Morning Financial Press Review
Paul Kettle
AM Press Round-Up -3 min read
06:25, 13th May 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.

UK high streets ‘in downward spiral’ with one in 10 shops empty. National town centre vacancy rate at highest level since April 2015, shows BRC monitor. One in 10 shops in UK town centres are lying empty, according to figures that underline the scale of the high street crisis. The national town centre vacancy rate climbed to a four-year high of 10.2% last month, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) vacancies monitor. The vacancy rate has risen in each of the last four quarters to give the highest reading since April 2015, up from 9.9% three months ago. The BRC’s chief executive, Helen Dickinson, said some struggling high streets were trapped in a downward spiral: “Empty shopfronts, particularly for larger stores, can deter shoppers from an area. This effect can be cyclical, with the long-term decline in footfall pushing up vacancy rates, particularly in poorer areas.”

Metro Bank quashes ‘false’ rumours of financial instability. Lender reassures customers after solvency concerns were raised on social media. Metro Bank (MTRO) FOLLOW has been forced to reassure customers their money is safe, acting quickly to quash what it described as false rumours on social media about its financial health. It said plans to raise £350m from investors to shore up its finances were “well advanced”. The bank, which has had a tumultuous few months after an accounting blunder and slump in profits, said there had been an increase in customers coming into its west London branches who were concerned about its solvency after a WhatsApp message advised people to pull money out of their accounts and empty safe deposit boxes. Metro Bank said: “We’re aware there were increased queries in some stores about safe deposit boxes following false rumours about Metro Bank on social media and messaging apps. There is no truth to these rumours and we want to reassure our customers that there is no reason to be concerned. We’re a profitable bank, rated No 1 for personal current account service by the CMA and committed to serving our 1.7 million customer accounts.”

Imperial claims vape rival tempts youngsters. Tobacco giant Imperial Brands (IMB)  FOLLOWhas hit out at rival e-cigarette maker Juul, comparing its high-nicotine products to “legal highs” and accusing it of attracting younger customers to vaping. Matthew Phillips, Imperial’s chief development officer, said Juul’s success in the US, where its market share is more than 70%, had led to increased scrutiny of vaping by regulators at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). He told The Daily Telegraph: “In the US, a very, very high strength nicotine product has been launched by one company which has started to be used almost as a legal high rather than as an alternative to smoking. ”

Concern over links of Balfour director to two recent clients. Balfour Beatty (BBY) FOLLOW, Britain’s biggest ­construction contractor, faces ­potential dissent from shareholders this week ­after concerns at links between one of its directors and its clients. Stephen Billingham, about to become its senior independent director, also chairs nuclear fuel supplier Urenco and Anglian Water, both of which are recent customers of Balfour’s. Glass Lewis, which advises institutional investors how to vote at annual meetings, told members it did not consider Mr Billingham to be independent because of those roles. Balfour’s said his judgment was unaffected.

Unilever mulls $1bn bid for US skincare sensation Drunk Elephant. Unilever (ULVR) FOLLOW is considering a $1bn bid for American skincare sensation Drunk Elephant as it looks to spruce up its range of beauty products. Drunk Elephant, founded by Texan housewife and mother-of-four Tiffany Masterson, hired investment banks Moelis and Financo in January to explore a sale. Masterson, who had no background in the beauty industry, started selling a bar cleanser from Malaysia in 2009 as a side business whilst looking after her family in Houston. She then began experimenting with ingredients identifying what she called “the suspicious six”, a list that should be avoided.

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