Why a Ruritanian poltergeist can be as valuable as an automated processing plant

Jeremy Bullmore

Jeremy Bullmore reflects on the paradox of how assets are valued. Tangible assets, such as plants and machinery, are inevitably impermanent while the intangible assets represented by brands can endure forever

We're in the boardroom of a company that makes fast-moving consumer goods. At the heart of today's agenda is budget allocation for the forthcoming year. The two most prominent supplicants are the Production Director and the Marketing Director.

The Production Director has a meticulously prepared case for an increase in capital expenditure. A concerning proportion of the company's manufacturing capacity is obsolescent. Working together, Production and Procurement have put their requirements out for tender and have interrogated the competitive proposals within an inch of their lives. They are wholly satisfied that they've got the most cost-effective deal. Full-colour plans and scale models are on display to augment the imagination. Visits have been made to other sites where equivalent plant has been installed – to the complete satisfaction of the operators. The suppliers' calculations of expected ROI have been double-checked and audited: the predicted payback is mouth-watering. Unless this programme is fully funded, competitive pricing of the company's goods may soon become impossible.