October 27th, 2008

The guilty

From the not entirely fair and balanced Huffington Post:

WASHINGTON — Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens was convicted of seven corruption charges Monday in a trial that threatened to end the 40-year career of Alaska’s political patriarch in disgrace. The verdict, coming barely a week before Election Day, increased Stevens’ difficulty in winning what already was a difficult race against Democratic challenger Mark Begich. Democrats hope to seize the once reliably Republican seat as part of their bid for a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

Stevens, 84, was convicted of all the felony charges he faced of lying about free home renovations and other gifts from a wealthy oil contractor. Jurors began deliberating last week.

Nuff said.

Added: As great grey said: Pics are important. This guy is toast.

October 20th, 2008

The bank bailout revisited

ING staock

ING stock

As Citykid wrote: “I do not believe in Socialism for the Banks and Capitalism for the rest of us”. So true. But it can be handled differently too. Now, for those of you who read this blog now and then and see me trying to connect some dots between my tiny country and the US, those tries probably look a bit “mouse and elephant walk over bridge-mouse says: oh my how we stomp!” like, and actually, I agree. Still, Dutch ING bank (who some of you might know as ING-direct in the US and the UK) is the one but largest consumer bank and one of the top 20 financial institutions in the world. It’s core tier one ration dropped below the minimum requirements and they knocked on this tiny countries door. Here is the deal that came out of it:

  • The state will inject 10 bln Euro’s in ING ($13.5 bln).
  • The state will get two board seats, having veto rights on important issues such as divident, board salaries and acquisitions.
  • The board members will not get any bonuses (and you and I know these bonuses are far far bigger than regular salaries).
  • The board members will get severely limited step down packages (maxed to one year salary).
  • The bank needs to repay this with an 8.5% interest rate, where the state acquires this money through secure and now very wanted state loans paying out 4%.

Most people seem to think this is a pretty good deal for the taxpayer. What do you think, especially when compared with the Paulson’s bailout plan?

What’s kinda funny is that the state has now a serious stake in two competing bank and insurance heavyweights.

September 15th, 2008

The bankrupcy, kinda sorta

And another bank bites the dust. From this side of the pond we have never understood the shelter of Chapter Eleven. That is something that simply doesn’t exist in Europe. If a company goes broke, it goes broke, what in the US would be called Chapter Seven. This simply ends mismanaged or falling behind companies, weeding out the chaff. In my country there is something called “deferral of payment status”, a sort of micro Ch. 11, protecting you from immediate liquidation by upset creditors, but it’s in no way comparable. The biggest issue, as we see it with Chapter 11 is that the competition NOT needing the shelter is still playing by the normal rules, giving the sheltered company competitive advantage it surely doesn’t deserve. The end result could be the competition failing and ultimately filing for… Chapter 11! Something that has happened with the airline industry (yes, this is a gross simplification, I know).

Having said that, on this side a few nasty bags of tricks are played too, and one could argue that at least Chapter Eleven is played out in the open. Alitalia, the state owned national carrier, is loosing 4.5 mln dollar a DAY for ages now and recently the Italian government pumped 450 mln Italian tax payers dollars into this IC patient. Of course it’s all gone by now and nothing has changed. That “fuel injection”, hehe, is illegal under European law though and we’ll see what comes of it.

Added September 17th: Same goes for Olympic Airlines. The Greek government is facing steep European fines for illegally injecting 130 850 million Euro’s (185 mln 1.2 billion dollars) in it. But then, how much is that, compared to 85 billion dollars for AIG? Well, how about per capita (I took the countries inhabitants. If I had to use the European population as baseline, I would have to dig for say all the illegal airline state support cases.)

Alitalia: $8
Olympic Airlines: $18 $120
AIG: $285

To be fair, the airline state support has been going on for ages, we’re looking at the tip of the iceberg.

September 14th, 2008

The last night of the proms

Ok, I fully admit, I am an idiot and a lazy bastard, but here we go again, as both are so fueled by corporate stupidity. Here we go.

Yesterday evening, I missed BBC’s “last night of the proms”, which is fully broadcasted here. Actually we do have BBC1 and BBC2 (that is the UK channels, not the world channels) on our cable. So. I wanted to watch it on the BBC website right? Wrong! Only UK IP addresses can watch it. Oh but wait, at least I can listen (which unfortunately is less than half the fun on the last night, but alas). Wrong: needs Real (shrudder) Player nagware, no thanks, or BBC’s Microsoft technology DRM crippled iPlayer (payed for by the British taxpayers), no thanks.

Anyone got a better link?

I am already downloading the 2007 proms through bittorrent to Miro. But wait……

September 6th, 2008

The money

What do YOU know about money? That it is created by the government? That if we all get rid of our debts, economy would be booming, as would have more to spend? That the equivalent of the money supply is kept in gold at Fort Knox? Wrong, wrong and wrong. And I meant not a little bit wrong, I meant 180 degrees totally wrong on all accounts. In this era of allowing or even actively giving crooked corporations and banks more and more power, this should be disturbing. Tell you what? It is very disturbing. Get yourself educated on serious money in 48 minutes. You will feel educated, flabbergasted and stunned, I promise.

I sent this to my financial advisor and well, it is his profession, not mine. He felt the same way. A very inconvenient truth.

October 5th, 2007

The end of a bank

After 183 years the oldest bank in the Netherlands and one of the oldest in the world, ABN-AMRO, comes to an end. Eight months of fierce battling between on one hand British bank Barclays and on the other hand what was called “the back trio” (Belgian Fortis, Royal bank of Scotland and Spanish Santander) ended today when at closure only a fraction of the stocks were offered to Barclays, who had insisted on 80%. It’s offer, untill June preferred by ABN-AMRO, was lower and in less plain cash than the trio’s, who will cut it in pieces.

It was grandiose. Amongst other moves, ABN-AMRO sold for 15 billion Euro’s (21Bln$) it’s American bank LaSalle, which was by many regarded as a “sick pill move”, cause it would probably make Santander loose interest. That transaction went through a few court rulings.

What is kinda interesting is that this deal is valued aroud 71 billion Euro’s, making it the biggest ever M&A deal in the financial sector worldwide (so say the newspapers). I am waiting for a good book to be published about this, if possible comparable with the fantastic “Barbarians at the gate, the fall or RJR Nabisco”, which I read in one go.

April 16th, 2007

Google going downhill fast

Bad news. I am a google fan, but it becomes harder to do so. Last week they acquired doubleclick (that’s right, the company all anti-spyware software marks it’s cookies as trackers). Today they announced a deal with Clear Channel Radio. Clear Channel radio has bought a huge number of radio stations in the US, stifling diversity and mainstreaming into musical and political nothingness. This is truly bad and sad news.

March 16th, 2007

The flow of money looked upon

Almost all the banks in the world do business with a company called Swift. While they sort of claim they are a “message transfer” company, they are in effect the clearing house for all inter-bank transaction between bank that have no peer-to-peer relationship. Read: they process virtually all international money transfers. It’s headquarters is located in Belgium. It turns out that the FBI and the CIA can more or less without anything more than asking, look into all transactions done through Swift. Even worse, if say a Dutch bank has an office in New York, questions about transfers done entirely within the Netherlands would be answered without much hesitation. Without question this is illegal. While this has caused a row in many European countries, it has gone more or less unnoticed in my country. That has changed now. The banks need to stick to the law too. Not that money flows cannot be traced for crime investigation, but a court order is needed AND clients should be informed that especially international money transfers can be scrutinized by foreign security agencies. Now if you think “so what?” imagine mr. Putin’s lot going over your bank statements. No, that is not something different.

October 22nd, 2006

Who luvs ya babe?

sony.jpg

Sitting outside on the deck behind my house this evening listening to light infantry practicing their trade with motor rounds (Ft. Rich?) I began to think about the role foreign corporations and capital play in Alaska and The United States (1). Thinking perhaps because I have to look at British Petroleum’s ugly corporate headquarters when I scan the horizon from the deck behind my house. The view of BP’s headquarters coupled with BPs’ meddling in my State’s political scenery has my head spinning (more to come). So why do BP and other foriegn corporations dominate “the landscape” here in the U.S? Why, at least in terms of take, are the biggest mining operations in Alaska owned by companies from Canada?

I’m not aware of any U.S. corporation that even comes close to Japan’s SONY considering the scope of products that SONY offers in the U.S. market – by what mechanism has SONY Corp inserted itself into our economy? HINT: the first SONY “boom boxes” were introduced during the so called “Viet-Nam” conflict in the late 1960s; the big corporate players in the U.S., at the time, were preoccupied with easy money supplied by the government for war goodies (many of those U.S. based corporations that made their take in Vietnam have since “bit the dust” or are now owned by foreign companies). Are the taxes being collected by our Federal Government now being funneled into companies that are too short sighted to make it on their own? Is history repeating itself? Go figure…..

bp_porch.jpg

(1) It’s not uncommon to hear Military excercises from Anchorage. The U.S. Army base, Fort Richardson is just to the north of Anchorage as is Elmondorf Air Force Base.

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