It's going to be one of those years: 2010 will either see the global economy emerge into full-blown recovery from three years of corporate turmoil, credit crunches and despair, or it will bring in the dreaded W-shaped recession, where the world suffers two steep dips in close succession.
Fine-tuning the economy, raising money on the capital markets, a mooted mergers-and-acquisitions revival, and industrial strife are among the many reasons why the 10 people we've listed on these two pages are expected to dominate the headlines this year.
They are some of the UK's top bankers and businessmen and women, and they come from financial sectors ranging from the price spike-and-dive turbulence of the commodities world to an embattled private-equity boss who is trying to survive a troubled foray into the music industry.
Most of them will be familiar to you because their stories had already started to unfold in 2009. However, their actions in the coming year will be closely watched as the months unfold.
The financial markets will be looking for happy endings – otherwise there could be yet another mass sell-off and credit squeeze, with the FTSE 100 collapsing yet again, and a sterling crisis. We'll get a better glimpse of how the year will pan out when GDP figures for the fourth quarter are published at the end of the month.
We have chosen these 10 figures as the ones to watch in 2010 and as the ones who have more influence on the fate of the financial system than they probably realise. No pressure, guys.
Cynthia Carroll was always an extraordinary appointment to head up Anglo American, the mining giant, in the most macho industry in the FTSE. Mining company executives are typically tough, powerful, straight-talking and unyielding. They are, typically, men.
There has been more than a whiff of sexism in the manner that Carroll has been criticised since her tenure started nearly three years ago. Yes, she slashed the annual dividend payout to investors this year for the first time in 60 years, but she also fought off the so-called "merger of equals" proposed by Xstrata's famously acquisition-hungry Mick Davis.
Given that Anglo's assets are considered to be far superior to Xstrata's, she was right – and brave – to shake off some investor pressure to enter into talks with Davis. A major restructuring of senior management has tightened her grip, but Carroll will have to deliver the $2bn of cost savings that she's promised by the end of 2011.
Girl with a gameplan
Easing the quantitative?
The Governor of the Bank of England has the toughest job of all this election year to ensure the politic stays out of the economic. Mervyn King and his Monetary Policy Committee have voted, for now, to go easy on Quantitative Easing in the hope that enough money has been pumped into the system to stimulate lending and provide confidence to corporate UK. But the big challenges for King are higher than expected inflation figures and fears of a sterling crisis, should further bad economic numbers (GDP figures at the end of the month) scare the markets and prompt a further downgrade of the UK's debt. Politicians will want interest rates to stay low, but King may come under pressure to push rates up to keep markets happy. Luckily, he has shown to be good at standing up to politicians. So far, King has been a lone warrior, warning loud and clear about the UK's deteriorating fiscal position and the need for further banking reform to prevent new bubbles. He mustn't give up the fight.
The best opposition party we've got
Flak from all sides
Every year seems to be a big one for Willie Walsh, the embattled British Airways (BA) chief executive, since he took over in 2005. Most recently, of course, he managed to win a legal fight to prevent his staff going on strike, which at least meant that 2009 ended a little better than he might have feared.
But 2010 is going to be tough. The strike – which is over job security – is likely to have only been delayed rather than averted, as the problems related to the eligibility of some of those in the ballot. It is likely that a new vote will bring roughly the same overwhelming result in favour of strike action.
Walsh is also trying to secure a merger with Spanish peer Iberia, the combined group would be able to save about £400m in costs. However, problems with BA's pension deficit threaten to wreck these plans.
Nerves of steel required
Rolling the dice...
Is the debonair Frenchman running the London Stock Exchange the man to end centuries of splendid isolation? Not even a year into the job, and Xavier Rolet has been quick to neutralise his enemies in the investment banks who have been moaning about the LSE's fees for years by buying Turquoise, the rival exchange set up to challenge the LSE.
A banker by training, Rolet has brought technology back in-house, wants to rebuild AIM and prevent further fragmentation with the growth of alternative platforms such as Plus Markets. He's also calling for clearing houses in Europe to be regulated by central banks in order to guard against systemic risk, arguing they should all have the same risk models. So far, so good. But Rolet's big challenge is to stabilise the LSE's share register, still dominated by the hedgies – by bringing in new partners to buy Dubai Borse's stake or by bidding for another exchange himself, to bulk up. At 715p, shares are vulnerable.
Putting stock in the future
Banking on a move?
Direct, tough, brilliant. Ian Hannam is one of the great investment bankers of his generation. In 2009 Hannam helped steer JP Morgan Cazenove into the powerhouse of rights issues, acting for FTSE 100 stalwarts HSBC, Xstrata and Land Securities among many others. But, Hannam missed out on the top job at Caz in 2008, as Naguib Kheraj took the reins. Hannam, who is chairman of capital markets, is known to have seriously considered his position. He stayed on and is set for a bumper payday when Caz, a near-two-century-old institution, is formally taken over by JP Morgan early this year. Having cashed in his chips, Hannam may well be tempted elsewhere. There would be a lot of takers for the grand rainmaker.
Soldier of great fortune
On your marks, Bolland
If ICI was traditionally the bellwether of the UK economy, today it's how loud the tills toll at Marks & Spencer which gives one of the best guides to how Middle England is faring. The beer to supermarkets boss Mark Bolland takes on the M&S mantle later this month when he succeeds Sir Stuart Rose as chief executive. Bolland has a lot to live up to as he's already been dubbed the £720m man – news of his departure from Morrisons saw £380m sliced off the company's value, while news of his appointment at M&S added £340m.
Although Bolland may not know that much about frocks and frilly knickers, he knows a great deal about international marketing from his days striding the globe for Heineken. And it's this knowledge of overseas that Sir Stuart wants him to bring to the high-street retailer, as M&S looks to take its quintessential Englishness to the middle-classes of the Bric countries such as China and India. And that's just for starters.
Please, get off that fence!
Come on Clive, it's time to make up your mind and put the market out of its misery. Are you or are you not going to bid for Legal & General (L&G)?
Clive Cowdery has been rumoured to be circling the insurance giant through his hugely acquisitive Resolution vehicle for what feels like an eternity, L&G stock fluctuating with every new bit of speculation. There has been talk that L&G's management could sell a number of divisions to create a sleeker entity, one capable of fighting off its potential predator.
Even if Cowdery rules out a bid, Resolution is still expected to add to its recent high-profile purchase – the £1.86bn buyout of Friends Provident – and maintain its position as the market's major consolidator.
Will he or won't he?
Hands up who had heard of Irene Rosenfeld before last year. Not a lot of you, are there? Rosenfeld, right, is the acquisition-starved chief executive of Kraft Foods, the maker of Ritz Crackers and Terry's Chocolate Orange. She hit the headlines in November with a £10bn offer for Cadbury, formalised last month. The Dairy Milk maker believes that the bid is well below its value, and that Rosenfeld is trying to snap up one of confectionery's greatest names on the cheap. The market awaits Rosenfeld's next move. Few think that Cadbury shareholders will accept the offer. If Rosenfeld is serious, it seems likely that the move will be revised upwards in the opening weeks of 2010. By the end of this month, Rosenfeld could be sitting atop a new mega-giant in the global confectionery market – or she might be seen as the loser in one of the great modern takeover sagas.
Hands off EMI
At the time it seemed like a bit of an odd move. As the financial markets were collapsing in 2007, Terra Firma boss Guy Hands decides to buy record label EMI. Struggling with the terms of the debt repayment, Hands kicks off 2010 in an almighty battle to retain control of the business.
Hands is suing Citi, claiming that the bank made fraudulent statements during the 2007 auction, an allegation the bank vigorously denies. The tale gets juicier as it was Citi that helped fund the acquisition, and the bank was reported to have lined up potential buyers for the business, though it has since denied this. Hands is said to have decided to block any sale unless Terra Firma is given two-fifths of the price. He also suggested injecting cash into EMI if Citi agreed to write off that amount of the original loan.
Let battle commence
Talk about making an impact
Within days of becoming chairwoman of Land Securities, the property giant that posted a £4.8bn loss in May, Alison Carnwath demanded a radical rethink of the firm's strategy. Carnwath has sought to play down the force of her challenge – reported at the time as an ultimatum to chief executive Francis Salway – but not the substance. She wants to see a more aggressive developer that sells on its assets and makes decisions at "a bit more pace".
It's a big year for commercial property, given that there should be cheap but essentially good assets on the market ready to be snapped up by big players like Land Securities.
After raising £756m from a rights issue last year, Carnwath's fast-moving strategy should take form through a series of major purchases.
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