Weekend and Morning Financial Press Review
Paul Kettle
AM Press Round-Up - 3 min read
05:49, 8th July 2019

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

Hundreds of City workers are fearing for their jobs after Deutsche Bank, the global bank that is one of the Square Mile’s largest employers, said it plans to axe 18,000 staff worldwide in the latest attempt to revitalise its reputation and business. The layoffs, equivalent to 20% of the bank’s workforce, come after chief executive Christian Sewing flagged an extensive restructuring in May, when he promised shareholders “tough cutbacks” to the investment bank and that he would push ahead with a further €1bn (£880m) in cuts this year. The pledge came after similar moves in 2018 that led to 6,000 job losses, and a failure to agree a merger with rival Commerzbank. Deutsche Bank, which has recently come under scrutiny over its business relationship with Donald Trump, would not reveal how many staff in its UK operations would be put out of work in the latest round of redundancies, although the numbers are expected to be significant, as London – where the bank is in the process of constructing a new headquarters – is one of of the lender’s largest bases, with around 8,000 staff.

Tesco (TSCO)  FOLLOWis to open 750 convenience stores in Thailand over the next three years in its first major overseas expansion under chief executive Dave Lewis. Thailand is the grocery group’s biggest market outside the UK and its most profitable. Lewis, 54, who was parachuted into the supermarket chain in 2014 after it ran adrift under previous management, believes that Thailand offers a huge opportunity because of its young, increasingly urban and affluent population. ‘The economics of the country are very attractive. There is a big emerging middle class,’ he said. Tesco has been in Thailand since 1998. It employs 46,000 full-time staff there and operates under the Tesco Lotus brand

Premier Foods (PFD) FOLLOW is set for a showdown with investors over a pay award handed to former chief executive Gavin Darby. Shareholders in Premier Foods, which owns Mr Kipling, Super Noodles and Bisto gravy, are expected to vote against plans to pay the ousted boss almost £1million. Darby, 63, left at the beginning of the year with a cash payment of almost £864,000, awarded in lieu of his notice period. He was paid £1.2million in his final year as boss while the firm plunged to a £42.7million loss. Investors are now being urged by advice service ISS to vote against Premier’s remuneration report at its AGM this month.

CYBG (CYBG) FOLLOW is considering changing bonus plans for executives to appease investors. Insiders said bosses at the bank, which is rebranding to Virgin Money, will contact its biggest shareholders. “[The plan] is to say: ‘These are the targets we’ve put in place for executives, are you comfortable?’” said one person close to the process. A final pay plan is expected to be decided at the end of the summer and announced later this year. The charm offensive comes after more than a third of shareholders voted against bosses’ pay this year. Chief executive David Duffy and finance head Ian Smith were due to take home more but ISS, the influential shareholder advisory group, said Duffy’s rise for 2019 was “not considered warranted” given the plunge in the company’s value since it acquired Virgin Money and that the deal’s “success or failure” will not be known “for some time”.

The former boss of Stobart Group Ltd. (STOB) FOLLOW is calling for the removal its chief executive amid a row over a £30 million bonus scheme. Andrew Tinkler has been trying to convince shareholders to remove Warwick Brady his successor. He has set up a website, which says that there has been a “destruction in shareholder” value since Mr Brady, a former Easyjet chief operating officer, took over in 2017. Mr Tinkler is also calling on investors to oppose the pay report and the re-election of John Coombs, 59, a non-executive director who was on Stobart’s remuneration committee when the pay scheme was devised. Mr Coombs is now chairman of the committee. Glass Lewis, the shareholder advisory group, supports Mr Tinkler’s objection to the £30 million bonus that Mr Brady could claim. The bonus scheme was set up to recruit Mr Brady while Mr Tinkler was at Stobart. It was not put to shareholders for approval. Glass Lewis has told investors to oppose the re-election of Mr Coombs but to re-elect Mr Brady as a director.

An activist investor in Allied Minds (ALM)FOLLOW  has threatened to call an ­emergency shareholder vote on the tech incubator’s controversial bonus scheme by the end of the month, ­pitting two of Neil Woodford’s ­investments against each other. Crystal Amber has warned it will force an extraordinary general meeting, arguing Allied Minds’ bonuses plan amounts to “free bets” for the management team, despite a share price collapse in recent years. Richard Bernstein, who runs Crystal Amber, said he would not rule out a vote to oust the company’s new leadership who only recently took over ­following the sudden departure of its chief executive and chairman. “They are still giving these free bets saying that for any company that is a winner, this management team will share 10% of the upside but we’ll ignore every loser,” said Mr Bernstein. “We will call an EGM if they don’t ­correct this by the end of the month. We will say to the shareholders: ‘Do you really want to approve carrying on like this?’”

GVC Holdings (GVC) FOLLOW was facing fresh questions over its corporate governance last night after suggestions that it had offloaded its Turkish business to a business partner of the Ladbrokes owner’s chief executive. The company announced the sale of its unregulated Turkish unit in 2017 to Ropso Malta, a company backed by investors who already provided IT services to the business. The transaction was worth up to €150 million over five years, although it transpired later that, to prevent its involvement in the Turkish market from scuppering its £3.2 billion cash-and-shares takeover of Ladbrokes Coral Group, GVC ended up waiving the payments. According to The Sunday Times, Ron Watts, one of the three owners of Ropso Malta, now called Dochandoris, co-owns a stud farm in Scotland with Kenny Alexander, the GVC boss. Mr Watts, 66, and Mr Alexander, 50, are both directors of Kenron Ltd, owner of New Hall Stud in Ayrshire, and previously worked with each other at Sportingbet almost 20 years ago.

AstraZeneca (AZN) FOLLOW has called for a wholesale review of the way new drugs are paid for in England and Wales after Nice refused to pay for one of its most important cancer medications. Nice, the government body that decides which medications should be covered on the NHS, rejected Tagrisso – a treatment for patients with a particular type of lung cancer. Pascal Soriot, its chief executive, said he was “very disappointed” with the decision and that AstraZeneca would be appealing against the ruling. “It is time for a comprehensive review of how Nice values innovative medicines,” he said. “This is needed to ensure British patients can access the latest medical advances, to support the ambitions of the NHS to improve outcomes for people with cancer, and to help deliver government’s ambition that the UK continues to be a globally leading centre for life sciences. “Sadly in this instance, Tagrisso, a British discovery, will not be available to patients in England when many countries around the world have already decided to reimburse this medicine.”

ASOS (ASC) FOLLOW is preparing a round of job cuts amid a botched warehouse opening in America and slowing sales. The online fast-fashion retailer is consulting on about 100 redundancies at its head office in London. Most of the roles under threat are in the marketing department, according to a source. The move follows a difficult time for Asos, which issued a trading warning in December, then reported a near-90% drop in interim pre-tax profits in March. Chief executive Nick Beighton said at the time that the results were “disappointing”. Asos was hit by problems at its new warehouse in Atlanta, which struggled to cope with a surge in demand. Consumers’ behaviour in Britain has deteriorated further since the March update. The Confederation of British Industry said that online retail sales growth slowed to 3% in June, the weakest since the survey began in 2009.

The mayor of London has made a surprise bid for part of the troubled Earls Court site in London as takeover interest swirls around its developer, Capital & Counties Properties (CAPC) FOLLOW . Transport for London (TfL), an independent authority that reports to mayor Sadiq Khan, made an unsuccessful offer to Capco for part of the site around the now demolished Earls Court Two exhibition centre in west London. Capco put together the Earls Court scheme in the boom years of the London housing market between 2010 and 2013. It envisaged building 7,500 homes on 77 acres. However, the scheme has become mired in difficulties since control of Hammersmith & Fulham council swung from Conservative to Labour in 2014. The council has demanded the return of two estates sold to Capco by the previous administration and engaged in a war of words with the company’s bosses, Ian Hawksworth and Gary Yardley.

Rich Ricci has almost doubled his money on an investment in share trading exchange Aquis Exchange (AQX) FOLLOW that announced the purchase of a rival. Mr Ricci, 56, an American former Barclays executive known for his love of horse racing, is the largest shareholder in Aquis, the fifth biggest exchange in Europe, which is buying Nex from CME group. Yesterday his 8% holding was worth £10.4 million, up from almost £6 million when the business floated a year ago. Alasdair Haynes, 59, who set up Aquis, said that Mr Ricci had “backed the business idea from day one”.

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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