What’s the link between the London Metal Exchange, a little old lady and Armenia?

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If you have some friends that are normal in most ways apart from a strange interest in different types of metals then head over to the website of the London Metal Exchange (LME) to get hold of some information to impress them.

The LME was established over 130 years ago and is the world’s premier non-ferrous metals market offering a range of futures and options contracts for metals.

Dig a bit deeper into the site and you’ll find some background on copper.

According to the LME, copper was first traded on the Exchange back in 1877 and was “the first mineral that man extracted from the earth and along with tin gave rise to the Bronze Age. As the ages and technology progressed the uses for copper increased.

Copper is an excellent conductor of electricity, as such one of its main industrial usage is for the production of cable, wire and electrical products for both the electrical and building industries. The construction industry also accounts for copper’s second largest usage in such areas as pipes for plumbing, heating and ventilating as well as building wire and sheet metal facings.”

I’m not sure any of this was on an elderly Georgian Lady’s mind this week when she was digging in the ground for copper to sell for scrap.

The 75 year old had been digging near the capital of Tbilisi when her spade damaged a fibre-optic cable. This cable was quite an important cable as it in effect provided 90% of the internet access for Georgia’s neighbouring country of Armenia.

The end result of this 75 year old lady’s action was that 90% of the web users in Armenia’s 3.2 million population were unable to access the internet for 5 hours. This Grandmother’s spade had cut through the cable and in essence, internet connectivity for a whole country was lost for the majority of the working day.

On Friday, copper prices were up 2% and the three-month copper prices on the LME closed at $9,875 per tonne, its highest in more than a month.

This spike in prices is reportedly nothing to do with a shortage of copper due to the little old lady being arrested and taking a break from her copper digging…

Which do you prefer – a big bank balance or a slim waist?

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Whilst the recent banking crisis has raised a lot of challenges for banks and reinforced the need for them to stick to the solid core foundations of the profession, there are still a number of innovative savings products out there.

Sprinting to the front in terms of pretty unique product offering is the South Korean bank, Hana Bank.

Hana Bank, the banking arm of Hana Financial Group offers a savings product called “S-Line” which is a Korean word that means hourglass figure.

The basic idea behind the product is that the more weight a person loses the higher the interest rate the individual gets on his or her savings. The highest interest rates are available for those investors that lose more than 5% of their weight within a year.

Hang on, I hear you say – “What about those investors that are already fit and have a healthy weight?”

The bank has thought of this and rather than encourage people who are a healthy weight to lose weight they also offer the highest rates if the individual holds a gym membership for a year.

Are people signing up for this savings product?

Well reportedly, nearly 50,000 customers have invested 400 billion won (approximately £220 million) in the programme so far.

It looks like a healthy result for the bank.

Is India about to join the European Union?

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At one stage or another as a business professional you’ll have to make a speech or presentation in front of a group of people. Sometimes it will be in front of a large group of people.

The chances are that you’ll probably feel a bit nervous as surveys consistently show that public speaking is one of the most feared aspects of business life.

Over my career I’ve been lucky enough to see some excellent presentations and have also seen some not so good presentations as well.

I’ve never seen a speech at the United Nations though but you would think that the speeches made at the UN, together with the delivery techniques of the speakers would be first rate.

Wouldn’t you?

India’s minister of external affairs did his country’s first speech since India recently began its 2 year term as a temporary member of the UN Security Council.

Mr Krishna, aged 78,  is a very experienced diplomat and delivered a speech on the subject of security and development.

He took his notes and got off to a confident start.

It all suddenly started going a bit wrong though when after a couple of minutes he read out the phrase, “I’d like to express my satisfaction regarding the happy coincidence of having two members of the Portuguese-speaking countries”.

Further into the speech he then started stressing the importance of improved coordination between the UN and the European Union.

It was at this stage that a colleague interrupted him to advise him to stop reading as he had in fact mistakenly picked up the wrong speech and was reading the speech that had been prepared by the Portuguese representative.

So, the next time you are preparing a speech maybe it’s an idea to write your name in big capitals at the top of your notes.

Getting your exam results: better than your wedding day?

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I received a call first thing this morning from an individual that shall remain nameless. He was really pleased as he had just received his ACCA exam results and he had passed his final two exams.

He was so pleased that he actually said today was better than his wedding day (hence the decision for him to remain anonymous in case his wife who is also an accountant is reading!).

ACCA exam results day and wedding days certainly are memorable and over in Hong Kong, the fast food chain McDonalds has seen a gap in the market and are diversifying into McWeddings.

Had this been launched on 1 April then I would have been tempted to assume it was an April fool’s joke but no it’s genuine and may well make business sense for the company.

Anyone who’s been to Hong Kong will know that it’s a buzzing, fast moving place. Traditional Chinese weddings can be very expensive and for those couples that have dated in McDonalds then why not take it a step further and get married in McDonalds?

The McDonald’s “Warm and sweet wedding package,” starts at HK$9999 (approximately £800) and the first couple to get married at McDonalds did so last week on Valentine’s Day. It’s not clear though at this stage whether the ceremony replaced the words “would you like fries with that” to “would you like a wife with that”.

Many congratulations to everyone that has been successful with their ACCA exam results today and if the enjoyment from receiving your results is better than your wedding night then all the hard work was definitely worth it.

I’ll have two beers, some peanuts and 50 shares please…

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Fancy having a drink of beer and getting some shares in the company as well?

Well, if you’re in Australia that is exactly what you can do at the moment.

Taking a novel approach to raising finance the Australian beer brand Broo is currently offering free shares with purchases of their beer.

Consumers need to purchase between one and fifty cartons of Broo via their website for AUD 54.99 each (approximately £35) and then they are entitled to get 10 free shares in the company for each cartoon.

The company is hoping to give away up to 10 million shares and these will be shares with full voting rights so it’s definitely more than a PR exercise.

The share prospectus can be found here but shares are only available to Australian residents who have until the end of the month to apply for them.

If you’re a heavy drinker then you won’t become the major shareholder in the company as the maximum number of shares each individual can get is 500.

All in all this seems a great idea by the company. Drinking beer and investing at the same time – sounds like a nice strategy!

Just how many mines are there in London and Toronto?

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It’s Valentine’s Day next Monday and love appears to be in the air as far as stock exchanges are concerned.

Last year, the Australian and Singaporean stock exchanges announced plans to merge.

Earlier today the London Stock Exchange and Toronto Stock Exchange announced that they had formally agreed to merge and Deutsche Borse and NYSE Euronext, two of the world’s largest stock exchange operators, have now just disclosed that they are in “advanced merger discussions”.

Wow – it’s all happening on the exchanges.

If you look at the transatlantic merger between the London and Toronto exchanges then the merger has been valued at an impressive £5.5 billion.

It has been presented very much as a “merger of equals” and not a takeover (although the London Stock Exchange shareholders will get 55% of the newly created entity).

The new entity will have its headquarters in both London and Toronto and whilst some people may say that having two headquarters is a bit of a “cop out”, it does avoid the accusation that one organisation has taken over the other.

There will of course be an interesting internal discussion about where THE boardroom will be located. The more likely situation though is that they will have two boardrooms, one in London and one in Toronto.

Either way the new enlarged entity will certainly become a dominant player. It will have over 6,700 listings and will become the largest exchange in terms of companies traded with an aggregate market capitalisation of approximately £3.7 trillion.

Mining companies will also no doubt be interested as the Toronto exchange claims to be the world’s leading resources market and approximately a third of the companies in the FTSE 100 Index (the 100 largest companies on the London Stock Exchange) are from the mining and energy sectors.

The proposed benefits of the merger include anticipated annual savings of £35 million by the second year of the merger.

Whether they could save more by only having the one boardroom table is a separate discussion point.

You can raise your profile on LinkedIn but will LinkedIn raise $175 million?

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The professional networking site LinkedIn yesterday announced plans to raise up to $175 million (£110 million) by way of a public offering.

Many of you may well be members of LinkedIn and in terms of registered users it has been very successful since it started back in 2002.

Financial information about the company though has historically been difficult to obtain as such information was kept away from the public domain.

The IPO document released yesterday however provides some interesting figures.

For example, LinkedIn gains a new member every second and now has more than 90 million total members worldwide.

Although the majority of LinkedIn users are subscribers that sign up for the free version the company does generate significant income. It was able to double its 2009 revenues to $161 million in the first nine months of 2010. The $161 million can be broken down as follows:

  • Hiring solutions (job listings): $66 million (41% of revenue)
  • Marketing solutions (advertising): $51 million (32% of revenue)
  • Premium subscriptions: $44 million (27% of revenue)

2010 was the first year that LinkedIn was profitable with a net income after tax of $10 million.

Cash at hand as at 30 September 2010 was $90 million whilst total assets were $197 million.

The IPO document also has to provide details of shareholders with more than a 5% stake.

The founder and chairman, Reid Hoffman owns 21.4% of the company together with his wife whilst 3 venture capital firms own approximately 39% between them.

The shareholders should do very well out of the IPO and indeed Mr Hoffman is no stranger to successful e-businesses having previously been an executive at PayPal.

If you’ve got a relaxed day at the office and a love of detail then the full document submitted to the US Securities and Exchange Commission can be found here.

You just can’t be a real banker if you like pickled onions….

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It sounds like the start of a joke:

What’s got onion breath, dirty glasses and a scruffy hair cut?

Well, if the UBS dress code has anything to do with it then it certainly isn’t a UBS banker.

Whilst being professional in both approach and dress style is expected for employees of banks the Swiss bank UBS has got a 44 page dress code which advises employees how they should dress.

It has also attracted a fair amount of mocking on the internet.

They have recently announced however that they will be revising their dress code but some of the highlights of the existing advice in the current code include:

–    Types of perfume and make up that female employees should wear (black nail varnish should be avoided);

–    Men (and I guess women as well for that matter) should avoid unruly beards;

–    Glasses should be kept clean (presumably this will help when reading the dress code)

–    Women are encouraged to wear skin coloured underwear.

It also advises against eating garlic and onions.

They have said however that certain parts of their dress code will stay including the requirement for men to wear a dark suit, white shirt and a red tie.

In summary therefore if you’re thinking of applying for a job as a banker and have a liking for bright green ties, leopard print underwear and just love the taste of pickled onions then maybe UBS isn’t the bank for you.

They’ll know what pizza you ordered but what about that illegal activity…

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If you give investment advice in the UK and your employer provides you with a mobile phone the chances are that from next year all your calls will be monitored and recorded.

Fixed phone line calls involving financial business such as share purchases are already recorded but the UK’s financial watchdog, the Financial Services Authority (FSA), recently announced that the recording of calls would be extended to recording conversations held on company provided mobiles.

In an attempt to crackdown on insider trading activities all calls on fixed line and company issued mobiles will be recorded and kept for 6 months.

Insider trading is the illegal activity of using information which isn’t in the public domain to make a personal gain or avoid a personal loss.

For example, if you’re working with a client that is about to make a takeover bid for another company and you purchase shares in the target company before the takeover attempt becomes public knowledge, the chances are that the share price will increase and you’ll make a nice but illegal profit.

By recording mobile phone calls the FSA feel that that the incidence of insider trading will decrease.

Some of the banks have a number of concerns about the new scheme.

One global investment bank has estimated that it will cost £2.6 million per annum to record all the calls made per year on company issued BlackBerry devices.

The interesting thing is that the recording requirement only refers to company issued mobile phones.

Therefore, if you order a take away pizza from your company mobile your menu chioce will be recorded.

My guess is though that any financial advisor currently considering undertaking illegal insider dealing activities has no doubt worked out that they could buy a personal anonymous pay-as-you-go phone from one of the mobile phone providers for as little as £4.95.

ACCA exam tips released today and I hope you’ll be better prepared than this person…

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To put it bluntly, in order to pass the ACCA exams and qualify as an accountant you have to be intelligent.

You will have needed to have put in a significant amount of work over the last few months to cover all of the main areas of the syllabus.

Now whilst no training company knows for sure what will actually be in the exams next month our ACCA exam tips identify areas which we believe you should have covered particularly well.

Being properly prepared though isn’t just applicable for people who are trying to pass their professional exams.

If your chosen method of progressing in life is to be a getaway driver for a gang of jewellery shop raiders then I guess there should also be an element of preparation.

A shop raiding gang in Essex in the UK put 19 year old Mohammed Alasow in charge of being their getaway driver.

It took his colleagues a mere 20 seconds to break open the shop window with a pickaxe and sledgehammer. They managed to grab £9,000 of jewellery and jumped into the getaway car where Mr Alasow put his foot down and the car shot off at speed.

Alas for the poor driver and his friends the car didn’t get very far as it ran out of petrol and stopped in the middle of the road a few miles away.

Things got even worse for the gang as a kindly policeman stopped to see if they needed some help and spotted a sledgehammer, masks and jewellery on the back seat of the car. Fast forward a few months and they were recently jailed for 8 years.

Now being a getaway driver and forgetting to fill the car with petrol doesn’t really indicate a thorough preparation for the role.

Back to a more respectable profession and in terms of last minute preparation for the ACCA exams then we advise that if you haven’t done so already to print off a copy of our free ExPress notes from www.theexpgroup.com and review them in the run up to the exam. These notes cover the key areas of the syllabus and are a perfect last minute revision aid.

Also, don’t forget that the exam papers will be marked using scanning technology. The scripts will be completed as normal by students but will be marked on screen by the markers.

It’s important therefore that you use a black pen in the exams. If you use anything else such as coloured pens or pencils there is a risk that the scanning technology may not pick up your writing.

Good luck with your final revision and click here for the links to the our ACCA exam tips.