W/E and Morning Financial Press Review
Paul Kettle
AM Press Round-Up -3 min read
06:39, 24th June 2019

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

Hargreaves bosses Mark Dampier and Lee Gardhouse refuse to give up bonuses. Two bosses at Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.)FOLLOW  who promoted the fallen fund manager Neil Woodford have volunteered to defer their bonuses in the wake of the investment scandal. The failure to give up their bonuses entirely, however, has sparked anger. More than 290,000 clients of the funds supermarket have had £1.6bn trapped in the Woodford Equity Income Fund since withdrawals by investors were suspended on June 3. Mark Dampier, research director, and Lee Gardhouse, the chief investment officer, deferred their annual bonuses as Hargreaves came under fire for backing Woodford while selling down its own stakes in his funds. Dampier and Gardhouse’s pay is not disclosed as they do not serve on the board.

The former chief executive of Barclays (BARC) FOLLOW has been cleared of wrongdoing after a judge ruled there was “insufficient evidence” to support the charge of conspiracy to commit fraud. The decision was made after a jury was initially discharged in April, although the case remains subject to strict reporting restrictions. It had been alleged by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) that John Varley concealed £322m of payments to the Qataris from other investors in exchange for multi-billion pound cash injections that saved the bank from a government bailout. When charges were first brought in 2017, Mr Varley was forced to resign from a number of high-profile board positions with immediate effect, including his role as senior independent director at mining giant Rio Tinto and a senior director at investment management behemoth BlackRock.

Mobile operators should face scrutiny from cartel watchdogs over High Court claims of attempted price fixing and collusion, according to the leader of a cross-party group of MPs. Grant Shapps, the Conservative chairman of the cross-party British Infrastructure Group, called on the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to consider opening a formal investigation of the mobile industry. The regulator is being urged to intervene after The Daily Telegraph on Friday revealed claims by the BT Group (BT.A) FOLLOW -owned operator EE that the former chiefs of rivals O2 and Vodafone Group (VOD) FOLLOW UK made “inappropriate” attempts to discuss sales plans and pricing. Mr Shapps said: “These fresh revelations of potential collusion between some major operators will worry consumers and the British Infrastructure Group of MPs is anxious to see the sector come clean. “They can start by ensuring that full competition always benefits consumers, as well as stopping dodgy practices like continuing to charge full whack after a contract has ended.”

Police arrest five in Patisserie Holdings (CAKE)FOLLOW  investigation. Serious Fraud Office says those held have been questioned over alleged fraud at cafe chain. Five people have been arrested and questioned over alleged accounting fraud at Patisserie Valerie, in a dramatic escalation of the investigation into the cafe chain’s financial implosion. According to a statement from the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) issued over the weekend, the arrests took place last Tuesday in a joint operation with Hertfordshire, Leicestershire and Metropolitan police services after the discovery of a multimillion-pound gap in the company’s accounts late last year. The SFO did not disclose the names of those arrested or what they had been detained for, although said it was conducting inquiries into the role of individuals in the firm’s slide into administration. The company went bust in January, sparking the loss of 900 jobs when 70 of its almost-200 stores and concessions closed.

Supermarket giant Sainsbury (J) (SBRY) FOLLOW has been blasted for ‘rewarding failure’ by handing bumper rewards to chief executive Mike Coupe despite a calamitous end to his attempted merger with Asda. His plan to create a £50billion grocery giant was quashed by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in April. The shares have since plummeted to a 30-year low. Coupe caused outrage after he was caught on camera singing We’re In The Money the day the firm announced its merger plan. He received £3.9million, 7% more than he received a year earlier. That compares with the £4.6million handed to Tesco’s Dave Lewis, who has been lauded for reviving his firm’s fortunes. In a report seen by The Mail on Sunday, shareholder advisory body Glass Lewis challenged Sainsbury’s board and pay committee to explain the size of executive bonuses following the shares crash. ‘The committee have failed to outline the impact, if any, of the failed deal on the bonus outcomes of the executives, particularly in light of share price performance as a direct result.’ It said the reward could represent ‘divergence of bonus outcome from shareholder experience’

One of the few cannabis firms listed in London is considering a move to America’s heavyweight Nasdaq Exchange. AfriAg Global plc (AFRI) FOLLOW is listed on the Nex Exchange and is merging with Apollon Formularies, a Jamaica-based company that makes cannabis-related medical products to sell at clinics. Entrepreneur David Lenigas, the executive chairman of AfriAg, said: ‘We are interested in moving on to AIM or the London Stock Exchange’s main market when appropriate, but if that alternative doesn’t become available then we will consider moving our listing to Nasdaq in the US.’ City sources said that at the moment the LSE and its junior AIM market aren’t keen to allow cannabis-related firms to list on their exchanges, but are coming under pressure to change their policy on marijuana companies. As a result, AfriAg and similar businesses, such as Sativa, have had to list on London’s little-known Nex Exchange.

Greene King (GNK) FOLLOW dividend on the line under new boss Nick Mackenzie. Greene King’s dividend will come into focus this week as the pub group’s new boss faces the City for the first time after the departure of Rooney Anand. Mackenzie, 50, will be tasked with ensuring Greene King continues to pay off debts relating to the acquisition of the rival Spirit pub group in 2015. He will also face questions over his plans for the dividend. He is expected to hold it steady at the full-year results on Thursday. Like all pub groups, Greene King is being hit by a cocktail of increased wages, rising business rates and currency pressure. Trading this year is proving weak compared with last year’s, which was boosted by hot summer weather and the World Cup: Greene King sold 3.7m pints of beer during England’s seven matches.

One of Britain’s best-known hedge fund managers has ramped up his bet against WeBuyAnyCar.com owner BCA Marketplace (BCA) FOLLOW, despite a £1.9bn private equity buy-out bid. Crispin Odey said he believes last week’s approach for BCA from private equity firm TDR Capital will fail, and is positioning his fund to profit by building a short position in the car auction company’s shares. The hedge fund chief held a short position on 0.6% of BCA’s stock on Thursday when the company confirmed it was in “advanced discussions” with TDR about a 243p a share bid. News of the approach lifted BCA shares by almost a fifth 239p, with BCA’s board saying it would unanimously back a formal offer from TDR if one was made. However, Mr Odey is convinced a bid will stall and said he had increased his short position in BCA when he learnt of the approach. “BCA is expensive at that level and it’s a business that is likely to return 5%, maybe 11% or 12% at best, and that’s just not enough,” Mr Odey said.

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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