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

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
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

    Guru Careers: Pricing Analyst

    £30 - 35k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pricing Analyst to join a leading e-...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K YR1: SThree: At SThree, we like to be dif...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is a mul...

    Guru Careers: C# Project Team Lead

    £55 - 65k (DOE): Guru Careers: A unique opportunity for a permanent C# Develop...

    Day In a Page

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor