Morning Financial Press Review 10/10/19
Paul Kettle
AM Press Round-Up -4 min read
06:35, 10th October 2019

Below are the key morning press headlines, featuring the The Times, The Telegraph, The Daily Mail & more - see the full Press section here.

The former head of MI6 has urged the government to block an American takeover of British aerospace giant Cobham (COB)FOLLOW . Sir John Sawers, who ran the spy agency from 2009 until 2014, told a conference in London that “we need to be able to say for firms like Cobham, actually we want to keep this technology in the UK”. His intervention is the most high-profile challenge yet to a £4bn takeover of the 85-year-old business by American private equity firm Advent, and follows a string of warnings that losing such a strategically vital asset will damage the Britain’s international standing.

BHP Billiton (BLT) FOLLOW is facing a shareholder revolt after influential investors urged the giant miner to suspend membership of contentious trade groups that lobby for the fossil fuels industry. Standard Life Aberdeen (SLA)  FOLLOWand Aviva (AV.) FOLLOW have become the latest institutional investors to support a resolution pressing BHP to halt membership of associations whose lobbying is deemed to be inconsistent with the 2015 Paris agreement, which seeks to restrict global warming. BHP’s annual meeting next week is shaping up to be one of the most prominent clashes so far between a company and its shareholders over the approach to climate change. The interventions come at a significant moment for City institutions and big companies, amid increasing concerns about climate change and high-profile Extinction Rebellion protests.

The boss of BT Group (BT.A)  FOLLOWhas urged rivals Sky and Virgin Media not to “beat up” his business by launching their own broadband partnership. Philip Jansen, chief executive, admitted that a deal in which Sky would use Virgin’s internet cables represents a significant threat to BT. He suggested that all parties’ interests could be better served by a new three-way deal that he claimed could protect returns for investors and deliver a nationwide broadband upgrade more quickly. Speaking at a dinner in London, Mr Jansen argued that a “let’s beat up BT” attitude would damage the telecoms industry and that there is a “formula that could work” for broadband providers and customers.

The boss of International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) FOLLOW rapped climate change protesters as he promised all flights within the UK will be carbon neutral from next year. Willie Walsh, chief executive of International Airlines Group, said BA will plough enough money into carbon-reducing schemes to balance out the 400,000 tons of CO2 that the flights generate. It came as parent company IAG said it will become the first airline group in the world to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Walsh said: ‘I don’t think we need Extinction Rebellion to tell us there’s something we need to do. We’ve been engaging with environmental groups for years.’

BT Group (BT.A) FOLLOW is coming back to the High Street after a 17-year absence as part of a plan to provide ‘good, old-fashioned’ customer service. The telecoms giant is revamping its 615 EE phone shops so that BT customers can receive technical support or deal with billing issues. These shops previously only carried EE’s logo and branding but will now also feature those of its parent company BT, which owns the mobile network. The announcement came as new BT chief executive Phil Jansen pledged to make the company a ‘national champion’. BT is also moving all of its customer call centres to the UK and Ireland and has promised 900 ‘home technology experts’ will be on call to visit homes and fix problems.

Ex-Thomas Cook Group (TCG)  FOLLOWworkers are rejoicing as independent firm Hays Travel takes them on, buying 555 stores from the collapsed holiday giant to save up to 3,000 jobs. Sunderland-based Hays Travel has already employed 421 members of Thomas Cook staff since the travel group went out of business last month. The company, which is the UK’s largest independent travel group, now intends to reopen the shops immediately, potentially saving up to 2,500 further jobs. About 21,000 Thomas Cook staff globally lost their jobs when the company went under, including 9,000 in the UK.

The directors of Boussard & Gavaudan Holding Ltd. GBP Shares (BGHS) FOLLOW, an under-performing £500 million London-listed investment trust have been accused of treating shareholders poorly while allowing the fund managers to pocket high fees. Fund managers have been paid €102 million over the past five years, while the total return to shareholders has been an underwhelming 5.7% per year. The figures have been identified in research by Investec which has urged shareholders in Boussard & Gavaudan Holding to rebel against a proposed restructuring of the company this month, arguing that its governance is worse than at Woodford Patient Capital, the embattled trust run by Neil Woodford.

Betting on horses and other sports at the local bookmaker is on the increase after the government clampdown on fixed-odds betting terminals, according to the owner of Ladbrokes and Coral. GVC Holdings (GVC) FOLLOW said that like-for-like net gaming revenues from machines had fallen by 36% in the third quarter. The overall picture across its retail estate was above expectations after a 7% rise in net gaming revenues from over-the-counter bets on horses, greyhounds and football.

Fears are growing over the future of Greene King (GNK) FOLLOW 3,000 pubs after shareholders approved a £4.6bn takeover by Hong Kong’s richest man, Li Ka-Shing. A total 98.8% of investors waved through the deal at a meeting on Wednesday, which will see the 220-year-old chain fall into foreign hands. Shareholders in CK Asset, the investment firm owned by 91-year-old billionaire Mr Li, also voted overwhelmingly in support of the deal at 99.4%. But critics warned the deal could lead to a spate of closures. The majority of Greene King’s portfolio consists of freehold property, raising fears that CK Asset, which is primarily a property and infrastructure investor, could sell off or convert sites.


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