Not the best day in the office for this lady…

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Winning the lottery is a life changing experience.

The recent Euromillions lottery had a first prize of £38 million.

In a lot of companies, groups of individuals get together to form a syndicate and they combine their money and enter into a lottery.

The idea is that by combining your money you have more entries and you’re more likely to win. To be honest though anyone with a basic understanding of maths will realise that the chances of winning are still infinitesimally small.

When colleagues from an organisation set up such a syndicate to enter the lottery it’s advisable to have a written record of what was agreed (for example what happens if someone is away and can’t pay their share of the lottery money).

A group of 13 bus drivers working for the Stagecoach company in the UK formed a lottery syndicate and agreed to put in £2 per week to enter the lottery.

Six months ago one of the syndicate, a lady by the name of Miss Loveday (or Miss Unlucky as she will soon no doubt become known) decided to withdraw from the syndicate as she reportedly couldn’t afford to pay the £2 to enter each week.

Fast forward to last week and the winning lottery numbers matched those chosen by the syndicate.

Their winnings? A rather pleasant £38 million which works out at over £3 million each.

Having withdrawn from the office syndicate 6 months ago Miss Loveday doesn’t get anything from the lottery win.

Now, we’ve all had bad days at the office but finding out that you’re not an instant multi millionaire because you stopped paying your weekly £2 entry fee 6 months ago probably ranks up there as being “a really bad day at the office”.

One of the winning drivers wasn’t overly sympathetic about her plight though as he was reported as saying “You’ve got to be in it to win it”.

The one piece of good news for the unlucky Miss Loveday is that she doesn’t have to listen to any of the winners celebrating their win as all of them resigned immediately from their £17,000 a year jobs and didn’t bother going into work the day after winning…

Do you want to become Lady Gaga’s Accountant?

We get a weekly report on the phrases that people are searching for when they visit our website.

As well as the search terms that would be expected on our site such as “ACCA courses” or “CIMA courses” there are also some more unusual ones.

One recent such unusual search term was “How do I become Lady Gaga’s accountant?”

Now this is a good question but unfortunately if you’re the person that’s hoping to become Lady Gaga’s accountant then sorry but we don’t quite know the answer to that one.

What is interesting about the music industry though is that things are changing for the top artists around the world.

Music trade magazine Billboard has just published their annual list of the top revenue generating music acts in the US.

The top 10 includes some of the newer artists such as Taylor Swift (No. 1 with $35.7m) and Adele (No. 10 with $13.1m) but it also includes some of the more experienced artists such as U2 (No. 2 with $35.1m) and Bon Jovi (No. 7 with $15.8m).

These are pretty impressive amounts of income especially when you consider that they only represent the US income sources and also do not include revenue from sponsorships or merchandise sales.

The income profile of top music acts has changed over recent years though.

Whereas a decade ago the dominant proportion of income would have come from sales of CDs the big earner for most of the artists nowadays is concert and touring revenue.

U2 are the kings of making money from tours and their recently completed “360° Tour” which ran from 2009 to 2011 grossed an incredible $736 million and over 7 million people saw them in concert on the tour.

Back to the person that searched for how to become Lady Gaga’s accountant though and it remains to be seen whether the person searching for the answer was an individual student or a business development partner at a firm of accountants…

(here are your free ACCA and CIMA online courses)

McDonalds: “I’m loving it” or “I’d rather eat my own diarrhea”?

So, it’s good and bad news for the fast food giant McDonalds.

They recently released their latest annual results and things are looking good for them.

Global comparable sales increased 5.6% and consolidated operating income increased by 14%. The split in individual geographic regions showed the US up 6%, Europe up 15% and APMEA (Asia Pacific/Middle East/Africa) up 27%.

McDonald’s Chief Executive Officer Jim Skinner said that they are planning on opening 1,300 new restaurants this year.

Interestingly two of the reasons that McDonalds appears to be doing well despite there being a recession on in lots of countries is that firstly families are trading down from going to the more expensive pizza restaurants such as Pizza Hut and Pizza Express and secondly people are buying McDonalds coffee instead of the more expensive Starbucks and Costa Coffee.

The financials are looking good and that’s the good news.

The bad news is that McDonalds don’t seem to have quite mastered the art of using the social media site, Twitter.

They launched a 24 hour promotional campaign on Twitter whereby they paid for promoted tweets to be inserted into the streams of Twitter users.

The campaign was designed to highlight happy farmer stories and they used two hashtags (for non Twitter users hashtags highlight key words in a tweet).

One of the hashtags used was #McDStories and it was hoped that this would generate lots of positive stories from McDonalds fans.

The hashtag though was hijacked by critics of McDonalds who bombarded the site with negative tweets about McDonalds.

Put it this way. The vast majority of the tweets with the #McDStories hashag in it are extremely unlikely to be seen in any future McDonalds publicity drive.

Some of the tweets that won’t be featuring in the next McDonalds advertising campaign include:

@Memphidelity: “McDialysis? I’m loving it!”

@flatfootphil: “A nice juicy Fillet o’fish. With added worm. Still alive. Nice. Never again.”

@Alice_2112: “Hospitalized for food poisoning after eating McDonalds in 1989. Never ate there again and became a Vegetarian. Should have sued.”

@MuzzaFuzza: “I haven’t been to McDonalds in years, because I’d rather eat my own diarrhea.”

The bigger they are the harder they fall?

What have tall buildings and financial crashes got in common?

Well according to a report by Barclays Capital, there is an “unhealthy” link between the building of skyscrapers and impending financial collapse

Their Skyscraper Index shows an unhealthy correlation between construction of the next world’s tallest building and an impending financial crisis.

They pointed out that the world’s first skyscraper, the Equitable Life Building which was completed in 1873 was followed by a 5 year recession. The Empire State Building was built just as the Great Depression started. Malaysia’s Petronas Towers was built in 1997 which coincided with the Asian financial crisis. The current tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa was finished in 2010 and heralded the crisis in Dubai.

According to Barclays, “the world’s tallest buildings are simply the edifice of a broader skyscraper building boom, reflecting a widespread misallocation of capital and an impending economic correction”.

They then go on to point out that “Investors should therefore pay particular attention to China – today’s biggest bubble builder with 53% of all the world’s skyscrapers under construction – and
India – which with just two completed skyscrapers, now has 14 skyscrapers under construction”.

Now whilst this may be worrying for people who have invested in the yet to be built skyscrapers there appears to be some reasoning behind this link.

Building a skyscraper takes a huge amount of capital and confidence. Both of these are only really going to be present in a boom time.

It takes several years to construct the buildings so by the time they are complete there is a pretty good chance that the economic cycle will be in a trough rather than the peak when the project was signed off.

Is this a case of the bigger they are the harder they fall?

Liverpool win after an own goal by Adidas.

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Forget about the rivalry on the pitch between Manchester United and Liverpool. Forget about Luis Suarez refusing to shake hands with Patrice Evra at the game on Saturday.

No, the key question is who has got the biggest kit sponsorship deal in the world.

Manchester United’s kit is sponsored by Nike and until recently it was the largest kit sponsorship deal in the world. Liverpool however has just announced a new kit sponsorship deal which exceeds the Nike deal and makes it the biggest football shirt sponsorship deal in the world.

Liverpool’s kit used to be sponsored by Adidas but Adidas lost out in the new bid for sponsorship to American Sports Group Warrior Sports (who own the New Balance sports brand).

Adidas felt that Liverpool’s form over the last few years in the English Premier League hadn’t been that good and as a result didn’t bid as much for the sponsorship deal.

Warrior Sports though seem to have taken the view that Liverpool is a global brand as opposed to merely an English football club.

Liverpool FC has immense brand power overseas. Especially in Asia and the sales of their replica shirts are estimated to be nearly 900,000 a year.

There’s also an interesting observation in that their main sponsor of the shirt (as opposed to the kit supplier) is Standard Chartered.

The Standard Chartered bank isn’t present in the UK and therefore the bank’s sponsorship of the Liverpool shirt clearly isn’t aimed at the UK market but rather at the Asian, African and Middle Eastern markets where Liverpool have a strong following and Standard Chartered have a strong presence.

So, well done Warrior Sports for seeing the global appeal of the Liverpool brand.

As for Adidas, have they just kicked the ball into their own net?

Vodafone, bikini bed-baths and lingerie parties…

So what do Vodafone do?

Are they one of the world’s largest mobile telecommunications companies or do they undertake studies about team building which highlight examples of activities such as bikini-clad bed-baths and lingerie parties?

The answer is both.

As well as running one of the top mobile phone networks, their UK operations have just released some findings into a study they undertook together with YouGov about what people think of team-building courses.

In summary, a lot of the people interviewed felt that some organised team building was a waste of time.

Now I’ve attended a few team building courses during my career. Some have been good and some have been not so good but none of them have included the following activities which were identified during the Vodafone research.

“The research among more than 1,000 British employees with colleagues uncovered some eye-popping examples of awkward and silly team-building activities, including enduring bikini-clad ‘bed baths’ and massages from colleagues, holding lingerie parties, and eating crickets as part of a ‘bush tucker trial’ style event.”

Now, let’s just pause there.

“Bed baths and massages from colleagues”!!

If you’re sat in the office then look around you now and think which one of your colleagues would you like to receive a massage from at a team building event and then perhaps more alarmingly think which person would really freak you out if they were asked to give you a massage as part of a team building activity.

The Vodafone survey also identified that the older people get, the more cynical (or wise??) they tend to be about team building.

Only 10% of people aged 55 or over thought that team building would help them work more effectively with their colleagues compared with 42% of 18 to 24 year olds. Whether this cynicism has anything to do with the thought of massage remains to be seen.

There were some positives in the research though with the most effective forms of team building being found to be “social events like going out for a drink or a meal, followed by volunteering and charity work.”

Peter Kelly, Enterprise Director at Vodafone UK, said that “Many genuine team-building activities can be valuable, but ultimately, to achieve better teamwork businesses need to get the basics right first. Employers need to focus on how their employees work day-to-day, and give staff the tools they need to be able to do their job best. Employees also want to be able to work smarter – and that means easy access to customers, colleagues and information wherever they are.”

So in conclusion, any of you working for Vodafone can look forward to your employer getting things right and giving you the tools you need to be able to do your job best.

There is no need for you to take any massage oil into the office.

What would you do if you had to count diamonds?

They say that “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend” but it seems as though it should be “Diamonds are a great investment in times of recession”.

The world’s largest diamond group has just released their latest results and they certainly sparkle.

Whilst a lot of companies around the world have struggled over recent years due to the global recession, the latest De Beers results make impressive reading.

Underlying profits were $968m in 2011. This was an increase of 62% on the prior year figure of £598m.

That’s not a bad performance in today’s economic times and a lot of the success was put down to strong demand in China where wealthy individuals were looking to purchase diamonds and diamond jewellery.

De Beers is 45% owned by the mining giant Anglo American who last November signed an agreement to increase their stake in De Beers by a further 40% by agreeing to purchase the Oppenheimer founding family’s stake. This deal is expected to happen this year and the remaining 15% shareholding will be held by the Botswana government.

De Beers are a leader in the diamond industry and they produce more than a third of the world’s rough diamonds. These come from mines in Southern Africa (South Africa, Botswana and Namibia) as well as Canada.

Importantly they also claim that all their diamonds are “conflict free” which in effect means they are mined ethically and with respect for both people and the environment. They are not involved in any of the “blood diamonds” or “conflict diamond” which are mined in war zones or sold to finance civil wars or terrorist activities.

At the start of my career when I was an audit junior I was involved in various year-end inventory counts which normally involved me being sent off to warehouses to count inventory by myself.

Somehow I’ve got a feeling that the year-end inventory count of the diamonds at De Beers was a slightly more glamorous event than the counts I attended.

He’s the boss of EY but what does his mum think?

He’s just been appointed as the new head of Ernst & Young with ultimate responsibility for the 152,000 EY people in 144 countries but what does his mum think?

It must have been a proud moment for Mr Weinberger as getting to be the head of such a prestigious organisation as EY is a pretty good achievement in anyone’s books.

His bio on the EY site makes impressive reading but after a quick search on the net you come across the local newspaper where he was brought up in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

The Citizens Voice has a few words from his mum.

Now Mums, Moms, Mothers, Mummies or whatever you call them are great. Always there when you need them and we wouldn’t be the impressive grownups we are without all their help over the years.

One thing though that a lot of mums do tend to forget is that their children do grow up.

Sometimes they can still treat you as though you are, how can we say it, but still the baby of the family.

Mr Weinberger may therefore have been a bit worried when he heard that his mum had been interviewed. After all, were we about to hear all his embarrassing stories from when he was a child?

Well, according to the paper, Members of his considerable extended family were delighted to learn the news, but perhaps none so much as his mother, Goldye Weinberger, of Scranton.

“I’m his mother, I always knew he was destined for greatness,” she said.

She just didn’t know in what. She remembers her son – one of four children, the rest girls – always outside, playing baseball or basketball with kids in the neighborhood. He was a good student at Wyoming Seminary in Kingston, but not a “numbers” kids and not bookish. She called him “a student of the world.”

She admitted she’s somewhat surprised her son, who is a lawyer, is head of a renowned accounting firm.

So all’s well for Mr Weinberger – he’s head of the company and his mum didn’t say anything embarrassing about him.

He must be so happy that he will no doubt be singing along loudly with this EY video…

More iPhones were sold than babies were born worldwide.

“More iPhones were sold than babies were born worldwide”. That’s a pretty staggering claim but Apple have just released their quarterly earnings for the 14 weeks ended 31 December 2011 and the results were pretty amazing with:

Quarterly revenue of $46.33 billion (vs. $26.74 billion in the prior year comparative quarter)

Quarterly net profit of $13.06 billion (vs. $6 billion)

Gross margin of 44.7% (vs. 38.5%)

Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO said that “We’re thrilled with our outstanding results and record-breaking sales of iPhones, iPads and Macs.”

Historically Apple has had an incredible amount of cash on their Balance Sheet (Statement of Financial Position).

Their cash balance continues to grow and their latest results show cash together with short and long terms investments totalling $97.6 billion. If you’re into rounding figures, that’s a cool $100 billion (yes billion and not million)

So, $100,000,000,000 to give the number the full amount of zeros that it deserves.

We’ve blogged elsewhere about Apple having more cash than the US government so I won’t dwell on the cash balance but back to the incredible success of their iPhone sales.

In the 98 days to 31 December they sold 37.04 million iPhones. This averages out at 377,959 iPhones sold per day.

A few years ago the World Health Organization estimated that the number of babies born each day was 365,000.

So, more iPhones sold than babies born.

This does of course does mean that there are plenty of iPhones around to take photos of the newly born babies.

Just forge the signature and it will be fine…

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Direct Line and Churchill are two of the UK’s largest and best known insurance brands.

Unfortunately though, despite being in the “premier League” of insurance companies they have been a bit naughty and were recently fined £2.2 million.

The Financial Services Authority (FSA), which amongst other things oversees the insurance industry, told the companies that they would be undertaking a review of their closed complaint cases.

These were files where customers of Direct Line and Churchill had complained and the aim of the FSA was to ensure that the procedures for dealing with these complaints were adhered to.

In preparation for the FSA review the two firms asked a major accountancy firm to do a sample review which found that 28 per cent of the 110 files reviewed failed the assessment.

It seems though that Direct Line and Churchill decided to do their own spot of cleaning up after receiving the accountants report as when the FSA subsequently visited the Firms’ offices at short notice they found that “27 of the 50 files had been altered before they were sent to the FSA, and seven internal documents were found to contain staff signatures forged by one member of staff”.

Not very good is it? The review by the accountancy firm identified the errors and then more than 50% of the files that were sent to the FSA were amended before they were sent and seven documents had forged signatures!

For those of you in the UK that have seen the Churchill TV adverts with Churchill the dog, then I guess the adverts need changing to include the question “Churchill, do you forge signatures?”

The answer of course is “Oh yesssssss”.