Julian Knight: Katherine 'the Great' needs more discipline

Tired and underperforming are two words that spring to mind when the UK's biggest investment trust, the Alliance trust, is mentioned.

It seems I am not the only one who thinks that way. The Alliance is trying to stop a major shareholder – Laxley Partners – from forcing it to introduce a so-called discount control mechanism, which would force the trust to buy back shares when they trade above a set discount to net asset value. The Alliance's chief, the highly rated Katherine Garrett-Cox (or "Katherine the Great", as she has been dubbed), has railed against Laxley in a non-too-subtle way saying: "We are focused on managing the trust in the best interests of long-term shareholders, not those who are motivated purely to make a short-term gain."

The machinations of boards and activist shareholders are not the normal stuff of this column, but I feel that Laxley is trying to achieve something worthwhile here – whatever the motivation – namely bringing some accountability to the investment trust sector. For far too long, investment trusts have meandered along, paying low dividends and generally allowing their shares to trade at persistent discounts to the actual values of the assets that the trust holds. Alliance, as the biggest of the lot, has been one of the worst offenders. Discipline is called for and perhaps Laxley's proposal will bring this. Next month's Alliance AGM will show whether or not Ms Garrett-Cox deserves her monicker.

Ryanair not guilty shock

There has been an accusation – pardon the pun – flying around the internet that budget airline Ryanair is placing cookies on customer computers to manipulate the price of flights. Here's how it's supposed to work: a customer logs on to the Ryanair website to check a flight's price; their presence is tracked by a cookie, so that when they go back online later to buy the price is miraculously more expensive. Being Ryanair, many of us are willing to believe the worst. But Invisblehand has mystery shopped the Ryanair site and found the claims are nonsense. There were no changes in flights between first and second times a customer logged on any of the 50 or so routes investigated.

Ryanair is exonerated, but what about other operators? I remember booking flights to Australia last year for me and a friend through a major travel website. I logged on, saw the price was £707 a seat, contacted my friend and confirmed we'd go for it, logged back on a few minutes later and, lo and behold, seats were now £860. I called my friend and he logged on and saw the lower price, but one mistaken log-off later the higher price was in situ. Several days later I went back to the site and there again was the original lower price, which again went back up when I logged in and out. This is just one anecdotal account but it seems that it is technically possible for agents and airlines to track your usage of a site and perform what is apparently called in marketing circles "dynamic pricing"' – that's ripping off in plain English. If you've got similar stories I'd like to hear from you.

Credibility bypass

The Treasury Select Committee's report into UK banking last week was the dampest of squibs. We need more openness from the banks and it should be easier to switch accounts they said. Whoopee-do: how long did it take the MPs to come up with the same stuff I've heard from the same committee in the last two parliaments? Now the TSC wants banks to revisit the phasing out of cheques. Why, precisely? Cheques are expensive and anachronistic. As for the argument that the elderly won't be able to cope with eight years' notice of the cheque's demise, it is frankly insulting. The TSC is proving a pale, populist shadow of its previ–ous incarnation. It's in danger of a credibility bypass.

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    SThree: Graduate Recruitment Resourcer

    £20000 per annum + commission: SThree: Sthree have an exciting opportunity for...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £32,000+

    £18000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

    £45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

    Neil Pavier: Commercial Analyst

    £50,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you a professionally qualified commercial ...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

    War with Isis

    Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
    Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

    A spring in your step?

    Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

    Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
    Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

    Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

    For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
    Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

    Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

    As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
    The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

    UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

    Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

    Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
    Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

    Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

    If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
    10 best compact cameras

    A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

    If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
    Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

    Paul Scholes column

    Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
    Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
    Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?