Private Investor: A&L is fast food but is it French or Spanish?

So where's the bid, then? Having reinvested in Alliance & Leicester in the hope of a quick buck or two - nothing. Not a sausage. Where is Banco Santander? What is Crédit Agricole up to? There's plenty of titbits in the papers about them running after A&L. Figures of £13 or £15 a share are mentioned.

The British banking market must be one of the most open to foreign takeovers in the world, if not the most open. It may be that, before long, many more of the venerable pillars of our financial services industry will end up under new ownership, with ultimate management control domiciled somewhere away from London or Edinburgh.

Anyone with ambitions in this direction would seem well advised to start off with one of the many easily digestible units quoted on the stock market, such as Alliance & Leicester or Northern Rock or Bradford & Bingley, simply to get the exposure to the UK market and learn more about the environment.

After all, it worked well for all those French and German companies that bought up pretty much all of our water and electricity companies.

Now that we no longer seem prepared to cordon off the financial sector as "special" and subject to "national interest" considerations, why shouldn't banking go the same way? Abbey National's takeover by Banco Santander ought to be the harbinger of a much larger trend.

Yet it hasn't materialised, notwithstanding the slightly fevered atmosphere last week. Part of the fall in the A&L share price is just down to them going ex-dividend. I suspect, however, that A&L just won't be able to hang around as an independent for that much longer. This was fairly clear even when the former building society decided to demutualise a few years ago, and it's only been a matter of time, really.

What is relatively new is that its range of predators has suddenly been increased by this raft of European and other bidders. Even if they don't gobble it up this time, they will do so eventually. I'd be surprised if I still had shares in Alliance & Leicester in a year's time, say. And if it does go for £15 or so, it'll easily have been worth the short wait.

I'm delighted that Urban Dining, which had been a disappointing investment for me, is being taken over by Clapham House. Urban Dining did posh burgers in the Tootsies chain, but that doesn't really seem to have gone as well as it might. Clapham House is behind the Real Greek, Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Bombay Bicycle Club chains, and I think it has a better grip on the middle market of the restaurant trade.

I've taken the opportunity to add some shares in Clapham House to the portfolio. Thus, it joins La Tasca as my other tasty titbit (it runs very pleasant tapas bars, in case you haven't tried one yet).

There are lots of reasons not to invest in catering - the competition is intense, and getting more so as every high street turns into a mall of eateries rather than shops. Customers are also fickle, and you are always exposed to any downturn that means people trimming their budgets for going out. And yet, if you can get the formula right, in the long term there are few other ways of making the most of increasing prosperity and the well-observed trend for leisure spending to rise over time.

Otherwise, I have only to note my astonishment at the rise and rise of Rio Tinto. I bought this about 10 years ago as a little bit of boring stability in the mix. I don't think I was banking on it going up by 500 per cent, and yet that is what has transpired. I managed to buy a few shares at about 650p or so, and the last time I looked they had crested £31 each. Like my other holdings in Rolls-Royce and BAA, this wasn't in the plot, but for one reason or another these big, steady firms have been showing some remarkable gains recently.

BAA has been helped along by the takeover talk, Rio Tinto by the boom (or bubble?) in commodities and Rolls-Royce by the recovery in air travel, but it just shows you can make good returns from big businesses. Except Vodafone - but that's another tale.

s.ogrady@independent.co.uk

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

News
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
people
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Sport
Louis van Gaal at the Hawthorns prior to Manchester United's game against West Brom
football

Follow the latest updates from the Monday night Premier League fixture

News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister
news

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Concerns raised phenomenon is threatening resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

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

    Customer Service Executive / Inbound Customer Service Agent

    £18 - 23k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Customer Service Executiv...

    ASP.NET Web Developer / .NET Developer

    £60 - 65k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a ASP.NET Web Developer / ....

    Operational Risk Manager - Asset Management

    £60,000 - £80,000: Saxton Leigh: Our client is an leading Asset Manager based...

    Project Coordinator - 12 month contract

    £27000 - £32000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our large charity ...

    Day In a Page

    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
    Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

    How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

    'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

    Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

    Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
    Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

    Terry Venables column

    Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
    The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

    Michael Calvin's Inside Word

    Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past