After 35 years of stockbroking for some of the biggest houses and investors in Australia and the UK, the Secret Broker is regaling Stockhead readers with his colourful war stories — from the trading floor to the dealer’s desk.

It’s been another bizarre week, what with the fall out of the Treasury departments miscalculation of the fingers by $60bn and the ASX’s continuation of its ‘battle of the words’ with suspended stock iSignthis (ASX:ISX).

In 1986, I once left my briefcase on a train and had to travel to Kings Cross stations’ Lost Property office every day for a week and stand in line, as everyone stated sheepishly to the gentleman behind the counter what item they had left on the train after their drunken night out.

As I was in the queue waiting for my time, you could hear items being described and then watch as the old boy would disappear out the back and then reappear holding up the potential misplaced item and say “Is this it?” for everyone to see.

A box of glass eyes appeared for one chap to rummage through and then hold them up to his face one by one, asking if they matched his other eye, and a newly handed in false arm would be held up a couple of times in the air as new people arrived, in the hope of speeding up the system of claim.

It was a humiliating experience for all us losers (in the sober practical sense) and I was just imagining a shy and quietly spoken Australian treasurer in the front of the queue, asking if anyone had handed in his government issued calculator and the old boy going off and coming back holding a child’s toy abacus and saying “is this it?”

abacus

Can you believe it?

A $60bn budget estimation miscalculated by a government department that every Australian presumes has the brightest and best mathematicians that universities can produce, firmly at the wheel.

I have written before about how a financial mistake bankrupted Barings Bank and a fat finger keyboard mistake caused a Japanese broker to lose $549m, but never about a massive financial error like this.

It all came about because over 1,000 businesses wishing to claim the Jobkeeper benefit payments had filled in the online application form incorrectly and had entered the figure $1,500 instead of the number 1, as in one person.

And no one had picked up this error, even after the Treasury department had issued a record $19bn in government bonds to the market, as a way to partly fund and fill in its carefully calculated estimated budget hole.

To put a colossal miscalculation like this into context in my world, it would be a sweetly retired couple coming to me and asking me very politely to invest $100,000 into a nice blue chip portfolio for them, and then me sending them out contract notes in the post demanding payment for a portfolio investment totalling $150,000,000 and no one in the office noticing the mistake.

If COVID-19 didn’t kill them, then this would.

 

ASX undertaker lurking

Talking of death, it appears more and more likely that iSignthis will forever stay suspended till the delisting reaper comes and gets it, as the war of words between the company and the ASX has become something of a verbal school girl catfight.

Another 28 page announcement answering some bizarre questions and getting some even more bizarre answers, has in my opinion, the ASX undertaker outside the offices of iSignthis, with the tape measure in his hand.

Only a trade sale of the entire business can give hope of any holders ever being able to get some money back.

I say this because payment systems and gateways are a sector which I follow closely, and just this week a London-based unicorn in the sector came in and scooped up privately owned Australian player Pin Payments.

Checkout.com has not said how much it paid over, but in London last year the company managed to get an investment of $US230m ($345.5m) in Europe’s largest ever series ‘A’ fintech raise.

 

No prize for runner up

As Pin Payments offers similar payment solutions as iSignthis, you wonder why they didn’t knock on their door first, now that its biggest institutional shareholder has written down the value of their holding from $1.07 a share to 5.1c per share.

This price values the disputably issued 336 million shares at around $17m instead of their suspended valuation of $359m, which would now just be loose change for Checkout.com.

I am all eyes over the final outcome for iSignthis shareholders, whenever this may be, and while I am waiting for this, it gives me time to start preparing for tax time.

This year I thought I might take a leaf out the treasury department’s handling of estimations and follow its lead when calculating the estimations of my tax deductions.

My claiming for my years’ worth of early morning coffee will be raised from $1,642 to $2.463m and my yearly subscription payment to the AFR will now be estimated at $891,000 instead of last year’s $594.

However, my deduction claims for corporate entertainment and business travel will not be recalculated, as they will now no longer look out of proportion and may therefore, for the first time ever, get sneaked through without a query.

And if the ATO do decide to ping me on any of my new estimations, I shall just plead the “Frydenberg” official treasury method of calculations and have the lawyers on standby.

Wish me luck.

The Secret Broker can be found on Twitter here @SecretBrokerAU or on email at thesecretbroker@stockhead.com.au.

Feel free to contact him with your best stock tips and ideas.

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