Daniel Kretinsky, dubbed the “Czech sphinx” for his inscrutable approach to investing, will be free to increase his Royal Mail stake to more than 25pc after Grant Shapps, the new Business Secretary, ruled that this would not raise security concerns.
The announcement – which paves the way for Mr Kretinsky to buy enough shares for a takeover bid – was followed by explosive exchanges between the company and trade union leaders, who are now threatening a rolling wave of strikes to wreck deliveries over Christmas.
Mr Kretinsky is thought to be supportive of existing plans by Royal Mail executives to end Saturday letter deliveries following a dramatic decline in the amount of post sent. The change will require an act of Parliament, because Royal Mail’s obligations are enshrined in law.
The 500-year-old company wants to turn its attention to parcels instead, where it is struggling to compete with the likes of Amazon.
Well, it’s damn near entirely screwed unless. Unless what? Unless:
There is another business out there though – parcel delivery. Given growth in online shopping, this could be adapted into a viable and most profitable business.
But the key here is “adapted”. That requires flexibility. For what DHL, or Uber, or Doordash, is offering this week will aid in determining what Royal Mail – sorry, IDS – should be offering in order to gain Amazon’s, or Boohoo’s, business. The flexibility to adapt to beat the competition.
Flexibility to adapt will always be lacking at Royal Mail if IDS is not in charge of what the workers do, when they do it, and how they do it.
It is, currently the Communication Workers Union in charge of all of that and they’re not being flexible. For, why should they? The union reps have a cushy number and they’re not responsible – nor even accountable to – the profit and revenue numbers, so why should they want to change?
Now, yes, this does read like some political rant from the Thatcherite side. But the IDS share price gets weaker every time the union threatens to strike.
So, let’s take this from the alternative angle. While the short-term results of trying to crush the union would be profit damaging, it is at least possible that crushing it would leave the business more competitive.
They’ve got to screw the union. Get all St Maggie on it. Not just screw it, crush it.