Tag Archives: Westbrook partners

Show me the money!

That is what I wanted to shout out loud today, not because of a scene between Tom Cruise and Cuba Gooding Jr, but because of the story written by Larry Elliot (the Guardian economics editor). He is not wrong, probably with his insights and degrees he is more right than anyone else so why am I all up in arms about it? You see, if he is right then there is something extremely wrong with this world. Here is the crux, either he is wrong, or the bulk of the planet has become demented. What will it be?

Why do I consider this to be my view?

The view evolves when we consider the following aspects of the British economy. First there is “The budget deficit will be almost £100bn this year and is rising. It was supposed to be below £40bn. If the current Treasury chief secretary, Danny Alexander, is foolish enough to leave a little note for his successor, he will only need to insert one word into the one penned by Byrne: still” and “Britain currently enjoys the sort of growth rate that Germany, France and Italy can only dream about. The economy should expand by 3% this year, making the UK the fastest growing G7 nation. Jobs are being created at a record rate, a development that explains why Britain is proving a magnet for migrants from the rest of the EU“, we have seen this. Yet, as immigration is not capped to the extent it should be, jobs go to the cheap Polish workers, whilst we see a massive +50 workforce unable to get jobs, which we get from the Guardian (at http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/nov/13/unemployment-fall-masks-jobless-over-50s). “Bennett is one of more than 400,000 people over 50 in the UK who is registered as unemployed, according to the latest official jobs data released yesterday“, you see, the mature experienced workforce is deemed useless in many areas and as such, the economy will take two hits. The first one is that these people in the end still cost money, in the second that as companies rely on cheap labour; we see that they go three steps forward, two steps back; it is getting them nowhere fast and at great expense too. So as those people have an income, the companies are just scraping by, having therefor the dubious benefit of living at tax level zero. That keeps the Osborne coffers (also known as the UK treasury) pretty empty.

Let’s take a look at some events linked here “Former BBC director general Mark Thompson has said sorry for the £100m failure of the BBC’s Digital Media Initiative (DMI)“, “Siren police IT project’s £15m failure a ‘debacle’” and not to forget “Abandoned NHS IT system has cost £10bn so far“. There is a level of sheer incompetence that is beyond measure. Yet, I think it goes further than that, I think that as areas have cut back and scrapped from the bottom of the barrel, we see cogs of non-comprehension that just twirl having no connection to any other cogs. Companies, which are no longer structured in the old ways, but still presented as such, they are niches into rooms, where only the manager has access. Like the American cubicles, that only one person oversees, absent of checks and balances, whilst the people no longer talk to each other, no clear communication. That represents the new era of work. The 50+ population have seen why there are issues with the cubicle approach and the manager who needs to get the task short-sightedly done is barring 50+ from being hired, this results in a sliding slope of minimised success.

What do they have to do with one another?

Let’s get back to the writing of Larry Elliot at this point “It took until 2013, however, for the level of output to get back to its pre-recession level, the slowest recovery of the post-second world war era. Osborne thought the economy would cope with austerity better than it did. He underestimated the impact of higher VAT and cuts in spending on growth. The chancellor thought his tough deficit reduction plan would boost growth by generating more confidence in the private sector that the books were being balanced. He was wrong. The upshot was weaker growth, lower than expected tax revenues and higher than expected borrowing. Half way through the coalition’s term in office, Osborne abandoned the idea of sorting the deficit in one parliament, and reverted to a more modest plan akin to that drawn up by his predecessor, Alistair Darling

The crux is “The upshot was weaker growth, lower than expected tax revenues and higher than expected borrowing“. I think that it is not entirely correct! Yes, Elliot writes the truth, but behind the curtains we see projects failing due to bad decision making (like the headlines mentioned earlier), in addition we see mergers of an unparalleled size “The chemist chain Boots is being sold to the American retail company Walgreens in a £10bn deal that is delivering a huge pay-day for its private equity owners“, which sounds nice, but how does that fill taxation coffers? It does not!

Corporate choices are made to avoid taxation like “U.S. Treasury Seen Loser in Tax-Avoiding Pfizer Move to U.K.” is at the heart of the second tier of failures. Not a failure by George Osborne, but a failure by their corporations that bleed nations dry, whilst not being held accountable, there the nations have failed themselves by not alter the proper legislations to avoid these acts of non-taxability. Whatever happens next will happen too late, the coffers are empty and those who walked away will do so in non-taxable luxury for the rest of their lives and the lives of the next 3 generations of their family to come.

The next part has a few issues (none of them are Larry Elliot) “The foundation notes that two-thirds of people who have moved from unemployment into work in the last year are paid below the living wage, the average self-employed person earns 13% less than they did five years ago and there are around 1.4m contracts not guaranteeing a minimum hours. Over half of them are in the lower-paying food, accommodation, retail and administrative sectors” Many of these lower paid jobs are all about areas where we see high rent, a massive drive to turn around orders and well above counted hours are needed. Life in London (as well as in Sydney) has become a life not unlike hyenas. These bosses are trying to stay afloat, which they do by hiring the weak, the cheap and the manipulative. One waitress mentioned this in a forum “Now I understand I am competing with people on the dole who can be near enough forced to work for free but it still sounds a bit shady“, the mention has bearing, as people are pushed more into unpaid extra hours, less rights, less options and less energy, we see a community that has devolved from symbiotic into parasitic, with only one winner in the end, the landlord!

Both the UK and Australia have been unwilling to deal with this entity, leaving the people at large to fend for themselves without any support.

The next part is a statement of fact, there is nothing against it in any way “If it is taking longer than expected to knock the budget deficit back into shape, the same can be said of Osborne’s other objective – to boost exports from a re-invigorated manufacturing sector so that Britain once again pays its way in the world

How to go about it is at the heart of it and several options are open as they always are, but consider that out of a dozen avenues, one is a solution, three are deadly and the rest tend to have a costly non solving effect. Several parties in play, not Just George Osborne, but in that same view, Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown all had the same flaw (as I personally see it). Instead of finding a solution that is a mere band aid, they all failed to seek the solution which had the visionary idea to include the next generation. I had that idea on two instances; the one that matters here is the article ‘What’s in a health system?‘ on June 29th 2014, where I state “When people ask which company will do this, the answer should be ‘None!’. The UK is filled with universities, some of them regarded as the most prestigious and brightest on the planet. Consider that most IT people, might claim experience, yet their drama skills are the only ones that improved for the most, is it not up to the Universities, those who are introduced to the newest ideas, design a solution that would make the work of the doctors and nurses at the NHS better, slightly more efficient and a truckload of less hassle! Is that such a tall order?

Like a regional solution for a independent Scottish IT environment, the visionary approach is to bring this to the universities, to develop a new system, not just a mere frame that goes on top of something else, but an actual new system, LINUX based option, a security enhanced LINUX for healthcare, one that is designed, not for 2016, or 2017, but for the next generation. Why not give the universities access to design their new future, not leave it to these current so called executives that waste up to 20 billion not delivering anything. That visionary approach is missing and it could be the death of us all (UK and Australia alike), we have so many similar issues, why not tackle them together, open up avenues that have never been considered. If you want visionary, then look at the Netherlands, they decided to change the bicycle lanes into solar panels, do you have ANY idea how many bicycle lanes the Netherlands has? It is actually a visible percentage of that nation’s surface. Now, they decided to give it a second function, which means generating electricity, without needing any space at all, illuminating the bicycle road through fluoresces, making it safer at night. They decided to attack road safety and energy issues all at the same time. That is the level of innovation we need to see, preferably without spending another 20 billion pounds. So how about changing, or better stated evolving universities and giving them a real hand in innovation and solving future problems we have ignored and left dead for granted (like the NHS).

The last part is seen here “Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, said: “I am not that bothered about being behind on economic competence. In opposition, we are always behind on economic competence. Brown and Blair were at this point before the 1997 election. “I would rather we were further ahead in the polls but the Tories are leaving it a bit late for a feel-good surge. That’s why Cameron is talking about red lights flashing on the dashboard. Maybe he thinks he can scare people into voting Tory.”

I disagree, Ed Balls needs to get scared shitless real fast! George Osborne needs to do something similar! Economic competence is not something that is behind, the indicators are that they are close to non-existent. As numbers are hidden behind the statistics of ‘% of GDP‘ we are diluting ourselves that we have a handle on things, once the message is that the total debt has decreased below 750 billion, we have an actual message, but for now, that 25% decrease is nowhere in sight. Life in the UK is all about meeting the payment of the interest debt, whilst none are tackling any solution regarding the total debt for the future. That danger has been voiced by several players all over the field. The message now is that ‘Investors Underpricing Risk May Threaten Growth, IMF Says‘ (at http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-09-17/investors-underpricing-risk-may-threaten-growth-imf-says.html) as well as ‘Flug Flags Underpriced Risk as Investors Drop Corporates‘ (at http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-09-30/flug-flags-underpriced-risk-as-investors-drop-corporates.html), which gets a punch from today’s news ‘New York Hops on $15 Billion Israeli Corporate Bond Boom‘ (at http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-11-30/new-york-hops-on-15-billion-israeli-corporate-bond-boom.html). Like the housing in Hackney through Westbrook Partners and Round Hill Capital in the Netherlands, we see again a change in markets (like they always will), but this is different. Like Greece (again) last week with “A Greek official says the country is under pressure from rescue creditors to impose new austerity measures to resolve an ongoing budget disagreement worth a reported 2 billion euros ($2.5 billion)” (at http://www.cnbc.com/id/102222375), we see a market that keeps on getting pushed whilst there is no money left. By the way, those two players (Westbrook Partners and Round Hill Capital), did you consider combining these facts?

Have you considered when Westbrook goes market value and they merge with 2-3 other players (perhaps Round Hill Capital as one of them), when they merge, how much taxation will be missed out then, also, what danger will these tenants be placed in at that point?

So back to Greece and their dwellings, Greece should both be dissolved and offered to Turkey (just to make it sting a little more) or they need to clean up their act, including dealing with these massive strikes. Let’s not forget that Greeks themselves did this to Greece (partially through Goldman Sachs). We see cogs of greed interacting, finding new connections not to be held accountable, whilst its population gets the bill, blaming Germany for all of this. In that same light we see how we are now confronted with underpriced risks. So, not unlike the 2008 crash with all these “sub-prime” borrowers and bailing on 8 trillion, we now see governments trying to intervene by ‘forcing’ banks to make low cost loans to the underprivileged “sub-prime” borrowers, trying to create a fake boom, whilst at the same time, they have created a more likely than not risk that it will only explode in their faces, whilst imploding their economy (this is as I personally see it). Here in the end, we see that the bank wins no matter what, either the government pays them, or they just own it all. Like the landlords of London, it will destroy the quality of life for more and more people, whilst not showing any resolution in solving the actual problems.

This all comes together when we consider the IMF part on underpricing risk (mentioned earlier), there we see the part that is truly linked to all our woes: “Policy makers from the Group of 20 nations meet this week in Cairns, Australia, to discuss ways of boosting global demand. The Fed today maintained a commitment to keep interest rates near zero for a “considerable time.” At the same time, Fed officials raised their median estimate for their policy interest rate at the end of 2015 to 1.375 percent, compared with the 1.125 percent estimate made in June“. The crux: “ways of boosting global demand” it is at the heart of the failures we see. It is worse than bad marketing. The last thing we need to do is boost demand. We need to resolve debts. Yes, the US wants to see demands boosted, as it was one step away from bankruptcy 5 steps ago. They are trying to bluff into a new era of not being dead, whilst they have been unsuccessful in dealing with their debts, having no solution and even less options. We must find another way. If the Netherlands, one of the smallest nations in the world can turn around an age of innovation to their advantage in a novel way never seen before, then so can we! If you wonder how this linked, then consider how their solution can become a new era of energy independence all over South America, parts of America and all over Europe and Africa. Solar panelled roads, a patented solution that can change the face of the earth in one mere step. Once the high pressure solution is done for cars, we will see a new era of energy. Not bad for a place that is famous for wooden shoes and a leaky dike! So where are we in the Commonwealth? Where is our innovation?

In the end Larry Elliott spoke the facts, the truth and wrote an excellent article, I just disagree with the views they link to, in the end, it might be me who was wrong and it is all in the eye of the beholder!

In this age of debt, innovation and Intellectual Property are soon to become the only currency that will have any true value! The Commonwealth needs its own share of those, less it becomes as desperate as America currently is.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Finance, IT, Law, Media, Politics, Science

Prosecuting the ministry

It is an interesting day, when you get the message that the courts demand the prosecution of the Ministry of finance. Yes, we could feel that a brand new day in the moments of out entertainment will be revealed. It is only 6 days until the feast of Saint Nicholas in the Netherlands; yet, it is already an issue that state secretary Eric Wiebes and minister of Finance Jeroen Dijsselbloem could be regarded as naughty boys, with all the trimmings of lessened sweets and candy (at http://nos.nl/nieuwsuur/artikel/2006257-gerechtshof-eist-vervolging-ministerie-van-financi-n.html).

So what happened?

Well, it goes back to 2009, a tipper sold to the tax office a list of those who were ‘hiding’ their savings in Luxembourg to avoid the Dutch wealth tax. This is a tax that you pay over wealth that you accumulate, you get to save 21,000 euro, a couple can safe tax free 42,000 euro, so above that, you get to pay taxation. The amount is achieved as follows: The tax office takes a position of assumption, that you make 4% over that wealth (in ways like profit or interest), over that profit, 30% taxation is due, so basically, you end up paying around 1.3% over your taxable wealth. It is the Dutch way of showing that saving your wealth is not a good idea, so people left this money in other places, many in Luxembourg. So at this point, the issue gets a little murky.

You see, those ‘black savers’ (from the Dutch word zwart spaarders) demanded in court that the tax office released the identity of this tweeting canary, so that the reliability could be established. The courts agreed on this, and here we have it. Even though the Ministry of Finance did not appeal the issue, they have thus far remained silence on the identity.

Here is my first issue: Was there tax avoidance or not? Either these people have found to be guilty to have funds across the border, or they are innocent. The identity has little or no bearing here, which only seems to make sense in criminal pleads.

So as the courts again demanded the identity of Mr (or Mrs) blabs-a-lot, we get a new issue. The two civil servants remain silent. They claim to have been given instructions not to talk. Yet, these two civil servants are not beyond the law and as such they have no right to remain silent. So what is at stake?

The only quote we have here is the quote “there are other interests in play and there has been tuning towards the choice of actions on the highest levels”, according to the attorney representing the tax office.

So is this about 1-2 billionaires? Because the penalty of the evaded ‘donation’ could be as high as 300%, which means that it will represent a massive bill. This case is all about the money, but about whose money is this? The tax office, as some might decide to walk away taking all their business outside of the Netherlands?

Whatever we speculate, in the end it will be what will happen to these two civil servants and whomever gave the instructions, reason here is that the influencing of witnesses could be rewarded with 4 years in a less comfortable Dutch hotel (read prison).

Yet this song and dance is also showing another side and perhaps another trial. You see, why was the identity of the informer needed? Truly, does this give value to the statement? Let’s not forget the Dutch government could just seize 100% of those accounts, after which those who decided to ‘black save’ will be left with nothing, which is not fair, but it shows another side, these people chose to place their fortunes out of taxation ways, there will be a consequence to that. In addition, if the informer ends up getting harmed, will the court be liable for endangering lives? Is it so far-fetched that the person not getting away with his/her 12 million euro tax bill, that they might take it a little personal?

That will be a discussion for later, yet consider the action as the news of June 10th 2014 revealed (at http://nos.nl/artikel/659185-7500-zwartspaarders-melden-zich.html), where we see that 7500 people reported themselves with illegal savings outside of the Netherlands (to avoid the 300% penalty fee). It seems that these ‘savers’ had well over 4 billion in foreign savings, which is now getting the tax office another 75,000 euro per person, which is a serious amount of money. Yet that information does not seem to be used, how many names have proven to be correct is also a factor, because, no matter how we feel about the act, those who learn the identity of the person costing them 75,000 euro’s might get hunted down, then what will happen, more important, will those who passed verdict be safe from prosecution themselves at that point?

So is revealing the name of Mr Insider correct? Legally yes, but morally?

Yet, we now get to part two of all this, you see, the hunt for the illegal tax sheltering saver is only the tip of the iceberg. As we see nations and taxation make new options, or even heralding other investors, we see that there is a chance that the people by large will be endangered because of this.

For this, we need to consider what I wrote earlier this week in regards to ‘The reality for poor London’ as it was published on November 24th and how there is now a larger danger to the people in Hackney, due to the changes as brought by Westbrook Partners. There it was a mere 99 apartments; in the Netherlands we now see that Round Hill Capital is purchasing almost 3800 apartments for a mere 365 million euro, which means the dumping of apartments for less than 100,000 euros each. This is not the first time that this happens in the Netherlands, last June well over 1500 apartments were sold for 180 million Euro (at http://nos.nl/artikel/2006203-britse-investeerder-koopt-3786-nederlandse-huurhuizen.html), it seems to me that this shifting of funds all over Europe has a second view. Not only are the people facing dangers down the track, the question is that people have been under pressure for living as the cost of living had become almost unbearable, now we see that well over 5300 apartments are now under the watchful eyes of an investment firm. When we regard Hackney and the upcoming 99 evictions, what dangers will these tenants face when the economy might take the smallest turn for the better?

On one side we see people running their savings out of the Netherlands, on the other side we see more insecurity as investment firms are taking a leap to lower yielding fields, what happens when the apartment field is no longer yielding enough? Who gets to deal with that mess then?

I can decently guarantee you that those enabling the current transfer of ownership will not be available for comment at that point.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Finance, Law, Politics

The reality for poor London

It is not a new concept, people who are getting drowned through greed, yet as the Guardian in a video shows us: (at http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/video/2014/nov/21/new-era-residents-fight-us-owners-westbrook-london-estate-video), the dangers where greed will not turn people homeless. In addition, the people behind it, Westbrook partners are hiding behind walls and the law. Here is the first part I object to. The law is a shield of protection for victims, not a cloak of unaccountability for the greed driven. However, part of the article that is not shown is the fact that the UK government might have fumbled the ball in a massive way here. I reckon that David Cameron has to attack these issues immediately, because if left untouched, the move from all parties INTO UKIP might be one we have never ever seen before in the history of politics.

So what is actually the case?

Westbrook Partners has been buying real estate on a massive scale; London, New York and Tokyo have been met with a spending spree on acquiring real estate. Buildings have changed ownership, but this change has a difference. This is done for investors of American workers Pension funds (to name but one). They bought property as mentioned in Hackney (inner east London), the residents were told that the rents will now go to market value, this is stated to mean that rents will triple almost overnight, how is that even close to acceptable, moreover, how many will be left to afford such a rent? Consider a rent of 2,500 pounds a month, this comes down to $4,500, I have had decently good paid jobs in IT, but I cannot afford those levels of rent, not in the best of days. Hackney council is currently expecting Westbrook to issue eviction notices. This is worse than just a bad nightmare; dozens of homes will be uprooted for what? Replacement by high rise new building, offering a massive boost to Westbrook Partners, which by the way is a US firm with offices in the UK.

It is not just the immorality of it all, consider that investment firms are now focussing on lower yield options, lower yield locations. Is this because the American wells have dried up? Now, I know that for the most, these things are not an option (or were not an option) in Amsterdam. When Amsterdam saw the 70’s boom in London, they made sure that these dangerous times could not happen there, but it is not a given for all buildings in Amsterdam (outside of the inner city). Consider other places where governments have been lacks with affordable housing. With this I mean Melbourne, Sydney AND Brisbane in Australia, Rotterdam, Delft and Leiden in the Netherlands, Several places in Germany and a few other places. When Westbrook and companies like them start changing the game to this extent, what will happen to the population at large? San Francisco had some events in this direction as Google expanded its views, but this is only the tip of the iceberg, now it is not just housing for a large company, now it is about returns for investors, how long until that part collapses leaving people not just in a state of destitution, but homeless as well?

When we see the article, we see the American Workers Pension Funds, with an image of fire fighters, did these fire fighters know that they are not just saving people, but for their retirement, they are making them homeless too? So is there an issue? Well, Yes!

The issue is at present that what is being done in not illegal, but highly immoral. To force a population out of an area, because of income is like stating that the poor are not allowed in London in any way, how is that not discrimination?

More interesting is how Westbrook was unreachable by the Guardian, their website views like a two page joke giving no information at all. When has an investment firm hiding behind wall of unreachability ever been a good thing? Goldman Sachs has been bad news on a global scale, yet they at least remained reachable. This new era of Westbrook is something entirely different. To see just how dangerous this rent rise is, take a look at the image on this link http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/nov/19/new-era-estate-scandal-london-families-international-speculators, even more interesting is how the New Era estates included a minority share by Conservative MP Richard Benyon, who is pulling out this month, when confronted with these levels of changes. We might think of blaming it all on London’s Westbrook Principle Mark Donnor, but is that fair? Consider that this mess is the continuation of a mess which I witnessed for well over 22 years! Prices in London have always been outrageous and now that the wells are drying up, rental spaces are one of the few low return yielding options. Both political parties should have harshly intervened long before 1995, but they decided not to, now we see a new iteration which could break the London infrastructure. If you wonder why, then let me explain.

London needs workers, they always needed them and most of them live a long way from London, yet now we see a new group, those on a ‘higher’ lower income like Nurses and some tradies who lived in places like Hackney, as they are evicted, they will move further away and they will try to seek work in a place that is not London, as London faces a rental crash, it will also face a workers crash as people are less willing to live 2-3 hours away from work, we see the need to find other avenues to contain their work-life balance, that means working somewhere else. You might think that this is exaggeration in regards to 92 households in Hackney, but do you think it ends here?

If we consider the quote “The letter said they had secured an agreement not to increase rents again until 2016. However, it added: “Since this week’s departure of the Benyon Estate we understand the council have now been informed that Westbrook no longer plan to honour that plan, and have been told that their plan is to refurbish the current estate in its entirety and then rent all the properties without secure tenancies at market rent levels, with no affordable housing”“, we get another view, we get the view of several investment firms seeing what could be acquired in London for refurbishment and upgrades to market value housing. Consider areas like Paddington and Kilburn, what happens when they get refurbished into market value? In addition, when we see “Councils are acquiring properties in Kent, Essex, Hertfordshire, Berkshire, Sussex and further afield to cope with an expected surge in numbers of vulnerable families presenting as homeless as a result of welfare cuts from next April” (at http://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/nov/04/london-boroughs-housing-families-outside-capital), is this perhaps just the beginning? What happens when the situation goes from 92 households, to 992 households? What will happen to the smaller businesses as these places are all upgraded? The London economy is an interaction of classes and groups, when the city changes the dynamic that has worked for decades, we see a change in culture and options for all workers involved, moreover, what can we expect to see when these locations start to lose the reliability it has had for so long towards an entire iteration of workers and traders. Once that is changed, other elements will become in play as well, then what will happen?

In my view, David Cameron will need to make large strides in changing a current approach, to allow for long term sustainability. If not, we will see entire areas no longer in a state of survivability. These events that Westbrook has started will also make a change to the policies that London Lord-Mayor Boris Johnson is trying to introduce. No matter how strong the need for a living wage is, as Westbrook is pushing for market values, we will see a living wage that needs to go from £8.55 to £18.55, which is something that is not just unrealistic, it will be totally unmaintainable. The fallout will be long term.

In the end the UK government did this by not acting and others might be in the same predicament soon enough. I will be honest and state right here that no one anticipated the fact that rent would ever become the preferred return on investment for investment companies, which is an entirely different conversation I will have with my readers at a later stage. A change none saw coming, but now that it is here, it will prove to be additional hardship on the Conservative party, whilst giving even more options to UKIP.

Leave a comment

Filed under Finance, Law, Politics