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
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
football
Life and Style
Jack Cooksey goes for the grand unveiling - moments before dropping his new iPhone 6 on the floor
iphone launch
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Life and Style
Customers look at the new iPhones on display at the launch of the new Apple iPhone 6 and iphone 6 plus at the Apple IFC store in Hong Kong
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Sport
Andros Townsend is challenged by Vladimir Volkov
football
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
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

    SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

    £320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

    Head of Audit

    To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...

    Audit Manager Central Functions

    To £85,000 + banking benefits: Saxton Leigh: You will be expected to carry out...

    Credit Risk Audit Manager

    Up to £90,000 + benefits: Saxton Leigh: Credit Risk Audit Manager required to ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week