Morning Financial Press Review
Paul Kettle
AM Press Round-Up -3 min read
06:37, 25th June 2019

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

Coast Capital gets backer in shareholder rebellion at FirstGroup (FGP). Columbia Threadneedle has said it will back resolutions to replace board in demand for group’s exit from UK rail. A second major shareholder has joined an investor drive to eject the board of FirstGroup as the transport group faces an emergency meeting on Tuesday that could result in Britain’s most lucrative rail franchise again slipping from its grasp. Columbia Threadneedle said it was backing resolutions brought by activist investor Coast Capital to replace seven directors including the chairman and chief executive of the one of the UK’s biggest bus and train operators. Columbia and Coast each own about 10% of the shares, slightly more than Schroders, which was reported by Sky News to be planning to vote against the board but has not yet confirmed its position. The meeting comes at a crucial moment for FirstGroup as it awaits the award of the West Coast partnership franchise, which will operate intercity trains on the London-Glasgow line and help introduce the first HS2 highspeed services after 2026.

De La Rue (DLAR) is suffering a boardroom exodus as another two executives declare intentions to step down. Chairman Philip Rogerson and senior independent director Andy Stevens both said today that they plan to leave this year. It comes less than a month after chief executive Martin Sutherland was ousted as De La Rue issued another profit warning, which sent shares crashing to their lowest level in 15 years. Rogerson said he would stay in place until a new boss has been appointed, and Stevens will leave no later than the end of the year. ‘The chairman has indicated his intention to retire from the board as part of an orderly succession process following the appointment and integration of the new CEO,’ the company said. Sutherland’s departure was announced a year after De La Rue lost out in the race to print Britain’s post-Brexit blue passports to, ironically, a Franco-Dutch firm called Gemalto. The contract was worth £490million.

BT packs its bags in Spain as fears mount over strength of UK broadband business. BT Group (BT.A) has begun work on a sale of its Spanish business as the break-up and restructuring of its international arm Global Services accelerates and its shares slump on fears for broadband dominance on home turf. The telecoms giant has begun exploratory talks with potential buyers of BT España, according to City sources, in parallel to the ongoing sale of BT Ireland. Discussions are at an early stage, with any deal more likely to appeal to buyout firms and infrastructure investors than Spain’s big telecoms players Orange, Vodafone, MásMóvil and Telefónica, City sources said.

Investors lose patience with Woodford Patient Capital Trust (WPCT). Disgruntled investors are gearing up to demand a boardroom shake-up at the listed trust run by Neil Woodford. Seneca Investment Managers, a Liverpool-based hedge fund, is understood to have approached other institutional shareholders to force changes to the five-person board at Woodford Patient Capital. The group, which has sold shares in Patient Capital in recent days, received support from other shareholders to approach turnaround experts to push through its plan, which a source said amounted to “shareholder action”. The largest investors in Woodford Patient Capital include Blackrock, Alliance Trust and Legal & General. The trust’s board has held discussions with some of its largest shareholders and is in talks to hire an additional non-executive director. A search also is under way to replace Alan Hodson, a former executive at UBS, who left the board last month.

Life is sweet for egg-free patisserie Cake Box in maiden results. Cake Box Holdings (CBOX) sales jumped by a third in its maiden annual results as a growing number of people gorged on its egg-free cakes. The chain, which floated on London’s junior market last summer, made pre-tax profits of £3.8m for the year to March, up from £3.3m the year before. Revenues grew 33% to £16.9m as it defied the wider retail gloom and opened 27 more franchise stores during the year, bringing the total to 113. Cake Box plans to have up to 250 stores longer term. “We want quality, not quantity,” said chief executive Sukh Chamdal.

An online retailer backed by the family of Sir Philip Green has put itself up for sale after a turbulent spell on the stock market. Shares in Mysale Group (MYSL) slumped after it said that it had launched a strategic review to consider “all types of corporate activity”, including a sale of all or part of the group, a fundraising to support an overhaul or a delisting from London’s junior stock market. It comes after a volatile five years as a public company, which began with a botched flotation on Aim in 2014 — when Macquarie, the stockbroker sponsoring the issue, mistakenly priced the stock in pounds rather than pence — and which was punctuated by profit warnings. Mysale said that disruption from a restructuring of the business was having “some temporary negative effect” on trading and that it might need extra funds in the short term to support the turnaround.

Nostrum Oil & Gas (NOG) is considering a sale of the company as it looks into options to fund further growth. The Kazakhstan-focused oil and gas company said a sale was one of the options it was considering as part of a strategic review of the business launched on Monday. The explorer said it wanted to improve shareholder value and raise the funding needed to embark on new projects. Nostrum, which drills and produces oil and gas in western Kazakhstan, said it had not yet received any bids in a sale process being run by Goldman Sachs. Other options include making further acquisitions in nearby oil and gas fields and selling stakes in some of its assets


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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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