City ‘supermen’ tasked with saving debt-laden companies

Linda J. Dodson

But finding solutions is extremely complicated, could backfire and the process is already being slowed by the “very patchy” data available, says one person involved in the taskforce. “This is not like we’re going to buy an orange, plant a seed and go grow a tree, this is like building a space shuttle”.

One of the challenges will be encouraging investment in smaller companies. “It’s easier to take a risk with a FTSE 100 company than it is with a café, spa or a hairdresser,” says one person approached to advise Sir Adrian’s group. “The problem is there isn’t enough money. Someone here is going to lose, the question is who and when.”

The recent wave of cash raisings have been a savvy financial move, analysts have said. In the past month 32 listed companies, including WH Smith, Asos, Hotel Chocolat and Auto Trader, have raised £2.7bn from markets.

However bankers were this week accused of exploiting desperate firms by allegedly foisting extra fees on those raising money, raising fears that lenders owed millions of pounds could be threatening to withdraw vital credit as a negotiating tactic.

If the allegations, which are being investigated by the City watchdog, are found to be true and result in a big scandal then the City taskforce currently fighting to come up with solutions for the business community after lockdown could struggle to have its action plan taken seriously.

“We need to get as many small and medium-sized businesses through this as possible,” says Tory MP and banking campaigner Kevin Hollinrake. “This needs to be quantitative easing for the people, not for the City.”

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