There is a game played by those of a particularly macabre persuasion, which consists of picking the 10 celebrities most likely to die in the year ahead.
The 10 companies to meet their Waterloo this year
There is a game played by those of a particularly macabre persuasion, which consists of picking the 10 celebrities most likely to die in the year ahead. The winner is the one whose list has the most selections that fail to make it through to next Christmas. Being of a less vulgar nature on the business desk, we thought it might be fun to forecast instead which companies might not make it through this year. Here, in no specific order, are my 10 picks of those who might not need to book a table for their Christmas office party:
Saab: At one time Abba, the pop group, contributed more to Sweden's export figures than the car marker. It may be that the car group never sells another car, unless a last ditch effort to save it comes through from Spyker, a Dutch-based maker of sporty vehicles. Abu Dhabi has a stake in Spyker, so there is a home interest. Maybe they can see something in the business that I can't. As a driver, I can confirm that the quirky vehicles were once quite appealing. The Saab turbo was an iconic car of the 1980s and a frequent sight on the roads of Sussex, mainly because so many of them were stranded in laybys with a blown turbo.
British Airways: It also has an Abba connection, with passengers long confirming their intentions to fly "ABBA" - in other words, Anything But British Airways. Their latest antic, with cabin staff voting for a strike over Christmas, later deemed illegal by the courts, is unlikely to win them any friends or favour. BA is in debt, overmanned and unpleasant to fly. It is possible that it might stagger through the year, but its best solution would be to shut down and then re-emerge, possibly just called BA, with its planes and routes but having abandoned its awful staff at any airport in the Arctic Circle.
IKEA: Born in Sweden, just like our favourite pop group Abba, the furniture maker that turns everyone into a DIY disaster is now everywhere in the world. It's big in China, it's huge in Moscow, it is even planning to build an enormous store on Yas Island. But I am getting rather sick of everybody's houses looking the same. They all have the same off-white sofas, lamps with silly names and cupboards called Billy. It's time for recycling to take over the world and for antiques to be appreciated. The Copenhagen summit could have been deemed a success if only world leaders had banned it.
Goldman Sachs: It may look mightier than ever, having weathered the subprime storm, been bailed out by the US taxpayer and paid him back, but the days of the super-smart bank are numbered. How do we know? Rolling Stone last year described it as a "great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money". An understatement. The squid is everywhere and more tentacled than ever. In theory, they should be stronger than ever. But us classicists see hubris round every corner. Let's not forget that Rome in 450 AD boasted 11 aqueducts, countless fountains and endless toga parties. Twenty-five years later it was overrun by the Germans and chaos ensued. I can't tell you what is going to undo Goldman, but someone, somewhere, at some time will be snacking on giant squid. There is no Abba connection, which most probably could be its downfall.
Hertz: It is not just personal. Hertz may have claimed that I put diesel in the fuel tank of the Volvo I hired in Sweden when I should have put petrol - or perhaps it was the other way round - but I bear them no grudge for that misunderstanding. It might even have been my fault. However, the world's largest car hire firm is saddled with debt and may run out of fuel halfway through the year. Tough luck for Hertz; they should have tried harder.
Citigroup: The return of Glass-Steagal, the separation of investment and retail banks, might finally happen if the politicians on Capitol Hill finally get their way. Will this be good news for shareholders? It could hardly get any worse. Newsweek: You could pick any US publisher. It is not that there is no call for American journalism, it is just that their business models no longer work. Like the fall of communism, American journalism only has itself to blame. Boring, boring and often wrong. Take just one example: how can the world's leading athlete philander at least 12 times and nobody know? The British tabloids would have been all over the story. It may not be pretty, but readers love it. Newsweek may want to be the poor man's Economist, but who wants that?
Liverpool Football Club: Not really a business, but not much of a football team either. Krispy Kreme Donuts: We like them, but only once every six months. The company is saddled with debt and there's no way to sugar-coat it. My final prediction is not a company, but the demise of a currency. Next year I suspect we shall be saying farewell to the euro, at least in its present state. Despite its stellar 2009, outmuscling the dollar and reducing sterling almost to parity, my bet is that the euro will fold. The Germans have already said they will not bail out the Greeks. Spain has no money, Ireland's bubble has burst, Italy is in turmoil and France is in a poor state. Goodbye euro, and good luck.