So it’s farewell to Sir Andrew Witty, the boss of pharma group GlaxoSmithKline and one of the few businesses knights who hasn’t disgraced himself enough to have a campaign to strip him of his title.
He’s been on one of those long City goodbyes where he announces he’s off but then stays for a lap of honour, and this week is the final time we will hear Glaxo’s full-year results with Witty at the helm.
It may be a decent time to wean himself off the attractions of the boardroom, too. Analysts at Berenberg muse: “Outside of the HIV business, the rest of the pharmaceuticals business is not expected to deliver much growth. However, GSK does have a deep pipeline, albeit at relatively early stages of development.”
So what will Witty be remembered for? Well, in development circles it will surely be his lauded decision to slash GSK’s prices in the poorest countries to no more than 25% of the UK price.
Yet others may recollect different events, including the company getting whacked with a £1.9bn fine in the US in 2012, after admitting bribing doctors – plus that memorable scandal shortly afterwards involving a GSK executive in Asia, a sex tape and favours given to Chinese doctors for using GSK products. Witty described the latter as “a disappointment”.
Three-decade fortune-telling? Thanks, PwC
There’s an old City joke about a long-term investment merely being a short-term one that went wrong.
It may be a bit of a stretch to adapt that crack to economic forecasting, but no matter: the dismal scientists are hardly in a position to complain about a touch of cavalier extrapolation.
Anyway, last week saw the latest press conference at which the Bank of England’s finest had to admit that Threadneedle Street had made a complete Horlicks of its economic predictions. (For what it’s worth, UK growth is now expected to be 2% this year rather than 1.4%.)
Undeterred, another bunch of economists at the accountancy firm PwC will this week publish an even more ambitious piece of economic crystal-ball gazing, when they publish research that attempts to predict the GDPs of the world’s richest nations, er, 33 years from now.
Their report, The World in 2050, could be one of three things: (a) an incredible triumph of hope over experience (confidence ranking high); (b) a fantastic piece of self-satire (less probable); or (c) a forlorn attempt to guess economic conditions that evening at 10 minutes to nine.
Respect, integrity, and another day in court
It’s a controversial thought, but sometimes you do have to love Barclays – the lender that routinely tells gags that make itself the butt of the joke.
It called itself the “go to” bank – and then became the place that financial regulators would go to when they needed to trouser a large fine. It then memorably placed in the foyer of its headquarters a series of perspex blocks emblazoned with the words “respect, integrity, service, excellence, stewardship” – so, say what you want about them, but Barclays bankers do not want for a sense of irony.
Anyway, if those ridiculous blocks aren’t good enough for you, Barclays has others it can deploy.
It was called to the high court on Friday because it had blocked access to documents relating to its legal battle with financier Amanda Staveley. (She’s arguing the many millions she was paid for helping save the bank from a taxpayer bailout should have been more. They say she’s talking nonsense.)
Mr Justice Leggatt was called in to referee, and he took the view that Barclays was being “wholly unreasonable and obstructive” to make Staveley wait, when it was demanding other documents itself.
The outcome? The documents will need to be handed over to Staveley tomorrow. Developing.