Corporate Finance: Confidence Sparks Growth

Article excerpt

It could be the longest Millennium party of all - but then this is the corporate finance world and you would expect the boys to celebrate in style.

It's been a good year so why not break out the champagne . . . but in November?

Being cautious types, the corporate finance clan are taking no chances with the Millennium Bug.

Any excuse, I say, but Y2K problems - as a non sci-fi fan I thought Y2K was a sort of motorised dustbin in Star Wars - will do.

Another long vacation beckons, and they're only just back from their summer holidays.

Personally I think the Chinese have the right idea insisting their airline bosses are airborne on the night of December 31/January 1.

So I suppose we could insist on packing Digby Jones, Ian Metcalfe, Peter McHugh and all the rest into a computerised dungeon, tell them to organise an MBO of Count Dracula Enterprises, and see who we have left in the morning.

But knowing their ability to improvise they would probably have tunnelled their way out, surfacing in Metro Bar in time for midnight!

Still there is plenty to celebrate.

The region has been experiencing an unseasonal boom in deal activity which has continued more or less right through the summer.

But, with the Millennium looming, it looks set to run straight into a brick wall around the end of October.

Mr Peter McHugh said: "It has been an exceptional summit, with a succession of high profile completions.

"The customary slowdown in activity during the summer holiday season didn't happen this year, and we expect this level of activity to continue into October.

"We expect a slowdown in activity towards the end of the year as parties wait to see in the new Millennium and the extent of potential Y2K problems, before pressing the button to complete."

There you go - I told you Peter was in "party" mood!

But he is confident it is only a temporary blip.

He noted: "However this pent up activity can only lead to a buoyant start to the year with a rush of completions in the first quarter."

So why the good times for the corporate finance world this year?

Well, you don't have to be a genius to pinpoint the reasons.

First it is down to the general solid state of the economy where, far from the downturn developing into a full blown recession, we actually ended up with the softest of soft landings, thanks to astute handling of interest rates by the Bank of England.

Not astute enough for the manufacturing sector which struggled through most of the year, primarily against a strong pound.

It did cause problems for Midlands industry but generally the sector rode the difficulties well - it has finally, let us hope, learned the lessons of previous disasters.

It took Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry to galvanise the Bank of England into action, but at the end of the day, we have low inflation and falling unemployment.

Indeed the continuing falls in unemployment have completely flummoxed the experts.

OK, growth hit zero at one point but it is now back on line.

And, virtually all through, the service sector hardly even blinked.

So a strong economy has been a major factor in corporate finance confidence.

And that economic strength looks set to continue.

The second reason why corporate finance is going so well is the "take private" disease.

Small and medium sized companies coming off the Stock Market because the City no longer has any interest in them.

The arguments surrounding the phenomena have been well gone over, but in my view it is still a crying shame. …