Private Investor: Blunkett takes a tumble, but Tesco strides on - for now

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The Independent Online

Well, there's no doubt what the big story of the week is. Apart from David Blunkett, of course, although I rather wonder about his investment strategy; a lump of cash placed in the shares of just one company.

What about pound cost averaging David? What about the clear advantages of a collective fund for those with relatively modest sums - say £15,000 - to invest. And what about only investing in businesses that you actually understand? Well, maybe DNA Bioscience actually does qualify on that criteria.

The returns from a shareholding in DNA Bioscience, for Blunkett and/or members of his family may well have turned out to be substantial, even spectacular. But what a lot of risk, eh? Now he's back on his backbencher's salary of £59,095 with a problematic background when it comes to acquiring new company directorships. If I were Blunkett I'd be finding myself a decent financial adviser and looking into some broad based investment trusts ( Foreign & Colonial is my own long term core investment). Has Blunkett got the pension provision in place he needs for his retirement? I only ask.

Then there was that other eye catching tale; the Telefonica bid for O2. I have been buying lumps of O2 actually ever since it was spun out of BT four years ago, when BT shareholders were offered some "free shares" from the demerger plus the opportunity to acquire some more at an attractive price of 80p.

So I bought some more. Then the great telecoms crash sunk O2 and they slumped to half that level, at which point I bought some more. And have carried on buying the occasional slice, the last purchases being only a couple of weeks ago at about 156p. Now we have a cash bid of 200p, so I'm in the money.

Naturally, I have to add that nothing yet seems to have happened to the other smaller telecoms companies I bought into - Colt and Kingston.

By the way, your one share in the old 2001 BT, worth, say, 333p, is now one share in BT worth 210p plus one share in O2, now 200p. So you're better off. Not much, but a little.

However for me the truly significant development in the past week has been the persistent pressure driving even more persistent rumours that the competition authorities might be willing to take an axe to Tesco.

The worrying thing is not where Tesco is now - at 30 per cent of the grocery market - but where it is going. This was explored by Jeremy Warner, The Independent's business editor, in a recent column and it made for interesting reading. Tesco itself says it wants to grow in the UK by 6 per cent a year and it has the land bank and the management expertise to make that happen. It can also continue expanding into almost every nook and cranny of our lives, from car insurance to broadband internet connections. There must come a point when even Tesco's most ardent admirers might wonder if one chain can receive perhaps 50 per cent of all retail spending with no ill-effects.

On the other hand, apart from the businesses that are knocked sideways when a Tesco turns up on their doorstep it is difficult to identify what actual harm has so far come about simply because of Tesco's size.

Returning to the Blunkett affair, the state the Government is in you never know what sort of crowd pleasing stunts they may pull. Knocking the supermarkets occupies roughly the place in our national life that knocking British Rail, the Gas Board and the Post Office did in the 1970s. Except that in those days we criticised them for being too unsuccessful.

Now it seems Tesco, as with the big pharmaceutical firms and fast food companies, is too successful. Will we ever be happy?

Email: s.o'grady@independent.co.uk

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