Planet Business

This week: Bananas, nosebleeds and presidential shopping trips

Image of the week: Mind the Gap
Is the Gap cool in 2014? Is Barack Obama? It's hard to keep track of everyone's position on the what's-hot-what's-not barometers of culture, and harder still to work out whether this presidential trip to an outlet of the Gap in New York will prove mutually beneficial.

Everyone, including the US president and saleswoman Susan Panariello, certainly seemed cheery during the “surprise” visit to the clothing chain on Tuesday, when rather than picking up some weekend casuals for himself, he bought gifts for his family. His choices were pink sweaters for Malia and Sasha, and a blue zip-up for Michelle.

"I think the ladies will be impressed with my style sense," the president was reported to have said as his items were rung up, while the woman at the counter took the opportunity to assure him he was better-looking in person. Photograph: Larry downing/Reuters

In numbers: Marijuana money
$2m

Sum collected in January by the US state of Colorado in taxes from its newly-legalised recreational marijuana businesses. The sum swells to $3.5 million if taxes from medical marijuana firms are included.
59
Number of marijuana firms that filed tax returns for the month. Colorado is the first US state to legalise the commercial sale of cannabis (20 states plus Washington DC allow the sale of medical marijuana).
$14m
Estimated January sales enjoyed by those 59 firms, most of which are based around the city of Denver. The state of Washington is next to legalise non-medical sales later this year.

The lexicon: Nosebleed valuations
Asset prices have risen so high they are giving Seth Klarman, the "highly cautious" head of the $27 billion investment group Baupost, a nosebleed. In a private letter to clients reported in the Financial Times , Klarman writes that "few, if any" investors will "escape unscathed" once the stock market comes to its senses.

"When the markets reverse, everything investors thought they knew will be turned upside down and inside out," he wrote, adding that you would have to be blind not to see bubbles inflating in junk bond issuance, credit quality and yields, "not to mention the nosebleed valuations of fashionable companies like Netflix and Tesla Motors".

So place a large box of tissues on standby, then, though sadly the timing of this potentially brutal correction was not forecast.


Getting to know: Jim McCarthy
Poundland's shares were this week priced at three times the usual price of its wares. The man behind the chain's stock market flotation is chief executive Jim McCarthy, who doesn't seem the sort to let his new paper fortune go to his head.

Growing up in a Warwickshire council house with no car or television, he recalled to the Daily Telegraph that his father "would eat bread and dripping, so we could have beans on toast". Married at 18, McCarthy learned to save rather than spend his pennies, to the extent that when the Financial Times posed the age-old "Picasso or art deco" investment quandary, he answered: "Neither . . . I would say shares and our home are my major investments. The rest of my money stays in the bank".

Poundland, meanwhile, is valued at £750 million, which is not bad for a business based on selling AA batteries and giant Toblerones.


The list: Headline writers go bananas
Stick Fyffes and Chiquita into the merger and acquisitions blender and what do you get? A fruit salad of puns, a selection of which we present for your delectation:
1 Chiquita, Fyffes to merge, creating new top banana: So said the Wall Street Journal . "Top banana" was indeed the "top banana" of banana headlines this week.
2 Fruit cocktail – yes, we'll have more bananas: The Daily Telegraph tried a little harder for its print edition.
3 Fyffes and Chiquita team up to be the biggest of the bunch: The Times had a different visual in mind. It also offered the best banana-related fact, noting that the earliest written reference to bananas was in 500 BC.
4 Chiquita/Fyffes – a fruity merger: It's a sweet deal, or so this FT.com headline writer implied.
5 Fyffes shares soar as investors go bananas for Chiquita deal: IrishTimes.com was proud to report a healthy market reaction to the news.