What a difference a year makes; and then again, perhaps not!
All the signs are, however, set fair for the chance of a slightly less turbulent year ahead, with at least two of the imponderables (politics and the economic outlook) looking less fraught. The effort necessary to improve the environment remains, unfortunately, very much a work-in-progress.
China and the US; the US, Canada and Mexico; and, most recently (but least certain), the UK and the EU seem to be resolving their various trade issues. This all suggests that the use of trade as a weapon in geo-politics is becoming less popular or, perhaps more accurately, the realisation of how blunt such a weapon is has begun to dawn on those who first tried to wield it. If world trade becomes less politicised and less of a distraction to be deployed by those leaders who are unable to gain popular support at home, the world will be a better, happier place.
Given what has occurred over the past two years or so, if it were ever possible to completely disentangle politics and trade, that is no longer possible and it will be many years before politicians stop reaching for the blunderbuss of trade tariffs and sanctions when trying to resolve domestic issues. We can but hope that more mature and sensible heads prevail, but it is politics that we are talking about, after all!
At a Kepstorn level, 2019 has been a year of consolidation, with some improvement in deal-flow but lots more in the “pending” tray than ever before. The various upheavals that I have alluded to have undoubtedly put a break on M&A activity but the “wait and see” attitude should now pass. The flip side, of course, is that the restructuring mandates have been flowing think and fast, even if some are asset-poor and hope-heavy! In the current economic climate, however, working to preserve and sustain economic activity can be every bit as satisfying as helping to grow it. Donald has carved out quite a niche in AIM listed CVAs as vehicles for reverse take-overs and that is an area that will probably continue to flourish. With Tony having now, finally, after a huge amount of time and effort, piloted the listed property vehicle of which he was a director to a sale to allow the shareholders to exit, he is raring to go on working with his contacts. Watch this space!
Personally, this year has been another of huge enjoyment. It really is great fun to be the master of your own destiny and to spend time on assignments that bring more (or something other) than a fee at the end of the day. As ever, I have tried to balance the pragmatism of paying the bills with the need to add value where I can and help those who might benefit from my experience. This year has, once again proved to me (as if it was ever necessary!) that there are many, often known to us, who are very much worse off than us. It often doesn’t take much in the way of effort (and not just money) to make someone’s life a little better. With that in mind (and as the incentive forcing you to read to the end of my annual message) I have made a donation to St Vincent’s Hospice in lieu of both the costs of cards and postage and also in the hope of helping someone who will, manifestly, benefit from the support offered. If you are looking for a charity to support and have yet to settle upon one, the following link will make it quick and easy to do so, and the cause is truly life-changing: St Vincent's Hospice
Merry Christmas to you and your family and friends, with best wishes for a peaceful and prosperous New Year.