Welcome to Follow The Money, an investigative blog that aims to drill into the numbers behind stories making headlines in the news and business sections, and provide fresh insights into what is really going on behind the scenes. I’ll post a new entry roughly once a week and will be more than happy to receive subject suggestions by email or on Twitter
I have been deputy business editor at the Sunday Herald for five years, before which I was media correspondent. In previous lives I’ve worked as a business analyst in London and a development worker in Zambia. As a business journalist I’ve covered everything from cattle shows to micro-breweries, but try to stick to energy and the economy as much as possible.
If this rating gets cut to junk status, which was clearly being threatened by the ratings agencies, it would mean that First couldn’t bid for UK rail franchises and apparently also school bus contracts in the US, not to mention adding about £50m to the company’s annual interest bill.
As unpalatable as going to the markets cap in hand was to the company, not to mention cutting loose chairman Martin Gilbert after 27 years of service, there might have been no way back from a junk rating.
The £2.5 million price tag might be several vaults of gold more than most of us can afford, but the phone at seller CKD Galbraith has apparently been ringing off the hook from potential buyers all over the world since the sale was announced last weekend.
According to press speculation, it would go on the block with the Manchester Lowry, an altogether glassier and brassier affair. The mooted price tag is £100 million, say unnamed industry experts.
Given that Vince Cable announced this week that it will be going up 12p to £6.31 from October, that’s a pretty big jump in 14 years – 75%, to be precise.
It’s several lolloping strides ahead of the rate of inflation, which has been 46% over the same period. It is also well ahead of the growth in average Scottish wages, which rose roughly in line with inflation, meaning that the people on the lowest wages have been closing the gap with those further up the scale.
This has made the eye-watering cost of child care a massive longstanding issue for the country, so little wonder politicians have been queuing up to have another crack at it lately.
George Osborne used his Budget to unveil a new scheme of subsidies that will replace vouchers from 2015. Then Alex Salmond potentially went one better by pledging a “transformational shift in child care” in the event of a yes vote for independence, though the lack of details suggested much still needs worked out.
The British dislike of state ownership of big enterprises remains as hard-wired into the ruling psyche as it was in the days of Tell Sid. Look no further for evidence than the saga of Lloyds and RBS, where the ground is clearly being prepared for full privatisation as soon as possible.