A Weekly Digest of The World's Financial Press
Wednesday 03 March 1999
Why companies should provide investors with more frequent information
BRITISH COMPANIES should move to quarterly reporting immediately, with monthly frequency a realistic target.
An imaginative company would make its data available on its website in manipulable formats. Long-run data, in a standardised format, are also badly needed. Once these steps are taken, the way is clear for more frequent reporting.
Today's annual report is, like a Victorian snapshot, an artificial moment in time. Just over half a century ago, the Lumiere brothers broke free, to bring us the motion picture. Business activity, like the life that films capture, is a flow, not a series of discontinuous steps. It is time for corporate reporting to make that switch.
Peter Martin, FT columnist
On how Olivetti's bid for Telecom Italia signals a turning point for European capitalism
A FLOOD of private investment in equities is forcing Italian capital markets to grow more sophisticated fast. And old-boy relationships are fraying. For example, Milan's secretive Mediobanca, once the virtual house bank of the Agnellis, is backing Olivetti, while the Agnellis themselves are publically backing Franco Bernabe.
Hordes of American investment bankers are speeding this transformation. In fact, it was bankers from Lehman and DLJ who came up with the idea for Olivetti's raid. In the coming days, Italian politicans may find it hard to resist interfering. But whether Olivetti succeeds or fails is almost beside the point: For European capitalism, there is no going back.
Wall St Journal
On how Tony Blair must now move the euro debate in Britain forward
THE WARS of the euro-(sceptics/enthusiasts) generate a lot of heat, but little light. The only constant in the mindnumbing crossfire was the government's agility in parrying the question of how to decide.
That, at least has changed. Prime Minister Tony Blair made clear he wants to see Britain join the euro as soon as possible. Now, the cards are stacked against entry into EMU. Mr Blair's first test will come in the election for the European Parliament in June.
Mr Blair must win support for his government's policy not with slogans, but by cutting through the Strum und Drang of the current "debate" and putting the arguments directly to the British people.
On how the Revenue is trying to chip away pension funds' privileged
THE REVENUE is in effect trying to move the goal posts retrospectively by using anti-avoidance legislation enacted long before such [share] buybacks were even thought of.
It is Parliament, not the Revenue, that should be laying down the law on taxes. But the Revenue's action is even more extraordinary given the Government's eagerness to encourage funded pensions.
The Revenue appears to be ploughing a semi-autonomous furrow with its "paid-by-results" investigators and it is hard to reconcile what it is up to with the Government's broader policy aims on pensions. The Government should call its tax collectors to heel.
On US threats to impose punative tariffs on European luxury goods over bananas
SOME EXPERTS believe establishing the authority of the WTO is worth America's thick-skinned approach. Still, it is an open question whether the strategy of targeting products is useful; it is certainly ugly to watch.
Unfortunately, there are few choices available to countries whose economies have been harmed by discriminatory trade policies.
For now, America and Europe are squabbling over a little yellow fruit that neither one produces. And folks [producing cashmere] in the Scottish Borders have little choice but to pray that calmer heads - prevail in time to save their fall season - and their jobs.
Len A Costa
The single European currency is already showing signs of wear and tear
EUROPE'S ECONOMIC road is looking suddenly much bumpier. This is not the euro's fault. But the rules surrounding it may make things worse. The European Central Bank has said it will not reduce interest rates unless governments continue to reduce their budget deficits. In the long run that is a worthy goal. But now it misses the point. Not only does the combined stance of monetary and fiscal policy need to be eased in the euro area, but in some economies fiscal policy may need to be used to support demand. The euro's design faults increase the risk that a slowdown in growth could lead to a recession. Which might put at risk even the euro's very survival.
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