Dragons would snarl at the Royal Mail sell-off

The Observer’s Simon Goodley reports that Michael Fallon, the government’s chief salesman on the Royal Mail privatisation, previously worked for Duncan Bannatyne, the entrepreneur from television’s Dragons’ Den…

If privatisation chief Michael Fallon pitched this investment to his ex-boss Duncan Bannatyne, he’d be seen off by the TV panel.

So it’s acceptable to fantasise how the minister might receive a fierce slapping from the game show panel, as he pitches his current investment opportunity (first question: why would I want to invest in a firm where staff are threatening a mass strike?).

Bannatyne might also ask if investors are being coaxed into falling for fashionable lines about a return of Margaret Thatcher’s old “share owning democracy”, and we will be reminded about what a myth that supposed revolution was this week, as the Office for National Statistics publishes its biennial survey into share ownership.

That research has been showing for years how individual investors own less and less of the UK stock market, with private punters holding 64% of shares by value in 1963, 38% in 1975, and 28% in 1981 – while the figure has barely got above 20% since. Last time the ONS checked, it was 11.5% in 2010.

Still, even if you ignore the risks of Royal Mail shares, who’s to say the decline needs reversing? If, 13 years ago, you invested in the FTSE 100, you are still waiting for a profit. As Bannatyne might observe to Fallon: the City is welcome to those returns. Read the full story here.