The analysts at RBC Markets were quick out of the blocks last week, to explain why the Fevertree results were even better than they anticipated. This mixer drinks company is a wonder of the age, and RBC reckons it is worth its current £2.2bn price tag, or over 20 times its last 12 months’ revenues. So much sexier than boring old Britvic, currently valued at £1.8bn, or about 1.3 times its 2016 sales.

Holders might be comforted by RBC’s research, especially if they didn’t have to pay directly for it. Well, not for much longer. The leviathan lumbering down the track is the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive, Mifid ll, 1.4m (and counting) paragraphs of Brussels-borne consumer protection.

Seven years in the drafting, Mifid ll is supposed to make markets more transparent. From the reasonable premise that you should pay separately for dealing and research (for example) comes complexity that from next January will add more costs, and which threatens to make the markets more opaque, rather than less.

Today’s sellside research from banks and brokers is like advertising: half is wasted, but you don’t know which half. Much analysis is available free (the best of it on FTAlphaville) but from next year only the fund managers who have paid will see it. The banks want to charge up to $1m a year for their output, which looks ambitious given that much of it is today simply binned unread. Doubtless the economics stuff will remain free, but it’s little better than guesswork anyway.

Still, all is not lost. The analysts may have access to a company’s CEO, but this is much less useful that it used to be. Executives are so nervous of the insider trading rules, fearing that anything new said to an analyst might need a public statement, that conversations can yield little insight.

Besides, much brokers’ research is lightly disguised marketing material, designed to keep the company happy and to ensure access. At the same time, corporate information is freely available through company websites and Investegate. Research paid for by the company, through the likes of Morningstar and Edison, is obviously not objective, but it’s better than nothing.

Many buyers of Fevertree shares will not have consulted sell-side research before trading. It’s listed on AIM, with inheritance tax breaks for investors, so buying at any price makes sense as long as it holds up longer than you do. You might note that Tim Warrilow, one of the founders, has sold a slug of his stake.

The road to Mifid ll was paved with good intentions. Yet as with other financial directives from Brussels, its authors had no real interest in learning whether their proposals would help the London market. The result is complexity almost beyond human grasp, and compliance costs that outweigh any gain for the customers. Lest we forget, it’s one reason why we voted to leave the European Union last year.

Repent at leisure

In politics, if you make a sweeping promise, make sure you’re gone before it’s due. George Osborne’s promise to balance the Budget by 2015 always looked like a fantasy, even though he had not expected to be gone before the reckoning arrived. Philip Hammond has kicked that can as far down the road as he dare. He has no idea how his latest balancing feat will be achieved, but can take comfort from knowing he will be gone before it becomes obvious that the latest target of 2025 will also be missed.

This week saw another fine example, in the promise to stop the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040. This shameless toadying to the green lobby threatens upheaval and economic destruction, but nobody in power today will be answerable when the bill arrives. As John Dizard argued eloquently in the FT, battery technology advances incrementally. Unlike microchips or antibiotics, there are no “breakthroughs”. Range anxiety will hang over electric cars for years to come.

The mother of all feel-good promises remains the Climate Change Act. This commits Britain to cutting carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, and in the nine years since it became law, passed almost unanimously by parliament, only trivial progress has been made, while the assumptions behind it look ever more unconvincing. Not their problem, though.

This is my FT column from Saturday

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