Dear Vince Cable,
I am CEO of an Anglo-Saxon business combine that has sadly always missed its forecasts. We operate across multiple sectors, notably healthcare and transfer payments, but our specialties include arms dealing, ill-advised and sporadic venture capital investing, managed declinism, concert party participation in sometimes aggressive foreign takeovers, and international philanthropy.
Our company has control issues with a highly divided and fractious management, and we have increasingly disgruntled stakeholders who distrust the Board. We are seriously considering spinning off at least one of our regional subsidiaries. We also have huge unfunded pension liabilities. Our company has increased overheads in real terms for 14 consecutive years. We have also had negative cash flow for 23 years and this is expected to continue well into the future. We can only make ends meet by charging our customers more and taking on more debt to pay the interest.
We have, unfortunately, no credible plan to reach a break-even. But our Board does have significant experience in public relations. We are betting everything on growth but latest projections suggest there won’t be any. We have recently made a number of massive loss-making acquisitions in the financial services arena for which we have no credible turnaround plan, and some of our stakeholders are growing restive. We have also recently sponsored some high profile, brand-enhancing, but somewhat costly sporting events.
Our accounting is not to be trusted, as we continually cook our books by understating or avoiding stating liabilities altogether. Some of our forays into foreign territories have come at considerable cost. Our credit rating has also recently been downgraded. We have a questionable record when it comes to senior management expenses. We are also in the habit of bailing out our competitors. Despite the recent introduction of the Retail Distribution Review, our finance director is somewhat deficient when it comes to professional qualifications.
Can you offer any advice ? I should perhaps add that comedienne Caitlin Moran recently suggested that I personally resembled a camp gammon robot, a C3PO made of ham. (Sometimes the truth really hurts.) I should also add that under no circumstances can or should we conceivably borrow any more.
– David, London SW1.
Dear David of London SW1,
I suggest you borrow more. Have you thought about infrastructure investments?
Vince Cable, the larger-than-life comic creation* of David Renwick, is a politician, syndicated columnist, “economist” and business fantasist whose weekly column ‘Ask Vince Cable’ appears sometimes in more than two magazines globally, albeit one of them is the New Statesman.
* and if you think Vince Cable is funny, you should try Renwick’s other classic comedy piece, Ed Balls.
With thanks to Jon Moulton for some of the enclosed business analysis.
This article was previously published at The price of everything.