Grab Your Tea and Biscuits, It Could Get Ugly

General meetings are dull! There, I said it and I feel better for having said it. The truth is your average AGM is about as exciting as watching a two-day House of Commons debate on the future of train spotting. You get my drift?

No, well let me explain. I love markets, business, the intrigue, the greed, the sheer buzz of watching trillions of dollars at stake every day on the flip of a coin. The problem is that company meetings for shareholders are usually completely divorced from that roller-coaster world and are normally just a procession of self-congratulatory messages from the board of XYZ PLC, followed by a series of questions from Mrs. Pinkerton-Smythe of Little Farthing and her like on topics such as the fact that the board now sends out its Annual Report by second-class post.

Get over it, Mrs. Pinkerton-Smythe!

The good news for me is that my assignment Tuesday is the Northern Rock Extraordinary General Meeting, which has more spice than the hottest curry served up in my local Putney Tandoori.

This is the biggest showdown in Newcastle since Jack Carter went "up north" to avenge his brother's death in 1971. No Michael Caine this time round, but plenty of gunslingers from the Square Mile, including the hotshots from RAB Capital and SRM, whose combined near-20% stake in the beleaguered bank has given them the firepower to mount an attack on Northern Rock's board and potentially a Government-enforced nationalization of the bank.

If there were only two or three interested parties, then this would be a relatively straightforward shoot out. However, into the mix of players with vested interest in this one extends to the unions, pension fund trustees, the European Commission, the "tripartite regulators" and, of course, the UK taxpayers, who are committed to the survival of the bank to the tune of over 50 billion pounds ($100 billion) at last count.

So, nine resolutions are on the table in Newcastle Tuesday. Nine resolutions which will take us nearer to the end game in the current chapter of a financial institution, which has the ignominious glory of being the first to see a UK bank run in more than one hundred years.

There could well be blood on the table as the dust settles when all's said and done, so just a word of warning to Mrs. Pinkerton-Smythe and her cohorts: when the mud starts flying, grab your tea and biscuits generously handed out to you by the board of Northern Rock and get under the table ... it could get ugly!