Serco’s boss suffers through his wilderness years

Rupert Soames, like his illustrious grandparent, knows what it means to wait for the country to turn to him

The Churchill family has a proud tradition of assuming it will be called to serve – and then being ignored. It happened to Winston either side of the second world war and, in his own sphere, grandson Rupert Soames looks to be receiving some similar treatment.

Soames, of course, runs the embattled outsourcing giant Serco – which many think would not now exist had he not come to save it during many, many long months of struggle and of suffering.

“Some of the best civil servants are moving to work on Brexit negotiations,” Remainer Soames told the Evening Standard last year, as he outlined why Brexit might inspire a boom in supplying the UK government with its services. “The government is going to need help to get stuff done.”

And yet HM government does not yet seem to have concluded that that assistance should be provided by Serco.

As the group prepares to address the City at the group’s interim results this week, analysts at investment bank Jefferies reckon the firm has a “mixed bid pipeline” as “decisions are drifting in an unhelpful political environment”.

If that feels like Soames is being kept waiting, then at least there is a trace of solace in the family history. Grandpa was kept waiting by the government in the 1930s – and then by the great British electorate in 1945.

Both called (eventually).

ConvaTec’s male problem needs a cure

A year ago, very few people had ever heard of the medical products group ConvaTec, even folk in the City who pretend to follow these things. That changed when the company floated last autumn and was quickly promoted into the FTSE 100.

The shares are now soaring 36% above the float price, the group has made a couple of subsequent acquisitions, and we will get to hear more about its largely effortless progress as a public company this week, when it announces results.

Effortless save for one area, that is. The maker of medical products such as colostomy bags has come under fire for its lack of gender balance, as it is the sole FTSE 100 member to possess an all-male board. So much so that even those the City who ignore these things when shares are rising began to wonder if the catheter supplier was metaphorically extracting the urine.

No longer. Ros Rivaz was announced as the firm’s first female director last month and chairman Sir Christopher Gent has said the board “will in time reflect the requirements for gender diversity”. A female-only shortlist for a second board vacancy is promised. Developing …

Shock as RBS results ‘might be all right’

Royal Bank of Scotland is the most British of institutions.

Like the country as a whole, the (largely) state-owned bank once bestrode the globe, before a changing international scene, coupled with the odd piece of comic incompetence, took both institutions down a peg or 10. Nowadays, we are all thankful if either avoids total embarrassment on the world stage.

Which brings us to the banking reporting season and RBS’s interim results this week, which, in a bout of unusual optimism, the City seems to think won’t be a complete humiliation. Analysts at Credit Suisse headline their preview with the prediction “should be OK” – which on recent form would constitute a triumph.

Still, the subtext will really be whether the government starts selling down its RBS stake, now the bank no longer has to offload Williams & Glyn and (many of) its US woes are history.

Meanwhile another disgraced UK bank, HSBC, also reports numbers this week – and despite attracting bad publicity like RBS recently (money laundering, Swiss banking etc etc), the word is that the bank is throwing off so much cash that investors wonder if HSBC might do something with it. History suggests nothing could possibly go wrong.


Simon Goodley

The GuardianTramp

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