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Thursday 13 February 2014

TPA – Last To The Punch

Jonathan Isaby, the CEO of the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), has been given space by Conservative Home to tell readers aboutTen policy victories from the first ten years of the Taxpayers’ Alliance”. This may have not been unconnected to his previously having been at ConHome, and former TPA stalwart Mark Wallace now being resident spinner there.
More guff from Tufton Street

In the course of his magnificently fraudulent spiel, Isaby lists in third place “An historic cut in beer duty”, telling “In 2013 we ran our MashBeerTax campaign, calling on the Chancellor to scrap the Beer Duty Escalator. The campaign secured a comprehensive victory with the escalator abolished and the announcement of the first cut to Beer Duty since 1959”. Such modesty.

Leaving aside the presence on the scene of such groups as CAMRA, which enjoys rather more credibility in the industry, Isaby has once again ignored the elephant in the bar: the PubCos. There is bugger all use having cheaper beer if the pubs are being sold off to developers as indebted owners cash in their property chips in the style of a losing player at a game of Monopoly.

Nor is there any point in securing a penny cut in the price of a pint when licensees are routinely being screwed over by PubCos that force them to buy beer through a tied system at prices dictated by them. Moreover, those licensees have to pay the PubCos a deposit, which in the case of Punch Taverns, owner of more than 4,000 pubs, is on average well north of £6,000.

This is relevant now, because Punch, wobbling under the burden of accumulated debt and a capital structure that the Guardian’s Nils Pratley calleddesigned by over-confident, over-paid and long-departed financial engineers ... a complete mess” is battling its bondholders in a battle to stay afloat. There are 16 classes of them, all of whom appear to have some call on part of the action if Punch goes bust.

That outcome is entirely possible, as Pratley explains: “After 14 months of wrangling, and three sets of proposals for restructuring £2.3bn of securitised debt, [Punch] still couldn't come up with an agreed deal with its bondholders. Instead, chairman Stephen Billingham produced a fourth proposal, declared the terms ‘final’, and told the various bondholders to vote”. They haven’t voted.

That would have happened on Friday. Punch pulled the deal today, with the bondholders opposed. If no agreement is forthcoming, the bondholders will be first in the queue, the shareholders may well get wiped out, and those tenants will be waving goodbye to their deposits. Where will Isaby and his pals at the TPA be? They won’t. They couldn’t give a stuff about the little guys.

As Winshton might have said, “shome campaign ... shome victory”.

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