Margareta Pagano: London's drive to Hong Kong, via Mongolia
Sunday 10 April 2011
Mongolia's stock exchange is the prettiest pink-and-white, neoclassical fairytale affair, once a children's cinema, across the road from the parliament in Ulan Bator.
It was founded by Naidansurengiin Zolzhargal, a descendant of Genghis Khan, some 20 years ago and, although it is the smallest exchange in the world by market value, it is also the best-performing. Mineral-rich Mongolia is bursting with resources, including hectare after hectare of forests, tons of fish, gold, iron ore, fluorite, uranium and coal, and foreign direct investment is growing at 30 per cent per annum and likely to hit $11bn in a few years.
So it's no wonder that Xavier Rolet, the boss of the London Stock Exchange, has jumped at the chance to set up a new partnership with the Mongolian exchange. He visited the capital last Thursday to celebrate the deal, which was signed by Mongolia's Prime Minister, Sukhbaatar Batbold, and which is a great one for both parties. For Mongolia, it brings the stamp of London's approval and its reputation for transparency, which is so vital in a fast-growing economy such as this. One of its biggest companies, Tavan Tolgoi, an $8bn state-owned coal mine, is already on its way to a London listing (although it's likely to head for Hong Kong as well), and there are many more companies seeking new capital and investors. It's a full-on partnership, with London providing the new technology, new rules, new regulations and everything else it takes to build a modern stock market; it will also help with the privatisation of the exchange.
This brings me to the latest tie-ups of exchanges elsewhere in the world. As predicted, the Americans have reacted with what you might call naked protectionism to Deutsche Börse's bid for the NYSE Euronext. There's no doubt in my mind that the Americans have encouraged a rival offer from the hi-tech Nasdaq and the Intercontinental Exchange to trump the Germans. So, bar divine intervention, it looks as if they will succeed in creating one of the world's biggest exchanges. Deutsche's bid is just one in a long line of foreign takeovers that America has managed to rebuff.
This opens up a wonderful opportunity for Rolet: he should make Frankfurt his next pit stop, to chat to Deutsche's Reto Francioni about a possible merger. And, even though the German exchange is worth three times as much, there's no reason why London shouldn't emerge as at least an equal. The last time the two tried to walk to the altar it ended in disaster, but memories are short and the people at the top very different, so there seems no reason why they shouldn't get the structure right now.
There's another stopover that Rolet should make in his travels and that's Hong Kong, which recently expressed interest in talking to partners. Hong Kong is still the best way into mainland China, certainly until it opens its own market, and would give London the eastern leg of the golden triangle. Most of the new listings out of China and Asia are looking at dual listings in London and Hong Kong anyway, so its logical the two should share more than a common language.
As London is showing with Mongolia, exchanges move to where capital is needed and the Far East is going to be gobbling up a lot for a long time to come. Mongolia is an exotic first step, but the longer journey for Rolet should be to go further east.
If you want an example of melting-pot Britain, go down to the City
It's obvious that Nick Clegg hasn't been down to the Corney & Barrow bar overlooking the ice rink at Broadgate recently. If he had, the Deputy Prime Minister would be able to see and hear the raucous young brokers screaming at each other to celebrate another day's work. He would soon realise that many still come from the East End, Essex and the surrounding areas, but today most of them have excellent degrees. Moving across to the posher Royal Exchange, the old Liffe building, he would find an exotic mix of Moroccan quants, French derivatives traders with PhDs in mathematics, and Harvard-trained takeover experts mingling over their Dom Perignon.
What they have in common is highly trained minds, and fantastic educations. Most have made it on their own tickets, competing for jobs from thousands of applications. There are those who have had a leg up the ladder because of family connections, but that's rare, and rarer today than ever before. Indeed, over the past 30 years or so the City has become more of a melting pot of talent and skills than anywhere else in British industry. Those days when Freddie got a job at Cazenove because Mark's wife's father used to run Lazard are over.
In fact, the reverse is true. Most of the big banks, law and accountancy firms have a strict policy about family members working in their companies, and even internships for family friends are frowned upon. Many run their own programmes to help the more disadvantaged, such as a scheme from the New City Initiative, a think tank run by Daniel Pinto of Stanhope Capital, to improve relations between the City and society. From this summer, Stanhope and other financial firms, such as Vestra Wealth and Odey, will be offering 25 second-year students from Leeds, Thames Valley and Westminister universities a three-week internship. As Pinto says: "I'm keen to show the public that ambitious young students are welcome in the City, and this scheme will be a great springboard for them."
Loss Leader: One of England's biggest stars loses his shine
Wayne Rooney's foul-mouthed outburst during a match a week ago only confirms how right Coca-Cola was to pull its £600,000 sponsorship deal with the footballer. The latest in a long run of bad behaviour was enough to push the company into confirming last week that it had ended its relationship with the Manchester United player. Whether he likes it or not, Rooney is a role model for thousands of young boys and teenagers around the world. Companies such as Coca-Cola put money behind celebrities like him only because the association adds to their reputations. When that association turns sour, it's only fitting that they should withdraw their endorsements. After all, the company has a responsibility to its young, impressionable customers. And it may have helped Rooney – hours after the decision he went on to score a beauty against Chelsea. Now he has something to prove again.
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