Morning Financial Press Review
Paul Kettle
AM Press Round-Up -3 min read
07:00, 12th March 2019

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

Ryanair Holdings (RYA) FOLLOWto exclude British investors and institutions from holding its shares. Investors to lose voting rights under no-deal Brexit. Britons will no longer be welcome on the shareholder register of Ryanair should the UK leave the European Union on March 29 without a deal on political and trading arrangements. On that date, British investors who hold stock in the airline will lose their voting rights, their holdings will be classified as “restricted shares” and they will be barred from buying new shares. Europe’s busiest short-haul airline said that it was taking the action to ensure that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, its majority ownership would remain in the hands of EU investors, a stipulation under Brussels laws to retain a flying licence

An activist investor has called an emergency meeting to try to oust the chairman of struggling vehicle hire group Northgate (NTG).FOLLOW Richard Bernstein’s Crystal Amber said it has given up on Andrew Page after several profit warnings at the business and poor performance. It instead wants former Northgate chief executive Steve Smith to return and replace him as a non-executive director. Last night the fund, which owns 6.3% of Northgate, revealed it had served notice to the firm’s board requiring them to call an emergency meeting of shareholders. It means the company must hold the gathering next month. Bernstein said yesterday: ‘We have finally lost patience with Mr Page’s refusal to listen to positive proposals to enhance shareholder value. ‘He has presided over multiple profit warnings, a culture of inept communications with the market and, in our view, has failed to ensure there is the right mix of skills and experience on the board. ‘As chairman, he inherited a business with a strong market share in a healthily growing sector, yet his tenure has left the company totally lacking in strategic direction and languishing in the doldrums.’

Unilever (ULVR) FOLLOWhas revealed that its former boss Paul Polman was paid a total of €11.7m (£10m) for his final year at the company, a combination of his fixed salary, an annual bonus and long-term incentives. Mr Polman, who had been at the helm for a decade, announced in November that he was leaving the FTSE 100 conglomerate at the end of the year and would be succeeded by company lifer Alan Jope from Jan 1. While Mr Polman was a paid a fixed salary of €1.6m for 2018, Mr Jope is due to receive €1.45m this year, although he could also receive annual bonuses worth up to €3.3m as well as shares ­worth up to €1.7m under the consumer goods giant’s long-term incentive plan

Shoppers at Sainsbury (J) (SBRY)FOLLOW owned Argos will now be able to pick out and buy items by taking a picture with their smartphone camera, the retailer announced on Monday. Using a new “visual search” app from the home and technology retailer, shoppers will be able to search Argos’s catalogue of products to find the same or similar items. Best known for its bulky paper catalogues, Argos has adopted the new search function to let shoppers find items that match what they want with just a picture using image search technology and machine learning that recognises distinctive features of furniture. Shoppers can then place an order for the product using the app.

Shipbroker Clarkson (CKN) FOLLOWsank to a two-month low after warning that it was navigating choppy waters as the industry grapples with the US-China trade war and the fallout from the Vale dam disaster in Brazil. Chairman Bill Thomas admitted that “geopolitical uncertainty” stoked by trade tensions and Donald Trump’s oil sanctions on Iran had weighed on its performance this year. Its dry cargo business has also been affected by Brazilian mining giant Vale disrupting the iron ore market by curbing production in the wake of the fatal dam disaster in Minas Gerais.

Provident Financial (PFG)FOLLOW has dismissed Non-Standard Finance (NSF) FOLLOW£1.3bn hostile takeover bid as “financially flawed” after NSF unveiled details of its offer over the weekend. The two sides have been locked in a bitter war of words since NSF launched its surprise attack last month, when Provident chairman Patrick Snowball received a voicemail at 6.45am giving him a 15-minute warning that an offer was about to be announced. On Monday Provident told investors that NSF’s plan – detailed in an offer document over the weekend – was “strategically and financially flawed” and “presents significant risk”.

British Land Company (BLND) FOLLOWchairman John Gildersleeve is heading for the door. More change is looming at the top of British Land after John Gildersleeve announced yesterday that he will step down as chairman. Mr Gildersleeve, 74, a member of the listed property developer’s board since 2008, will leave in July after six years as chairman. He will be replaced by Tim Score, 48, the former chief financial officer at Arm Holdings, the software company. Mr Score has held a non-executive role at British Land since 2014. The property developer said that Mr Score’s succession had been steered by the company’s nomination committee, led by William Jackson, an independent director, and advised by Russell Reynolds Associates, an external recruitment agency

Accounting error increases Kier Group (KIE) FOLLOWdebt. A struggling construction contractor has revealed that its debts are tens of millions of pounds greater than previously stated after an accounting error that further frayed investors’ nerves. Kier Group said yesterday that its net debt stood at £180.5 million at the end of its half-year on December 31. In a trading update in January, it had said that the figure was £130 million after a poorly taken up rights issue before Christmas. Shares in Kier fell by as much as 18% yesterday before closing 59¾p, or 12%, down at 437½p, valuing the company at about £810 million. It meant that the shares were back at their early year level, surrendering gains made since the deeply discounted rights issue that was priced at 409p.

IGas Energy (IGAS)FOLLOW turns up heat on shale gas exploration at Misson. A shale gas explorer has announced a discovery at its site in north Nottinghamshire, but has added that set limits on quakes caused by fracking could prove “prohibitive”. Shares in Igas rose by 8½p to 86½p after it said that it had found “significant gas indications” in the shale rocks in Misson and would consider submitting a planning application this year to frack at the site. It came as the industry lobby group increased its estimate of how much gas could be produced from British wells in light of recent work by Cuadrilla in Lancashire. UK Onshore Oil & Gas said that it believed fracking in Britain could be as productive as it is in the United States, where there are abundant supplies — but only if it were allowed to take place “unhindered” by rules on earthquakes.

WPP (WPP) FOLLOWsigns Microsoft chief Cindy Rose to help battle with online giants. WPP is expected to say today that it has added Cindy Rose, the chief executive of Microsoft in the UK, to its board as it continues to battle a seismic shift in the sector. Ms Rose, 53, will become a non-executive director of the advertising giant from April and will join its audit committee, The Times can reveal. Her appointment comes at a pivotal time for the FTSE 100 stalwart. It lost more than half of its value last year as clients cut spending and forged closer ties with Google and Facebook, which are posing a threat to advertising conglomerates. Its shares, worth more than £13 in January last year, closed up 1½p at 855p.

Cairn Energy (CNE) FOLLOWplunged 11% after it admitted its four-year bid to claw back more than £1bn from India’s tax authorities has been delayed again. The oil and gas company’s legal challenge has become a victim of bureaucracy, with the arbitration panel that has been charged with making a decision not expected to report back until late this year at the earliest. Its guidance is a blow to Cairn, which argues that India’s decision to retrospectively tax it for a reorganisation of its business in 2006 was unfair.

SRT Marine Systems (SRT) FOLLOWsaw its shares rise after the London-listed firm said a £31 million project with the Philippine government was on schedule. The business has been putting in place technology to monitor fisheries in the country since December. SRT said it has now received the first payment related to this work

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