Woodford Patient Capital Trust (WPCT) – MPs have asked the City regulator to publish details of its contact with Neil Woodford and raised concerns that the Financial Conduct Authority may have been asleep at the wheel as the fund manager tumbled into crisis. The Treasury select committee wants the Financial Conduct Authority to “set out the detail of its supervisory contact” with the Woodford Equity Income Fund. It also wants to know whether the watchdog plans to launch a formal investigation of the events that led to investors being blocked from cashing out their investments and to explain “how long such a suspension should be”. The MP and committee chair, Nicky Morgan, said in a letter to the FCA chief Andrew Bailey that the suspension of the fund “has raised significant concerns about its impact on investors and the wider regulation and supervision of funds”. Morgan said in a statement: “Questions have been raised about the FCA’s alertness to the problem.”
Aston Martin opens new factory in south Wales to build SUV. DBX to be ready for sale next year, with bosses hoping to broaden Aston’s appeal. The first DBX will leave the production line at Aston Martin Holdings (AML) new factory in St Athan, south Wales, in the first half of 2020, in a major departure for the British manufacturer as it tries to rapidly double its annual production numbers. The DBX, the brand’s first sports utility vehicle in its 106-year history, is part of a strategy by the chief executive, Andy Palmer, to bring the carmaker into the modern era and broaden its appeal beyond its mainly male sports car clientele. Speaking at the factory, which is already producing test vehicles, Palmer said Aston Martin was targeting the tens of thousands of multimillionaire women in countries such as the US and China who are able to spend more than £140,000 on a car. “The DBX is seen as being neither male- nor female-biased – it’s neutral,” he said, referring to the results of testing with wealthy SUV owners.
Ocado Group (OCDO) invests in ‘vertical farms’ to grow produce near distributors. £17m investment includes formation of venture to develop systems to sell to other retailers. The online grocery specialist has bought a 58% stake in Jones Food, a “vertical farm” that grows 420 tonnes of basil, parsley and coriander a year in stacked trays under 12km (7.5 miles) of LED lights in a warehouse in Scunthorpe. The grower currently supplies businesses such as sandwich maker Greencore. Duncan Tatton-Brown, finance director of Ocado, said the group could open at least 10 more similar farms within five years. He said it could take less than a year to build a Jones Food facility and the two companies were now considering how Ocado’s expertise in robotics and AI could be used to make Jones Food more efficient.
Thomas Cook in talks with Club Med owner to sell tour operator business. UK travel company poised for breakup as China’s Fosun makes approach. The breakup of the troubled travel company Thomas Cook Group (TCG) has moved a step closer after it said it was in talks with the Chinese conglomerate Fosun International over selling its tour operator business. Following media reports, the 178-year-old travel company, which is fighting for survival under the weight of a £1.25bn debt burden, confirmed it was in “discussions with Fosun following receipt of a preliminary approach”. “There can be no certainty that this approach will result in a formal offer. However, the board will consider any potential offer alongside the other strategic options that it has, with the aim of maximising value for all its stakeholders.”