Page last updated at 23:27 GMT, Tuesday, 5 August 2008 00:27 UK

Credit crunch a year on: The winners

By Gavin Stamp
Business reporter, BBC News

The global credit crunch has caused anxiety and financial distress to millions.

But as with any situation, there have been winners as well as losers.

Pawn broking firm in Glasgow
Where there is financial pain, there is always gain for some

US and European banks have had to turn to investors in the Middle East and Asia to repair their balance sheets, further strengthening the global economic clout and reach of China and the oil-rich Gulf states.

As consumers change their spending habits, certain businesses have reaped the rewards.

And while the financial turmoil has proved poison for policymakers dealing with it, it has provided rare meat for economists, commentators and opposition politicians.


State-controlled investment funds were a powerful force on the global business landscape long before the start of the credit crunch.

But the cash crisis in the banking sector has accelerated the growth of so-called sovereign wealth funds, giving them an unprecedented opportunity to invest more of their colossal wealth in attractive corporate assets.

ON 9 AUGUST 2007
Short-term credit markets freeze up after French bank BNP Paribas suspends three investment funds worth 2bn euros
The bank cited problems in the US sub-prime mortgage sector
During the following months US and European banks report losses totalling hundreds of billions of dollars
The European Central Bank pumps 95bn euros into the eurozone banking system to ease the sub-prime credit crunch
The US Federal Reserve and the Bank of Japan take similar steps

Many of Wall Street's top names were grateful for injections of cash from sources that, not too long ago, they may have been somewhat wary of.

The Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) invested $6.8bn in Citigroup shares and bought a 9% stake in Swiss bank UBS while fellow Singaporean fund Temasek acquired a 10% stake in Merrill Lynch.

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority invested $7.5bn in a stake in Citigroup while the Kuwait Investment Authority snapped up a $6.6bn holding in Merrill Lynch.

The Gulf state of Qatar, via its Qatar Investment Authority, took a 1.7bn stake in Barclays.

Chinese funding was also in demand with the China Investment Corporation - home to a fraction of China's vast foreign exchange reserves - shelling out $5.5bn to acquire a near 10% stake in Morgan Stanley.

Bank bosses welcomed these investments as a vote of confidence in their businesses and the chance for valuable future partnerships in fast-growing regions.

US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson with Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed al-Maktoum
Has the credit crunch further tilted the global balance of economic power?

But while many politicians backed this view, some worried about the political and economic repercussions of the shift in the balance of corporate power that this clearly represented.

The European Union worried that state funds were not open enough about their affairs and called for them to follow new guidelines on governance and disclosure.

The G8 group of leading industrial nations asked the International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to look into how such funds conducted themselves, with the OECD concluding that there was no need for them to be regulated.


It has become something of mantra that the credit crunch has affected everyone, whatever their level of income or assets.

But it is undeniably true that some have felt it more than others.

Anyone with cash savings has benefited and the larger the pile, the bigger the benefit.

The super-rich are not insulated from falling property prices, bad investments and rising fuel costs, but evidence suggests they have weathered the storm better than most.

According to Merrill Lynch, the ranks of the super-rich - defined as having more than $30m excluding the value of their homes - swelled 8% last year to more than 100,000.

Sotheby's employee holding Frans Hals' Portrait of Willem van Heythuysen which sold for 7m at auction last month
The resilience of the art market suggests the super-rich still thrive

The combined wealth of millionaires, meanwhile, rose by more than 9% to $40.7 trillion, driven by a glut of new members in China, India and Brazil.

This year will prove much tougher with fast-growing emerging economies vulnerable to the global slowdown, tight credit conditions and rising inflation.

But amid the prevailing gloom, there are signs individuals sitting on piles of cash are still prepared to spend it on prestigious investments.

The annual sale of Old Masters paintings at Sotheby's generated 59.4m this year, 31% higher than 2007 and a 87% rise on the year before.

Meanwhile, De Beers reports sales of rough diamonds are 10% ahead of last year while the owner of Cartier says jewellery sales rose 16% between April and June.

Bookings at London's upmarket Dorchester Hotel have risen 12% in the past year.


While a minority may be cocooned from the effects of the credit crunch, most have been reviewing their expenditure and tightening their belts.

Businesses able to provide value for money, both in terms of cheaper goods and ease of service, have prospered.

The popularity of "discount" supermarkets is a clear example of this.

Their share of the UK grocery market has never been higher than now, with Aldi and Lidl enjoying annual sales growth of 19% and 14% respectively in June.

Shoppers in Aldi store in Northwich
Supermarkets such as Lidl have seen new customers flocking to their stores

The grocery sector is still growing strongly but customers seem to be "trading down" to cheaper stores as Waitrose and M&S see lower-than-average sales growth.

McDonald's is creating 4,000 jobs in the UK after proclaiming itself more "recession resistant" than most retailers while the likes of Domino's Pizza have been busy as more people choose to order in rather than eat out.

Other beneficiaries of the tougher economic climate include UK holiday operators such as Pontin's camps - whose bookings are up 10% - and public transport operators.

As more repossessed homes go under the hammer, property auctioneers have also seen their fortunes improve.

In its most recent auction last month, London auctioneer Andrews Robertson offered 215 properties for sale, up from 192 a year ago and 130 in July 2006.

The fallback option provided by pawnbrokers is also proving increasingly attractive to people having to raise cash quickly.

Industry estimates suggest the number of UK pawnbrokers is rising 10% a year and business is booming. One firm - H&T Group - saw profits jump more than 50% last year.


A financial crisis is rarely good for governments, particularly those that have been in power for a long time.

The dramatic slide in Labour's popularity in the past year has neatly shadowed the global financial turmoil.

Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Vince Cable
Vince Cable has become a familiar TV presence during the credit crunch

In contrast, it has coincided with the revival of David Cameron's governing aspirations and the full emergence of Barack Obama as a political phenomenon.

Opposition figures can make their name in a crisis and Lib Dem Treasury spokesman Vince Cable's dissection of Northern Rock's failings has won him widespread praise

Rarely off TV screens in recent months, it is apt that Mr Cable was once an economist, for they have also been among the winners from the credit crunch.

In demand for their expertise and forecasting skills, they have gone a long way to proving that their calling is more of an important skill than a dismal science.

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