ALEX BRUMMER: City Watchdog must stop the hostile takeover of Provident Financial

Non-standard Finance boss John van Kuffeler has been accused of orchestrating a & # 39; coup d & # 39; etat & # 39;

Non-standard Finance boss John van Kuffeler has been accused of orchestrating a & # 39; coup d & # 39; etat & # 39;

Non-standard Finance (NSF) boss John van Kuffeler is one of the cavaliers of the city.

He has an invincible confidence and managed to convince shareholders Invesco and Woodford that the pursuit of a much larger and more profitable home bank provider Provident Financial would be a walk in the park.

A 70-year-old Flemish aristocrat, van Kuffeler is as adventurous in business as he is in his personal life.

His confidence extends to the rejection of breaches of company law as & # 39; technical breaches & # 39 ;.

But in a letter to investors, Provident Chairman Patrick Snowball says that violations of the Companies Act, including the payment of dividends from reserves, are illegal, an indictment of the NSF team and to weak supervision.

Snowball accuses Kuffeler of orchestrating a & # 39; coup d & # 39; etat & # 39; by a management team with a record of & # 39; value-destructive acquisitions & # 39 ;.

Hostile takeovers are often fought bitterly, but the mud skate in this deal is at a completely different level.

The £ 1.3 billion offer from the NSF is opportunism dressed up as benevolence with little attention to the interests of customers.

Provident, owner of the valuable Vanquis Bank, has 2.4 million customers, many of whom are among the most vulnerable borrowers in the UK.

This is a big bite for NSF, with only 180,000 customers and a lack of contemporary experience in managing something that is so large and complex.

In his letter, Snowball focuses on reducing competition and the possibility that the Competition and Markets Authority can move its probe to the next stage.

If that happens, the so-called & # 39; irrevocable & # 39; voices from Invesco and Woodford would be unlocked and the deal would come off the rails.

It is fascinating that, after calling the victory from the rooftops ten days ago when NSF took over the 50 percent shareholder acceptance, the company has so far failed miserably to mop up the rest of the votes and an extension of the city had to seek referee, the Takeover Panel.

The real reasons why this deal should not be made are that of financial prudence and stability.

The city's regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), made its position clear last month. In a letter to NSF, it emphasized that high-quality credit and the protection of vulnerable consumers are at the core of everything it does.

Since then, the FCA has had to deal with fierce criticism and likely Commons hearings about its lax investigation into the collapsed mini-bond firm London Capital & Finance (LCF).

The better customers of LCF and poor customers of NSF / Provident cannot be different in terms of the parts of society that are served. The expensive credit market is the province of the most desperate in society.

The mere idea that Provident customers should be at the center of a financially driven takeover by an exaggerated, ethically indifferent entrepreneur is unacceptable.

Every day that passes is more uncertainty for customers who don't deserve to be pawns in a down and dirty City fight.

Keep running

The rise and fall of JD Sports speaks volumes for the lasting power of its main owners, the Rubin family-controlled Pentland group. Unlike Mike Ashley of Sports Direct, who likes to buy retailers fooled, JD Sports has a sense of direction.

Profits, for £ 340 million, are driving along with store sales, because it benefits from athletic clothing such as fashion. Normally, one would warn any British retailer who is targeting the US market, given the number of companies that are a cropper.

But there should be optimism about JD's attack by purchasing Finish Line. Pentland has a good shape in the US, dating from the time that an unknown shoe company, Reebok, turned into a global super brand.

Investors certainly put their trust in JD, with a market value of £ 5.6 billion. It is now worth three Sports Directs and more than Marks & Spencer, and the FTSE 100 could soon beckon.

Who would have thought?

Well done

French patriotism is boundless in a way that is different from that of the United Kingdom.

Francois Pinault, owner of Chateau Latour, was the first to come up with € 100 million (£ 86.5 million) to rebuild Notre Dame, to be surpassed a few hours later by fellow billionaire Bernard Arnault of LVMH , with a € 200 million (£ 173 million) donation.

Not to mention L & O 39, together with the controlling family Bettencourt Meyers, promised € 200 million.