Abigail Townsend: Don't believe the hype? The City just lapped it up

Carphone Warehouse and gaming sites show sure bets can go wrong

Remember the old saying that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is? Well, a number of people in the City apparently forgot - and so must have had a rude awakening in recent weeks.

Take, for instance, online gaming companies. Well over a year ago, I remember talking to a senior leisure analyst. While not writing off the sector, he was insistent that the US would not ignore the grey legality of these sites indefinitely.

At the time, though, his was largely a lone voice - and one that was drowned out by the stampede of investors desperate to get a piece of this booming sector. Since then, we have seen directors arrested, sites shutting down and values plummeting. And last week, Sportingbet's US operations were sold off for one lonely dollar.

I'm not saying online gaming sites aren't viable, because there are. A regrouping is needed, a time to lick wounds and take the sting of write-downs and losses. Then new markets will be found and gamblers outside the US signed up.

But the excitement was generated by the US - a huge market that provided these sites with all their cash. It was just a shame no one much cared about the legal implications.

Then, of course, we've had Carphone Warehouse. For years, the retailer has been everyone's favourite, with its chief executive, Charles Dunstone, quite rightly winning plaudits for the way he ran his business.

Yet no company is immune to risk, and no chief immune to making the wrong decision. So while there can be little doubt that the retailer's deal to buy AOL's internet access in the UK, announced during its roller-coaster ride last week, was a good one, not everything, all the time, was going to go Mr Dunstone's way.

Vodafone's decision to end a 17-year relationship selling phones in Carphone Warehouse is entirely understandable. The mobiles giant is losing market share in the UK and, whatever the reasons for this, it has taken a hopeful step towards changing its fortunes by securing lower commissions and a sales guarantee from its new vendor, Phones4U.

Orange then revealed it was reviewing its sales strategy, and O 2 said it would be sticking by the retailer - though if there was a chance to get lower commissions from it, well, why not? All this should not have come as a surprise, but judging by the share price slide, it apparently did.

And finally, there is YouTube, the $1.65bn (£887m) website snapped up by Google and the cause of much debate - including later in these pages - about whether this is a sensible way to spend money or another bubble forming.

I think these valuations are definitely too high, though with the caveat that eventually things will settle and these investments, in same cases at least, will be made good.

But nothing in business is guaranteed. Markets and companies move in cycles. Busts follow booms follow busts. So when in doubt, remember: if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Give mothers a break

A number of readers - all women - have been in touch after last week's column about gender in the workplace. There I made a plea for women to be judged on their abilities, and not singled out for being female, regardless of the good intentions. Some readers agreed, others didn't. But one made a point I had neglected to address: children.

Creating a level playing field in the workplace is not helped by giving women special treatment - but neither is it helped by our attitudes to mothers. Childcare is expensive and rarely flexible enough. Hours in the City are long and competitive; knocking off early to pick up children, even when time is made up, can be viewed dimly.

Business and government must give those who go on to be mothers the tools that allow them, should they choose, to take their places back at their desks.


The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
Life and Style

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Customer Service Executive / Inbound Customer Service Agent

£18 - 23k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Customer Service Executiv...

ASP.NET Web Developer / .NET Developer

£60 - 65k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a ASP.NET Web Developer / ....

Operational Risk Manager - Asset Management

£60,000 - £80,000: Saxton Leigh: Our client is an leading Asset Manager based...

Project Coordinator - 12 month contract

£27000 - £32000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our large charity ...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album