March 2014

Are Manchester United getting it wrong?

Published on: 27 Mar 2014

Manchester United are dropping down the table.

Now, I’m not talking about the Premier League table where at the time of writing they are 7th in the League and are guaranteed to obtain their lowest points total in a season in the Premier League era. No, instead I’m talking about the Deloitte Football Money League.

man-utd-financesDeloitte are arguably the top accounting firm when it comes to dealing with UK football teams and each year they profile the highest earning clubs in the world.

The 17th edition of their report highlights the financial results from the 2012/13 season and it seems that Man Utd falling down league tables isn’t restricted to the Premier League table.

For the first time since the Deloitte Football Money League began they have fallen out of the top 3 big earners in the world. European champions Bayern Munich from Germany, leapfrogged Man Utd into third place behind Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Like most clubs in the top 20, Man Utd did generate more money than the previous year and the financial position going forward in the short term should be ok as there is a new Premier League television contract as well as some lucrative commercial deals present.

The problem could come though if they fail to qualify for the Champions League over the next few seasons. Dan Jones, partner in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte, said: “Consistent non-qualification for the Champions League would be a problem because, in round number terms, it is worth circa €50 million”.

So, it’s potentially a rough couple of years ahead for United.

The top 10 earners according to the Deloitte report are:

1. Real Madrid: €519 m
2. Barcelona: €483 m
3. Bayern Munich: €431 m
4. Man Utd: €424 m
5. Paris Saint Germain: €399 m
6. Manchester City: €316 m
7. Chelsea: €303 m
8. Arsenal: €284 m
9. Juventus: €272 m
10. AC Milan: €264 m

A copy of the full report can be seen here.

Things will now be different for you if you eat chocolate…

Published on: 22 Mar 2014

Sometimes it’s the simple ideas in business that work.

24 years ago in April 1990, the retailer Poundland was set up. On the face of it their approach was pretty simple – all the items in their shops would retail at £1 (hence the name “Poundland”).

tobleroneThey now have over 500 stores and sell 3,000 different products which all retail at £1.

They have been incredibly successful and the company has just been floated on the London Stock Exchange with a value of £750 million.

Whilst the concept of everything in the shop being on sale for £1 has advantages such as creating a “value image” which has been successful in the recent economic downturn, there are clear challenges when it comes to what £1 can buy today compared to 24 years ago and importantly what £1 will be able to buy in 24 years time.

Looking at the 4Ps model then it’s clear that the Price has to remain at £1, Promotion is minimal with word of mouth being the preferred method and Place needs to be in the right location as people will not travel a long distance to buy something for £1.

That leaves Product.

People are attracted to Poundland because it sells recognised brands at a discount price so they can’t really switch to unknown brands. They have however identified an approach to maintaining their margins on well known products including the chocolate bar, the Toblerone (the chocolate bar with the hidden logo shown here).

Poundland have agreed with Kraft that a smaller Toblerone is produced. It is only slightly smaller than the standard bar – about one triangle shorter.

Importantly though, by reducing the size of the bar it enables the price to be held at £1.

It’s not just at Poundland where chocolate bars have been changing.

The chocolate industry as a whole is currently facing a number of challenges with Cocoa prices being very high.

So what do chocolate manufacturers do? Do they increase the prices to keep their margins or do they amend the product?

Well it seems that both Nestlé and Cadbury have been quietly shrinking the size of some of their chocolate bars on the market whilst at the same time pushing up some of their prices to maintain their profit margins.

A couple of years ago, some chunks of Cadbury’s famous Dairy Milk Bar were removed and the bar was reduced in size from 140g to 120g

Now whilst on the face of it some consumers may feel a bit cheated by this move it could arguably prove beneficial for waistlines.

Interestingly as well, will we see Poundland stocking a one chunk £1 Toblerone in a few years time?

What could possibly go wrong?

Published on: 15 Mar 2014

Ethics are seen as one of the core attributes of an accountant.

Let me ask you a question though – based on the following information do you thick Mr Darren Upton was an ethical accountant?

fraudMr Upton was in business with his wife and they ran Upton & Co, a firm of accountants based in England with over 800 clients.

Mr Upton decided that he wanted a bit of excitement in his life and after going onto an internet dating website and pretending to be single, the married father met a part-time model and started seeing her as his girlfriend.

Did he tell this lady that he was marred?

No, he didn’t tell her that he was married but what he did do was to buy her lots of presents.

Now, I’m not talking about the odd bunch of flowers or box of chocolates. No, I’m talking about gifts including a Mercedes, lingerie from Ann Summers, clothes from Harvey Nichols and he also rented an £800 a month flat for her.

In fact, he spent on average £10,000 per month on his girlfriend over an 18 month period.

So picture the scene.

He’s in business together with his wife. He meets another woman and starts spending significant amounts of money on her. How can he fund these gifts without his wife finding out?

Well, put it this way. There are some clever frauds and some pretty stupid frauds that have been used to fund unethical activities over the years.

Mr Upton’s money raising attempt fell well and truly into the “stupid fraud” category.

Mr Upton looked after the tax affairs of a number of clients. After the tax they owed had been calculated he told the clients to pay the tax but instead of giving the bank account details of the tax authorities he gave the clients his own personal bank details.

It doesn’t take a genius to notice that the fraud will be spotted as soon as the tax authorities send a late payment notice to the clients.

So, having an affair behind his wife’s back, not telling his girlfriend he was married, defrauding his clients and taking money that belonged to the tax authorities.

What could possibly go wrong??

Mr. Upton was jailed for 6 years so he’ll have plenty of time to think about that question.

Not the best thing to post on Facebook…

Published on: 12 Mar 2014

Some things just shouldn’t be posted on Facebook.

Confidentiality agreements are regularly seen in business. At the risk of stating the obvious, these agreements are set up to ensure that whatever was agreed between 2 parties remains confidential.

confidentiality agreementUnfortunately for a gentleman called Mr Snay, he broke a confidentiality agreement and as a result is now $80,000 worse off.

The background to the story is that Patrick Snay sued his former employer Gulliver Preparatory School in Miami for age discrimination. He won an $80,000 settlement from them.

There was a condition attached to this though and that was he had to keep it secret (or using business terminology, he had a “confidentiality agreement” with the other party).

Whilst Mr Snay was no doubt feeling very pleased with himself and his $80,000 award he’s probably regretting telling his daughter or to be more precise, he’s probably regretting telling his daughter not to post about it on her Facebook page.

Yes, his daughter Dana told her 1,200 Facebook friends about the news.

She posted that “”Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver,” and “Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.”

As a result of this post the school didn’t pay the $80,000 settlement. They argued that Mr Snay had broken the confidentiality agreement. The Florida Appeals Court agreed with them and stated that the settlement does not have to be paid.

So, that one particular Facebook post by Dana cost her parents $80,000. Somehow I don’t think “Mama and Papa Snay” hit the like button on their daughters post.

Are things looking up after this advert?

Published on: 09 Mar 2014

The advertising profession is consistently under pressure to come up with new ways of promoting a product.

British Airways PlcOgilvy, a global creative agency, has recently developed a pretty impressive advert for British Airways.

These adverts utilise interactive digital screens and are located in certain areas in London including Piccadilly Circus. The nice thing about these advertising boards is that they interact with the British Airways planes flying overhead.

The system on the advertising boards tracks British Airways planes as they fly above the boards and interrupts the display to show a child on the screen pointing towards the actual plane flying above. The screen then shows details of where the plane is flying to.

The aim of the promotion is to remind people how magical flying can be by looking at it from a child’s perspective. Richard Tams, a British Airways spokesman was quoted as saying “we’ve all had conversations with friends and family wondering where the planes are going and dream of an amazing holiday or warm destination and this clever technology taps into that and reminds people how accessible the world can be.”

A video of the board in action can be seen below.

This got me thinking though and whilst the technology is certainly very impressive and the creative brains that thought it up deserve a round of applause, I do wonder whether all the rain we’ve had in the UK recently will result in the child on the digital screen merely pointing towards a dark raincloud with a plane nowhere to be seen.

After 118 years Barclays are saying farewell to pwc.

Published on: 05 Mar 2014

After getting to know each other 118 years ago in 1896 it’s looking like pwc’s relationship with the Barclays banking group is coming to an end.

barclaysBarclays has just released their 2013 Annual Report and the Report highlights that they are putting their audit out to tender and pwc will not be invited to tender.

They put this down to several reasons including being “mindful of investor sentiment regarding external audit firm tendering and rotation” and the fact that “2014 is likely to see new regulation in this area both from the UK Competition Commission (implementing its decision to mandate tendering at least every 10 years) and the European Union (requiring audit firm rotation at least every 20 years).”

Barclays is one of pwc’s major clients and the fees received by pwc were pretty significant.

In 2013 the total audit and non-audit fees paid to pwc by Barclays amounted to £45 million.

Interestingly, the non-audit fees paid to pwc represented 28.5% of the audit fee.

Allowable non-audit services are pre-approved up to £100,000, or £25,000 in the case of certain taxation services. Any proposed non-audit service that exceeds these thresholds requires the specific approval from the Chairman of the Audit Committee before pwc can be engaged.

Barclays said that during 2013 the Chairman of the Audit Committee scrutinised all such requests for approval, particularly those that concerned taxation-related services, and two requests for approval were declined.

Whilst losing the Barclay’s audit is no doubt a £45 million disappointment to pwc, it’s fair to say that the other accounting companies are looking forward to the opportunity of tendering for a £45 million audit.

The ExP Group