An important concept

Patisserie Valerie executives Luke Johnson and Paul May are facing fresh questions after failing to disclose they were also landlords to the stricken bakery chain.

The duo, the chairman and former chief executive respectively, own Patisserie Valerie’s Tunbridge Wells site, a fact that was not disclosed as a “related party” in the accounts of operating company Stonebeach.

A spokesman for Mr Johnson said the company’s board had been made aware of the relationship, but decided it was below the threshold – called a “materiality level” – at which details needed to be disclosed.

Materiality. Sure, all sorts of thing happen, which are important and which are not? That depends upon the relative size of the happening to the whole.

Landlord of one shop out of 160? Sure, not material. Own 50% of the freeholds and renting them at top notch rates to the company? Material. In between, well, look up Sorites.

Are there people fiddling their tax bills by paying in cash? Sure are – do we abolish cash to deal with it? Nope. Suspend civil liberties? Nope.

Is it material, germane to the subject under discussion?

There’s got to be more to this story, no?

Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, is under fire over his former government’s connection to a so-called “freeport” which risks enabling money laundering and corruption.

In letters seen by The Telegraph, Mr Juncker has been told he is “morally and ethically” obliged to crack down on a legal loophole that potentially facilitates money laundering at the site next to Luxembourg Airport.

Le Freeport Luxembourg is a high-security facility for the storage of valuables indefinitely, including art, gems, gold, antiques and wine. Built while Mr Juncker was Luxembourg’s prime minister, it is exempt from the country’s usual tax and customs requirements.

Being exempt from the usual tax and customs requirements is the definition of a freeport. It’s an entirely normal construct too – the metals business relies upon a network of such around the world – LME warehouses are all outside local customs and tax. Equally, the booze and baccy industries rely upon bonded warehouses, the same legal construct.

What is it that is actually being blethered about here?

Mortality

All 140 staff at Emoov were expected to be given their marching orders on Tuesday night after the online estate agent collapsed into administration.

The start-up, which had engineered a £100m three-way merger with rivals Tepilo and Urban.co.uk just six months ago and had been eyeing an IPO next year, went under on Monday evening after running into cash flow issues and struggling to find a buyer.

Russell Quirk, its founder and chief executive, told the trade magazine Property Week: “All staff, including me, are expecting to be laid off today.”

The loss-making company, which charged home sellers a fixed up-front fee rather than the commission levied by traditional estate agents, had put itself…

All businesses do indeed fail. Always a bit tricky when someone charging up front does too.

We’re all mortal

A certain amusement here.

Pizza Express is under mounting pressure from debts, rising costs and fierce competition, credit ratings agency Moody’s warned as it downgraded the restaurant chain.

Fears are growing for the business as Moody’s said its rising leverage ratios “may cause the company difficulties in effecting a timely and cost effective refinancing in due course”.

This is mere coincidence:

Peter Boizot, who has died aged 89, opened the first Pizza Express in Soho in 1965 and built the company into a national institution; he became a major philanthropist, supporting causes ranging from Venice, jazz, football, hockey and his native Peterborough, to the Liberal Party, for whom he stood twice as a parliamentary candidate in the elections of 1974.

But we are all mortal, even those legal beings called companies. This one’s just got a bit of a col but the Grim Reaper will come for it eventually as well. As Jeff Bezos has been saying, Amazon will go bankrupt. The only question is when.

Willy Hutton’s gusset dampener

Huawei may protest its innocence – it’s a private company undertaking its own research – but nobody is fooled. Every substantial company in China has a Communist party committee overseeing it.

Will Hutton’s vision for Britain is only that those who sit on the committee be different. Federasts of course, the group clearly and obviously including Willy Hutton. Other than that there’s no difference.

Just can’t remember the damn word

Or phrase perhaps.

So, piecework, when you give out the materials, get the people to do the work, pay per piece completed.

OK. But there’s another phrase for when you go up a level. The “merchant” is still providing materials and thus some part of the capital. Plus the marketing. But there’s this other phrase. Putting out maybe? The point being that it’s a step up in complexity to piecework. To an artisan, a craftsman.

Know a bloke just starting to do this with carpets, hand woven. Not that I want to invest or anything. I’m just trying to find the phrase. He’s a libertarianish economics type too but neither of us can recall the phrase, him understandably as English isn’t his first language.

Anyone know it, the phrase?

Aha! Putting Out, that’s it.

I think we can guess that Sports Direct has less than 20% of its sales online

Retail tycoon Mike Ashley wants to see a 20pc tax levied on online sales and prison sentences for executives who consistently “fiddle” their way out of paying the levy, as part of his plan to save the country’s “dying” high streets.

He said any companies with more than 20pc of their sales generated online should have to pay the tax, which would “level the playing field” in the retail sector and give local councils more money to help encourage people to shop close to home, such as offering free parking.

Channel stuffing

Tesla has turned the largest profit in its history, and the first recorded by the company in two years.

The electric car maker made more than $300m (£232m) in the third quarter of the year, a result that chief executive Elon Musk called “truly historic” in a letter to investors. Tesla’s share price briefly rose by more than 10pc on the news.

The results are a vindication for Mr Musk, who had assured investors that Tesla would be profitable in the quarter. In the previous three months, the company had made a loss of $717.5m and many analysts had predicted it would have to raise money to stay afloat.

The trick is going to be being able to do this next quarter. Becassue if you pull every trick you can then you can make one q profitable. At the expense of the next…..

The thing about the placebo effect is

That the placebo effect works.

Cough syrup maker Benylin has been accused of selling identical pills as cures for different types of colds.

Benylin’s medicines, one of which claims to be for “chesty”, the other for “mucus” coughs, carry the same product license meaning they contain identical ingredients.

The disclosure was made by Martin Lewis, founder of Moneysavingexpert.com, who has been vocal on medicine rip-offs including the often inflated cost of branded medications versus own brand tablets.

He warned that the Benylin branding could lead to consumers thinking that it offered “something extra”, potentially prompting them to buy them rather than cheaper genetic equivalents, which may be just as effective.

Which is lucky for those who want to do market segmentation and product differentiation.

Quelle surprise

A judge has branded former BHS owner Dominic Chappell “evasive” and “entirely unbelievable” as his appeal for failing to hand over vital documents to the pensions watchdog was rejected yesterday.

Chappell, 51, showed no emotion as a judge rejected his claims that he had “done everything in his powers” to help provide the information.

The ruling could leave the self-described entrepreneur facing a fourth bankruptcy, his lawyer warned.

Fourth, eh?

So, have I understood the idea of “adserver” technology correctly?

Just a bit of technical background if someone can help me out. This.

In November, Timehop instructed some of its product engineers to begin building an ad server that focused on its own inventory, mobile-only. Leviev said they also wanted to maximize CPM and fill rate, not just choose one or the other. Currently, the system integrates with about 15 SSPs and DSP, the exact number depending on the day.

So, the mental image I’ve got is this.

Starting position, they’re signed up to, say, Google. Which just fills their space with whatever Google decides at whatever rate (and thus Google profit margin) it thinks it can get away with.

So, they take control of their own ad space. Their “adserver” now talks to 15 or more other pieces of software.

Might be Google, and Amazon, and Advertising.com – say – forcing them to compete for access to the space and thereby gaining better pricing. Or perhaps it goes up a level and connects into the Ogilvy and Mather, WPP etc ad buying operations to do the same thing? Leaps over that step of the ad networks themselves?

Presumably, the adserver then takes the best offers on space. Perhaps with some fill from the networks to cover space that doesn’t sell directly?

Have I got this roughly right? Not technically, because that’s beyond me. But as a general idea of the logical structure here?

That at some point of volume it’s worth bypassing the ad networks? That is, to do what the internet does so well, disintermediate?

This is fairly cheeky

One of the losing bidders for House of Fraser has urged its new owner Mike Ashley to “do the right thing” and pay all its suppliers and concession holders in full because he clinched the deal so cheaply.

Philip Day, the retail billionaire behind Edinburgh Woollen Mill, spoke out 48 hours after the Sports Direct owner snapped up the stores and assets within hours of House of Fraser entering administration.

In his first public statement since losing the battle, Mr Day called on Mr Ashley to “honourably” ensure that suppliers and concessionaires — who are collectively owed at least £70 million — are not left out of pocket.

Yes, you’ve got that right. The losing bidder, the one who offered less money, is asking that the winning bidder, the one who offered more, should pay even more. Even more and more, than he himself, that losing bidder, was prepare to offer.

Think it’s probably gone

House of Fraser has admitted to having just 11 days to save 17,000 jobs as the retailer scrambles to secure a lifeline before its cash runs dry.

The stricken department store chain must pull in fresh funding by August 20 or risk collapse through a failure to pay its bills.

The deadline outlined by the retailer is when a number of suppliers must be paid, including a raft of in-store concessions.

It was revealed in a statement to the Luxembourg Stock Exchange, where its bonds are listed, underscoring how little time bosses have left to save the business.

It’s the credit insurers that matter. If they’ll not insure suppliers then they’ll need cash before delivery. Not that that’s a bad thing. It’s just that moving from – say and for example – 120 days payment terms to cash before delivery swallows vast amounts of working capital.

Which is, of course, the very thing HoF ain’t got.

This isn’t to insist upon a 100% track record but often enough it’s those credit insurers who pull the plug on retail.

As to whether HoF should go. Well, department stores? Mixed retail in expensive and premium High Street locations? Entirely possible that this business idea itself is just dead.

Ha, ha, ha, that’s a cute legal claim

Four of Europe’s biggest airlines have joined forces in a fight against striking French air traffic controllers, demanding European authorities step in and help a sector that is “on the point of meltdown”.

British Airways owner International Airlines Group, Ryanair, easyJet and Wizz Air today submitted complaints to the European Commission.

French industrial action restricts the fundamental principle of freedom of movement within the EU, the airline quartet claim.

No lorry driver can ever strike as that damages the free movement of goods, no ISP can ever go bust as that disrupts the free movement of services…..

Facebook? Cash cow?

The Silicon Valley giant, which for years has served as a reliable cash cow for shareholders,

Normally – abut we’d not expect the Telegraph’s young shavers to know this, would we? – cash cow is reserved for shares that actually pay out cash. Facebook doesn’t pay dividends….

The secret of the under volcano base

A parasite spread by cats could be the key to being a successful entrepreneur, scientists have concluded.

The discovery suggests there may be a bizarre advantage to being infected by the organism, Toxoplasma gondii.

According to the findings, the single-celled parasite worms its way into the brain and causes personality changes associated with risk-taking.

The white cat causes the excess of entrepreneurialism rather than being a symptom of it.

Well, no, not really

Carillion crisis ‘could happen again’

It’s bust and gone, isn’t it?

At the same time the public sector has become too reliant on a small handful of big businesses which are effectively “too big to fail” as they run vast swathes of public services with little effective competition.

Carillion, the UK’s second-largest builder and a major supplier of outsourced services, collapsed in January.

And, err, that we’ve just allowed one to fail shows that they’re not to o big to fail, no? For what it means is not one too big for it to be easy for us to let it fail, not one too big for us to be happy if it fails, but one so big that we cannot allow it to fail.

Sounds like there’re some bargains out there

A cash rich investor with balls of steel could have a go:

A family who have seen the value of their London flat slashed from £600,000 to just £90,000 because of Grenfell-style cladding will sue a government agency that helped them buy their home.

They are the second homeowners in the New Capital Quay development in Greenwich to have their flat valued at rock-bottom prices.

It’s then uncertainty over who will replace, when, and at what cost, that cladding.

The company said some flats had been valued at £0. They were unsellable, unrentable and unmortgageable.

I doubt unrentable is true.

But even so, there’s an option value to those flats. Which, if you were cash rich, might be a good little bet.