Afternoon Financial Press Review
Paul Kettle
PM Press Round-Up -3 min read
14:59, 10th January 2019

Jaguar Land Rover and Ford to axe thousands of jobs. JLR to cut 4,500 jobs globally with UK management roles most affected. Jaguar Land Rover and Ford are to cut thousands of jobs, including at least 2,000 in the UK. JLR, Britain’s biggest carmaker, said it will lose 4,500 jobs from its global workforce, the majority of them management roles in the UK at sites including Coventry and Gaydon. The company will start a voluntary redundancy programme. On Thursday, JLR, which has been facing weakening Chinese demand and fewer people wanting to buy diesel vehicles, and has already launched a £2.5bn cost-saving programme, also announced investments worth hundreds of millions of pounds to produce electric drive units at Wolverhampton, and a new battery plant at Hams Hall in Birmingham that will be operational by 2020.

John Lewis puts prized bonus in peril for first time since 1953. The chairman of John Lewis and Waitrose on Thursday said the retailers could scrap their staff bonus for the first time since 1953 as uncertainty looms over the businesses. Sir Charlie Mayfield, the outgoing chairman of the mutual retail group, said the board was considering whether it was “prudent” to make a payout “in light of business and economic prospects”. A decision by the board, of which five are elected directors by staff, will be made in March. “Every year there is a possibility of a zero bonus. We can afford to pay [one] at modest levels, but we are in unusual economic circumstances,” said Mayfield. Finance boss Patrick Lewis said Brexit, as well as a slump in customers’ willingness to part with cash, were some of the factors that might influence the decision.

Prudential renews link with Singapore lender in £662m Asian growth deal. Insurance giant Prudential (PRU) FOLLOWwill pay £662 million to renew a tie-up with Singaporean lender United Overseas Bank until 2034. The deal, originally signed in 2010, will give the Pru access to more than four million United customers based in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and a new territory in Vietnam. Prudential’s life insurance products will be distributed through United’s 400-strong branch network. The company, in the midst of a divorce from the Prudential UK arm and fund manager M&G Investments, is well known for its big presence in Asia, especially the Chinese market. The Pru will make the payment over three years.

M&S vows to shake off festive letdown. The boss of Marks & Spencer Group (MKS)FOLLOW said “there’s a lot more to do” to return the retailer to its former glory after poor sales over Christmas. Chief executive Steve Rowe, who is trying to overhaul the business under chairman and retail veteran Archie Norman, said: “We have to stick to the knitting and make sure the business has a long-term sustainable base. “I’m conscious of that, but we’ve seen some encouraging steps.” The business, which hit peak profits of £1 billion in the late Nineties, posted a total fall of 2.2% in same-store sales in Britain, with food and clothing and home down 2.1% and 2.4%.

Ted Baker beats festive sales slump despite ‘forced hugs’ claims. Fashion brand’s sales rise 12.2% over festive period despite controversy surrounding its founder. Ted Baker (TED) FOLLOWhas shrugged off concerns about a culture of “forced hugs” under its founder, Ray Kelvin, delivering strong sales growth over Christmas despite the revelations. Retail sales increased 12.2% in the five weeks to 5 January, after a 5% increase in retail space, as the fashion brand clocked up strong growth online. Lindsay Page, acting chief executive, said men’s and women’s coats, jackets and knitwear had all sold well as the weather became chillier after a tricky autumn season marked by unseasonably warm weather. “The Ted Baker brand has delivered a good performance across both our stores and e-commerce business, despite the continuing challenging external trading conditions across our markets,” he said. “This result again reflects the strength of the brand and the quality of our collections.” Page added that the company had also invested heavily in logistics and infrastructure, which played an important role as shoppers demanded more home deliveries.

Debenhams rules out borrowing Mike Ashley cash. Debenhams (DEB) FOLLOWon Thursday said it did not want Mike Ashley’s help to bolster its coffers as it tries to revive its fortunes. The ailing department store chain is in talks with its lenders to refinance the business, but new finance chief Rachel Osborne made clear that the Sports Direct tycoon “is not a lender”. Ashley, who owns 29.7% of Debenhams, went to war in December with the retailer after it refused a £40 million loan from him. The billionaire emailed chief executive Sergio Bucher with dire warnings about the chain’s future and offering financial aid. Bucher said: “We did not ask for any help [from Ashley].”

Tesco outmuscles rivals with festive sales success. Tesco (TSCO) FOLLOWshowed supermarket rivals a clean pair of heels on Thursday as it reported its best Christmas since 2009 and claimed to be grabbing customers from across the sector. With some rivals recording profit alerts and warning that consumers are spending with caution, a newly confident Tesco said same-store sales rose 2.2% in the UK over six weeks of Christmas. They weren’t as good in the third quarter, at 0.7%, but the UK’s biggest supermarket was still able to brag of 12 consecutive quarters of growth

Halfords takes £10 million profit hit after warm winter weather. Cautious shoppers reluctant to splash out on bikes and mild weather hitting sales of driving staples like de-icer ran shares in retailer Halfords off the road on Thursday. The firm slumped by as much as 25% after admitting that this year’s profits would be at least £10 million lower than last year, coming in between £58 million and £62 million. Next year will be similarly lacklustre, it added. Halfords Group (HFD)FOLLOW was hamstrung by much higher winter temperatures than average — including the second warmest December in 30 years — which drove motoring sales down 3.4% on last year in the 14 weeks to January 4. “Stuff like de-icer you only buy when it freezes, and it didn’t,” chief executive Graham Stapleton said. But drivers were also reining in on discretionary items like roofboxes as well in what was a “challenging quarter” for the business.

Brighton Pier owner chaired by Luke Johnson warns on profit. Serial entrepreneur Luke Johnson faced more woes on Thursday as the leisure group behind Brighton Pier, which he chairs, warned on profits. AIM-listed Brighton Pier Group (The) (PIER)FOLLOW, which owns the grade II-listed pier as well a number of bars and golf sites, said full-year pre-tax profits are expected to be around 18% lower than the £3.8 million originally expected. The pier division suffered in the half to December 31 from poor weather and because a number of trains to and from Brighton were disrupted by major engineering works. The company said that the works “significantly impacted” the number of visitors to the seaside resort. The shares fell 15p to 48p.

All Bar One owner scores record-breaking Christmas. The company behind Harvester, All Bar One and Toby Carvery beat its rivals over the festive season while taking a record £12m on Christmas Day alone. Mitchells & Butlers (MAB) FOLLOWlike-for-like sales swelled by 12.3% in the final two weeks of December, pipping double-digit performances by the likes of Greene King and Stonegate. Like its rivals, M&B benefited from milder weather and the fact Christmas and New Year’s days fell in the middle of the week. Chief executive Phil Urban said records had fallen “on all key festive dates”. Comparable sales over the seven weeks to Jan 5 were 6.9% higher and up 4.7% up over the 14 weeks to the same date.

Stalling sales trip up Card Factory. Shares in Card Factory tumbled on Thursday after a “challenging trading period” meant it would endure “another difficult year”. The FTSE 250 retailer said sales rose 3.4% in the 11 months to December 31 compared to the same period in 2017. However, its sales at stores open for more than 12 months were broadly flat, falling 0.1pc, with “lower high street footfall” contributing to the drop. Shares in Card Factory (CARD)FOLLOW fell more than a fifth at the open before recovering some ground to be down 12% at 171p in afternoon trading, valuing the company at £583m. It also faced higher costs of between £5m to £6m following increases in the National Living Wage and higher electricity charges.

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