Afternoon Financial Press Update
Paul Kettle
PM Press Review -2 min read
17:02, 14th March 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

Shell boss Ben van Beurden risks new pay row after £17.8m bonanza. Royal Dutch Shell ‘B’ (RDSB)FOLLOW more than doubled chief executive Ben van Beurden’s pay last year to a whopping €20.1 million (£17.8 million), putting the oil major on course for a fresh high-pay row. The FTSE 100 giant, which has forked out nearly €70 million to van Beurden since he took charge five years ago, made the payout after a long-term shares award given in 2016 triggered a one-off €15.2 million share windfall. Last year the shares award was €4 million. The colossal figure, the second-highest after a €24.2 million payday for van Beurden in 2014, risks prompting another round of shareholder angst.

Capita hails ‘snowflake’ ads for helping mend army recruitment contract. Outsourcer Capita (CPI) FOLLOWsaid a problem contract to handle British Army recruitment was on the mend after the recent blockbuster “snowflake” ad campaign. The company said the Recruiting Partnering Project, which was criticised by the National Audit Office in December, was showing signs of improvement after it started working more closely with the Army. “We fundamentally changed the working relationship,” said chief executive Jon Lewis. “It’s creating a common sense of ownership rather than dare I say it the master and servant relationship that was the picture of old. We’ve got to be in it together.”

Just Group dives 15% after drumming up £380m in fundraising push. Pensions provider Just Group (JUST) FOLLOWsaw its shares crash on Thursday after it was forced into a £380 million capital raise. The company, which was previously hammered by pensions freedom reform, suffered a share fall of 15% to 83.1p after unveiling plans to sell £80 million of new shares and raise £300 million in debt. The company, which is regulated like an insurance company, is beefing up capital buffers and getting more firepower for deals after regulator the Prudential Regulation Authority changed the way it calculates equity release mortgages, which Just offers to customers.

Consumer demand and possible border delays pose sofa group DFS Furniture (DFS)FOLLOW the biggest headaches when it comes to Brexit, the company has claimed. In its latest half-year results, the group said: ‘Consumers’ willingness to make a purchase of upholstery is strongly linked to consumer confidence. The continuing significant uncertainty has obviously impacted consumer confidence.’ On the issue of potential border delays, DFS said: ‘We would still see a deferral in revenue in our made-to-order model.’ The sofa chain’s pre-tax profit more than doubled from £6.2million to £14.1million a year earlier.

High-end estate agency Savills (SVS) FOLLOWhas warned its performance for the year ahead looks set to be ‘overshadowed by macro-economic and political uncertainties across the world.’ Chief executive Mark Ridley said: ‘It is difficult accurately to predict the impact of these issues on corporate expansionary activity and investor demand for real estate. ‘At this stage, we expect to see declines in transaction volumes in a number of markets and growth in our less transactional business lines; accordingly we retain our expectations for the group’s performance in 2019.’

The boss of OneSavings Bank (OSB)FOLLOW said the bank was moving ahead with its tie-up with rival Charter Court Financial Services Group (CCFS) FOLLOWdespite Brexit uncertainty as he did not want to be “frightened” and controlled by the UK’s departure from the EU. The two specialist mortgage lenders agreed to terms of a £1.6bn deal on Thursday amid a week of Brexit chaos. The Government’s failure to agree a suitable deal has already caused significant problems for the UK housing market. “The timing around Brexit is an interesting one – the thing is, Brexit is there, we can allow it to control us and make us frightened and stop doing things [or we can get on with it],” said chief executive Andy Golding.

Cineworld Group (CINE) FOLLOWis targeting a spot in the FTSE 100 after hailing the success of its blockbuster takeover of US chain Regal. Mooky Greidinger, chief executive, insisted Cineworld’s £2.7bn acquisition had “exceeded expectations” with annual pre-tax profit more than doubling. Cost savings last year of $70m from the deal exceeded expectations of $45m, while synergies this year will be $50m higher than the $100m previously guided. Cineworld shares rose more than 6%, putting it on the cusp of the blue-chip index. While the company had missed out after this week’s index reshuffle, Mr Greidinger added that in the future: “We’ll be there.”

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