Trump-led America could undermine the prospects of a planned transatlantic free trade agreement

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Wed, 9 Nov, 2016) London, UK – –

 

EU Trade Deal
Gage Skidmore/flickr.com

A protectionist U.S. president and increased European suspicion of a Trump-led America undermine the prospects of a planned transatlantic free trade agreement between the European Union and the United States.

 Trump has argued that international trade deals hurt U.S. workers and the country's competitiveness, but it is not clear to what extent Trump the president will resemble Trump the campaigner.

“If the world's biggest economy follows a protectionist course, its effects will be felt around the world. We can only hope that his words are not followed by corresponding deeds,” said Thilo Brodtmann, head of Germany's VDMA engineering association.

EU and U.S. officials have for more than three years been negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), with Brussels and Washington recognising it will not now be completed under Barack Obama's term as earlier envisaged.

EU trade chief Cecilia Malmstrom said it was too early to assess the impact of Trump's victory, but a break was inevitable whoever had won.

“How long will that break be? Impossible to say … There's a lot of uncertainty,” she said.

Anthony Gardner, U.S. ambassador to the EU, told Reuters TTIP remained important for economic and strategic reasons, recognising that the challenge was to convince more people that free trade is an opportunity, not a risk.

Malmstrom has previously said both sides should make as much progress as possible so that the work can be quickly picked up under the next president.

However, it appears unlikely that trade will be high on Trump's list of priorities or that TTIP will be top of his trade agenda.

Trump has instead talked about getting tough with China, withdrawing from the unfinalised 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and renegotiating or scrapping the North American Free Trade Agreement.

European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen noted that Trump had at least not singled out TTIP for criticism.

Hosuk-Lee Makiyama, director of trade think-tank ECIPE, said U.S. presidents typically took some time to forge trade policy and in the case of Obama and George W. Bush only really pushed trade policy deep into their second terms.

“TTIP is probably one of the last agenda items and I don't think we will see a trade policy until year two or year three,” he said.

Trump will likely appoint a trade representative in March or April. His choice could be key, with possible appointees ranging from the protectionist Dan DiMicco, former CEO of steelmaker Nucor Corp (NUE.N), to libertarian PayPal (PYPL.O) founder Peter Thiel.

A further problem TTIP has faced is opposition from trade unions and environmental and other protest groups, particularly in Europe, who say TTIP undermines democracy by giving multinationals the power to dictate public policy.

Critics would have an added argument in their fight against TTIP, able to paint the deal as one with a bogeyman president.

“Opposition to TTIP is strong, particularly in the light of the results of the election last night,” Jeffrey Franks, director of the IMF's Europe office, told a trade conference.

(Additional reporting by Alastair Macdonald in Brussels, Georgina Prodhan in Frankfurt; editing by Giles Elgood)

By Philip Blenkinsop

Meaning of Court Ruling on Brexit

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bloomberg.com – – Sat, 5 Nov, 2016) London, Uk – –

 George Magnus, UBS senior independent economic adviser, discusses the implications of a U.K. court ruling that prevents Prime Minister Theresa May from unilaterally beginning Britain's exit process from the EU. He speaks with Bloomberg's Joe Weisenthal and Scarlet Fu on “What'd You Miss?”

British electorate would now vote narrowly to stay in the EU – BMG poll

qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Fri, 4 Nov, 2016) London, UK – –

Union Jack
Mikey/flickr.com

The British electorate would now vote narrowly to stay in the European Union, according to a BMG poll published on Thursday.

The United Kingdom voted 51.9 percent to leave the bloc in a June 23 referendum while 48.1 percent voted to remain.

A poll by BMG Research, showed that when asked if the United Kingdom should stay or go, 45 percent opted to remain, 43 opted to leave and 12 percent did not know.

“Rather than people switching to Remain, it looks as if people are now less decisive about whether it was the right decision to leave,” Michael Turner, head of research at BMG, told Reuters.

Excluding “don't knows” puts Remain on 51 percent and Leave on 49 percent, according to the poll.

The fieldwork was conducted Oct. 19-24 among 1,546 adult UK residents.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Stephen Addison)

High court rules Theresa May must put vote to Parliament in order to Implement Brexit

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.finance.yahoo.com via news.sky.com – – Thu, 3 Nov, 2016) London, Uk – –

Brexit talks
Number 10/flickr.com

 

Theresa May cannot trigger Brexit without putting it to an MPs' vote in the House of Commons, the High Court has ruled.

In a landmark ruling, Lord Chief Justice Thomas said Mrs May did not have the right to set in motion Article 50, the official start of the two-year EU divorce proceedings, without consulting parliament.

The decision is a significant setback for the Prime Minister's Brexit strategy – she announced at the Conservative Party Conference last month she would trigger Article 50 by the end of March.

The Government instantly announced it would appeal the decision and the two sides will now prepare for another showdown at the Supreme Court in early December.

Speaking outside the court, businesswoman Gina Miller, who brought the case with hairdresser Deir Dos Santos, welcomed the decision and said it would “bring sobriety” to Brexit proceedings.

In a statement from Mr Dos Santos, who voted to leave the EU, he said: “In her speech to the Conservative Party Conference the Prime Minister attacked me for bringing these proceedings as a claimant. She (Munich: SOQ.MU – news) said that I was trying to subvert democracy. That was an unwarranted and irresponsible attack.

“As is my constitutional right I sought the protection of the court to stop unlawful government action. The court has now given me that protection.”

The ruling saw the pound up more than 1% against the dollar, at $1.24, in the immediate wake of the High Court announcement.

Unless the decision is overturned by the Supreme Court, or on further appeal to the European Court of Justice, then it will be for MPs to decide

when to start the UK's exit from the European Union.
While many may be reluctant to overturn the public's decision, there will be a number in constituencies where people voted Remain who will come under pressure from their voters.

Speaking in the House of Commons moments after the ruling, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said: “The Government is disappointed by the court's judgment.

“The country voted to leave the European Union in a referendum approved by Acts of Parliament. The Government is determined to respect the result of the referendum.

“This judgment raises important and complex matters of law and it's right that we consider it carefully before deciding how to proceed.”
Opposition leaders Nicola Sturgeon, Tim Farron and Jeremy Corbyn, who have been calling for Mrs May to lay out her Brexit strategy more clearly, welcomed the ruling.

The Labour leader said: “This ruling underlines the need for the Government to bring its negotiating terms to Parliament without delay.

“Labour respects the decision of the British people to leave the European Union. But there must be transparency and accountability to parliament on the terms of Brexit.”

UKIP leader Nigel Farage said: “I now fear that every attempt will be made to block or delay the triggering of Article 50. If this is so, they have no idea of the level of public anger they will provoke.”

The case has centred around the wording of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which says member states may leave the EU “in accordance with its own constitutional requirements”.

However, there is no clearly established “constitutional requirements” leaving both sides free to make their own definitions.

Making his judgment, the Lord Chief Justice said: “The Government does not have power under the Crown's prerogative to give notice pursuant to Article 50 for the UK for the UK to withdraw from the European Union.”
More follows…

British housebuilder Cala in talks with China’s Evergrande property developer – source

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Tue, 1 Nov, 2016) London, UK – –

Chinese Developers
Gareth Williams/www.flickr.com

China Evergrande Group (3333.HK), China's second-largest property developer, is in “early stage” talks to buy Cala Homes, a person familiar with the upmarket British housebuilder told Reuters.

Edinburgh, Scotland-based Cala Homes, which is owned by insurer Legal & General (LGEN.L) and real estate managers Patron Capital, was being advised on the offer by investment bank Lazard, its long-term advisor, the person said.

Sky News, which first reported on the approach, said Evergrande's offer could be worth close to 700 million pounds. (bit.ly/2f8dzLh)

Cala, which builds large, high-end homes across affluent areas of Britain such as around the M25 motorway which circles London, in the Midlands and Scotland, reported revenue of 587.1 million pounds for the year ended June 30, 15 percent higher than a year earlier. Net bank debt stood at 123.9 million pounds at end-June.

In its results statement in October, Cala said it had a contracted land bank with gross development value of 4.7 billion pounds as of end-June and that enquiry levels and reservation rates had risen in the 13 weeks after the EU vote on June 23.

“From time to time we may find ourselves the subject of speculation but from our perspective it is very much business as usual,” a Cala spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

Legal & General, Patron Capital and Evergrande declined to comment.

The approach comes as recent mortgage data and statements from housebuilders have indicated that the UK housing market is recovering somewhat from a sharp downturn in activity that followed Britain's vote to leave the European Union.

The Brexit-induced pound slide GBP= has fuelled foreign demand to invest in the sector, especially from Chinese buyers keen to diversify away from a slowing home market.

China Vanke (2202.HK)(000002.SZ) confirmed in September that it had bought a London office property.

For Guangzhou-based Evergrande, one of the most indebted companies in the industry, the purchase of Cala would mean access to the UK housing market as developers benefit from a chronic supply shortage. Britain launched a 5 billion-pound homebuilding stimulus package last month.

Evergrande has been aggressively investing in other companies as it looks to lift some of the pressure of having amassed some $57 billion in debt, almost six times its market value, on land acquisitions and corporate mergers.

(Reporting by Esha Vaish in Bengaluru, additional reporting by Clare Jim in Hong Kong; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

 

 

National Audit Office Say Britain Must Identify Best Ways of Taxing The Wealthiest

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bloomberg.com – – Tue, 1 Nov, 2016) London, Uk – –

Wealthy homes
jan buchholtz/flickr.com

A unit set up to claim unpaid tax from the richest people in Britain raised 416 million pounds ($510 million) in the past financial year but must do more to improve its enforcement activities, the National Audit Office said.

By concentrating on the 6,500 taxpayers with assets of more than 20 million pounds, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs High Net Worth Unit exceeded its 2015-16 target of 250 million pounds, the NAO said in a report published in London on Tuesday. To raise more revenue, it must identify what techniques have worked best since it was set up in 2009, the spending watchdog said.

“The tax affairs of the wealthiest in society are complex, making it harder for HMRC to ensure that they are paying the right amount of tax,” NAO head Amyas Morse said in an e-mailed statement. “While the yields from HMRC’s work in this area have increased, it needs to evaluate what approaches are the most effective.”

Individuals with wealth of more than 20 million pounds contributed 4.3 billion pounds in tax in 2014-15 and formal investigations are being carried out into the liabilities of more than 2,000 of them, the NAO said. An initial estimate suggests 1.9 billion pounds in unpaid tax over a number of years may be due as a result of the probes, of which avoidance schemes account for 1.1 billion pounds.
The definition of “high net worth” has been extended to include people with assets of more than 10 million pounds for the financial year that started in April, extending the reach of the unit, which has a staff of 380, to include a further 1,000 taxpayers, the NAO said.

In a move uncommon elsewhere in the world, the U.K. assigns one of 40 “customer relationship managers” to each wealthy individual and they “are responsible for understanding the risks and behaviors of the people assigned to them,” usually through working with their representatives, the audit office said.

By Thomas Penny

Pound is the world’s worst-performing currency for this October 2016

 

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bloomberg.com – – Mon, 31 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

The pound is the world’s worst-performing currency this month, trailing behind about 150 peers, as the first signs of how Brexit will look emerged in October.

 

Pound coins
Images Money/www.flickr.com

Sterling posted its biggest monthly decline versus the dollar since the U.K. voted in June to leave the European Union amid speculation that the government is headed for a so-called hard Brexit, where unfettered access to Europe’s single market is sacrificed for immigration controls. The pound dropped after political headlines and comments from lawmakers and central-bank officials underlined its vulnerability as concern about Britain’s exit from the world’s largest trading bloc intensified.

 

“This month has all been about hard Brexit concerns coming to the forefront,” said Viraj Patel, a foreign-exchange strategist at ING Groep NV in London. “It’s typical for a currency trading under heightened political uncertainty to be vulnerable to new news, either good or bad, and this will be an ongoing factor until we get clarity” over the nation’s future relationship with the EU, he said.

The pound was little changed at $1.2199 as of 4 p.m. London time, leaving its decline this month at 5.9 percent, the most since June, when it plunged 8.1 percent. Sterling has fallen every month since April, cementing its position as the worst-performing major currency this year, having weakened more than 17 percent.

The Bank of England is due to make its interest-rate decision and publish its quarterly inflation report on Thursday amid speculation that Governor Mark Carney may announce a decision on his future at the central bank. Speaking to a House of Lords committee last week, Carney deflected questions on whether he plans to serve a full eight-year term as governor through to 2021, or leave in 2018 as he originally planned.

Swaps signal about a 3 percent probability of a rate cut when the central bank announces its policy decision on Nov. 3. The inflation report follows data last week that showed U.K. growth slowed less in the three months through September than analysts predicted, the first quarterly figures since the June vote to leave the EU.

By Marianna Duarte De Aragao

Hitachi invests millions of dollars in robots meant to help Japan’s aging citizens

 

Bloomberg's Hello World host Ashlee Vance visited Japanese technology giant Hitachi. The tech conglomerate has invested millions of dollars to invent all manner of robots meant to help Japan’s aging citizens in the years ahead.

 

Steel Pension Scheme deficit falls to around 50 million pounds

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Mon, 24 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

British Steel pension shortfall shrinks to around $60 million

The British Steel Pension Scheme's deficit has shrunk to around 50 million pounds ($61 million) from around 700 million pounds earlier this year, it said on Monday, adding it had been well-position to take advantage of currency movements.

The pension scheme is seen as a major obstacle to a possible joint venture deal between Tata Steel, its principal sponsoring employer, and Germany's Thyssenkrupp to manage Tata's remaining UK operations.

In an emailed statement, the British Steel Pension Scheme said an actuary estimated at a board meeting on Oct. 21 that the deficit had fallen to around 50 million pounds.

It had been “well positioned for what has been happening in bond and currency markets in recent months” and had taken the opportunity to lock in gains from equity investments.

Tata Steel, which inherited the pension scheme when it bought Corus, formerly British Steel, for $12 billion in 2007, declined to comment on the revision.

Analysts said the reduced deficit did not address all the problems and that volatility could remain even though the scheme had removed some risk.

“It demonstrates that market conditions have changed and could just as easily have deteriorated,” Martin Hunter of pensions consultants Punter Southall said.

If an employer was not able to support the scheme in future, the deficit would be higher, he added.

The government said in May that the scheme – which has roughly 125,000 members and only about 10,000 people still paying into it — had assets of 13.3 billion pounds and liabilities of around 14 billion pounds.

But sterling has shed nearly 18 percent against the dollar since Britain's June 23 vote to leave the European Union, boosting many of the blue-chip FTSE 100's international companies, which earn much of their revenues in dollars and therefore get a currency-related accounting lift.

ALSO IN BUSINESS NEWS
Since the start of the year, the FTSE 100 is up around 13 percent, although down around 7 percent in U.S. dollar terms.

The volatility and uncertainty generated by Brexit have added to the difficulties facing many pension schemes, which have been struggling to find returns in an ultra-low interest rate environment.

By Barbara Lewis

(Additional reporting by Simon Jessop; Editing by Alexander Smith)

AT&T agreed to buy Time Warner for $85 billion

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Sun, 23 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

AT&T Inc said on Saturday it agreed to buy Time Warner Inc for $85.4 billion (70 billion pounds), the boldest move yet by a telecommunications company to acquire content to stream over its high-speed network to attract a growing number of online viewers.

The biggest deal in the world this year will, if approved by regulators, give AT&T control of cable TV channels HBO and CNN, film studio Warner Bros and other coveted media assets. The tie-up will likely face intense scrutiny by U.S. antitrust enforcers worried that AT&T might try to limit distribution of Time Warner material.

AT&T will pay $107.50 per Time Warner share, half in cash and half in stock, worth $85.4 billion overall, according to a company statement. AT&T said it expected to close the deal by the end of 2017.

Dallas-based AT&T said the U.S. Department of Justice would review the deal and that it and Time Warner were determining which Federal Communications Commission licenses, if any, would be transferred to AT&T in the deal.

U.S. lawmakers were already worried about cable company Comcast Corp's $30 billion acquisition of NBCUniversal, creating an industry behemoth. Several argued for close regulatory scrutiny of the AT&T deal.

“Such a massive consolidation in this industry requires rigorous evaluation and serious scrutiny,” said U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, former attorney general of Connecticut. “I will be looking closely at what this merger means for consumers and their pocketbooks.”

U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said at a rally on Saturday he would block any AT&T-Time Warner deal if he wins the Nov. 8 election. Trump has complained about media coverage of his campaign, especially by Time Warner's CNN.

“It's too much concentration of power in the hands of too few,” said Trump.

Representatives of his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

CONTENT PLUS DELIVERY

AT&T, whose main wireless phone and broadband service business is showing signs of slowing, has already made moves to turn itself into a media powerhouse. It bought satellite TV provider DirecTV last year for $48.5 billion.

It had about 142 million North American wireless subscribers as of June 30, and about 38 million video subscribers through DirecTV and its U-verse service.

New York-based Time Warner is a major force in movies, TV and video games. Its assets include the HBO, CNN, TBS and TNT networks as well as the Warner Bros film studio, producer of the “Batman” and “Harry Potter” film franchises. The company also owns a 10 percent stake in video streaming site Hulu. The HBO network alone has more than 130 million subscribers.

The deal is the latest in the consolidation of the telecom and media sectors, coming on the heels of AT&T's purchase of NBCUniversal. AT&T's wireless rival Verizon Communications Inc is in the process of buying internet company Yahoo Inc for about $4.8 billion.

Time Warner Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bewkes rejected an $80 billion offer from Twenty-First Century Fox Inc in 2014.

FINANCING

AT&T said the cash portion of the purchase price would be financed with new debt and cash on its balance sheet. AT&T said it has an 18-month commitment for an unsecured bridge term facility for $40 billion.

AT&T currently has only $7.2 billion in cash on hand. Further borrowing could put pressure on its credit rating as it already had $120 billion in net debt as of June 30, according to Moody's.

AT&T said the deal would add to earnings per share in the first year after closing. It said it expects $1 billion in annual run-rate cost savings within three years of closing, chiefly driven by lower corporate and procurement spending.

5G IS COMING

Owning more content gives cable and telecom companies bargaining leverage with other content companies as customers demand smaller, hand-picked cable offerings or switch to watching online. New mobile technology including next-generation 5G networks could make a content tie-up especially attractive for wireless providers.

“We think 5G mobile is coming, we think 5G mobile is an epic game-changer,” Rich Tullo, director of research at Albert Fried & Co, said in a research note, adding that mobile providers would be in position to disrupt traditional pay-TV services.

A previous Time Warner blockbuster deal, its 2000 merger with AOL, is now considered one of the most ill-advised corporate marriages on record.

Perella Weinberg Partners LP, Bank of America Corp and JPMorgan Chase & Co were financial advisers to AT&T, with Bank of America and JPMorgan also offering bridge financing, while Sullivan & Cromwell LLP and Arnold & Porter LLP provided legal advice.

Allen & Co LLC, Citigroup Inc and Morgan Stanley acted as financial advisers to Time Warner, while Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP was its legal adviser.

By Greg Roumeliotis and Jessica Toonkel | NEW YORK

(Additional reporting by David Shepardson, Liana Baker, Malathi Nayak and Diane Bartz; Writing by Bill Rigby; Editing by David Gregorio)

 

Major websites across the internet knocked out by massive cyber attack

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Sat, 22 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

Hackers unleashed a complex attack on the internet through common devices like webcams and digital recorders and cut access to some of the world's best known websites on Friday, a stunning breach of global internet stability.

The attacks struck Twitter, Paypal, Spotify and other customers of an infrastructure company in New Hampshire called Dyn, which acts as a switchboard for internet traffic.

The attackers used hundreds of thousands of internet-connected devices that had previously been infected with a malicious code that allowed them to cause outages that began in the Eastern United States and then spread to other parts of the country and Europe.

“The complexity of the attacks is what’s making it very challenging for us,” said Dyn’s chief strategy officer, Kyle York. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation said they were investigating.

The disruptions come at a time of unprecedented fears about the cyber threat in the United States, where hackers have breached political organizations and election agencies.

Friday's outages were intermittent and varied by geography. Users complained they could not reach dozens of internet destinations including Mashable, CNN, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Yelp and some businesses hosted by Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O).

Dyn said attacks were coming from millions of internet addresses, making it one of the largest attacks ever seen. Security experts said it was an especially potent type of distributed denial-of-service attack, or DDoS, in which attackers flood the targets with so much junk traffic that they freeze up.

VULNERABILITIES EXPLOITED

Dyn said that at least some of the malicious traffic was coming from connected devices, including webcams and digital video recorders, that had been infected with control software named Mirai. Security researchers have previously raised concerns that such connected devices, sometimes referred to as the Internet of Things, lack proper security.

The Mirai code was dumped on the internet about a month ago, and criminal groups are now charging to employ it in cyber attacks, said Allison Nixon, director of security research at Flashpoint, which was helping Dyn analyse the attack.

Dale Drew, chief security officer at communications provider Level 3, said that other networks of compromised machines were also used in Friday's attack, suggesting that the perpetrator had rented access to several so-called botnets.

The attackers took advantage of traffic-routing services such as those offered by Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O) Google and Cisco Systems Inc's (CSCO.O) OpenDNS to make it difficult for Dyn to root out bad traffic without also interfering with legitimate inquiries, Drew said.

“Dyn can't simply block the (Internet Protocol) addresses they are seeing, because that would be blocking Google or OpenDNS,” said Matthew Prince, CEO of security and content delivery firm CloudFlare. “These are nasty attacks, some of the hardest to protect against.”

GOVERNMENT WARNED OF ATTACKS

Drew and Nixon both said that the makers of connected devices needed to do far more to make sure that the gadgets can be updated after security flaws are discovered.

Big businesses should also have multiple vendors for core services like routing internet traffic, and security experts said those Dyn customers with backup domain name service providers would have stayed reachable.
The Department of Homeland Security last week issued a warning about attacks from the Internet of Things, following the release of the code for Mirai.

Attacking a large domain name service provider like Dyn can create massive disruptions because such firms are responsible for forwarding large volumes of internet traffic.

Dyn said it had resolved one morning attack, which disrupted operations for about two hours, but disclosed a second a few hours later that was causing further disruptions. By Friday evening it was fighting a third.

Amazon's web services division, one of the world's biggest cloud computing companies, reported that the issue temporarily affected users in Western Europe. Twitter (TWTR.N) and some news sites could not be accessed by some users in London late on Friday evening.

PayPal Holdings Inc (PYPL.O) said that the outage prevented some customers in “certain regions” from making payments. It apologised for the inconvenience and said that its networks had not been hacked.

A month ago, security guru Bruce Schneier wrote that someone, probably a country, had been testing increasing levels of denial-of-service attacks against unnamed core internet infrastructure providers in what seemed like a test of capability.

Nixon said there was no reason to think a national government was behind Friday's assaults, but attacks carried out on a for-hire basis are famously difficult to attribute.

(Reporting by Joseph Menn in San Francisco, Jim Finkle in Boston and Dustin Volz in Washington. Additional reporting by Eric Auchard in Frankurt, Malathi Nayak in New York, Jeff Mason and Mark Hosenball in Washington, Adrian Croft and Frances Kerry in London; Editing by Bill Trott, Lisa Shumaker and Jonathan Weber)

London frets over future,Thirty years on from Big Bang

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Fri, 21st Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

LONDON (IFR) – Bang! It was the explosion in financial markets heard across the world 30 years ago which transformed the City of London from a cosy network of long-established firms into a cut-throat landscape dominated by foreign banks.

This week is the 30th anniversary of Big Bang, a package of reforms across the securities industry that shaped the City that exists today, putting London alongside New York as the world's two dominant financial centres.

This year's anniversary has extra significance. International firms that arrived on the back of Big Bang are considering whether to stick with London or move operations and jobs elsewhere following Britain's vote in June to leave the European Union.

“It [Big Bang] put London on the map in a way it wasn't before. All the international firms came to London or enlarged what they had,” recalled Nicholas Goodison, who was the architect of the reforms as chairman of the London Stock Exchange at the time.

OVERNIGHT JOLT

Although the full impact of Big Bang evolved over years and the reasons for the reforms went back more than a decade, the transformation is associated with an overnight jolt – on October 27 1986.

That was the brainchild of Goodison. He said a number of the necessary changes were inter-related so should all come at the same time, with good warning, to ensure orderly change.

“We could have done it piecemeal but they were all too closely linked to each other,” Goodison, now 82, told IFR in an interview last week.

There were several parts to Big Bang: it abolished minimum fixed commissions on trades; it removed “single capacity”, which since 1911 had separated the role of brokers, who acted as agents for clients, and jobbers, who made the market and provided liquidity by holding stock on their books; and it allowed foreign ownership of UK brokers, to fix capital shortfalls at many firms.

Big Bang also introduced electronic share trading, which did away with the need for face-to-face share deals and made trading far quicker and more efficient.

The changes were brought in to head off an investigation by the competition watchdog, which wanted to take the stock exchange to the Restrictive Practices Court, a move Goodison said would have resulted in chaos.

In 1983 he proposed to Cecil Parkinson, trade and industry secretary at the time, that he would eliminate fixed commissions within three years.

Parkinson agreed and, helped by Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson, persuaded Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to back the reforms. That was not easy because Thatcher “didn't like being friends with the City”, Goodison recalled. He said she subsequently took little interest in Big Bang, despite being credited as its driving force.

“The myth that Big Bang was part of Mrs Thatcher's revolution is just wrong,” Goodison said.

Goodison said the reforms were inevitable after the US abolished fixed commissions in 1974 and Britain scrapped exchange controls in 1979.

“The writing was on the wall and we knew that,” he said.

“Anybody could forecast that the competitive pressures on fixed commission would increase because the biggest securities houses in the world were in America. It was obvious the thing was creaking.”

Goodison said Big Bang achieved its goal better than a court ruling would have done because it pushed through changes smoothly.

The biggest challenge was setting up the electronic trading platform. “It broke down in the first hour. It was difficult. But the reason it broke down was that it had a huge volume of people trying to access it on the first morning and everybody pressed buttons at once.”

It was sheer curiosity that caused it to break down, he said.

FOREIGN PREDATORS

Big Bang sparked profound changes across the City.

Brokers, jobbers and merchant banks started merging. Some were bought by UK clearing banks, but many more were snapped up by big US, European and Asian banks.

Well-known firms such as James Capel, Schroders and Warburg kept some branding in bigger firms, but other old names such as Pinchin Denny and Scrimgeour Kemp Gee were easily swallowed.

That has led to criticism of the “Wimbledonisation” of the City – that London hosts the activity but most of the top players are foreign. Barclays and HSBC are two of the top 10 investment banks today, but the dominance of the City by overseas firms, especially from the US, is a legacy of Big Bang.

“Under the previous system it was pretty much a closed shop, and suddenly they [foreign firms] were allowed to come in,” said Paul Mumford, a fund manager at Cavendish Asset Management.

“A lot of banks seized the opportunity and London became a global centre for markets. It could never have happened if we hadn't had this change,” Mumford told IFR.

Just as London firms were swallowed or reinvented, many careers changed, including Mumford's. He had been a broker and analyst, but a year after Big Bang he moved into fund management.

“It was a relatively painless process but it took a little while for it to have its repercussions on certain areas,” Mumford said.

There were other less direct but still significant effects of Big Bang, including making it easier for firms to raise capital, contributing to the growth of hedge funds, and helping the rise of Canary Wharf as a new financial district in East London as firms could trade further away from the City using electronic communications.

Culture also changed. Hours became longer, lunches shorter and pay rose. The business became more aggressive and less clubby, according to people who worked in the City on both sides of the changes.

Critics reckon many of the banking industry's misconduct problems of the past decade can be traced to Big Bang, as it gave rise to a bonus culture that undermined the City's long-standing code of conduct and integrity.

Goodison, for his part, was not paid for his work for the stock exchange. He was its last unpaid chairman, from 1976 to 1988, and held the role alongside his position as senior partner at Quilter Goodison, a broker that went the way of many peers – it was bought by an overseas predator, France's Paribas.

Goodison said London was right to welcome international firms and needs to continue to do so to stay in front, aided by the advantages of its time zone, language and legal system.

“If London wants to win it has to be open. You can't run a closed shop and win. The essence of London's financial markets is openness to the world,” he said.

By Steve Slater