Shopping centre owner Land Securities Group (LAND) saw value of its property empire fall by more than half a billion pounds last year. The value of shopping centre owner Land Securities’ property empire fell by more than half a billion pounds last year as the crisis on the High Street took its toll. The company, which owns retail parks and shopping centres across the country including in Leeds, Oxford, Glasgow and London, was hit by store closures. Land Securities, which has a stake in Kent’s Bluewater centre, said assets fell £557million in value to £13.8billion in the year ended March 31, driven by a 15.5% fall in the value of its retail parks and an 11.7% dip in the worth of its shopping centres.Annual losses tripled to £123million, compared with a £43million loss a year ago, despite revenue growing 9% to £442million. Chief executive Robert Noel said the bigger loss was set ‘against the backdrop of political gridlock and the well-publicised difficulties in the retail market’.
Vodafone Group (VOD) has slashed its dividend for the first time after plunging into a mammoth £6.6billion loss. The cut was a major U-turn after repeated assurances by chief executive Nick Read that the payout was safe. Read, 54, insisted the change was needed to give the British mobile giant ‘headroom’ to invest in new 5G networks and pay off debts. But it was a major blow to investors, pension funds and savers, many of whom have incomes partly reliant on the Vodafone dividend. The payout last year was worth nearly £3.5billion, or about 13p per share. But Vodafone said this would now be reduced to about 8p, saving it around £1.4billion per year. Read said the decision was ‘not taken lightly’. He said: ‘Vodafone is at a key point in its transformation and it’s critical that we have sufficient headroom to execute this transformation successfully. ‘The headroom was getting increasingly tight. And I think there’s a moment, as management, you decide you need to stand back and say, ‘We need to create more headroom proactively.’
Metro Bank holds out the begging bowl as it battles to raise £350m after share price crash. Metro Bank (MTRO) has launched a final push to tempt new investors in a battle to raise £350million – with the results expected tonight. Chairman Vernon Hill has been calling senior City figures to seek support, after a share price crash following an accounting error. Metro has also approached sovereign wealth funds about buying new stock, sources said, and is expected to announce it has raised the money from a mix of new and existing investors, after markets have closed this evening.
Greggs (GRG) shares soared to a record high after it raised its profits forecasts for the third time this year on the back of ‘exceptional’ sales. The High Street baker, which has 1,969 shops, said booming demand for its vegan sausage roll had driven a 15.1% rise in total sales during the first 19 weeks of the year. Sales at stores that have been open for more than a year grew 11%. Greggs shares surged 15% or 270p to 2060p – taking gains so far this year to 63%. Greggs launched the vegan version of its best-selling sausage roll in January, tapping into the so-called ‘Veganuary’ movement that encouraged Brits to limit or cut out meat in the first month of the year.The vegan sausage roll across all of its sites in March, which the company said has helped sales ‘to grow very strongly’.
Amazon has launched a service that lets customers pick up their parcels from Next (NXT). It gives buyers the option to have their online order delivered to one of Next’s 522 UK shops instead of their home address. After ordering, they will have 14 days to collect their parcel. To do so, they must show a barcode that Amazon emails to them. Next said it would increase the number of people visiting its shops. The retailer has long had its own click-and-collect service.
Premier Foods (PFD), the maker of Bisto gravy, is the latest company to jump on the vegan bandwagon with the launch of a new range of ‘plant-based’ desserts, cakes and soups. The food giant, which is behind some of the UK’s most popular brands like Mr Kiplings cakes, Ambrosia rice and custard and Oxo cubes, said its new range ‘Plantastic’ is a response to ‘current customer trends’. Premier Food’s move follows in the footsteps of cut-price bakery chain Greggs, which launched a vegan sausage roll in January, which apparently has been received very well by customers. ‘Under this exciting new brand, the Group will launch a cross category range of products using plant-based ingredients, targeting the growing trend of consumers looking for plant-based and vegan products,’ the group said. ‘The products are planned for launch during the course of this financial year in the Desserts, Cake and Soup categories. In terms of the supply chain, these products will be sourced from a combination of in-house manufacturing and co manufacturer partners.’
Savings firm Standard Life Aberdeen (SLA) has been hit by a humiliating shareholder rebellion over a £750,000 golden hello for its new finance boss. A total of 42% of investors voted against its pay report at its annual meeting, one of the biggest revolts this year. Their ire is thought to have been provoked by a lucrative deal offered to finance boss Stephanie Bruce, who joins next month. She will be given £750,000 of shares over the next three years after agreeing to leave accountant PwC. SLA was originally planning to give Bruce the money regardless of performance. But in the face of mounting anger, it agreed to set targets which she must achieve for the full amount.
Crockery maker Portmeirion Group (PMP) dipped as foreign demand, especially in Korea, fell further than expected. Portmeirion, which owns the Royal Worcester, Spode and Pimpernel brands, said UK sales were up 5% and US sales climbed 8% in the first four months of 2019, compared with the same time last year. But total group sales fell 10%. Profit for the whole year will be ‘significantly below’ expectations, and shares fell 24.3%, or 295p, to 920p.
A second profit warning in two months has caused alarm for investors in British engineering firm Renishaw (RSW). The company, which makes products from precision measuring tools to brain surgery implements, expects revenue to be in the range of £580million to £600million for its full year, down from estimates of £635million to £665million in January, which were revised lower in March to between £595million and £620million. Profits in the first nine months of its financial year, from July to March, have already tumbled by 18.8% to £84.8million compared with the same time a year ago. Analysts at Peel Hunt said the fact that Renishaw has around £120.5million of spare cash, and tends to keep investing in the business even in hard times, makes it well-placed for the long term.
Online estate agent Purplebricks Group (PURP), which recently dialled back its international expansion after disappointing performance, revealed after the stock market closed that hedge fund Toscafund has snapped up a 5.6% stake, worth around £19million.
Kenmare Resources (KMR), which owns one of the world’s largest titanium mines in Mozambique, baffled investors as it put out a hastily corrected stock market statement. The note – Statement re possible offer – suggested it had received a takeover bid from a competitor. But the actual contents of the document merely contained a run-of-the-mill notification that Fidelity International had bought more shares. The company changed the title within eight minutes. But by that time, excited traders who had not read beyond the first line had pushed Kenmare’s shares up by as much as 8%. They ended 0.5%, or 1p, up at 203p, as a spokesman clarified there was no offer on the table.
Beleaguered investment firm Jupiter Fund Management (JUP) gave its shareholders some respite, announcing the appointment of a new chief financial officer. Wayne Mepham, currently the global head of finance at Schroders, will take over from Charlotte Jones, who is leaving to join RSA Insurance.
Iodine producer Iofina (IOF), which makes chemicals for the industrial and pharmaceutical sectors, plunged as it revealed it was mulling a fundraising. Its shares had been building substantial gains over the past month. Iofina said it didn’t know of any particular reason for this, but added that it was planning to ask shareholders for at least £5million to help pay down debt.
Tanzanian coal miner Edenville Energy (EDL) rocketed 81%, or 0.04p, to 0.1p as it outlined plans to use the £510,000 it has recently raised to upgrade its plant, and construct roads to a new mining area.