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ShareSoc Blog

This blog gives you the latest topical news plus some informal comments on them from ShareSoc’s directors and other contributors. These are the personal comments of the authors and not necessarily the considered views of ShareSoc. The writers may hold shares in the companies mentioned. You can add your own comments on the blog posts, but note that ShareSoc reserves the right to remove or edit comments where they are inappropriate or defamatory.

There is more news given in the News page of our web site and more analysis of news is provided in our monthly newsletter for members – see the Newsletters page.

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Warren Buffett and FCA Review of RDR & FAMR

There was an interesting article on the career of Warren Buffett in the last FT Weekend magazine. It was a wide-ranging interview with the renowned investor who became one of the richest persons in the world by making investments which consistently outperformed the markets over the last 50 years. At age 88 he still claims to be having fun by working at investment. But in the last ten years he has fallen behind the S&P index. The reason is primarily because he ...

Horizon Discovery – Defective Accounting Discovered

Horizon Discovery Group (HZD) announced their full year results this morning. Horizon is a biotechnology company focused on cell engineering and CRISPR screening. Revenue was up by 68% to £58.7 million helped by an acquisition. But the “reported loss” increased to £35.8 million due to the exceptional write-off of past investment in “In Vivo”. Although this is a non-cash impairment it suggests that there was past over-optimism in the viability of that business unit and excessive capitalisation of development expenditure. This ...

Supermarket Winners and Losers – Ocado, M&S, Waitrose, Sainsburys and ASDA

As a recent purchaser of Ocado (OCDO) shares I have received the notice of a General Meeting to approve the deal with Marks & Spencer (MKS). The agreement is the formation of a new joint venture and will effectively replace the previous partnership with Waitrose (part of John Lewis) to provide own-brand products. This looks a very positive deal for Ocado if you read the detail as the Waitrose deal was restrictive in some regards and Waitrose has also been developing ...

In Memory of John Lander

Today I learnt the sad news that John Lander has passed away. John Lander founded the SIGnet (Serious Investor Group Network) organisation over 20 years ago and ran it, more or less single handed for most of that period. You can see a video from John describing the origins and purpose of SIGnet on the organisation's home page: http://www.signet.org.uk/index.html I am writing this piece to express my admiration for what he achieved, though I never met him. The SIGnet group concept provides an ...

Audit Market Shake-Up, Ocado on TV, and Judges Scientific Presentation

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) have issued their final recommendations to improve competition in the audit market after an earlier public consultation. This follows widespread concerns over the dominance of the big four audit firms, the lack of apparent competition on price or quality, and repeated complaints about the quality of audits following several big and small company failures. Audit firms seem to have got off relatively lightly if the CMA’s recommendations are implemented by the Government. Here’s a brief ...

ShareSoc and UKSA make joint response to FCA/FRC Consultation on Effective Stewardship

In January 2019, the FCA and FRC  issued a joint discussion  paper DP19/1 Building a regulatory framework for effective stewardship. On 15 April 2019, we made a joint response from UKSA and ShareSoc on behalf of individual investors. In our response we make the following key points: Investor stewardship must not let boards off the hook for their own stewardship. The Stewardship Code should be renamed the Investor Stewardship Code to better reflect what investors do and to better acknowledge the role of ...

Save the Date – 22nd May at 3.30p.m: Environmental Reporting – what questions should I be asking?

Are your investments at risk from the “Blue Planet” effect or will it help them prosper? Will the companies you hold be winners or losers as politicians and the public respond to climate change? Most importantly, are the management on top of the material environmental issues for their industry, do they have strategies to respond and are they giving you the information you need? Often you will have to look into and beyond the narrative and risk reporting not just the financials ...

Grant Thornton, Interserve and Arc Fund Management

The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) have announced an investigation into the audits by Grant Thornton of the accounts of Interserve (IRV) in the years 2015-2017. Interserve was a large outsourcing company with most of its business from Government contracts. It ran out of cash and went into administration on the 15th March with debts of £738 million. Readers will no doubt be aware that Grant Thornton were also the auditors of Patisserie Holdings and Globo, both cases where very substantial fraud ...

Debenhams PrePack, Dunelm Trading, ASOS and Privacy

Department store operator Debenhams (DEB) has been put through a pre-pack administration. It’s been bought by a new company formed by its secured lenders. Mike Ashley of Sports Direct is furious. His company invested £150 million in the shares of the company in the hope of taking it over, which will now be worthless. He had some choice words to say on the subject which included that it was an “underhand plan to steal from shareholders”, “as normal politicians and regulators ...

Brands Have Limits – Saga and AA

I have written before about the merits of strong brands. This is a paragraph from my new book soon to be published (entitled “Business Perspective Investing”): “Trade marks help customers to identify with the product, and make it easier for them to select the product on a new purchase. Brands are particularly effective when there is actually little difference between competitors’ products - for example, lager beer, gin or washing powder. Brands are exceedingly valuable if well maintained. Coca-Cola is a ...

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