The chairman denies rumours of a possible merger with Jupiter
'Too right I've had enough,' replied the chairman of the insignificantly-sized investment company SmallBlue Planet.
'In fact, I'm sick to death of all this nonsense so may I just get this straight once and for all? SmallBlue Planet in no way sees itself as a possible takeover target and dismisses as complete fiction the ill-judged speculation that has taken place to that effect over the past week.
'After a detailed review of the company's entire business, we took the strategic decision to sell off our London-based emerging markets stock-trading arm ' or Keith as he is also known ' and hired a well-known investment bank to find a buyer. Admittedly, for the amount of money we're paying them, I expected something a little higher-tech than an ad in Exchange & Mart that started 'Who wants to buy Keith?' But they're the experts and, as a pharmaceutical contact of mine once said, you don't buy a bunny and test the shampoo on yourself.
'Or something like that. Anyway, I can categorically state that SmallBlue Planet is not, and has never been, in talks with any other fund management group with a view to a potential sale. Nor, while I'm on the subject, do we have any intention of making a bid for Jupiter ' despite, again, what your ill-informed counterparts on the national newspapers have been saying.
'They can speculate all they like about our perceived similarities, overlaps and past connections but it is pure fabrication. Sure, it would be a snug fit, and I know the way Jupiter's managers operate and their occasional brushes with success mean they are sometimes fortunate enough to be mentioned in the same breath as SmallBlue, but a purchase by us in the current environment is out of the question.
'No, my advice to them would be a management buy-out and then sell for twice the price in a few years' time. That would really annoy the Germans ' not that anyone would want to do that, of course.
'And I know what you're going to say next. So, finally, it is just a huge coincidence that our Exchange & Mart ad said we would part with Keith for '£400m or nearest offer' and that figure's not too distant from the valuations most analysts are putting on the company we are never going to buy. Now then, does that answer your question?'
'Not really,' I said.
'As far as I'm able to remember after all that, my exact words were, 'Would you like another drink or have you had enough?' But my instinct tells me the answer's more likely to be the latter.
'And I really wasn't going to mention anything about buying or selling because you know how bored I get with all these acquisition rumours. They're 10 a penny nowadays and, let's be honest, I've only got one column to fill a week.
'But, since you bring it up, it did strike me as odd that it's taken four hours and 17 different pubs to track you down. I even put my head round the door of that new place we said we'd boycott because of its silly name ' Aviva or whatever it's called. Anyway, I'm not saying you didn't want to be found but when, if you don't mind me asking, was the last time you were in an All Bar One?'
'Well ¦ let's count ¦ um .. oh, all right, never,' said the chairman. 'But that's exactly why I thought I'd give it a go. Look, it's full of all these cutting edge young lawyers and accountants and, Lord knows, I need a little buzz to cheer me up. Do you know I actually overheard some of my junior staff speculating about when I was going to retire? The cheek of it. I tell you this, it didn't do much for my morale.'
'Er ¦ moving swiftly on,' I said noticing a leech of lawyers (little-known but correct collective noun) at the next table had started listening in on our conversation.
'What I really wanted to talk about was the battle for that European investment trust and how it's been another splendid advertisement for the way Her Majesty's financial services industry can settle its differences in a mature fashion. But maybe we'll save it for another time. You don't look up to it. In fact, whether you like it or not, you're getting that drink I offered.'
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