Norwich Union starts a new era with a reminder of the good old days

STOCK MARKET WEEK

Norwich Union, the stock market's latest blue chip, has struck a blow for shareholders who still like to receive paper share certificates.

In an age when most certificates are as dull as ditchwater the insurance giant, which floated two weeks ago, has taken the trouble to produce a rather tastefully designed, picturesque document which is reminiscent of the more collectable bits of paper issued in years gone by.

Against a shades-of-beige background the certificate offers a thumb- print portrait of the founder, one Thomas Bignold, a selection of the group's trademarks, bits of an old script and a picture of a London-Norwich horse-drawn stage coach.

Norwich is not, however, striking a blow for paper settlement and it is unlikely that its artistic inclinations will result in the certificate acquiring a value of its own in the foreseeable future. The company took the view that the joint commemoration of its flotation and 200th anniversary deserved something more distinguished than a bog-standard black and white piece of paper with the name Norwich Union stamped on it.

Said a spokesman: "There is clearly a little sentimentality behind it; the cost of producing it was marginal."

And Norwich is destined to fall in line with the bland, unappealing certificates which most companies accept in these hi-tech days. Once its 200th celebrations are complete a more standard form of certificate is likely to be introduced.

Even so, at a time when the stock market is straining to encourage paperless, computerised share settlement with private shareholders being coerced into becoming institutionalised in nominee accounts, the Norwich effort is welcome.

But it was anxious to point out it was not making a point against the Crest computerised settlement system. "You can't stop the tide," said the spokesman.

Geoff Metzger, an expert on old certificates, welcomes the Norwich initiative. He feels, however, too many certificates have been produced for them to achieve an underlying value.

He said: "The Norwich certificate is not a patch on many of those produced in the past although it is certainly the best for a long while."

Old certificates, besides being more colourful, were generally much larger than the pitiful offerings produced today. They were often given a special depth by being engraved and even gold-backed.

A stockbroker with the big private client firm of Walker Crips Weddle Beck, Mr Metzger spends much of his time trading in old certificates, or "busted bonds" as they are known.

At one time, of course, the more elaborate the certificate the greater the risk an investor was likely to take. Selling a dodgy investment was often facilitated by an impressive document. Many an unstable country or tinpot company has, if inadvertently, left a legacy of a valuable document which can be traded among the international army of enthusiastic collectors.

Mr Metzger says there is a "steady demand" for good quality Chinese bonds; he cited the example of one Chinese railway bond, the Canton and Kowloon, trading at around pounds 150. And European issues of US railway bonds, where faint hopes of a payback linger, are also much sought after.

There is every chance that, until Gordon Brown sits down on Wednesday, the "busted bonds" business could be more lively than the stock market.

The market has got itself into something of a tizzy over Mr Brown's first budgetary effort. In the last two weeks shares have lost ground and stock market historian David Schwartz has pointed out that in the run-up to interim Budgets the market is invariably deflated.

Most strategists are still looking for Footsie to climb to 5,000 points over the next year although few offer much hope for supporting shares; the FTSE SmallCap index is now sitting roughly in the middle of its year's range.

Although the Budget date was not known until recently, companies seem to have anticipated the Chancellor's inclination and few are reporting profits this week.

Scottish & Newcastle, which remains the nation's biggest brewer after the Government's strange decision to block the Bass take over of Carlsberg Tetley, is one which failed to dodge the Budget and rolls out year's figures today.

A strong performance is expected with a full year's Courage contribution (37 weeks last time) making a powerful impact. Normalised profits should emerge at around pounds 380m, against pounds 308m.

Courage cost savings will be significant but it is felt Scottish has continued to increase its underlying beer sales.

Center Parcs, the holiday centres chain, is likely to have been a drag, with profits down by more than 10 per cent.

Some in the City feel Scottish will eventually sell Center Parcs, which has suffered cruelly from exchange rate movements. The group has found the holiday market exceedingly difficult and would no doubt welcome an opportunity to concentrate on its breweries and pubs if a suitable offer materialised.

Gibbs Mew, a much smaller brewer, also reports this week - on Budget Day. Its timing could be significant. One market truism is that it is always wise to expect a poor display when a company picks such days as Christmas Eve - or Budget Day - to produced figures.

The group reported flat interim profits, largely due to problems in its tenanted pubs estate. Colin Humphrys at Panmure Gordon is looking for year's profits of pounds 3m; Martin Hawkins at Greig Middleton is on pounds 2.5m. Last year Gibbs made pounds 5.1m.

MFI, the furniture group, should manage a 20 per cent year's gain to pounds 70m tomorrow. But much attention will be paid to trading since the current year got under way in April.

It astonished the market in March by reporting sales running well below expectations. Since then MFI has had to contend with a summery Easter (not conducive to furniture sales) and the election uncertainty. It could, however, be a significant beneficiary of the demutualisation windfall.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
news
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Extras
indybest
News
peopleLiam Williams posted photo of himself dressed as Wilfried Bony
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Carlton Senior Appointments: Private Banking Manager - Intl Bank - Los Angeles

$200 - $350 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: Managing Producer – Office...

Carlton Senior Appointments: San Fran - Investment Advisor – Ind Advisory Firm

$125 - $225 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: San Fran - Investment Advi...

Sheridan Maine: Commercial Finance Manager

Up to £70,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...

Sheridan Maine: Regulatory Reporting Accountant

Up to £65,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick