When I started in business I was dealing in physical stuff: oil, gas, electricity, coal. Standard, commoditised stuff. Whenever you were selling, you tried to add value in different ways - credit terms, service levels, devising fancy pricing clauses, throwing in a few options - anything you could think of to customise, rather than sell on price. I became an 'originator', hatching complex contracts with as much creativity as I could muster. The margins got better as the deals became ever more bespoke. On a good day, you could add so much value that the customer was only too happy to pay the premium: genuine win-win all round. But it was still basically margin.
Then I moved from physical energy to being a service provider. The creative value-adding thought-process served me well: but at the end of the day, it's just fees. And sometimes it is a bit galling to see the client make a real packet from your very good idea.
So the notion of profit-sharing rapidly takes hold. And lo! One day a client liked a particular proposal, and offered a profit-share on the upside. Kerr-ching. We tied down the details, and away we went.
Everything went pretty much to plan: the idea worked out, the sales were made; and then came the day of reckoning. In I go to the client's office, to be met with long faces. No profit, you see. Look, here are the accounts. And it all seemed to be going so well, but - there it is, Nick. Just your flat fee after all.
Well of course I pored over the books but they had been well and truly stacked, and I had been well and truly shafted.
And now we find that UK plc has fallen for the same trick, but on a scale with so many noughts added, I'm not sure they can be counted. The EDF Hinkley deal, which the EC so comprehensively demolished 9 months ago, has been passed because of a small alteration which makes it just fine: an upside sharing device for the UK to claw back a bit of the gargantuan subsidies, in the event EDF's profits are above a certain exorbitant level.
Ah yes. Profit on the construction and long-term operation of nuclear power plants, operated by an arm of the French state. Does anyone on the planet reckon that the books which will be presented in due course will bear any relation to reality?
For many years now I have been predicting the French will get the rest of Europe to pay for its nuclear industry as surely as we all pay for their agriculture: and so it has come to pass. The gormless gits in Whitehall have served it up on a platter. There are some early rumours as to how the political fix was achieved, but we may never really know. Will the Germans and Austrians really block it at the eleventh hour ? I'm not pinning much hope on that.
This 'French Tax' on UK plc will run for 35 years, and will end up being an identifiable percentage of GDP. Countries have gone to war for less. The 'deal' (which, incidentally hasn't yet been signed) needs to be repudiated fast: I might even join UKIP if they make it part of their manifesto.