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Revolut offers dog tricks as Bank of England licence talks drag on

Revolut: branch management

Revolut “appoints dog to C-suite role”, says the press release, which doesn’t improve thereafter. In a stunt to promote its launch of pet insurance, the $33bn valued sort-of bank this week named a one-year-old Shiba Inu called Sam as its chief pet officer.

Joking about lapdog hires is a bold strategy while working through its application for a UK banking licence. Since 2019 the crypto-friendly lender has been recruiting management considered independent to co-founder and chief executive Nikolay Storonsky, whose intense style was judged unlikely to gain the confidence of Bank of England regulators.

The arrival in 2020 of Martin Gilbert as chair and its nomination of ex-Standard Chartered Europe chief Richard Holmes to run the UK division went some way to addressing allegations of an ejector-seat culture under Storonsky’s leadership. Appointing dogs still appears easier than recruiting people, however: Revolut has yet to name a chief investment officer to replace Anton Pasiechnikov, who left for Wizz Financial in November after just eight months in the role. Its job ad remained live until Thursday afternoon having been posted more than ten weeks ago.

Capricorn Energy: short stories

The list of London’s most shorted stocks has a new entry: Capricorn Energy. The Edinburgh-based oil explorer, formerly known as Cairn, came from nowhere this week to become the London Stock Exchange’s third most bet-against company after Cineworld and shopping centre owner Hammerson.

Data compiled by IHG Markit showed that since late January about 64m Capricorn shares worth £130mn had been loaned out, equivalent to 13 per cent of its market value, from less than 1 per cent previously. Yet there were no new disclosures in the Financial Conduct Authority’s daily short positions report, where borrowers are legally required to log all UK short positions above a share capital threshold of 0.1 per cent.

What might explain the anomaly? It’s perhaps worth noting that Capricorn is waiting for a $1.1bn tax refund from the government of India. Immediately after the cash arrives Capricorn plans to launch a $500mn cash return to shareholders via a tender offer.

According to securities lending specialists, some Capricorn shareholders may wish to avoid passing the tax refund from one government to another. Placing shares temporarily with a borrower in a lower tax jurisdiction ahead of the tender’s launch could be a mechanism to reduce their liability to capital gains tax, they said.

The sudden jump in short interest was therefore taken to suggest that, after more than seven years of wrangling with India, investors have grown confident that the refund will be arriving imminently. Capricorn declined to comment. Of the company’s two biggest shareholders, MFS Investment Management said it did not discuss individual securities in its portfolios and BlackRock directed us to a website post setting out its general policies on institutional securities lending.

Wirecard: bidding adieu

Souvenir hunters from corporate frauds had an opportunity this week to pick up some mementos of Wirecard’s collapse.

Insolvency auctioneer Hämmerle offered more than 400 lots to collect from Wirecard’s former headquarters in Aschheim, near Munich. The site has been mothballed since August 2020 when administrators began dismantling the bankrupt payments group.

Available to purchase alongside office furniture and fittings were a Shiatsu massage chair with integrated audiovisual relaxation system, a selection of sickly looking plants, a foosball table and gym equipment including a punchbag and a mini trampoline. Wirecard’s notoriety made for lively bidding: a bundle of 50 generic art prints blazed through its €50 reserve price to sell for €1,600.

Presenting more of a bargain were five document shredders capable of destroying DVDs and credit cards to GDPR compliant standards, which when new carry a price tag of €2,000 each. The hammer fell at just €1,900 for all five, perhaps reflecting wear and tear from the previous owner’s heavy usage.

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