Page 11 - BWS 72 WEB
P. 11

  I don’t
get out
Views from our ever so slightly grumpy, but often unerringly accurate, columnist
buying shares
Last month I told my reader that I felt I did a pretty good impersonation of a modern- day Nostradamus. This month I have to fess up, as the kids
would say, and declare – I am no Warren Buffett. My investment history is something of a mixed bag, I have to admit.
Back in 1984 we were told in a TV advert by Beattie (older readers will get the reference) to buy shares in British Telecom “because it’s good to talk”.
I firmly believe that that Government privatisation made buying stocks and shares more generally appealing to the “man in the street” rather than just already rich bored types who liked a flutter. Thatcherism at its most potent. I began to dabble in the mid-80s. Just relatively small amounts which if lost would not put us out on the streets.
All went reasonably well and then the most exciting, in my opinion, float happened – Eurotunnel in 1988. It was January of that year when I purchased 300 shares at £3.60 a pop – a total investment of £1,080. Over the next few years I purchased a few more shares to bring my “holding” to £1,598. Eurotunnel is now known as Getlink and my holding is worth...wait for it...£377 in mid-September as I write this. Mind you, I did get to travel on the inaugural shuttle to Coquelles for free.
Now Saga. How apt a name is that? Some 567 shares bought when the company floated in 2014 and in 2015. Investment £1,000. Value today - £73.
Que Sera, Rodney, as Del Boy would have said. Share prices do go down as well as up.
leaves me in a state of B
satisfying than feeling a real part of a business by owning a few shares. Of course the dividends in the early years helped (they were stopped a few years back) plus there was always the prospect of share value appreciation.
For a while all was good. The share value kept increasing (to £20 at one stage when a major shareholder, unhappy with the direction the board was taking the business, offered that amount to anyone who would sell him his shares).
Naïve little me grabbed my shares closer – if this guy thinks they are worth £20, what will the value be when I retire?
As you will by now have read – no value at all.
I worked for the newspaper and magazine publisher from 1989 to 2006, joining as editor of one of its weekly newspapers and leaving as publisher of part of the group in far flung West Essex. The company spent most of the 1980s and 1990s expanding its portfolio, acquiring title well out of its historic heartland. Scotland followed the West Country, which followed London and the Home Counties. Fairly soon it was the largest independent newspaper publisher in the UK.
Then the worldwide web came along with a vengeance. Now I know we all have degrees in hindsight but the company’s take on transferring its mighty archive of local news to the web was fairly simplistic.
Put the news online as it came in, for free, was the policy. One of my colleagues, another editor, refused to do this, reasoning that if people catch on to the fact that we put all our news online, for free, they wouldn’t bother to buy the newspaper.
This was undoubtedly the beginning of the end but a change of direction a few years ago appeared to be steadying the boat. But the company was always playing catch up against tech giants, like Facebook, who realised very early on that all content has to be monitised.
By the time Covid hit earlier this year the damage was beyond repair. Plummeting newspaper advertising revenue and too- little-too-late digital income meant the business was on the rocks.
Now please don’t feel sorry for me. My dear old dad always told me never to put all my eggs in one basket so the loss of these shares is not terminal. We can still eat. And drink.
In a way it is a case of not missing what was not really there.
 Beware the perils of
ut one particular long-term investment in my former employer
In a nutshell it was going bust and has only been saved by an equity company buyout which took a 90 percent share in the business. The other 10 percent is in the hands of the company’s heavily indebted pension scheme.
This deal means the titles and staff are secure, for now. But it means bye-bye to the shares held by former and current employees. They have been wiped out. Worth nothing. Zilch. Zero.
I had built up a holding of just under 2,000 shares by taking them in preference to cash when times were good and profits were shared as a bonus annually in the ten or so years of my employment with the business.
After all, I felt there can be nothing more

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