Credit crisis diary: Blue ski thinking
Wednesday 31 December 2008
Three cheers for the Pollyannas at Jet Republic, who either haven't realised the world is in economic turmoil or simply don't care. The private jet company – hardly the most recession-proof of sectors – has launched a Ski Card that promises to give clients "easy, hassle-free access to Europe's finest ski resorts". The only problem is their glittering new deal targets a dwindling bunch: those in the City set to pick up bonuses this year. Oops... As the joke runs, for many bankers keeping their job will be their only bonus this year.
Nevertheless, with optimism that would put Molière's Candide to shame, Jet Republic's chief executive, Jonathan Breeze, says: "Many people are still receiving large bonuses, and those that love skiing should be interested in our new Ski Card." For just €54,600 (£53,430) you and five bonus-rich pals will be entitled to 10 hours private jet travel to resorts across Europe. The number of times bonus-less bankers could fly to Geneva on a budget airline for the same cost? 1,820.
Happy new year
All this jovial talk is more contagious than the seasonal sniffles, with several groups signing up to the bulls' rearguard action yesterday. One association put out a statement saying the bounce in house prices could be as steep as the recent precipitous falls. Which disinterested group came out with this great news for homeowners? Why, the National Association of Estate Agents, of course. This comes just as a private equity investor says now is the time to get stuck into buyouts, as company valuations have dropped to sensible levels. This good tip from Hotbed, while it does have some merit, is based on comparative numbers from the 1991 downturn. It fails to mention that the buyout market was then a fraction of the size, how many deals failed, and that this time around access to debt has dried up, and hence the lucrativefinancial engineering with it. That is why most of the big houses are now spending more time than ever "focusing on their portfolio companies".
Turned out nice again
In the middle of an economic tempest, the legendary investor Warren Buffett looks to have landed another windfall: betting on balmy weather. The billionaire owner of Berkshire Hathaway is set to pick up $224m (£155m) from Florida if the state is not battered by a Katrina-style hurricane within the next 24 hours. In July, Florida disclosed it had paid $224m for Buffett to pitch in should a storm smash the state up: he pledged to back debt worth $4.4bn. But so far the state hasn't needed to raise funds for storm repair. It looks like the wily tycoon is basking in the sunshine once again.
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