Morning Financial Press Review
Paul Kettle
AM Press Round-Up -3 min read
07:11, 26th March 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.

Sports Direct considers cash bid for Debenhams. Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct International (SPD) FOLLOW is considering a cash offer to buy the struggling department store chain Debenhams (DEB) FOLLOW. The sports retailer, which is Debenhams’ largest shareholder, currently has a near 30% stake in the company which is at risk of being wiped out if the chain secures a £200m rescue deal from its lenders in a debt-for-equity swap. In a brief statement after the market closed, Sports Direct said it believes Debenhams restructuring and refinancing process “is likely to result in an adverse outcome for Debenhams existing shareholders” and that the possible bid would “likely” be in cash. It said that while it was contemplating the cash offer it was also considering other options.

Provident Financial takes aim at ‘playground taunts’ from Non-Standard Finance over £1.3bn bid. The boss of Provident Financial (PFG) FOLLOW has accused takeover predator Non-Standard Finance (NSF) FOLLOW of playing a game of “superficial soundbites and playground taunts” as he strives to fight off its £1.3bn bid. Malcolm Le May told The Telegraph that the mud-slinging had become “unnecessarily personal” as the two sides fight to win over shareholders following NSF’s hostile offer for the troubled door-step lender. “[It’s] superficial soundbites and playground taunts – we’re all grown ups and we just have to look at the underlying facts here. It’s value-destructive,” he said.

Convatec seeks cure from £6.5m boss. The company behind one of the worst-performing FTSE flotations of recent years has parachuted in a new chief executive on a £6.5 million “golden hello” in an effort to turn itself around. Convatec Group (CTEC) FOLLOW, the struggling medical devices company, has poached Karim Bitar, the boss of Genus, the animal genetics company, to replace Paul Moraviec, 60, who stepped down after a second profit warning last October. Mr Bitar, 54, will not take charge until the end of September as he serves his notice at Genus, meaning it will have been almost a year since Convatec filled the role.

Majestic Wine (WINE) FOLLOW could sell some or all of its 200 stores under a “transformation plan” that will shift the focus of the company on to Naked Wines, its faster-growing online business. The Times understands that it has already received inquiries from potential buyers for at least part of the retail business, although a failure to find a purchaser for the estate is likely to mean asset sales, store closures and job losses. The company, founded in 1981, operates about 200 shops in Britain and two in France. It also owns Lay & Wheeler, a 166-year-old specialist fine wine merchant, as well as Naked Wines, which funds independent winemakers through a network of customers known as “angels”. Naked operates in the UK, America and Australia

Inmarsat (ISAT) FOLLOW braces for counterbids after agreeing £2.6bn takeover. Inmarsat’s private equity buyers are racing to clinch a £2.6bn deal for the listed satellite operator before the end of this year as they fend off the possibility of counterbids, while seeking approval from regulators in nine countries. Speculation mounted last week about whether rivals might swoop in with a bid for Inmarsat under the same takeover rules that saw Comcast gatecrash Murdoch’s attempted takeover of Sky. As of Monday, takeover interest from US rival EchoStar, which tabled two unsuccessful bids for Inmarsat last year, had still not emerged, a source familiar with the discussions said

Rolls-Royce’s biggest investor cashes in. Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) FOLLOW largest shareholder has cashed in more than £200 million of shares, booking a profit of nearly 70% on the holding it took in what was a stricken aerospace and warship engines group in 2015. News of the share sale emerged as Rolls-Royce reported that it paid Warren East, 57, its chief executive, nearly £4 million last year, the largest annual amount since he took on the role in 2015 and despite Rolls’ part in the grounding of scores of Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft because of faults with its Trent 1000 engines.

William Hill asks landlords to cut rent after fixed-odds limit. William Hill (WMH) FOLLOW has written to its landlords asking for rent cuts of up to 50%, blaming the difficulties caused by the government’s decision to reduce the maximum stakes on fixed-odds betting machines. The bookmaker confirmed yester-day that about 2,000 landlords had received letters about reductions, after a report in Property Week. Nicola Frampton, director of retail at William Hill, said: “The purpose of the letter is to inform landlords that we are taking some extremely difficult decisions about the size of our betting shop business and that these decisions will have a direct impact on our landlord partners.”

Rockrose Energy (RRE) FOLLOW bids for Independent Oil & Gas (IOG) FOLLOW debt. A North Sea oil producer has stepped up its pursuit of a troubled rival which borrowed tens of millions of pounds originating from a collapsed investment firm. Rockrose Energy is seeking to gain control of Independent Oil & Gas by buying up its debts, after an initial approach to buy its shares was rebuffed earlier this month. Independent Oil & Gas has £38.5 million of loan facilities with London Oil & Gas, a private oil firm that fell into administration last week. London Oil & Gas in turn borrowed its funds from London Capital & Finance, which collapsed in January and is the subject of a Serious Fraud Office inquiry. London Capital & Finance raised £236 million by selling “mini-bonds” to more than 11,600 investors, who have been told they may lose much of their money.

Shares in outsourcing specialist iEnergizer Ltd. (IBPO) FOLLOW soared 27.5p, to 150p after it said it expected operating profits to be ‘significantly’ ahead of market expectations. It performed strongly in the second half of its year as it focused on higher-margin work from both existing and new clients. The firm specialises in building contact centres and administration hubs in the healthcare, gaming and publishing industries, and manages a 12,000-strong team.

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