Business

The who? what? where? of business this week

The week in business: Who's blundered and who's blossomed under the business news spotlight this week?

Comments and coverage of the housing market were almost as febrile as the London market itself.

Image copyright Reuters

Mark Carney kicked it all off with an extensive interview on the topic on Sunday. The housing market is the "biggest risk" to financial stability and the long-term recovery.

The answer, he said, was to build more houses but: "The Bank will not be building houses any time soon."

In the end the bank that took the action was not the Bank, but Lloyds Bank(ing Group), which is the biggest mortgage lender in the country.

On the day the latest official house price figures showed London prices growing at 17%, it said that it would cap income-to-loan ratios for loans over £500,000 at four times' income.

That prompted head scratching on the desk here - hardly the tightest of straight jackets in reality. It is, though, the only time in living memory I've heard a lender announce a categorical limit.

Still, not really a fix for the market. Maybe these 10 ways to cool the housing market. contain the solution.

Image copyright Pfizer

Another early entry on the week's movers and shakers list was Pfizer with a "final" bid for AstraZeneca.

It tried again to sidle round AstraZeneca's shareholders by pleading directly with them to put pressure on Astra's board.

The two companies' boards weren't exactly "bosom buddies", said our business editor, Kamal Ahmed: " Pfizer did not warn AstraZeneca that it was about to launch a new bid [on Sunday]."

Couldn't it have slipped a "sweetener" into the "final" bid? Seriously - that is takeover jargon - and not me making a terrible pun....

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption In future, warns Royal Mail, sending a letter here...
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption ...may cost more than sending one here

Royal Mail shareholders waited in for its first results since part privatisation. An old message was what they got: Competitors are able to "cherry pick" profitable delivery services, meaning that the universal service - sending letters to the Summer Isles in Wester Ross for the same price as sending one to Stratford in Warwickshire - may or may not be under threat.

Royal Mail is asking the regulator for immediate action to protect it. Shareholders took the whole thing seriously, and the company's shares plunged 6.9% as a result. Shareholders took the whole thing seriously - dumping the shares faster than the infamous TNT postman with a nearby river.

Image copyright PA

Good old M&S. We waited eagerly to hear chief executive Marc Bolland's marvellous three-year turnaround plan had worked: "We have made good early progress," he said.

Or did he say: "We're making solid progress"?

Or this? "We are encouraged by the significant progress we have made."

All three: The first is from 2010-11, the next from the next year and the last one was this year's update. Top marks for consistency. M&S made £623m in the year 2013-14.

Last profit figures under Stuart Rose: £843.9m in 2009-10. Mr Bolland sees the situation as grave enough to cancel all bonuses.

Image copyright MarKS AND SPENCER

What is wrong with the company? we cry.

Market commentator David Buik gets our bunch of flowers this week for his bold notion: "It's barking mad, but if you merged M&S with Next, then you would have online, top fashion, top grub and a top brand."

The flowers are not just any old flowers... they are... well, yes, they actually ARE just any old flowers. Sorry David.