Bridge Scandal | Helical Focus | Bed Time

The modern world of professional sport has had its fair share of sensational drug scandals.  The list of offenders who have fallen spectacularly from grace overnight after testing positive for banned substances is a long one.  Ben Johnson, Marion Jones, Lance Armstrong, Maria Sharapova, Marco Pantani, Linford Christie, the Russian state (!)....and we've hardly got started.  Cheating and drug use aren't new.  Yet somehow Friday's headline exclaiming that the "World number one bridge player [has been] handed a one-year ban for doping" still came as rather a surprise.  Bridge?!  That most high brow of games!  Isn't this a game where the four players remain firmly seated and concentrated around a card table for the entire duration.  The Norwegian Bridge Federation has been quick to stress that the drugs taken by its biggest bridge star, Geir Helgemo, were not "performance enhancing", but even bridge players have to abide by World Anti-Doping Agency rules or faces the consequences.  And talking of performance - in this case good "clean" hitting in every sense of the word - West Indian, Chris Gayle's batting statistics in the One Day Series against England have made for some equally headline grabbing reading.  Innings 4;  Runs 424; Centuries 2; Strike Rate 134; Sixes 39!  Not bad for a guy who has just announced its time to hang up his boots and retire!

A Property Week interview with Helical's chief executive Gerald Kaye this week gave an interesting insight into the listed property company's two city strategy.  Back in 2016, and following a period of rapid growth under the stewardship of Mike Slade, Helical owned 76 assets across a diverse range of sectors and locations.  Kaye, however, believed the company's trajectory was unsustainable and took the decision to focus the business solely on where their expertise lay and where he believed there was opportunity.  The result was that Helical chose to focus on offices in London and Manchester only.  Everything else was sold.  The company now has just 12 assets in London and Manchester with a gross value of circa £850m.  The common theme appears to be scale and quality, with schemes such as the 3.2 acre Bart Square in the heart of the City creating a whole new urban quarter.  The decision to specialise was also driven by what appeals to investors.  As Kaye says "if investors want to buy student housing or accommodation, they will buy Unite; if they want to buy self-storage, they will buy Big Yellow; for offices there is Derwent, Great Portland and Helical; and for retail they might buy intu or Hammerson".  Or not in the case of the final two.  The fall in the share prices of intu (-43%) and Hammerson (-15%) over the last 12 months tells its own story about the current fortunes of the specialist retail REITS.  A focused strategy it seems can go either way!     

What would we do without the sacred Sunday morning lie-in, those precious extra few hours hidden under the duvet to recover from the stresses and strains of the week?   Unfortunately, researchers this week have dealt a blow to sleep-deprived parents and over-worked professionals with a study that concluded that weekend lie-ins do not make up for lack of sleep during the week.  Indeed those who rely on a strategy of weekend recovery are just as likely to suffer the ill effects of sleep deprivation (such as night-time snacking and weight gain) as those who are sleep deprived 7 days a week.  Not only is this a thoroughly depressing thought, but kyboshes any argument with your wife, husband or partner for that extra hour or two in bed "just to catch up".   So if you are scrolling through The Weekly this morning with your head still firmly on the pillow...that's your cue!