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.
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
- 1 Jeremy Clarkson 'sees no problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC
- 2 'Alien thigh bone' on Mars: Excitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
- 3 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 4 London restaurant 34 creates champagne glass modelled on Kate Moss’ left breast
- 5 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Bin bag full of cats' heads discovered near Manchester's Curry Mile
Disgusting, frustrating, but intriguing: how the country really feels about its politicians
iJobs Money & Business
£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C#.NET ...
£20000 - £30000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Junior D...
£550 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Traded Credit Risk - Investmen...
£55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...
Day In a Page
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green
Look forward to a brighter future at two-bedroom Sunny Cottages, ideal for Londoners looking to downsize
A three-bedroom red-brick cottage with outbuildings and pretty gardens, £200,000
This three-bedroom flat within a former textile factory spans the corner of the fourth floor and has a balcony