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Business News

The business week in review: Facebook's flotation, Xstrata, Fred the Shred


In profit ...

After the famine, the feast. And bankers on both sides of the Atlantic were salivating after two of the biggest deals of any year – let alone one that follows a four-and-a-half year credit crunch/financial crisis/global meltdown (choose your own noun du jour) – were made public last week.

In the US, the world's most prominent and successful tech geek, Mark Zuckerberg, filed Facebook's flotation documents with the Securities & Exchange Commission. Morgan Stanley will be feasting at the fees buffet, having beaten Goldman Sachs to be lead adviser for a listing that could value the social media phenomenon at $100bn.

Back in Blighty – well, Switzerland technically, as both these London-listed giants are based in the low-tax canton of Zug – Xstrata confirmed it was in "merger-of-equals" talks with Glencore. This would create a mining empire with the clout to gobble up big names such as Anglo American, a long held ambition of Mick Davis, the Xstrata boss, who is likely to become chairman of the combined group.

And congrats to John Browett, the head of Dixons Retail, who will transfer to Apple and lead the global expansion of its ultra-slick network of stores.

... at a loss

Fred the Shred became Fred the Shredded last week. More accurately, Sir Fred Goodwin returned to the rank-and-file of British society as plain old Mr Goodwin.

That's right, running a bank – Royal Bank of Scotland – into the ground is now on a par with the crimes of Nicolae Ceausescu and Robert Mugabe, at least according to a committee of senior civil servants. All three men share the very rare dishonour of being stripped of their knighthoods, the Queen rubber-stamping the move just two days after current RBS boss Stephen Hester gave in to public pressure to refuse his bonus. Hester was widely criticised for the near £1m bonus awarded to him by RBS's remuneration committee. Although he has significantly de-risked the bank's balance sheet since taking over in 2008, few could understand how Hester's dough could be justified when the share price still languishes so badly.

Banking woes were not restricted to RBS. Santander UK's chief exec Ana Botin announced a 40 per cent profit fall after coughing up £538m for mis-selling payment protection insurance.