Maitland/AMO was delighted to host Alex Brummer for our inaugural Book Club, the first in a series of insightful discussions with famous writers from the world of business, politics and art. Alex tells us about ‘The Great British Reboot’, the title of his latest book on Britain’s future post-Brexit and as we finally (and thankfully) pull ourselves out of the COVID pandemic. Alex should know a thing or two about how the country can thrive in a turbulent world. He has worked as a journalist for over 40 years, as the Guardian’s Finance correspondent in Washington in 1979 during the Oil Crisis, and for the last two decades as the Daily Mail’s City Editor.
So why is he so confident about Britain? Some highlights and a summary of his key points here:
• We are good at science and technology – Sometimes we forget this, but the COVID pandemic has reminded us especially about the depth of our pharmaceutical experience. There’s the success of AstraZeneca, yes, but also our therapeutic treatments and testing technologies. It shows the depth of the science advantage that the UK has.
• Our cultural ‘soft’ power is enormous- Let’s not forget our creative industries. From book writing by JK Rowling, to the Grime music of north London, or film studios operated by sky or comcast now in West London. We have world leading architecture, automotive design, and the gaming industry. Don’t forget financial and banking sectors and strong prospects of fintech. Look at how the LSE has reinvented itself. Refinitive deal has renewed its global presence- important as Britain opens up to the world.
• We need to deliver on the three ‘Hs’- Heathrow, HS2 and Hinckley nuclear power station. I’m a big believer in infrastructure to support economic growth. I don’t believe COVID has undermined the logic for some projects especially in rail. People will still want to shake hands on a deal and work with colleagues in an office environment. While these key projects might seem foolhardy today, and not just from a financial point of view, remember they won’t be delivered for another 10-15 years, when our infrastructure may be well behind other countries. At the same time, we need to put a rocket under our broadband initiative to ensure the whole of Britain can become a digitally-enabled country.
• I’m not against foreign takeovers but.. Foreign takeovers of UK Plcs are ok- but not in every circumstance. Our car industry has been revitalised by foreign investment from Volkswagen, BMW and Tata. Akzo Nobel’s takeover of ICI breathed new life into our chemicals industry, funding a new research centre. However, private equity-backed takeovers can result in companies being loaded up with debt and relaunched on the stock market and/or broken up and sold to the highest bidder, which means we lose British IP. I welcome the UK Government’s National Security Bill which would designate 17 sectors of the economy as sensitive and a much stronger public interest test before takeovers go ahead.
• We need to ensure ESG doesn’t just become a buzzword. Government should embrace an ESG agenda in every bit of its procurement – whether they’re buying a fountain pen, a laptop or concrete to build our motorways- by making sure that companies they procure from meet those ESG criteria. Remember Government spends around £700-800 billion a year on public procurement and could embed ESG criteria into its contracts. You might get some goods and services costing a bit more, but it would be a small price to play in leading Britain to be a much better place.
• Come and list in London! Let’s think about how we can encourage more successful companies to build their futures here. Too many so-called tech-unicorns are sold off to foreign bidders, or are listed on the Nasdaq rather than the London Stock Exchange. The Hill Review will outline some important changes that could entice more companies to list here and to get better valuations. And in the last few weeks we’ve seen some promising floats including The Hut and Moonpig. At the same time, it is encouraging to see alternative funding sources – such as the British Business Bank and the Government’s fund-matching initiatives- to support unicorns and other companies coming out of COVID.
To access an audio recording of the webinar and join our mailing list to find out more about our inaugural series: the Maitland/AMO book club, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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