What I’ve learnt this week
So it goes like this: a speculative person or group spots that the share price of a particular company may go down in the near future, so they persuade someone with large holdings in the shares of that company to ‘lend’ them for a fee. The speculator then sell the shares and, when the price goes down, buy them back and gives them back to the owner. The difference between the two prices is the profit the speculator makes, and all without an ounce of sweat or toil. And, get this, if the speculator sells sufficient shares it undermines confidence in the company and the share price dives further, and the speculator makes even more undeserved profit. This is how the well-run and perfectly sound company HBOS hit the skids and had to be bought out by Lloyds. If you are not already gaping open-mouthed at the lunacy of it all, you might also consider that this ‘shorts’ selling is deemed to be one of the factors that has created the credit crunch which, I might remind you, has resulted in old people facing a winter of rising, and perhaps unaffordable, heating bills and a welter of other problems for the least well-off in our society. Makes you want to become a communist doesn’t it?
It was good then to spend a day with one of the Churchwardens of a deeply rural church this week: ‘Come and have a look around my farm’ said Richard. So I pitched up on Tuesday expecting to spend a few hours looking at blighted wheatfields, tractors and various black and white photographs of ‘better’ times gone by. No such thing: I knew I was in for something different when I turned up at the hi-tech offices of Blankney Estates (http://blankney.com/). I was then taken on a whistlestop tour of their massive and
entirely hidden from sight quarry, which produces aggregate and shingle for the building industry-and they are already planning for what the site will become in 50 years time when the quarry is mined out. Then on to a pulsating new set of factory units where grass-yes you saw it right: grass- is turned into a variety of animal feeds and, most impressively of all, the chlorophyll is extracted from it and used for food dyes etc. They are the only producer of entirely organic chlorophyll in Europe (Japan produces it, apparently, from silkworm droppings). There is absolutely no wastage to this industry, and they are beginning to plan for packaging their goods to cut down their carbon footprint. Alongside this, the plant manager is agonising about how to use the one waste product: steam, to heat the premises and nearby housing. All the workers, both home-grown and migrant, are treated with respect and paid fairly. The farm also has a neat side-industry helping the pharmacutical industry produce pain-killing drugs. After a wonderful lunch in their Golf Club, I drove away just a little bit prouder of Lincolnshire than when I went in. And, if you ever decide to visit the idyllic little villages that play host to all this industry, I’d like to bet you will be completely unaware of it all. Gives you some hope that decent businessmen continue to exist, and morality has not completely deserted the make or break world of commerce.