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Mutuals must operator in the interest of their members

So the Dunfermline has a few problems. It seems Scotland’s biggest building society, which also happens to be practically in Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the chancellor Alistair Darling’s backyard, is on the rocks.

This is not good news but this probably won’t be the only casualty in the mutual sector over the next three months. Rumours are rife that another society is also suffering and doing everything that it possibly can to delay the publication of its financial results while it battles to keep its head above water.

It too has allegedly suffered through buying up loans that have since turned toxic, as well as being heavily exposed to the collapse of the Icelandic banks where it had invested heavily.

It’s a sorry state of affairs and after already witnessing the demise of several societies in the last 12 months, we don’t want to see any more go down the pan.

Other society chief executives would be wise to take note. Chasing profit should never be done at the expense of your members. As a mutual you operate for the benefit of them, not your own hefty pay packets.

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Apple: a stellar technology story

By Ali Unwin, head of technology sector research

Apple recently announced the highest-ever recorded quarterly net profit ($18bn), with the sale of 74.4 million iPhones helping the company deliver $74.6bn of revenue for the quarter ending December 2014. These sales were largely driven by strong demand for the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Highlights included Chinese iPhone sales doubling year-on-year and unit growth of 44% in the US — supposedly a well-penetrated market. Apple ended the quarter with $178bn in cash on its balance sheet, having generated a staggering $30bn in free cash flow during the quarter.

At Neptune, we have been long-term believers in the Apple story, and continue to hold the stock in a number of our portfolios based on the company’s long-term growth prospects. This is predicated on our belief that Apple has proved thus far that it can — unusually for a consumer electronics company — maintain high margins for a sustained period of time, even as adoption of new technology slows down and competitors produce similar-specification products.

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