suggests, “Reform the bloated benefits system of this country to reduce the burden on the state.”

Academy alcohol excessive

Another week, another academies scandal. This time it’s Sir Ewan Harper who’s in the firing line. Harper is being investigated over “highly unusual” payments at academy schools he set up. They include £90,000 he paid himself and £28,000 he paid his wife.

Such was Harper’s spending that even the Department for Education has been pushed to criticise him. Apparently it disapproved of a £20,000 fact-finding trip to New York and “excessive” spending on alcohol.

Universal credit cost how much?

A judge has slammed Iain Duncan Smith’s attempt to keep potentially damning reports on Universal Credit secret. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) claimed that there would be a “chilling effect” if the reports were published.

The documents could prove that Duncan Smith and the DWP misled parliament with their optimistic assessments of progress on the programme. The documents were requested under the Freedom of Information Act in March last year.

A second tribunal upheld the decision.


MP landlords

  • Conservative: 89 of 305 MPs or 29 percent
  • Labour: 37 of 258 MPs or 14 percent
  • Liberal Democrat: 9 of 57 MPs or 15 percent
  • DUP: 2 of 8 MPs or 25 percent
  • SNP: 2 of 6 MPs or 33 percent
  • SDLP: 1 of 3 MPs or 33 percent

Questioned about renationalising the railways Ed Miliband said, “Old-fashioned socialism was somehow about wholesale nationalisation of the commanding heights of our economy. “That is not what I am about. What I’m about is how do we make markets work properly.”

DAVID CAMERON name-dropped JCB at his local election campaign launch. Three times he credited the firm with helping rebuild the British economy—without mentioning that the Tories received almost £5 million in donations from JCB boss Anthony Bamford. Those donations included private jet travel, helicopter rides and cash. Cameron bunged him a peerage last year.

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