And then there were none. Even before the deal has closed, all those who were slated to be in charge of this year’s ‘orrible merger have gone. Trevor Reid, Xstrata’s finance director, was set to take the same post at Glenstrata, the commodities behemoth created by combining with Glencore. He quit last week, following his chairman and CEO. The idea of a “merger of equals” so equal that all three top posts would go to Xstrata executives has turned to mining-grade rubble. With all three gone, Ivan Glasenberg is again in charge at the enlarged Glencore.

It’s exactly four years since he and his colleagues stared into the abyss, and realised that while they were billionaires on paper, they could lose the lot. In December 2008, the spread on Glencore’s credit default swaps ballooned out to 3125 basis points. That price reflected the scale of the market’s general panic, but it also signalled that the panickers thought Glencore was bust. At the very least, the banks might apply a tourniquet to the copious flow of cheap credit, the lifeblood of a commodities trading house.

Barely a month later, Xstrata launched a rights issue, threatening Glencore with severe dilution of its 34 per cent stake. Unable or unwilling to pay, Glencore hocked a Columbian coal mine in return for its share of the new equity. This breathing space allowed Glasenberg & Co to launch a strange $2.2bn bond, convertible into shares on flotation. Glencore got its coalmine back, but the price was the end of financial privacy.

The IPO duly followed in May last year. The offer price has never been seen since, but the collapse failed to discourage Mr Glasenberg from the next step in his strategy, the takeover of Xstrata, a business built on mines rather than commodity traders. Nine months on, a tweak of the terms, and the rout of the Xstrata board is complete.

This is not the end of the saga, and whatever investors think of Mr Glasenberg’s flexible approach to corporate governance, they are going to own an awful lot more of his stock. Weightings in the FTSE100 index are adjusted for the “free float”, shares which the compilers deem are potentially on the market, while they disregard strategic stakes which are deemed not to be. Analysts at Liberium Capital note that since the strategic stakes in Xstrata owned by Glencore and Qatar Holdings will fall out of the calculation, Glenstrata’s weighting in the index will rise from 1.88per cent to 2.17per cent. That 0.29per cent gap implies £4.1bn of buying. It would take 27 days of average daily volume to get the tracker funds up to the required weighting.

As Liberium does not say, the enlarged company makes it much easier for Mr Glasenberg and his trader colleagues to realise the billions locked up in their shareholdings, should they decide that the plc spotlight is too much of a pain. All-in-all, then, a pretty impressive journey from the edge of that abyss four years ago.

Don’t blame me, I’m the boss

Banking is not like other industries. If one bank is in trouble then, to a greater or lesser extent, they all are. This may seem obvious to any career banker who understands the ephemeral nature of creditworthiness, but it came as a shock to Dennis Stevenson. The chairman of HBoS throughout its nasty, short and brutish life was skewered this week in front of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards.

It was not a pretty sight. From his confusion between non-executive and part-time chairman, to his desperate defence of the bank’s impressively awful lending, everything in his view came down to the closure of the wholesale markets after the collapse of Lehman Brothers. The board, he averred, worked wonderfully, and kept a close eye on risk. Neither the earlier signals from the money markets nor the 20 per cent fall in the the HBoS share price in a single day in March 2008 were considered relevant to the bank’s underlying position.

As the session wore on, Andrew Tyrie, the commission’s chairman, remarked: “I do lean towards the delusional rather than the mendacious” in considering Lord Stevenson’s testimony. A dispassionate observer would have to conclude that this was a generous judgement indeed.

This is an updated version of my FT column on Saturday

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/961bdc64-4089-11e2-8f90-00144feabdc0.html

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