The government contractor Interserve (IRV) has gone into administration after its largest shareholder, the US hedge fund Coltrane, led a rebellion against financial rescue plans drawn up by the company’s lenders. About 16,000 small shareholders have lost their investment, with the business sold to hedge funds and banks via a “pre-pack” administration which means Interserve, which employs 45,000 people in the UK, can continue trading. Interserve has thousands of government contracts including hospital cleaning, school meals and maintenance of military bases in the Falklands. It also runs parts of the probation service, which was part-privatised under a heavily criticised process overseen by the former justice minister Chris Grayling. The company and the Cabinet Office, which oversees state suppliers, said there would be no disruption to the public services that Interserve manages and job losses were not expected in the short term and the pension scheme was protected.
The black hole in the accounts of the troubled cafe chain Patisserie Holdings (CAKE) was as much as £94m, more than twice previous estimates, according to forensic accountants. The company plunged into administration in January after it was unable to secure new bank finance following the discovery of “potentially fraudulent” accounting irregularities. The progress report by its administrators, KPMG, published on Friday, said analysis by a team of forensic accountants had concluded the accounts had been overstated by approximately £94m. Previous estimates had put the figure at £40m, but a breakdown of the new sum suggests Patisserie Valerie’s cash position had been overstated by £54m. The company’s debts had also been understated and the amount it was owed overstated, to a combined value of £17m. There was also a £23m discrepancy in the way it had valued its assets.
The Wetherspoon (J.D.) (JDW) chairman, Tim Martin, has said no-deal Brexit tariff plans would lead to lower prices for consumers, as higher pay for staff dented profits at the pub chain. Martin has been one of the most outspoken business proponents of leaving the EU without a deal, meaning trade would default to World Trade Organization terms. The government revealed plans on Wednesday to cut tariffs to zero on 87% of British imports by value if there is no deal, but the plans would also raise tariffs on meat imported from the EU. That could impact Wetherspoon’s food sales, which accounted for 36% of revenues in its 879 pubs across the UK in the 26 weeks to 27 January, according to results published on Friday. “If there’s no deal and we implement the tariff schedule that the government is suggesting I believe that prices will be lower than they otherwise would have been at Wetherspoon and elsewhere,” Martin said, highlighting possible tariff drops on oranges, bananas, and wines including New Zealand sauvignon blanc and Australian merlot.