Nigel Farage really likes being the underdog. You could say he actually needs to be the underdog.
The thing is, an underdog has to have a fight on its hands in order to have any purpose. Once it wins its defining battle, the underdog can become irrelevant or, worse, actually accountable for stuff. Highly unpleasant.
Like a gap year student, Farage has appeared to have been on a vision quest ever since he won his battle to take Britain out of the EU.
First he sought meaning in Donald Trump but that, inevitably, left him lacking. Then he started another new party (the Brexit Party — remember them?) but it got zero seats in the election. He at least still had a way of ranting to this nation, via his show on LBC, but then he got dumped from that too.
But don’t worry about our Nige, for he has finally found himself a new battle to fight. But rather than waging it via a new political movement or party, or a primetime radio show, he’s going to wage this one via . . . a newsletter! (Thank God not a Substack though.)
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Fortune & Freedom (no it’s not a spoof):
On the website, you’re encouraged to watch an introductory video to the project (emphasis ours):
Watch now, or click here to access the full video, and discover why Nigel has founded Fortune & Freedom and what you could gain from this fight.
Farage tells us:
I am not afraid to take on this new fight on your behalf…
I will say what needs to be said (and I don’t care if the woke media attack me for it)…
To help you forge the prosperous financial life you deserve.
I have spent decades fighting for your political freedom.
Now comes the next battle – to get your money and your destiny back in your hands.
As a wise man once said, you have to fight to reach your dreams! (It was Lionel Messi.)
Yes, he might have spent the first two decades of his career in the City, he might be mates with finance tycoon Arron Banks, hell he might even have filmed his introductory video in a classic City haunt (more on that in a bit) but Farage is now taking aim at the City establishment. (He’s a nuanced man, is our Nigel. You might recall that the Brexiteer’s wife is German and that two of his children also have German passports.)
Specifically, Farage seems to want to get the message across to people that they should look after their own finances, and that they should consider buying precious metals. In the video he tells the interviewer Nickolai Hubble (who we are told is the editor of Fortune & Freedom) that:
Another object of this is to get people to think about alternative investments, so get them to think about gold, silver, and if you’re going to buy it, where do you go to buy it?
I’m very much a buy on dips man on gold.
We were waiting for him to say “be your own bank” and tell everyone to buy bitcoin, but he stopped short of that, for now.
In some bits Farage goes all
Jim from The Office Joe Biden and speaks directly to camera, like this bit at the end:
What he’s saying there is (emphasis ours, again):
If like me you’re one of those people who feels he’s been very badly let down by the industry, then give Fortune & Freedom a chance. You will get a daily newsletter. I hope it will containing interesting stuff; it will contain gossipy stuff; it will contain predictive stuff, but it will also contain educational stuff. Stuff about what you can do with your money, how you can do it, that nobody else is ever going to tell you.
To which his simperingly sycophantic interviewer responds:
Nigel I was hoping we’d find something to disagree on, just to show people there is no party line at Fortune & Freedom, but the only thing I can think of is our taste in beer.
Hubble is also the author of a book called “How the euro dies”. No party line there!
Certain members of Alphaville with an intricate knowledge of the City restaurant scene have identified the location of the video as Boisdale, an old City haunt, though there were some question marks over whether it could actually be Simpson’s Tavern, another old City haunt (readers do feel free to give us your verdict on this hot debate below). Either way, taking the fight to the City establishment in a City establishment makes a lot of sense.
There’s also an interesting disclaimer running along the bottom of the main page on the website:
Fortune & Freedom is an unregulated product published by Southbank Investment Research Limited. Its content is general only and should not be relied upon by investors in making (or not making) specific investment decisions.
From time to time we may tell you about regulated products issued by Southbank Investment Research Limited. With these products your capital is at risk. You can lose some or all of your investment, so never risk more than you can afford to lose. Seek independent advice if you are unsure of the suitability of any investment. Southbank Investment Research Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. FCA No 706697. https://register.fca.org.uk. © 2020 Southbank Investment Research Ltd. Registered in England and Wales No 9539630. VAT No GB629 7287 94.
Yeah. Southbank Investment Research Limited. They publish various newsletters, including one called “Gold Stock Fortunes”, another called “Short the World”, another called “New Drug Speculator” and another called . . . wait for it . . . “Crypto Profits Extreme”!
You can rest assured that Alphaville has signed up to Farage’s daily newsletter and will be sharing its content with you periodically. We hope it will provide all of us with some levity during these difficult times.
- We don’t want to call the top but . . . (Vision Fund edition)
- Nikola/Hindenburg: gravitational spin
- Is GMO’s Montier right on ‘absurd’ US stocks?
- ‘Commerzbank has confirmed its top position in German equity research, sales and corporate access’
- Once again Kodak pivots, and the share price explodes
- Blockchain: it really is a tough sell
- Sterling has not become an emerging market currency
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- The tech start-up that wants to “validate” the female orgasm
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- Today, in efficient markets
- We can’t blame all the indirect health damage on the lockdown
- Weirdly, blockchain can’t help combat coronavirus
- Leading ‘UK’ start-ups want a handout too
- China’s PMI print doesn’t mean much
- Let’s flatten the coronavirus confusion curve
- NMC Health: presented without comment
- When “commission-free trading” isn’t (really) free
- Michael Milken: financial innovator
- Oh no, the death-techers are coming
- Bitcoin’s “halvening” won’t boost its price
- CEO of JPM, recipient of $bns in state aid, bashes socialism
- Trump just made a joke about negative rates
- The Witcher is not a freelancer
- The ITV M&A fantasy
- Blockchain, all over your face
- Baillie Gifford: pot kettle black
- Is Facebook’s status as the bête noire of political advertising justified?
- The Eurosystem might have a fatal flaw. But it’s not this
- Venture capital for the ‘forgotten’
- The troublesome Trump inside trading claim
- The US economy is not recession-proof
- Hedge fund bro gonna hedge fund bro
- What do women want? Some crypto flavoured mansplaining, apparently.
- The Fed’s wishful thinking on inflation
- Dalio and Diddy: when genius collides
- State-backed crypto is a contradiction
- Rejoice! Venture capital wants to pay for your holiday
- Are electric vehicles more damaging than diesel?
- The £3bn hole in the Tory manifesto
- ArtGo loses its marbles
- Are banks really magic money trees?
- Will Lagarde’s sneaky tweet change much?
- Can we all calm down about Apple Card’s “gender bias”
- UBS’ billionaire boondoggle
- When fast fashion jumps on the eco-wagon
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- The stablecoin anathema
- Masters of the universe, don’t be scared of Elizabeth Warren
- Missing: the GE short report
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- Today, in fintech marketing
- YouGov’s “blockchain-based” sell-your-own data platform makes no sense (*update)
- Presented without comment
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- The WeWork bull case
- No deal Brexit is not a hedge fund conspiracy
- Europe’s digital infrastructure issue
- Let’s give a helping hand to Andrew Yang
- Anatomy of a malware scam
- ARK Invest’s Tesla model gathers dust
- A delirious defence of Uber
- WeLiquid: Adam Neumann pockets $700m
- Yesterday, in efficient markets
- The warm fuzzy feeling of indirectly owning Tencent
- The best of Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas
- Apple/Tesla: M&A and heartbreak
- Did Beyonce make $300m from Uber’s IPO?
- Bitcoin is the 10-year Treasury of our time
- High resolution music is a solution looking for a problem
- Amazon is furious about this negative review
- Missing: $500bn of American savings
- Blockchain for Brexit: a wonderfully terrible idea
- The Bank of Hodlers [sic] (sigh)
- Behind the curtain at China Ding Yi Feng
- An answer to Mark Cuban’s question
- Crumbs! It’s CRYPTO: the movie!
- National Beverage Corp loses its fizz, and its mind
- Amazon won’t spin-off Amazon Web Services
- Mensch! Dan McCrum is innocent, ok?
- Europe’s $1 trillion tax gap
- Why online propaganda mobs are an investment red flag
- Davos has produced an amazing new guide on precisely how not to think about risk
- When the public relations industry does PR for itself
- Who wants to be crippled by student debt?
- The bitcoin price is wrong
- The warm fuzzy feeling of Goldman debt
- “Cryptoassets” are crashing again. Is it time to start calling them cryptoliabilities instead?
- Puff the tragic cryptowagon smokes out the Mumsnet demographic
- Don’t write off the public sector
- Initiative Q: an elementary pyramid scheme with grandiose ideas [Update]
- Moral investments aren’t outperforming
- No one is killing it in crypto (not even Woz)
- Too smooth: the red flag at Patisserie Valerie which was missed
- No, the housing crisis will not be solved by building more homes
- Sorry Civil, ‘crypto-economics’ and ‘constitutions’ won’t save journalism
- ‘Short-termism’ isn’t a thing, say Fed economists
- Coinbase wants to be “too big to fail”, lol
- Regulation and innovation don’t have to be enemies
- Retailers get so lonely around the holidays
- Folli Follie: $1bn of fake sales, and what to learn from the debacle
- The new green evangelism
- Tilray, how low can it go?
- The ICO behind the tragic Everest stunt is now “airdropping” tokens from rockets
- Beware the Hindenburg Omen?
- The broken conversation about financial regulation
- The improbably profitable, loss-making Blue Prism
- The EM rout is not made in America
- Wages and growth and honestly we just give up
- Britain’s first blockchain-enabled co-working space isn’t blockchain-enabled
- There is a FIRE that never goes out
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- There’s only so much a central bank can do alone
- Eight questions every first-time buyer should ask
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- Tesla: getting to Q3 profitability
- Turkey contagion fears are overblown [Update]
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- Sorry Tim, the humanity is not being drained out of music
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- One for the ladies…
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- CFA: Chartered crypto analysts — updated
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- Sports are not markets, predictions ain’t investment
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- It might be a long wait for “the equivalent alternative to ICOs”
- Don’t blame it on the sunshine
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- Who cares if Elon is incinerating capital?
- Let’s not try make ‘crypto chicks’ a thing
- Tokens all the way down
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- A lopsided trade is a good trade, Italian inflation edition
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- Inflating inflation
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- Please don’t tell individual investors to buy leveraged loans
- RIB Software: the unicorn rainy-day fund
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- Sell all crypto and abandon all blockchain
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- Who needs the labels anyway?
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- Sorry Jack, Bitcoin will not become the global currency
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- Well that’s one reason to buy yen…
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- Someone is wrong on the internet, government employee pensions and passive investing edition
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A carbon registry leaves polluters with nowhere left to hide
The writer is the founder and executive chair of the Carbon Tracker Initiative, a think-tank
No one yet knows which countries will extract the last barrel of oil, therm of gas or seam of coal. But the jostling has started. Every nation has reasons to believe it has the “right” to continue fossil fuel extraction, leaving others to deal with the climate crisis.
In the Middle East, oil producers can argue that the cost of extraction is low. In Canada, they market their human rights record. Norwegians trumpet the low-carbon intensity of their operations. And in the US under Donald Trump, they touted the virtues of “freedom gas” and called exports of liquefied natural gas “molecules of freedom”.
The dilemma for governments is that if one country stops producing fossil fuels domestically, others will step in to take market share. And so the obligation to contain emissions set out in the Paris Agreement risks being undermined by special pleading.
In the UK, the furore over plans for a new coal mine in Cumbria the year that the country is hosting the UN’s climate summit is indicative of the contrary positions many countries hold. Facing one way the government says it is addressing climate change. But looking the other, it consents not just to continued extraction, but to support and subsidise the expansion of production.
Where climate change meets business, markets and politics. Explore the FT’s coverage here
To keep warming under the Paris Agreement limit of 1.5C, countries need to decrease production of oil, gas and coal by 6 per cent a year for the next decade. Worryingly, they are instead planning increases of 2 per cent annually, the UN says. On this course, by 2030 production will be too high to keep temperature rises below 1.5C. The climate maths just doesn’t work.
One of the problems in attempting to track fossil-fuel production is the lack of transparency by both governments and corporations over how much CO2 is embedded in reserves likely to be developed. This makes it difficult to determine how to use the last of the world’s “carbon budget” before temperature thresholds such as 1.5C are exceeded.
Governments need a tool that establishes the extent to which business as usual overshoots their “allowance” of carbon. There needs to be a corrective because the cost competitiveness of renewable energy, and the risk of stranded energy assets, has not stopped governments heavily subsidising fossil fuels. During the pandemic, stimulus dollars have been dumped into the fossil-fuel sector regardless of its steady financial decline, staggering mounds of debt and falling job count.
This is why my initiative and Global Energy Monitor, a non-profit group, are developing a global registry of fossil fuels, a publicly available database of all reserves in the ground and in production. This will allow governments, investors, researchers and civil society organisations, including the public, to assess the amount of embedded CO2 in coal, oil and gas projects globally. It will be a standalone tool and can provide a model for a potential UN-hosted registry.
With it, producer nations will have nowhere left to hide. It will help counter the absence of mechanisms in the UN’s climate change convention to restrain national beggar-thy-neighbour expansion of fossil-fuel production.
No country, community or company can go it alone. But governments can draw from the lessons of nuclear non-proliferation. First, they must stop adding to the problem; exploration and expansion into new reserves must end. This must be accompanied by “global disarmament” — using up stockpiles and ceasing production. Finally, access to renewable energy and low-carbon solutions must be developed in comprehensive and equitable transition plans.
The choice is between phasing out fossil fuels and fast-tracking low-carbon solutions, or locking-in economic, health and climate catastrophe. A fossil-fuel registry will help governments and international organisations plan for the low-carbon world ahead.
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Hasty, imperfect ESG is not the path for business
The writer is a global economist. Her book ‘How Boards Work’ will be published in May
Good environmental, social and governance practices take a company from financial shareholder maximisation to multiple stakeholder optimisation: society, community, employees. But if done poorly, not only does ESG miss its sustainability goals, it can make things worse and let down the very stakeholders it should help.
To be sure, the ESG agenda should be pursued with determination. But there are a number of reasons why it threatens to create bad outcomes. The agenda is putting companies on the defensive. From boardrooms, I have seen organisations worry about meeting the demands of environmental and social justice activists, leading to risk aversion in allocating capital. Yet innovation is the most important tool to address many of the challenges of climate change, inequality and social discord.
Pursued by $45tn of investments, using the broadest classification, ESG is weighed down by inconsistent, blurry metrics. Investors and lobbyists use different evaluation standards and goals, which focus on varied issues such as CO2 emissions and diversity. Metrics also depend on business models.
Without a clear, unified compass, companies that measure themselves against today’s standards risk seeming off base once a more consistent regulator-led direction emerges (for example, from worker audits, the COP26 summit and the Paris Club lender nations).
ESG is not without cost and the best hope for long-term success lies with business leaders’ ability to stay attuned to its impact and unintended consequences. For example, while the case for diversity is incontrovertible, efforts at inclusion should account for the possible casualties of positive discrimination.
Furthermore, despite ESG advocates setting a strong and singular direction for governance, organisations have to maintain their operations and value while managing assets and people in a world where cultural and ethical values are far from universal. While laudable, a heightened focus on ethics (such as human rights, environmental concerns, gender and racial parity, data privacy and worker advocacy) places additional stress on global companies.
It is often asked if advocates appreciate that ESG is largely viewed from the west’s narrow and wealthy economic perspective. To be truly sustainable, ESG demands global solutions to global problems. Proposals need to be scalable, exportable and palatable to emerging countries like India and China, or no effort will truly move the needle.
Much of the agenda is too rigid, requires aggressive timelines and lacks the spirit of innovation to achieve long-term societal progress. Stakeholders’ interests differ, so ESG solutions must be nuanced, balanced and trade off speed of implementation against the breadth and depth of change.
Business leaders are aware of the need for greater focus and prioritisation of ESG. We also understand that deadlines can provide important levers for senior managers to spur their organisations into action. After all, in the face of pressure for a solution to the global pandemic, vaccines were produced in months instead of the usual 10 years.
I live at the crossroads of these tensions every day. Raised in Africa, I have lived in energy poverty, and seen how it continues to impede living standards globally. As a board member of a global energy company, I have seen much investment in the energy transition. Yet from my role with a university endowment, I have also been under pressure to divest from energy corporations.
Business leaders must solve ESG concerns in ways that do not set corporations on a path to failure in the long term. They must have the boldness to adopt a flexible, measured and experimental agenda for lasting change. In this sense, they must push back against the politically led narrative that wants imperfect ESG changes at any cost.
UAE’s Taqa seeks to shine with solar energy push
From a distance, the 3.4m panels making up the United Arab Emirates’ largest solar power plant look like a massive lake.
But Noor Abu Dhabi, nestled between camel farms and rolling sand dunes, is no mirage. The 1.2 gigawatt facility — the world’s largest single-site plant — produces enough electricity for around 90,000 homes. Owned by Taqa, an Abu Dhabi state-backed utility, with Japan’s Marubeni and China’s JinkoSolar, it will celebrate its second anniversary of operations this month.
Staff constantly scan for repairs so production can be maximised during daylight hours, while every evening more than 1,400 robotic cleaners wipe the dust from the banks of solar panels to boost efficiency.
Noor and another Taqa project — an even larger 2GW solar plant under construction in Al Dhafra, nearer the capital — are emblematic of the company’s ambitions to recast itself as a force in clean energy.
It has outlined a new sustainable strategy with a goal for renewables to form 30 per cent of its energy mix, compared with 5 per cent now, and plans to boost domestic power capacity from 18GW to 30GW by 2030. It will set itself a carbon emissions target later this year.
“We want to transform Taqa into a power and water low-carbon champion in and outside the United Arab Emirates,” said Jasim Husain Thabet, chief executive of the power provider, which is majority owned by government holding company ADQ and listed on the emirate’s bourse.
Taqa’s push into renewables is a key element of the UAE’s ambition to have clean energy form half of its energy mix by 2050, with 44 per cent from sources such as wind and solar and 6 per cent from nuclear power.
Last year, the oil-rich emirate had 2.3GW of renewable energy capacity, or seven per cent of the power production mix, mainly from solar power, according to Rystad Energy, a research firm. It forecasts that the UAE is on track to reach its 44 per cent target by 2050.
Although many Gulf governments have targets to boost solar and wind power, the UAE has been out in front.
The Al Dhafra plant is expected to boast the world’s most competitive solar tariff when complete. The facility, a joint venture with UAE renewable pioneer Masdar, EDF and JinkoPower, plans to power 150,000 homes when it comes online next year, reducing the country’s carbon emissions by the equivalent of taking 720,000 cars off the road.
“This is about being a good citizen,” said Thabet. “But it is also attractive for global investors keen on environmental sustainability, it fits in with our main shareholder’s priorities and brings down financing costs.”
Yet Taqa’s sustainability pitch could fall flat with investors scrutinising environmental concerns.
Taqa has committed to capping production at its overseas oil and gas assets, which span fields in Canada, the North Sea and Iraqi Kurdistan. But although it has not ruled out selling the hydrocarbons assets that it bought during a spending spree in the 2000s, divestment is not imminent.
“If the right opportunity comes we will consider it, but right now our focus is on enhancing operations and reducing emissions,” Thabet said.
The UAE, a leading oil exporter and member of Opec, is also committed to increasing its crude oil capacity in the coming years. The country is working towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but still has one of the highest per capita carbon footprints in the world.
But Mohammed Atif, area manager for the Middle East and Africa at DNV, a renewables advisory firm, said the UAE, like other major oil and gas producers such as Norway and the UK, are working for a more sustainable future.
“Yes, the roots and history of the UAE are grounded in hydrocarbons, but they are aware of the challenge of climate change,” he said. “It is a transition, not a revolution, and that takes time.”
John Kerry, the US special presidential envoy for climate, visited the Noor plant while attending a regional climate change dialogue in Abu Dhabi earlier this month, saying such “incredible energy projects” would “set us on the right path” to achieving the Paris Agreement goals that aim to limit global warming.
“There’s no reason why oil-producing countries cannot also be a key part of tackling the climate crisis,” he said in a tweet.
At the same time, Taqa is eyeing opportunities to expand in renewables beyond the UAE. Last year it merged with Abu Dhabi Power Corporation, creating an integrated utility company with ADQ owning 98.6 per cent.
The government is expected to increase the free float via a share offering, Thabet said, declining to provide further details.
With exclusive rights to participate in power projects in Abu Dhabi over the next decade, the company is now mulling how to leverage that guaranteed cash flow abroad.
Thabet said the company would focus on projects and investments that burnish its sustainable credentials. It wants to build 15GW of power capacity outside the UAE. The group currently produces 5GW internationally, including 2GW in Morocco.
“We believe in solar and [photovoltaic] projects, so we will focus on that — but if there is an opportunity outside the UAE, such as onshore or offshore wind, then we will explore that,” he said. Taqa would also consider investing in international renewables platforms to reach its targets, he added.
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