Sometimes you see a story, reported in a respected publication, but where the semi-exciting headline isn't exactly backed up by direct quotes in the story itself. Take this FT interview with Tiscali boss Tommaso Pompei. The headline: "Tiscali boss expects to be targeted by rivals". A company? Targeted by its rivals? Shurely not!
The direct quotes to support this? "This year for sure we'll be 100 per cent focused on our results, but we are prepared to react should the consolidation take place... This year is crucial for our company because, as anticipated, it will be a turnover of the new strategy and the new plan, with important financial results to be achieved... Once we are there, let's see what happens, and we are open to consider all alternatives." So far, so vague.
The subsequent headlines in other publications (who shall remain nameless, although feel free to Google away)? "Tiscali chief plots sell-off"; "Tiscali expected to sell UK broadband operations"; "Tiscali to sell up 'within two years'"; and "Tiscali expects sales of ISPs".
Now, in that FT piece there were these bits of reported speech: "Mr Pompei said he did not see many opportunities for Tiscali to buy rivals, and therefore it was more likely that the company’s UK and Italian broadband operations would be sold... However, he said the company was not for sale... Mr Pompei said Tiscali's UK and Italian operations represented the only remaining independent broadband operations for rivals to buy if they wanted to increase market share significantly." As a hack who wants to be 100 percent sure of the veracity of his articles, this leaves me in a tricky position as to what Mr Pompei actually said.
A position made all the trickier by these words from a Tiscali spokesperson today: "As already said several times in the past and as reported by the CEO in the article, Tiscali is not for sale. Tiscali has not received any kind of formal proposal for a sale, and the management is committed to deliver on the targets announced. If in the future any kind of proposal arrives, it will be up to the shareholders to decide".
Which, like the direct quotes in that FT piece, kind of applies to most listed companies. Hence no story, but perhaps time will prove me wrong...