In view of the offer being so over-subscribed, the question the committee repeatedly asked was: is the Royal Mail offer undervalued?
Vince Cable said that was the sort of observation made by grey-market, fly-by-night, speculating outliers on the fringes of the financial community and his irresponsible opposite number (Chuka Umunna).
He didn’t carry the committee.
Adrian Bailey in the chair said he had been an auctioneer in a previous life. “If I pitched a price and thirty hands went up I’d know I’d underpriced it.”
The minister thought that to float shares wasn’t an auction. In what way he didn’t say.
Labour and Tory members wanted to know how he would judge whether he had underpriced the issue. If the price went up 10, 20, 40, 50 per cent, would that cause him to blush at all? He was going to ignore such froth, he said. He wasn’t going to take a snapshot seriously.
But what about the 23 acres of prime London property that might be sold for billions by a clever asset-stripping management in a rocketing market?
The minister said such an outcome would assume a serious error had been made in the valuation. “And I don’t buy that,” he said.
Neither do. I can’t afford it.