Private Investor: Singin' the Baker Street blues for that ol' retail monolith
Saturday 12 June 2004
Windin' your way down on Baker Street
Windin' your way down on Baker Street
Light in your head and dead on your feet
Well another crazy day
You'll drink the night away
And forget about everything
There are some songs sometimes that, like a wasp stuck in a jam jar, you just can't get out of your head. Watching the comings and goings at Marks & Spencer's Baker Street headquarters I'm afraid that that great old standard by Gerry Rafferty keeps going round and round in my head. So I looked up the lyrics in the hope of finding a cheap line or two and, happily, as you see I am now in a position to quote these for the benefit and entertainment of M&S stakeholders everywhere. All together now:
You used to think that it was so easy
You used to say that it was so easy
But you're tryin'
You're tryin' now
Another year and then you'll be happy
Just one more year and then you'll be happy
But you're cryin'
You're cryin' now
I imagine that Vittorio Radice, the latest casualty of the upheaval wrought by Philip Green's bid, may well be crying into his M&S Luxury Muesli today. I do feel sorry for him, actually, because he at least seemed to have some flair and imagination and the ambition to inject some appeal into the firm's products.
Maybe he didn't succeed as handsomely as he ought to have but, with M&S as with so many other businesses, that long-term success is only ever going to be product-led, and that was and is Marks's problem. Why, I even have friends and colleagues, long-standing customers, who say that the old quality and durability isn't there now. Perhaps Mr Radice, like Mr Rafferty's subject, felt he needed more time, maybe another year, to see his ideas through and deliver the sales success shareholders have been promised for so long. In any case, Mr Radice was doomed when Stuart Rose was brought in to replace the former chief executive, Roger Holmes, as M&S responded to the Green bid.
Mr Green, on the other hand, is at his laid-back best. I wrote last week that he wouldn't have to improve his offer by very much to tempt smaller shareholder such as me to back his bid, and he has been dropping hints along those lines. Personally I wouldn't mind a bit of "stub equity" as well as a few pence more on the offer. Three American funds, for example, own a whole 18 per cent of the company, about the same as we thousands of private investors put together.
So we matter a bit, and much more than we would in most companies, but Mr Green can still get his prize without our help. As so often, we find ourselves in the hands of large institutional, foreign-based funds whose attitude in the affairs of the companies they are invested in is usually dormant to comatose. I can only hope that Mr Green wakes them up.
Mr Green's isn't the only bid, or rumoured bid, in town of course. My holdings in Colt Telecom and Kingston Communications have benefited from such talk in the City, which has proved remarkably persistent in both cases. The company I am surprised has not yet found itself on the end of a Green-style bid is BT. It's still big, but it's maybe not too big to be targeted, although the regulatory hurdles for any likely bidder might be very high. Like Marks, BT has not been well led. I never understood why BT insisted on selling its mobile telephony arm a few years ago, even if it was hard up.
Now, though, the company is promising radical changes in the way it runs its infrastructure and, most importantly, seems to be concentrating on broadband, surely the great growth area. The strategy is called "the Twenty-First Century Network", so it's four years late (boom, boom), but in the case of BT, better late than never. The thing about BT is that its shares have just been completely left behind by the revival in the sector. So, somewhat to my own surprise, I have bought some more. I wonder how long the bid will be?
Mark Dampier: 'We're on our own in retirement. They've pulled pensions to pieces'
Donald MacInnes: 'I have to have £500 a month spare from now until at least 2035'
HSBC becomes first bank to offer five-year fixed rate mortgage with interest rate under 2%
Crippling PFI deals leave Britain £222bn in debt
Pension freedoms: How to deal with cold calls from scammers
- 1 Alan Rickman admits editing 'terrible' script with friends in Pizza Hut behind backs of writers on Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
- 2 Rarest Beanie Baby of them all could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 3 Professional big game hunter Ian Gibson crushed to death by elephant during hunt
- 4 Farmer told to tear down mock-Tudor castle after hiding construction behind hay bales
- 5 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
iJobs Money & Business
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...
£50000 - £667000 per annum + excellent benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Manager / ...
£13000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...
£40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...
Day In a Page
With space for an equestrian business, a greenhouse for growing your own veg, a wine store and a gym; this five-bedroom home has all the ingredients for a country retreat.
This four-bedroom home has exposed brick chimneys and a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining - the doors open to the patio and garden.
The decked roof terrace of this two-bedroom flat is perfect for summer drinks while large windows and ample storage space make for a light and spacious interior.
Surrounded by approximately 15 acres of grounds, this six-bedroom grade II-listed home has been extensively refurbished yet retains many period features.
This four-bedroom home comes with a two-bedroom cottage and commercial office, with planning to extend, in a stunning courtyard setting.
In a pretty Norfolk village, this four-bedroom family home is surrounded by landscaped gardens, with even a self-contained annex for guests.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
This five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors of a converted Victorian hospital, offering spectacular views of the Pentland Hills - only three miles from the city centre.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
A boutique mews house, set around a central courtyard, with three bedrooms and a private roof terrace
A four-bedroom farm-conversion with three bathrooms and two reception rooms
A two-bedroom detached house with ensuite bathrooms and a sun-drenched decked terrace, £750,000
A modern and spacious two-bedroom, penthouse flat with two bathrooms in a prestigious development
A beautifully renovated five-bedroom terrace with three reception rooms and a courtyard garden, £700,000
A four-bedroom period house which has been extended to provide almost 2,500sq ft of living space, £675,000
A pretty three-bedroom Georgian home with a 22ft drawing room and a master suite with a balcony, £525,000