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New Star set for supernova

It’s set to be another stellar week for New Star in terms of column inches if not its share price as Ignis Asset Management’s Jonathan Polin hits out in Money Marketing at those publicly touting for business at the troubled asset manager.

Polin, Ignis’ sales and marketing director, has accused firms that have publicly expressed an interest in New Star of doing “both the fund industry, the IFA and the client a disservice”.

Neptune Investment Management has already expressed an interest in adding parts of New Star to its business and speculation has been rife over other potential suitors after the firm confirmed it was considering a possible sale of the business.

In an update to the market yesterday, the firm denied rumours that it was in discussions regarding an offer for ordinary shares. New Star’s founder and chairman John Duffield looks set to leave with the restructure of the business but the firm has denied exit rumours and says it remains focused on the implementation of its proposed capital restructuring.

New Star is not the only one attracting unwanted attention, offshore centres have also had a tough old time of it of late. First, Darling pledged to take a “long, hard look” at the relationship between the UK and the Isle of Man, and “a tax haven sitting in the Irish sea” and now the vicar of Christ on earth is taking a pop.

This week Pope Benedict XVI became the latest high profile leader to turn up the heat on the Crown Dependencies and other offshore jurisdictions, blaming them for bringing the financial world to its knees by stripping wealth from poverty-stricken nations and giving it to the rich.

The policy paper from the Holy See reportedly stated: “They have given support to imprudent economic and financial practices and have also played a significant role in the imbalances of development, allowing a gigantic flight of capital linked to tax evasion.”

Much of the debate and suspicion surrounding offshore activities centres around the issue of transparency. Is it not ironic therefore that such an attack should come from a Vatican leader whose own bank, the Institute for the Works of Religion, limits disclosure on financial dealings?
Meanwhile, there appears to be a silver lining for those with deposits in collapsed Manx subsidiary Kaupthing Singer and Friedlander with the news that the IoM’s government is to team up with local banks to offer investors strengthened compensation.

The package, which will help all KSF IoM depositors, will combine government and bank contributions under a depositor compensation scheme with assets from the provisional liquidation of the company.

In other offshore news, an international adviser is touting Australia to be the next on HM Revenue & Customs’ Qrops hit list as it looks to bring overseas schemes in line with UK pensions.

This follows recent changes in Guernsey’s Qrops legislation which saw a restriction in tax-free cash to 25 per cent and a minimum age of 50 applied for the receipt of benefits from the scheme.

HMRC is now rumoured to be on the verge of issuing further announcements on the reporting requirements of Australian superannuation schemes in an official newsletter before the second Qrops reporting date due on January 31.

An HMRC spokeswoman denied a specific clampdown on Australia but said: “HMRC is looking carefully at the operation of transfers to QROPS to ensure that the system works for those who genuinely need it. The Government will continue to monitor and will act to counter abuse.”

Worldwide Financial Planning IFA Nick McBreen says: “The Government’s PBR expressed its intention to look at offshore jurisdictions and if that’s not flagging further interest I don’t know what is. It will inevitably embrace pension contracts as well as insured and investment contracts.”

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