Afternoon Financial Press Update
Paul Kettle
PM Press Review -2 min read
16:37, 15th 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

QinetiQ in $160m contract win for US Army reconnaissance robots. British defence contractor QinetiQ Group (QQ.) FOLLOWwon a contract on Friday worth up to $164 million (£124 million) with the US military to develop portable reconnaissance robots which can be carried in backpacks. The company, which makes a similar robot called the Dragon Runner, will build prototypes for a new range of machine weighing less than 25 pounds. They will be used for clearing buildings, caves and other tight spots where hand-to-hand combat is likely, according to army specifications. The seven-year contract, awarded to the firm’s subsidiary QinetiQ North America, will start with an initial two-year development phase worth $20 million.

The likes of Alexander McQueen and Burberry Group (BRBY) FOLLOWwill face another hike in business rates next month, putting further strain on London’s West End brands, new data showed on Friday. Shops in Old Bond Street and New Bond Street will be paying more than £90 million in business rates this year, nearly £50 million higher than before the revaluation in 2017, property agent Colliers International said. Luxury brands face the rises due to their property values climbing. Burberry’s business rates bill was £935,770 in 2016. It will now be £2.6 million, up from £1.8 million last year. Dior paid £1.1 million before the overhaul and is now set to pay £2.7 million, up from £2.2 million last year. High Street retailers have blamed the steep rises in business rates that followed the 2017 revaluation for their financial travails, calling for an overhaul as online competitors such as Amazon pay much less.

The chairman of Wetherspoon (J.D.) (JDW) FOLLOWhad a go at ‘the establishment’ over Brexit as the pub group reported a profit tumble in the first half amid rising costs. Tim Martin, a vocal supporter of Brexit, said: ‘Although the public voted to leave, the majority of ‘the establishment’, including most MPs, most universities, the Bank of England, the CBI and media organisations such as The Times, the Financial Times and The Economist favoured ‘Remain’. ‘The result has been a barrage of negative economic forecasts from those quarters, predicting that the UK will go to hell in a handcart without a ‘deal’ with the EU – which will effectively tie the country into EU membership and taxation, yet without representation. ‘The doomsters ignore the most powerful nexus in economics, between democracy and prosperity – and the fact that the EU is becoming progressively less democratic, as it pursues an ‘ever-closer union’, for which there is no public consensus.’ Martin continued: ‘Previous referendum results on major constitutional issues have always been respected in the UK, but if parliament votes either for Theresa May’s ‘deal’ which keeps us in the EU by the back door or to remain in the EU, the referendum result will not have been respected. This may well have significantly adverse economic consequences, as the country turns in on itself to endure months, or years, of stifling constitutional argument.’

Interserve (IRV) FOLLOWshares suspended as company heads for pre-pack sale in hours. Interserve is expected to be sold to its lenders on Friday night as part of a pre-pack administration process that will wipe out its shareholders but save the troubled business and 45,000 jobs. It comes hours after shareholders rejected a rescue package put together by Interserve’s management team that it hoped would have avoided a costly administration process. US hedge fund Coltrane Asset Management, which owned 28% of the shares, together with another hedge fund, Farringdon Capital, were instrumental in getting the deal, which was rejected by 59% of voting shareholders, binned

HSBC Holdings (HSBA) FOLLOWbacks down in boardroom pensions row. Top HSBC executives have agreed to take pay cuts of hundreds of thousands of pounds to defuse a row with shareholders over their pension payments. John Flint, chief executive of the bank, will take a £248,000 cut in the £372,000 payment he receives in lieu of pension to £124,000 to bring him in line proportionately with pension contributions made to ordinary staff. Other main board executive directors will also have their pension contributions slashed by two thirds. HSBC announced the changes today to placate shareholders who were furious that it had flouted the spirit of new boardroom pay guidelines intended to bring executive pension payments more in line with those of all employees, as first reported in The Times last Saturday

Sun and sea at Mipim fail to brighten Brexit gloom for property investors. Bottles of rosé, a sea of blue suits and a line-up of yachts advertising the property industry’s biggest investors, lenders and advisers could only mean one thing. Mipim, the biggest networking event of the year for the property industry, was again in full throttle this week on the edge of the French Riviera in Cannes. But this was no ordinary Mipim. The more than 5,000 British investors, developers, advisers and local politicians attempting to carry on with “business as usual” while Brexit turmoil played out at home were unsuccessful. Overseas investors have pulled back from investing the UK market since the end of last year. The volume of overall investment transactions in British property is expected to be 40 per cent lower in the first three months of 2019 than the same period last year, according to the property advisory firm JLL. Mipim was subdued. One delegate said it was quieter than he had seen the conference since 2008.

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