Lhasa, Tibet vs Bear Stearns head office?

Already it’s being dubbed "Black Monday". This morning investment bank JPMorgan snaffled its venerable rival Bear Stearns for a fraction of the price BS was trading at even on Friday. To compound the scariness, JPMorgan’s purchase is underwritten by the US Federal Reserve, which has made $30bn available to enable JPMorgan to keep its new baby afloat.

In the UK, Robert Peston at the BBC says that the Bank of England offer to make £5bn of short-term loands available to our own banks has led to a stampede, with the banks putting in claims for more than £23bn.

Events are moving so fast, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. Peston describes the fundamental issue as "deleveraging". The Wall Street Journal calls it "a margin call".

Definitions aside, the western world has (we hope temporarily) lost confidence in any credit that is not underpinned by rock-solid assets. Any hint of puff, and lenders want out.

It seems appropriate, on this grim day, that T Jolly, the 100-year-old Lancashire-based mechanical and electrical engineering services provider should be subject of a management buy-out by private equity firm NGBI.

"Real businesses" such as T Jolly may be feeling mildly comforted that their good old-fashioned asset-based growth isn’t so dumb after all. For those businesses buoyed up by spin and dubious, confidence-based marketing propositions, my sympathies.

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