Planet Business



The list: Luxury wobbles

Luxury goods companies have done a pretty good job in insulating themselves from the recession in Europe and the US. But are the sector’s finely stitched seams beginning to fray? These five firms have pointed to a less fragrant future.

1 Bang & Olufsen:The electronics brand of choice for those on Premier League footballer salaries reported flat quarterly revenue this week.

2 Burberry:Sales have steadied since a profit warning, but the UK fashion house yesterday confirmed concerns that the Asia luxury market isn’t really all that amazing.

3 Swatch:The worlds biggest watchmaker has seen a slowdown in demand for its top-end watches (note: not the elasticated early-1990s kind) in China.

4 De Beers:Diamonds may be forever, but theyre also cyclical. The distribution arm of diamond miner De Beers says the Chinese market is levelling off.

5 Cartier:The French jeweller says the sales curve in China is “not clearly defined”. It has responded, as any self-respecting company would, by launching a “concept” watch.

In numbers: inherited wealth


Percentage of total household wealth in OECD countries that is inherited, based on “reasonable assumptions” made by the Crédit Suisse Research Institute.


Number of billionaires on the Forbes list who are self-made – or 69 per cent of the 1,226 total on the list.


Number of billionaires from the “transition economies” of China, Russia and Eastern European countries who owe their fortune to inheritance, out of a total of 209 billionaires from these regions.

The lexicon: Muppet hunt

Cancel all operations! The “muppet hunt” at Goldman Sachs has been completed. After Greg Smith, a former derivative salesman at the investment bank, used a pointed resignation letter to claim that Goldman bankers called their clients “muppets”, the company launched a thorough investigation, examining thousands of emails sent by staff. One message did refer to clients as “muppets”, but as part of an attempt to explain a trade rather than a bid to mislead stupid customers. Ultimately, what the exercise revealed was that Goldman employees are massive fans of the late Jim Henson, with 99 per cent of their references to “muppets” referring to the recent movie adventures of Kermit and his friends.

Image of the week

A man begging with a paper cup stands looking at Red Cross volunteers collecting money on a street in Madrid on Wednesday. This is the Red Cross’s first ever public appeal for donations to help Spanish families – the agency is looking for €30 million over the next two years to help 300,000 people in need of financial assistance in a country where one in four adults are out of work and more and more families are relying on food handouts to live. A campaign video shows a Spanish family sharing an omelette made from a single egg. Photograph: Paul White/AP

Getting to know: Sharon Bowles

Earlier this year, the Bank of England vowed to recruit more women to senior positions. But is there a possibility that the top job of governor could be held by a woman? Liberal Democrat MEP Sharon Bowles, who chairs the European parliaments economic and monetary affairs committee, has declared her hand by applying – telling media that being “a woman and an outsider”, as well as her financial knowledge, made her a strong candidate for the position. Bowles is not an economist by training, but a physicist and a mathematician. It’s a valiant effort, but Bank of England insider Paul Tucker, the current deputy governor, is still favourite.

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