Afternoon Financial Press Highlights
Paul Kettle
PM Press Update -2 min read
16:54, 5th February 2019

Below are the key headlines from today’s updated papers, featuring the Financial Times, The Times, The Telegraph, The Daily Mail & more - see the full Press section here.

HMV bought by Canadian mogul after battle with Mike Ashley. A Canadian music entrepreneur on Tuesday beat Sports Direct International (SPD) FOLLOWtycoon Mike Ashley to buy the collapsed music chain HMV from administration after marathon all-night negotiations. Doug Putman, who owns Canada’s Sunrise Records, bought 100 shops from administrator KPMG, saving 1,600 jobs. However, 27 stores will be shut on Tuesday, with 455 jobs to go. The 34-year-old pipped Ashley to the deal after HMV became a takeover target for the acquisitive billionaire. But Putman has his work cut out for him, as demand for CDs and DVDs continues to fall amid the rise in streaming. “HMV survives to live another day. Alas, one has to question whether it has a big opportunity under the new owner or whether it is still living on borrowed time,” said AJ Bell’s Russ Mould. “It is essentially relying upon the current revival in vinyl sales to keep it alive.”

BP profits treble to more than $10bn. Profits at BP (BP.)FOLLOW more than trebled to $10 billion last year on the back of higher oil and gas prices. The oil major cheered investors with a significantly better than expected fourth quarter performance, sending shares surging more than 3% in early trading. Bob Dudley, chief executive, said that its strategy was “clearly working” after a year in which it agreed a $10.5 billion deal for BHP Billiton’s US shale fields and boosted production by starting up six major new oil and gas production projects.

Fuels-to-healthcare supplier DCC (DCC)FOLLOW shrugged off France’s “gilets jaunes” protests to boost profits last year. The FTSE 100 giant said operating profit would be “significantly ahead” of last year. Its retail & oil unit, which is the largest supplier of fuel to independent petrol stations in the UK, had a “robust” performance. That came despite its large operations in France, where it was hit by nationwide protests over fuel taxes. The warmer weather also proved a challenge for the liquefied petroleum gas unit where heating related volumes in Europe were hit. However DCC said the business still performed well. DCC also beefed up its market share in healthcare, where it ships medical products to NHS hospitals and surgeries daily.

Shares in FOLLOW nosedived today after the addiction treatment specialist lost a key court battle over its number one drug Suboxone. The firm said it would immediately lose market share after a US court refused to delay the release of cheaper generic versions of the opioid addiction treatment by rivals. It has been in a long-running fight against the launch of rival products by Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories and Teva Pharmaceuticals, arguing that it holds the patents until 2024. The decision means India’s Dr. Reddy’s can release its version immediately. Indivior has filed an emergency appeal but without a reprieve could face “major disruption”.

Ocado Group (OCDO)FOLLOW boss Tim Steiner on Tuesday kept his cards close to his chest on a mooted tie-up with rival Marks & Spencer Group (MKS)FOLLOW as the online grocer sank further into the red. Losses widened to £44.4 million from £9.8 million for the year ending December 2, despite revenues growing by 12.3% to £1.6 billion. This was mostly down to investment costs and an accounting charge, the company said. M&S has reportedly been looking to buy some of Ocado’s distribution centres and delivery vans to beef up its online food offering, fuelling speculation Ocado might ditch its delivery deal with Waitrose when it expires in September next year. Tim Steiner said it was his “business to talk to other retailers” but “would not comment on speculation”. He added Ocado has a good relationship with Waitrose but stopped short of saying whether the deal to sell its products would be renewed. “It may be Waitrose, it may not be Waitrose, we’ll have to wait and see."

Brexit uncertainty paralysed deal-making at stockbroker Numis Corporation (NUM)FOLLOW last quarter after political in-fighting in Westminster put off companies from raising money. The broker, considered a bellwether for Britain’s mid-cap stocks due to its large market share, did 25% fewer transaction between October and January in a hiatus in deal-making. Money made from buying and selling shares for clients was also down by a quarter. Co-chief executive Ross Mitchinson said: “Some of the things in the pipeline have either been deferred or gone away due to the political situation. It’s all about Brexit. People are a bit paralysed until we get more certainty.”

St. Modwen Properties (SMP) FOLLOW, the property developer creating the UK’s largest fruit and veg market in Nine Elms, on Tuesday unveiled a Brexit plan to ensure it can complete London projects on time, including shopping for fridges from Germany. Boss Mark Allan said ahead of Britain leaving the bloc in March, his firm will stockpile building materials and try to speed up house sales. “Our job is to prepare for any eventualities possible from Brexit, and that is what we are doing,” Allan said. He revealed that £10 million will be invested in forward-ordering more goods, including fridges from Germany and the Far East for new-build homes, and engineered timber from Scandinavia. The move is in response to possible import delays at borders if Britain leaves the EU without a deal

Activist Edward Bramson targets seat on Barclays board. Activist investor Edward Bramson has submitted an application for a seat on the board of Barclays (BARC) FOLLOWin a bid to shake up the 300-year-old lender. Mr Bramson’s investment vehicle, Sherborne Investors, said in a brief statement on Tuesday that investors would consider the proposal at the bank’s annual general meeting (AGM) on May 2. The move ratchets up the pressure in an ongoing battle between the secretive investor and management at Barclays. Mr Bramson, who owns a 5% stake in the banking giant, has argued that the lender should turn its main focus to consumer banking instead of corporate and investment banking to increase returns for investors.

Estate agent LSL Property Services (LSL) FOLLOWis to close more than 100 branches and shed hundreds of jobs as the housing market grinds to a halt. The industry was seen to have bounced back from the financial crisis, having cashed in on a run of booming house prices. But the market in many places has now begun to turn. Combined with the rise of online agents and a number of unhelpful Government interventions, the tough conditions have proved to be a major drag on profits and forced firms to take drastic action to reshape their businesses.

Millions of British homes could soon be warmed by gas from Mozambique after the owner of British Gas clinched a $25bn (£19bn) deal to ship gas from a new project on the East African coast. Centrica (CNA) FOLLOWagreed to tap Mozambique’s giant gas reserves alongside Japan’s Tokyo Gas in a $25bn supply deal that will deliver gas to the UK, North America and the Far East. The pair will buy a total of 2.6m tonnes of super-cooled liquified natural gas (LNG) from Mozambique every year once US energy giant Anadarko begins production at Mozambique’s first gas export project. Iain Conn, Centrica’s chief executive, said the Mozambique deal would help it secure a a flexible LNG supply.

Disclaimer & Declaration of Interest

The information, investment views and recommendations in this article are provided for general information purposes only. Nothing in this article should be construed as a solicitation to buy or sell any financial product relating to any companies under discussion or to engage in or refrain from doing so or engaging in any other transaction. Any opinions or comments are made to the best of the knowledge and belief of the writer but no responsibility is accepted for actions based on such opinions or comments. Vox Markets may receive payment from companies mentioned for enhanced profiling or publication presence. The writer may or may not hold investments in the companies under discussion.

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