E My Pink Paper

The made-over Financial Times came today with a self-congratulatory special supplement about its charms. As a reader of the FT since the 1960s, when it was edited by Sir Gordon Newton, I found the new layout fine, but I miss “Lex”, the gossip column. I searched all over the paper and could not find it.

There used to be two gossip columns, the other called “Men and Matters.” Neither was particularly authoritative and anyone who invested based on these columns deserved all the losses of money which ensured. But it was fun to get a writer's opinion on businesses, stocks, or events. Now they seem both to have bitten the dust to make room for more photos, maps, and graphics, and wider headlines.

Today there was still Lucy Kellaway, who writes about the linguistic and logical failings of self-congratulatory businesses (but of course not her employer.) But she was writing about the perils of forecasting 50 years into the future, and it was a serious article. Give me back my breakfast dose of British understatement and humor.

On a day when Bill Ackman announced that his Pershing Square fund will issue stock for the very first time to raise $2 bn with shares listed at $25 each, I would have appreciated Lex's comment, since Mr. Ackman's retail-priced shares will trade... in Amsterdam, not Nieuw Amsterdam!

With two Mme. Presidents turning up for a South ABC program about Pres. Jacob Zuma's wife—and Mme Z 3 and Mme Z 4 practically coming to blows on camera—surely we need Lex today!

*Fund news first. The Thai Fund (TTF) is now over 27% owned by the London closed-end fund (investment trust) investing in closed-end funds, City of London. TTF is down because of political uncertainty in Bangkok as yellow- and red-shirts battle for power while the aging monarch is in ill-health. The amount rose from less than 7% a month ago. The fund of funds run by Barry Olliff is a major holder of US closed-end funds invested in emerging markets. We remain in TTF but sold half earlier this year because of political uncertainty, despite Paul Renaud, our Bangkok-based source, being disgusted with my failure to stay the course.

*Mexico has removed 4-year-old restrictions on businesses using US$ and the greenback can now be used to price international sales, and deposited freely in Mexican bank accounts, reports Eduardo Garcia in www.sentidocomun.co.mx with which we trade blogs. In my opinion, this relic of exchange controls being ended will boost the visibility and global strength of Mexican companies and our Mexico Equity and Income Fund (MXE) although the immediate impact will be on companies selling retail goods and service for cash rather than credit cards on both sides of the border. The regulations allow businesses to avoid expensive exchange rate fees which often leads them to holding on to the dollars themselves.

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