As Boris Johnson announced last March that he was plunging the country into lockdown, Daniel Kretinsky went shopping in Hampshire. The Prague-based tycoon, known as the Czech Sphinx for his inscrutability, bought the Humbly Grove gas storage facility near Basingstoke from Malaysian oil behemoth Petronas.
He had just started buying shares in Royal Mail, where he is now the largest shareholder, and would go on to gobble up a healthy chunk of Sainsbury’s. A share price rally for both means he is sitting on a paper profit running into hundreds of millions of pounds.
Initially, his deal for Humbly Grove seemed ill-timed. Factories closed their doors and planes were stuck on the tarmac, which meant demand for gas plummeted. Now, with gas prices at record