Morning Financial Press Review
Paul Kettle
AM Press Round-Up -3 min read
06:52, 15th May 2019

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

Jeremy Corbyn draws up plans to seize control of UK’s energy with sweeping nationalisation of networks. Jeremy Corbyn has drawn up plans to take control of Britain’s energy networks in a multi-billion pound power-grab modelled on the nationalisation of Northern Rock. A leaked Labour party document has revealed plans for a swift and sweeping renationalisation of the country’s £62bn energy networks at a price decided by Parliament. The blueprint, seen by the Telegraph, lays bare for the first time Mr Corbyn’s plan to bring all energy network companies under public ownership “immediately” following a Labour election win. The party is planning to employ the same legislative tools used to nationalise Northern Rock in order to justify naming its own price for the companies.

Greggs (GRG) FOLLOW shares soared to a record high after it raised its profits forecasts for the third time this year on the back of ‘exceptional’ sales. The High Street baker, which has 1,969 shops, said booming demand for its vegan sausage roll had driven a 15.1% rise in total sales during the first 19 weeks of the year. Sales at stores that have been open for more than a year grew 11%. Greggs shares surged 15% or 270p to 2060p – taking gains so far this year to 63%. Greggs launched the vegan version of its best-selling sausage roll in January, tapping into the so-called ‘Veganuary’ movement that encouraged Brits to limit or cut out meat in the first month of the year.The vegan sausage roll across all of its sites in March, which the company said has helped sales ‘to grow very strongly’.

Amazon has launched a service that lets customers pick up their parcels from Next (NXT) FOLLOW. It gives buyers the option to have their online order delivered to one of Next’s 522 UK shops instead of their home address. After ordering, they will have 14 days to collect their parcel. To do so, they must show a barcode that Amazon emails to them. Next said it would increase the number of people visiting its shops. The retailer has long had its own click-and-collect service.

Standard Life £750,000 ‘golden hello’ sparks revolt. Standard Life Aberdeen (SLA) FOLLOW has suffered a substantial shareholder rebellion over plans to offer its incoming chief financial officer free shares worth up to £750,000 in one of the biggest pay revolts at a FTSE 100 company this year. It is doubly embarrassing, as the fund management group also often acts as a watchdog over the governance of companies in which it invests and is outspoken on remuneration rewards. Sir Douglas Flint, the chairman, acknowledged that the 42.02 per cent vote against its remuneration report arose out of concerns over the package put together to attract Stephanie Bruce from PWC, the accountancy firm.

Dividend U-turn is tough call for new Vodafone boss. Vodafone Group (VOD)FOLLOW  chief executive defended the decision to slash the €4 billion dividend yesterday just months after he told investors the payment was safe. The FTSE 100 telecoms group cut its dividend for the first time since 1990, reducing the shareholder payout by 40% to 9 eurocents per share. The decision to “rebase the dividend” came despite Nick Read, former chief financial officer, and Vittorio Colao, his predecessor as chief executive, having said last year that the dividend would not be affected by the €18.4 billion acquisition of Liberty Global’s cable operations in a number of European markets, including Germany.

Ei Group toasts shareholders with payout promise. Pub operator EI Group (EIG) FOLLOW has pledged more payouts to shareholders despite continuing to be buffeted by cost pressures. Boss Simon Townsend announced half of available cash flow would be handed to investors in future. In addition, £30m would be added to the company’s share buyback programme, it was announced on Tuesday. Britain’s biggest network for pubs said half-year revenue had risen 7% to £353m. Pre-tax profit fell from £45m to £13m, however, as Ei Group suffered losses from a recent disposal of pubs. Nevertheless, Mr Townsend was in bullish mood about the trading performance.

Capita promotes two rank-and-file workers to board. Capita (CPI) FOLLOW, the embattled outsourcing group, has joined a select band of large companies to promote rank-and-file workers to its board. The company has ushered Lyndsay Browne and Joseph Murphy into the boardroom, where they will earn £64,500 a year on top of their salaries. The pair beat competition from about 400 other internal candidates. Ms Browne, a finance manager who has been at Capita since 2003, and Mr Murphy, a project manager in its real estate division, will continue in their current roles. Capita said it would make “time allowances” for the pair to fulfil their responsibilities as directors.

Mr Kipling owner takes hit from pension ruling. The food group behind Mr Kipling cakes and Ambrosia custard sank to a pre-tax loss of £42.7 million for the full year on the back of new pension rules treating women on a par with men. Premier Foods (PFD) FOLLOW estimated the cost of equalising benefits dating back to the 1990s at £41.5 million. It is one of the first big employers to reveal the cost of the High Court judgment handed down in October in a case involving Lloyds Banking Group, relating to the rights of those contracting out of the state earnings related pension scheme.

A precision engineering company has issued a profit warning for the second time in eight weeks, blaming a slowdown in consumer electronics manufacturing in China and a downturn in the semiconductor market. Renishaw (RSW) FOLLOW, which is based in Gloucestershire, said that given “recent order trends and customer feedback” it was downgrading its pre-tax profit guidance to between £111 million and £126 million for the year to June. That was down from a range of £123 million to £141 million in March and original expectations in January of between £146 million and £166 million.

BHP embraces nickel as car industry goes electric. The world’s biggest mining company is to keep its nickel mines, anticipating growing demand for electric vehicles. BHP Billiton (BLT) FOLLOW had planned to sell Nickel West in Australia in 2017 but now sees the division as a “future growth option”. Andrew Mackenzie, chief executive, said: “Developments such as climate change and dramatic shifts in technology present both challenges and opportunities.” He said that the company was monitoring strategic themes such as decarbonisation and the electrification of transport.

Crockery maker Portmeirion Group (PMP) FOLLOW dipped as foreign demand, especially in Korea, fell further than expected. Portmeirion, which owns the Royal Worcester, Spode and Pimpernel brands, said UK sales were up 5% and US sales climbed 8% in the first four months of 2019, compared with the same time last year. But total group sales fell 10%. Profit for the whole year will be ‘significantly below’ expectations, and shares fell 24.3%, or 295p, to 920p.

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