Afternoon Financial Press Update
Paul Kettle
PM Press Round-Up -3 min read
15:46, 12th April 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

Plus500 takes a pounding on sales slump but bosses rake in cash. Controversial trading firm Plus500 Ltd (DI) (PLUS)FOLLOW  was at the centre of another City storm on Friday as a bleak warning over slumping revenues hit its shares and details of huge payouts for its bosses emerged. The Israeli-based, London-listed firm is the UK’s biggest provider of contracts for difference, which allow punters to take leveraged bets on stocks, indices and currencies. But it warned becalmed financial markets had sent trading revenues tumbling to $53.9 million (£41.2 million) in the first three months of 2019, a far worse-than-expected 65% slide on the previous quarter. Plus is also feeling the effects of a crackdown by European regulators since last August.

National Express agrees £65 million Silicon Valley shuttle deal. Transport operator National Express Group (NEX) FOLLOW on Friday drove into Silicon Valley with a $84.3 million (£64.5 million) deal to buy a majority stake in a Californian shuttle service. The FTSE 250 buses and trains firm has bought a 60% stake in WeDriveU, which specialises in transporting workers to companies including Facebook, Tesla and Amazon based in California’s tech hub. WeDriveU has around seven million passengers a year and notched up revenues of $139.9 million last year.

HSBC rejects calls to end pension cuts and fossil fuel funding. HSBC Holdings (HSBA) FOLLOW rejected calls to end a controversial “clawback” policy on staff pensions and refused to stop the funding of coal power projects in developing countries at a fiery annual meeting Birmingham. The bank has been under fire for its clawback policy, which unions claim allows it to deduct up to £2,500 a year from the pension pots of former Midland Bank staff who enjoy final salary pensions. However HSBC shareholders overwhelmingly rejected a motion to scrap the policy, with just 4% voting in favour. Chairman Mark Tucker said that abolishing the policy would not “be in the best interest of all shareholders” and argued that it was both legal and fair.

Bonmarché board hits back at takeover offer with cost-cutting plan. Bonmarche Holdings (BON) FOLLOW board has countered a takeover offer from Philip Day, saying the tycoon’s offer “materially undervalues” the retailer. Mr Day – owner of Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Peacocks and Jane Norman – is offering shareholders about 11.5p a share. Under takeover rules, he was required to make an offer for the company after increasing his stake to 52.4% by purchasing shares from the retailer’s former owners. The board’s defence sets the stage for a tug of war with Mr Day for control of the company. Shares in Bonmarché were trading well above Mr Day’s offer price at 15.4p on Friday afternoon.

Algy Cluff retires after 50 years at helm of North Sea oil business. One of the most colourful characters in the North Sea oil industry is stepping down from the board of a company he founded. Algy Cluff, 78, will retire from his role as the chairman of Cluff Natural Resources (CLNR) FOLLOW following its next annual meeting when it is held later this year. He intends to concentrate on writing more books and on his charitable efforts, which include The Remembrance Trust, an organisation that tends to the graves of those who died in wars before 1914. He said: “I look forward to seeing our company continue to grow and prosper while enjoying the opportunity to devote more time to my other interests.”

Damages sought in Britain’s costliest divorce battle. A Russian billionaire at the centre of Britain’s costliest divorce battle is seeking damages from a London-listed litigation financier backed by veteran fund manager Neil Woodford. AIM-listed Burford Capital (BUR) FOLLOW has been named in a £65 million damages lawsuit linked to a £330 million superyacht seized as part of divorce proceedings between businessman Farkhad Akhmedov and his ex-wife Tatiana ​Akhmedova. The Luna vessel was impounded in Dubai last year after Akhmedova won a freezing order on her ex-husband’s assets when the oligarch refused to pay part of his fortune following their split. But, last month a Dubai court overruled a decision to seize the ship. Akhmedov’s family trust the Straight Trust said papers have been filed in a Dubai court setting out a claim for damages. The claim is issued against Akhmedova and Burford, which is working to enforce the £453 million divorce settlement against Akhmedov, who is contesting the payment.

Pets at Home Group (PETS) FOLLOW was in urgent need of some anaesthetic on Friday after its second largest shareholder put its stake in the retailer to sleep. Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) sold its 10.8% stake for 148p per share — a 9% discount to Thursday’s closing price. The retailer, which sells pet food and accessories and runs vet practices, has been facing competition from non-specialists such as the big grocers and Amazon. It has been moving towards lower pricing and is also overhauling some of its unprofitable vet practices, but clearly not fast enough for CPPIB

The owner of the Peppa Pig cartoons, Entertainment One Limited (ETO) FOLLOW, last night told the market it is coughing up £178 million to buy Audio Network, whose work was featured in popular TV shows like Killing Eve. This will be eOne’s largest acquisition in its near-five decade history. To fund the deal, it placed 28.9 million shares today to raise £130 million — 6% of its share capital — at a price of 450p.

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