Qinetiq arrogance has sunk this flotation to new depths

I just cannot decide which part of the Qinetiq flotation I find most offensive.

Is it the fact that Qinetiq is little more than a test laboratory for the arms industry? The Ministry of Defence praises its track record in producing 'more efficient' battlefield weapons, which of course are more sophisticated and expensive ways of killing and maiming people, so I doubt the ethical funds will be queuing up to buy shares on flotation. But, as I don't have any moral objections to other death-dealing corporations, like BAE for example, it is not that which annoys me.

Is it the way the sale and flotation exercise has been handled so secretively? Behind-closed-doors deals were done with the secretive Carlyle group in the first place (see Oliver Morgan on page 1); then the flotation process has been drip-fed to uncritical commentators with no concern for parliamentary or financial regulators.

Or is it the obscene amounts of money which selected people will make on the flotation? Carlyle stands to make a profit of around £300m on its initial £42 million investment. Sir John Chisholm, the chairman, will trouser £23m, a very handsome return on his risk-free investment of £129,000 not so long ago. Other executives will also make big killings on the flotation. But, as I'm not against a chap making a pound or two, it isn't really that either.

Is it the fact that this government, which has masterminded and massaged the flotation process since its first days in power in 1997, has handled the whole thing with a total disregard for the public, whether as represented by Qinetiq employees or as potential retail investors in the flotation?

Employees will get a £500 bonus each, and will see the pension deficit reduced a trifle. None, outside senior executives, will be able to participate in the flotation in any significant way. Were it not happening quite so blatantly, you would think it was a story-line from Private Eye's satirical cartoon strip 'The Directors'.

But I think what really sticks in my gut is the way the government has selected a chosen few of big City institutions (well, maybe not quite so few - there are no less than three investment banks listed as advisers) to be the real beneficiaries of the flotation. The clients of these banks - the faceless hedge funds and investing institutions who can be relied on to hoover up the shares - will turn a nice, quick profit out of the flotation process.

The final insult, though, comes from Lord Drayson, junior defence minister, who explains the government's elitist arrogance thus: 'This is a very complex business and providing an explanation to the public was going to be too complicated and expensive for us'. Sheer, bloody cheek. Pearson starts to think the unthinkable

I had lunch last week with one of the City's real movers and shakers, a man who for the best part of a decade has been at the sharp end of the investment decisions that have affected our lives. His views - on corporate governance, executive pay, management underperformance and multi-billion-pound takeovers - have served as an essential subtext for finance and investment for a long time.

So I paid attention when he looked me in the eye and said: "He's going to sell it, you know. He told me so." The 'he' referred to was Glen Moreno, the new chairman of Pearson, and the 'it' was the Financial Times, the global business newspaper Pearson owns.

Well, that's pretty categoric, I thought, but as ever the reality is more complicated. Checking the story out I learned that, yes indeed, Moreno had raised the issue of the FT's future with investors at a series of recent meetings. The new chairman, two months into the job, is keen to canvas all shareholder views on how to enhance value at the group, and inevitably, the FT was one of the questions that surfaced.

But no, I was assured, Moreno had not said he was going to sell the FT. Instead, he informed investors of his plans for the paper, which involve a two-year strategy of investment in marketing and internet infrastructure, with another push to take on the Wall Street Journal in the international market. So, no sale of the FT is imminent.

Even this, however, is a significant change from the previous position, as elucidated by Pearson chief executive Dame Marjorie Scardino. I think we can declare the 'over my dead body' stance - her previous response to queries about an FT sale - is, well, dead. What we still need to know about Rover

It is never a good idea to waste public money, especially when the recipients are lawyers and accountants, but I just cannot join the chorus of complaints about the cash being spent on the DTI investigation into the scandal at Rover.

Admittedly, the sums are large - £500,000 a month, the DTI admits, which will land us with a bill of some £20m, if the inspectors report on schedule this summer. And it's also true that we know to a certain degree what happened at Rover - John Towers and the rest of the Phoenix Four were incompetently optimistic when they persuaded the government that they had a viable plan for volume car production at Longbridge, and wasted £500m of tax payers' money showing their incompetence.

But what the inspectors should be trying to find out - is how far government ministers, from the disgraced Stephen Byers to the besmirched Patricia Hewitt, were involved in this sad tale. Byers swallowed the Phoenix guff in the first place, against powerful advice, while Hewitt blew several millions more of our money by keeping Rover alive when it was obviously dead in the water - and when she was told it was beyond help.

If the inspectors probe the political aspects of Rover's demise, they would surely open a can of worms that would justify every penny spent. But will a DTI-appointed inspection really want to probe the murky actions of past DTI ministers? Somehow, I doubt it.