Morning Financial Press Review
Paul Kettle
AM Press Round-Up -3 min read
06:21, 13th June 2019

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

Pendragon shares plunge as profits go into reverse. Shares in Pendragon (PDG) FOLLOW lost a fifth of their value on Wednesday after Britain’s biggest car dealer said it would fall into the red for the year, with a “significant” first-half loss. The motor retailer, which owns the Evans Halshaw, Stratstone and Car Store brands, blamed challenging market conditions, tougher margins on premium cars, and higher labour costs. It also added that it had too many used cars and had been inefficient with managing that side of the business. Pendragon has been slashing prices to allow car makers to hit volume targets. New chief executive Mark Herbert, who took the driving seat on April 1, said the annual loss for the year was “disappointing”. “We see significant addressable opportunities to improve the business and return to profitable growth,” he said. “We are continuing to work on our review of the business … but I am confident there are real opportunities for self-help that will improve the performance of the core UK motor and leasing businesses.”

Majestic Wine (WINE) FOLLOW shares rise as US hedge fund joins bidders for stores. Elliott Advisors reportedly seeking to buy retailer’s 200 UK shops. The move would represent the latest bet on the fortunes of bricks-and-mortar retail from Elliott, after it last week bought the US bookshop chain Barnes & Noble, which will be run alongside Waterstones, the British books chain it bought in April 2018. Majestic is considering selling all of its outlets as part of a radical shakeup of the business under its chief executive, Rowan Gormley, who is aiming to free up cash to pump into online operations under the fast-growing Naked Wines brand. Majestic Wine plc plans to eventually rebrand as Naked – although it is unclear if the Majestic brand would be retained if the stores were sold.

Sky (SKY) FOLLOW has vowed to double its spending on making new programmes to £1 billion per year. The company – which was bought by US giant Comcast for £30 billion last year – said it would also launch a new pan-European arm called Sky Studios. It comes after hit drama Chernobyl attracted 3.4 million viewers and became the firm’s most successful production ever. Other successes have included Patrick Melrose starring Benedict Cumberbatch, which won two Bafta awards, while highly anticipated shows coming up later this year include Catherine The Great starring Helen Mirren. Sky said it will also supply programming to Comcast-owned sister organisations NBC and Universal Pictures.

The new boss of consumer goods giant Reckitt Benckiser Group (RB.) FOLLOW could receive a pay package worth more than £16.6m. Laxman Narasimhan, 50, will take over from current chief executive Rakesh Kapoor on September 1, the maker of Cillit Bang and Durex announced yesterday. But the lucrative pay deal threatens to provoke shareholder anger, after a series of previous revolts against large sums given to Kapoor. Last year Kapoor was handed £15.2 million, on top of a total £82.4 million he had already scooped since 2011. Narasimhan joins the company from American drinks giant Pepsico, where he is global chief commercial officer. He will be awarded a ‘golden hello’ of 75,000 shares worth about £4.8 million, subject to performance targets, as well as further performance pay worth another £9.6 million – if he can double the company’s share price.

Big Sofa Technologies Group (BST) FOLLOW hasn’t just been sitting around for the past six months, according to its latest trading update. The firm, which films consumers and shoppers to help businesses market their products better, said revenues for the first six half of 2019 are expected to be around £1.1 million – 80% higher than the same time last year. It has also been cutting its cost base, so should be able to improve profits.

Boohoo.com (BOO) FOLLOW has given its high street rivals another set of results to cry over after delivering a bumper increase in quarterly revenues driven by a sharp jump in Britain. Group sales at the online fast-fashion specialist beloved of twentysomethings were up by 39% to £254.3 million over the three months to the end of May, with UK revenues rising 27% to £140.6 million despite the economic uncertainties around Brexit. Revenues at Boohoo’s overseas divisions leapt even further, although they account for a far smaller portion of turnover for the company by value. Sales on the Continent for Boohoo, which also owns the Pretty Little Thing and Nasty Gal brands, jumped by 72% to £38.2 million and in the United States they rose by 66% to £51.3 million.

Saga boss Patrick O’Sullivan attacks former private equity owners. The chairman of Saga (SAGA) FOLLOW has criticised the way the over-50s insurer and cruises group was floated five years ago, accusing its private equity owners and bankers of “over-egging” its potential. Patrick O’Sullivan explicitly attacked Charterhouse, CVC and Permira, as well as their bank advisers led by Citigroup, yesterday as he announced the departure of Lance Batchelor, his chief executive, by mutual agreement. “There’s no question they [the private equity firms and banks] oversold it at the time of the IPO,” Mr O’Sullivan told The Times. “They over-egged the potential of the business. “There was virtually no investment in the brand,” he said, and “no certainty” that the group was capable of selling lots of other products to its over-50s demographic, as it proposed to do. The same three private equity groups floated the AA roadside rescue group a few months later, with similar disastrous consequences: its shares are now at 52¾p, a decrease of almost 80 per cent from the 250p issue price. CVC also was behind the flotation of Debenhams, which failed in April this year, wiping out shareholders. It is now in the throes of a rescue.

Legal & General ready for its first affordable homes. Legal & General Group (LGEN) FOLLOW has secured the first four sites for its new affordable homes business and is in talks to buy ten times that number with the potential to deliver 1,500 homes in the next two years. The FTSE 100 group, which is Britain’s largest investment manager for corporate pension schemes, said that it had agreed deals to deliver an initial 278 homes in London, Cornwall, Dunstable in Bedfordshire and Shrivenham, Oxfordshire, after gaining regulatory approval six months ago to act as a social housing provider. L&G is a big backer of housing and infrastructure projects, with investments matching its long-term commitments to pay people’s pensions. It aims to deliver 3,000 homes each year over the next four years.

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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