Press | Vox Markets
MTRO
RBS
HSBA
Metro Bank (MTRO) has been given a vote of confidence after customers ranked it first for personal banking services. The lender, which has been struggling to recover from a £900 million accounting error and criticism of its leadership, also placed second for business banking and third for mobile retail banking services. In contrast Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) found itself bottom of the pile of 16 banks for personal banking and second to last in business banking, ahead of TSB. The findings are from the latest survey by the Competition and Markets Authority of customers’ views on the service and quality of various aspects of their banks, including overdrafts and branches. The CMA started the surveys last year as one of the measures to come out of its 2014 investigation, which criticised the services customers received but stopped short of breaking up larger players. Metro shared first place in personal banking with First Direct, the online banking division of HSBC Holdings (HSBA). It placed second place in business banking after Sweden’s Handelsbanken for the second time. Metro’s rating in business banking was seen as one of the biggest reasons behind its surprise win in February of £120 million from an official competition to boost services in that area.
BUR
Sir Peter Middleton, one of the most senior figures in the City, is to stand down as chairman of Burford Capital (BUR) as the bitter battle that has gripped the Square Mile produces its first scalps. In an attempt to mollify shareholders in the litigation finance company, it was announced yesterday that Sir Peter and David Lowe, a non-executive director, would leave after two new non-executives had been brought in. Burford also said that Elizabeth O’Connell, the chief financial officer, had been replaced with immediate effect. Sir Peter had come under fire for governance failings, especially by appointing Ms O’Connell as finance chief when she was married to the chief executive, Christopher Bogart.
FGP
An experienced transport executive is to be chairman of FirstGroup (FGP) after turning down the chance to join an activist investor-led bid to oust most of the board. David Martin, a former boss of Arriva, was originally selected by Coast Capital, which owns about 10 per cent of First, as one of the directors it wanted to join the rail and train operator. However, Mr Martin, 67, withdrew from the appointment before a shareholder meeting to vote on the proposals. The directors of First survived a vote in June but Wolfhart Hauser bowed to pressure and decided to resign as chairman. Two non-executives, Jim Winestock and Imelda Walsh, are also departing this year.
GVC
GVC Holdings (GVC) has upgraded its full-year profit forecast after mitigating the impact of stringent new gaming machine rules on its betting shops. GVC Holdings, which had already reported slightly better trends than expected, announced yesterday an additional £10 million upgrade to its UK retail profit forecast after transferring betting volumes to other parts of its shop estate and stepping up the pace on cost-cutting. As a result the group has lifted its forecast for underlying earnings for the year to between £650 million and £670 million, up from £630 million at the start of the year. Like-for-like net gaming revenues in its UK retail business fell 10% in the first half after the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals was cut from £100 to £2 by the government in April to tackle gambling addiction.
SPD
Sports Direct International (SPD) has shut down eight Jack Wills shops and warned that it will close more if landlords do not agree to further rent cuts, only two weeks after the retailer bought the preppy fashion brand in a pre-pack administration. The stores that have been closed are in Marlborough, Wiltshire; Rock, Cornwall; St Albans, Hertfordshire; Tunbridge Wells, Kent; Derby; Reigate, Surrey; Durham and Kingston upon Thames. Michael Murray, Sports Direct’s head of elevation and the future son-in-law of the retailer’s founder Mike Ashley, told The Times that the closures were “not a question of the right number of stores, but what’s the right rent”. It is understood that Jack Wills is demanding that landlords charge zero rent in areas where the business rates bill is high.
MSLH
Plans to pedestrianise and protect town centres around the country have helped to boost revenues at Marshalls (MSLH) by 15%. The FTSE 250 paving supplier said that residential, commercial and government demand had helped to increase profits from £32.5 million before tax to £37.1 million in the first six months of the year. The group said yesterday that it was “increasingly confident of at least achieving its expectations” for the full financial year. Martyn Coffey, chief executive, is confident the group will continue to benefit from the pedestrianisation of urban areas over the coming years. “It’s going to accelerate,” he said, pointing to projects in Leeds and on Bond Street and Oxford Street in London. Those managing city centres and stadiums “are also looking at spending more money on what we call landscape protection,” Mr Coffey added, referring to bollards that now use reinforced steel and concrete to prevent vehicles from driving into busy areas.
KAZ
Concerns over the impact of President Trump’s acrimonious trade war with China have led Kaz Minerals (KAZ) to warn investors over the short-term performance of copper prices. Shares in the FTSE 250 Kazakhstan-focused business fell more than 15% after it adopted a cautious stance on copper “due to continuing trade pressures and China slowdown concerns”. Its confidence that the outlook “remains robust” in the longer term failed to reassure the market. Kaz reported yesterday that lower commodity prices had dragged its core earnings down by 10% to $620 million in the first half. It highlighted a 6% rise in copper production, which reached 147.6 kilo tonnes in the six months to June 30 and helped to partially counter the weaker pricing.
GEMD
Gem Diamonds Ltd. (DI) (GEMD) reported higher prices in the half year to June, despite weakness in the gemstone market. The company sold and produced fewer diamonds than in previous periods but secured 10% higher prices, achieving an average of $1,697 per carat. It sold 15 diamonds for more than $1 million each, generating revenue of $41.6 million, and found three stones greater than 100 carats. Analysts at Liberum, the broker, said that instability in the diamond market in recent years had tended to affect trade in smaller, lower-quality diamonds. However, they added that macroeconomic uncertainty and the Hong Kong protests could lead to that weakness hitting the wider market.
ASC
BOO
SDRY
Short-sellers swooped on ASOS (ASC), and analysts at Jefferies downgraded it, sending the shares tumbling. The retailer warned last month that its pre-tax profit for the year would be between £30 million and £35 million, compared with £102 million the year before, knocked by troubles at its overseas warehouses. The profit warning had led to a 15% slide in the share price but the analysts warned yesterday of further downside risk. Asos will need to invest to “win” Black Friday, which will require further investment in the first half of next year, but any savings will need to be partly reinvested to improve deliveries or marketing to win back disappointed customers, the analysts said. Instead, they directed investors to the rival Boohoo.com (BOO) for online profitable growth and Superdry (SDRY) for a “lowly valued recovery story”.
JE.
Just Eat (JE.) was a big faller, weighed down partly by Asda, the supermarket owned by the American retail group Walmart, with which it has partnered on an express grocery home delivery service. Asda said Brexit uncertainty had affected quarterly results. Roger Burnley, 53, Asda’s chief executive, said: “If ever a case study on the impact the mood of the nation has on UK spending habits were needed, this quarter has proved it.” Just Eat was also knocked by a note by analysts at Deutsche Bank, who said there was a risk that its proposed £9 billion merger with the Dutch rival Takeaway.com may not reach completion. The deal may be “appetising” for Takeaway.com, they said, but shareholders of Just Eat would be less satisfied.
AVON
Analysts at Peel Hunt increased their price target for Avon Rubber (AVON) from £17 to £18, describing the riot equipment manufacturer’s acquisition of the American bullet protection business of 3M as a “natural fit”.
PLUS
Tempus – Plus500 Ltd (DI) (PLUS): Hold. The buyback will support the shares but regulatory threats to the company remain
FGP
Lombard – FirstGroup (FGP) hopes risk-sharing brings smoother ride. Two-phase deal balances risk and reward between government and operator
FGP
Italian operator and FirstGroup (FGP) to run West Coast line. Decision on Virgin’s replacement comes ahead of review of franchise system
PRU
Lex – Prudential (PRU): slow boat to China. Investors’ pessimism about the insurer’s demerger is understandable
BBY
Balfour Beatty (BBY) shares jump on upbeat earnings report. UK’s largest construction group gives rare positive sign in sector
GLEN
Glencore (GLEN) loses ‘Paradise Papers’ court case in Australia. Tax authorities cleared to use leaked documents in probe of mining group
PRU
Insurer Prudential (PRU) to split by end of the year. Separation of UK business will create new £7bn FTSE 100 company
ADM
Admiral Group (ADM) takes £33m hit after UK regulatory change. Motor insurer says cost could increase but beats expectations with first-half profits rise
SPD
Sports Direct International (SPD) in government talks over auditor trouble. Grant Thornton to quit next month and no other firm is willing to step in
SPD
Shares in Sports Direct International (SPD) have tumbled to their lowest level since 2011 after its auditors quit, leaving the retailer with less than a month to find a replacement. The share price slumped more than 11% to 214p on the news, valuing the company at just over £1bn. Wednesday’s slump slashed the value of Mike Ashley’s 62% stake in the business by almost £90m. Grant Thornton, which has audited Sports Direct since it floated on the Stock Exchange in 2007, said it would stop working with Ashley’s business following its annual general meeting on 11 September. The announcement comes a day after Sports Direct published its annual report in which Ashley, the chief executive, proposed that Grant Thornton be reappointed by shareholders at the meeting. The resignation puts Sports Direct in a difficult position as Ashley said in the report that the scale and complexity of the company means that only one of the “big four” accounting firms – Deloitte, PwC, KPMG and EY – would be able to cope with its auditing requirements. However, he admitted that “early discussions” with each of them over taking on the audit responsibility for Sports Direct had fallen flat.
NG.
The government’s energy emergency committee will give a verdict on National Grid (NG.) handling of last Friday’s nationwide blackout within weeks. The business secretary, Andrea Leadsom, has tasked the government’s Energy Emergencies Executives Committee with completing a review of the system operator’s role in Britain’s first major blackout in a decade within 12 weeks. The investigation is expected to establish what happened to cause the UK blackout and whether correct procedures were followed. It will also consider whether future power cuts could be prevented and how to minimise the impact of a blackout on people and essential services when they do occur. “National Grid has already confirmed that the incident was not linked to the variability of wind power, a clean, renewable energy source that the government is investing in as we work towards becoming a net zero emissions economy by 2050,” Leadsom said. “Friday’s incident does, however, demonstrate the need to have a diverse energy mix.”
FGP
FirstGroup (FGP) has won the franchise to run west coast intercity trains, despite opposition from its own shareholders, fears over the financial viability of its other rail operations and legal action by rival bidders. The government announced that First, the majority partner in a joint venture with the Italian state operator Trenitalia, will take over intercity services on the London-Glasgow line from December. The line, which links the capital with cities including Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool, has been run since privatisation by Virgin Rail. The First-Trenitalia bid was chosen over a Chinese consortium led by the Hong Kong operator MTR, First’s partner on South Western.  Trenitalia has been named “shadow operator” for HS2, with responsibility for introducing new services but with a caveat that it may not go ahead, depending on the outcome of reviews into the construction of the high-speed network and the shape of the entire rail industry. First-Trenitalia will pay £1.6bn in premiums to run the West Coast services – Britain’s most lucrative line – from this December until 2026, with a second phase of payments to depend on HS2. The contract could run until 2034 with an extension.
FGP
SGC
Richard Branson has said he is ‘devastated’ that Virgin Trains’ reign over the West Coast Main Line train route is coming to an end after 22 years. The Department for Transport has awarded Aberdeen-based FirstGroup (FGP) and Trenitalia UK, an arm of Italy’s main train operator, the contract to run the London-to-Glasgow rail line from 8 December. After the contract starts, more than 60% of train journeys made on British railway lines will be made using services partly owned by foreign companies, analysis has revealed. The DfT barred Virgin from bidding to keep hold of the West Coast Main Line route in April amid an ongoing pensions row. The dispute, which also led to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to award the East Midlands Railway to rival operator Abellio, prompted billionaire Branson to warn that Virgin Trains could ‘disappear’. Stagecoach Group (SGC), which owns 49% of Virgin Trains, had disagreed with the government about how to fill a huge deficit in the Railways Pension Scheme, which covers railway workers. The Pensions Regulator wanted railway companies to accept that they would need to pay more cash into the scheme in the future, but they refused and demanded the Government pay more instead.
SPD
Grant Thornton has quit as Sports Direct’s auditors, a day after the delayed publication of the retailer’s annual results. In July, Sports Direct International (SPD) delayed publishing its preliminary results until after markets closed, and then revealed it was being chased by Belgian authorities for £605million in unpaid taxes and regretted buying House of Fraser last year. In its results on Tuesday, Sports Direct said Grant Thornton had agreed to stay put in its role as the retailer’s auditor. Sports Direct now has to find a replacement auditor, which may not be entirely straightforward. In its results, the retailer, owned by billionaire Newcastle football club owner Mike Ashley, admitted that the Big Four accountancy firms, namely Deloitte, PwC, KPMG and EY, had claimed to be conflicted from carrying out auditing duties at the retailer. It said PWC had a ‘reluctance to engage due to its ownership structure’, while KPMG, EY and Deloitte said they would have conflicts due to other clients. Sports Direct has asked the Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy for clarity on the powers of the secretary of state to appoint an auditor for a public-listed company, according to the Financial Times. It is understood that the accounting watchdog, the Financial Reporting Council, is also in conversations with Sports Direct.
SPD
Sports Direct International (SPD) was thrown into fresh crisis after its auditor Grant Thornton resigned, casting doubt over the retailer’s future as a listed company if it fails to find a replacement. The auditor is understood to have told Sports Direct last night that it was severing ties after more than a decade scrutinising its finances. The news leaves Sports Direct scrambling to find a new auditor from September 11 when Grant Thornton will formally dump its obligations. The high street giant has asked the Government what the next steps are if it cannot draft in a new firm, the Financial Times reported. Business secretary Andrea Leadsom has the power to appoint an auditor to a quoted company if it fails to find one itself. However industry sources said that such a move would be “uncharted territory” and it could even lead to a de-listing if Sports Direct goes without an auditor for too long.
PRU
Prudential (PRU) will relabel its British arm as M&G Plc after completing a £7bn demerger at the end of the year. The plan will result in two separate listed businesses: M&G, comprising its UK and European savings and insurance business and its M&G fund management arm; and Prudential, which will focus on wealthy US retirees and fast-growing markets across Asia. M&G will retain the Prudential name on certain products for its five million customers in the UK and Europe. Current M&G Pru chief John Foley confirmed the split would happen in the fourth quarter of 2019, once shareholders had voted in favour of the new listing. Mr Foley said once it was independent, the business would be able to forge its own “corporate identity”.
FGP
SGC
The boss of FirstGroup (FGP) dismissed suggestions that a pending legal challenge by its rivals for the West Coast and HS2 franchise could derail his company’s contract to operate the lines. FirstGroup and its Italian partner, Trenitalia, won the right to operate Britain’s most profitable rail franchise through First Trenitalia, a 70/30 joint venture, it was revealed on Wednesday, confirming a Telegraph report in June that the pair were set to win the tender. The deal also covers the operation of the HS2 high speed railway, which is due to operate on part of the route from 2026. However, there remains doubt over whether the project will be completed, with Boris Johnson’s government currently reviewing its options. A “go or no go” decision on HS2 would be made by the end of the year, transport secretary Grant Shapps told Sky News. Judges have given train companies Virgin, Stagecoach Group (SGC) and Arriva the green light to haul former transport secretary Chris Grayling before the High Court after they were barred from bidding for rail franchises earlier this year. The companies’ bids were deemed “non-compliant” after they refused to take responsibility for billions of pounds of pension liabilities.
LOOK
The boss of car dealer Lookers (LOOK) has said the sector will face greater scrutiny by financial watchdogs as motorists increasingly rely on credit to buy their set of wheels. Earlier this year the Financial Conduct Authority announced it was investigating sales practices at Lookers, one of the country’s biggest car dealers. The news caused the company’s shares to plunge 25%, while a profit warning the following month pushed them down a further 20%. Lookers boss Andy Bruce predicted the regulatory probe could signal the beginning of much closer interest in how the car sales process operates. “The car industry is being held to a higher standard than it is used to and facing more scrutiny,” said Mr Bruce, noting that FCA had not actually started examining Lookers’ documents yet. “First the FCA looked at financial services, then moved into financial products in retail, and now the car sector – it’s inevitable.”
BBY
The boss of builder Balfour Beatty (BBY) called on Boris Johnson’s new Government to clarify its plans for HS2 and Heathrow Airport’s proposed third runway, warning that “delay and procrastination is the enemy of our industry”. Leo Quinn, who has been leading a turnaround of Balfour since 2015, said the cancellation of HS2 would be “a huge disappointment and a real setback for the whole industry”. Mr Johnson has been a vocal critic of Heathrow expansion and is reportedly considering scrapping the southern phase of HS2 amid spiralling costs. Mr Quinn said: “Keeping confidence that these projects will go ahead is paramount to ensuring we retain the capability to deliver them. We are ready and able to deliver them, we just need somebody to throw the switch.” He was speaking after Balfour reported a 26% rise in profits to £63m for the first half of the year as it continues to defy a malaise sweeping the construction industry. Balfour has bounced back from a series of setbacks that left its finances in the doldrums five years ago. The company’s strong profits allowed it to raise its dividend by a third to 2p per share. Balfour has bolstered its margins and tackled its debts by being more selective about the contracts it takes on.
AVST
Avast Software (AVST) posted a surge in profit at the start of the year as customers flocked to its anti-virus products. The Prague-based company said there had been robust demand for its virtual private network (VPN) products and anti-tracking software in the six months to the end of June. Revenue rose 5.8% to $426.8m (£353m) helping drive pre-tax profits up by 4.3% to $186m.
INTU
Intu Properties (INTU) rose 3.05p to 39.35p, in an apparent reaction to moves made by fund manager Crispin Odey, whose fund reduced its short position in the stock from 5.8% to 3.1%. Odey Asset Management’s reduction can be seen as a verdict that the landlord’s shares – which have fallen hard lately – may be close to bottoming out.
ADM
Admiral Group (ADM) boss David Stevens described the latest numbers from the UK insurer as “a bit dull”, after revealing that half-year profits held steady despite a £33m blow from an unexpected change in the Ogden rate. The Ogden discount rate is used to calculate the possible return accident victims should expect from investing their lump sum compensation payments. The higher the Ogden rate, the less insurers shell out, as it assumes better returns. Following a recent Government review, the rate rose to -0.25% from -0.75%, although this fell short of the expected range of between 0% and 1%. Admiral had pencilled in a 0pc estimate as of December 2018. Mr Stevens said: “If it’s a can’t-put-down, read-in-one-go page-turner that you’re after, then I’m afraid our half-year results don’t fit the bill. “Turnover up mid-single digits, profit up low-single digits. Hardly ‘hold the front page’,” he added.
FGP
The government’s decision to award the contract to run the west coast main line and HS2 railways to FirstGroup (FGP) could end up in the courts. The Department for Transport said yesterday that it had handed a newly created super-franchise, the West Coast Partnership, to a 70:30 consortium of First Group and Trenitalia, Italy’s government-backed operator of Frecciarossa high-speed trains. The contract is due to start in December. However, the decision by Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, to hand the operation of the most high-profile and lucrative services on the network to the struggling First Group in collaboration with the Italian state railway faced criticism in the industry.
SPD
Sports Direct International (SPD) is racing to find a new auditor before its shareholder meeting in less than four weeks’ time — and could face intervention from the government if it fails. The retailer said yesterday that Grant Thornton, its long-time auditor, had resigned, less than 24 hours after Sports Direct’s annual report had said that the accounting firm had agreed to remain and shareholders had been asked to vote on its re-election. The group could be delisted from the stock exchange if it is unable to present audited accounts next year. This is uncharted territory and accounting sources have said that the Big Four firms of EY, PWC, KPMG and Deloitte could cite concerns about governance to avoid being appointed under the financial watchdog’s international standard on auditing.
LOOK
The recession in the car showroom has badly punctured profits at one of Britain’s leading motor dealers. Lookers (LOOK) yesterday reported a 40% crash in half-year profits to £25 million, despite a near-3% rise in revenues to £2.6 billion. With no end in sight to the market uncertainty, Lookers said that it was holding its interim dividend at 1.48p. With margins plunging as rival dealers chase fewer available buyers with ever more cut-price deals, Lookers said that it, like many other businesses, also had been plagued by higher labour costs because of the rising national minimum wage, taxation through the apprenticeship levy and the expense of automatically enrolling employees into pension schemes.
PRU
Prudential (PRU) will complete its planned break-up by the end of this year, demerging its British division, severing its centuries-old relationship with the Bank of England and submitting to regulation by a supervisory body in protest-rocked Hong Kong. Britain’s biggest insurer declined to comment yesterday on the turmoil in the former British colony, other than saying that it was “carefully monitoring” the situation. However, it said for the first time that the demerger of M&G Prudential, its UK asset management and life assurance division, would take place in the fourth quarter, at which point the larger part of the Prudential business would switch to the Hong Kong Insurance Authority as its lead regulator.
ADM
The insurance group behind Confused.com has scaled back its pioneering venture in the United States, admitting that it has struggled to persuade Americans to buy insurance via price comparison websites. Admiral Group (ADM) reported continuing losses in compare.com, its American business, and said that a recent tweak to the official formula for calculating personal injury claims would cost it between £50 million and £60 million. The insurer reported a 4% improvement in pre-tax profits to £220 million for the first six months of the year and lifted its interim dividend by 5% to 63p.
BBY
Its strongest half-year results in years prompted a rally in Balfour Beatty (BBY) shares yesterday, albeit to a level barely changed from nearly five years ago, when its chief executive arrived. Leo Quinn, 62, the turnaround specialist brought in to rescue the group in 2014, admitted that he was “constantly disappointed” by the reaction of the markets to the company’s recovery. Yesterday it reported a 14% rise in pre-tax profits to £64 million in the first six months of the year on revenues a little better at £3.88 billion. Strong cash inflows took average net cash holdings to £290 million, 50% higher than the year before. Its order book stands at £13 billion and the interim dividend is being increased by 30% to 2.1p a share. Mr Quinn, former chief executive of Qinetiq, the defence technology group, and De La Rue, the banknote company, said: “When I came in, we were having to divest businesses to stop the haemorrhaging of cash. We had 89 distressed projects, there were no risk review processes and no proper leadership. When I arrived, the shares went up to 212p. We don’t appear to have moved much.”
AVST
Demand for privacy and antivirus products has helped Avast Software (AVST) to increase its revenue in the six months to the end of June, with the promise of more to come. The cybersecurity company said yesterday that it had lifted half-year revenue by 9.2% to $421.7 million, excluding discontinued businesses and disposals, and was raising its full-year sales guidance to the upper end of its “high-single-digit percentage” range. The news drove an upsurge in Avast shares, which rose by 28½p to a new high of 356p. The shares have increased by 46% since last year’s £3 billion flotation.
HOC
The cloud cast by global trade tensions offered a bright silver lining for Hochschild Mining (HOC) yesterday. Though profits fell in the first half of the year because of lower silver prices and weaker production, the company said that a potential revival in prices, driven by economic uncertainty, could lift its performance. The precious metals specialist said that six-month, pre-tax profits had fallen to $29.5 million from $54.9 million a year earlier. Production fell to 245,325 gold equivalent ounces, about 5% down from record high output in the same period a year earlier, after the company halted operations at its Arcata mine in southwestern Peru. The lower production, a 7% fall in the price of silver sold and only a 2% rise in the price of gold together resulted in revenues falling to $355 million from $372 million a year earlier.
GLEN
Glencore (GLEN) could face a backdated tax bill after losing a case to stop the Australian taxman using information that was leaked as part of the so-called Paradise Papers. Jeremy Hirschhorn, of the Australian Taxation Office, said that the case against Glencore was a win for Australia’s taxpayers, “who rightly expect [the tax office] to use all information available to ensure large corporations are paying the right amount of tax”. The Paradise Papers are a cache of millions of confidential electronic documents that revealed how wealthy individuals had exploited offshore tax havens. First details from the papers were released in 2017 and companies named in them include Apple, Facebook, Nike and Allianz.
EVR
AAL
ANTO
RIO
China reported a surprise drop in industrial output growth, rekindling fears of a slowing global economy. The figures knocked miners, as China is the world’s top metals consumer. Evraz (EVR) dropped 29p to 527½p; Anglo American (AAL) lost 75p to £17.89; Antofagasta (ANTO) fell 25p to 819¾p; and Rio Tinto (RIO) eased 56p to £40.61½. The inversion of the yield curve on UK and US government bonds for the first time since 2007, which means that short-term bonds pay more than long-term bonds, was another blow as investors worried about a possible recession. Michael Hewson, an analyst at CMC Markets, said that the data had created “a tempest in a tea pot”.
BGEO
BGEO Group (BGEO) reported a 36.9% rise in first-half profit, thanks to strong lending at its retail banking business. The London-listed lender said that a flight ban imposed by Russia could slightly reduce Georgia’s GDP growth, but was unlikely to hurt the country’s economy.
STAN
Standard Chartered (STAN) said that it planned to boost its private banking assets by 50% to $100 billion in three to five years and would hire dozens of bankers in Hong Kong and Singapore to achieve it. The bank is a small player compared with UBS and Credit Suisse in terms of private banking, which accounted for 3.8% of its pre-tax profit in the first half. Despite the announcement, the shares dropped 14¾p to 607½p, dragged down by continuing protests in Hong Kong.
TLA
TLA Worldwide (TLA) is an Aim-listed marketing and management group that represents some of the world’s top sporting stars, more than tripled its share price to over 1½p after it announced the sale of its Australian businesses to QMS Sport Holdings for A$28.2 million (£15.8 million).
MATD
Petro Matad Ltd. (MATD), an oil explorer, shot up 1¾p to 7p after it received verbal approval from the Mongolian government to resume operations on its Heron-1 well. The stock is up by 135% this year.
BME
Analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch advised investors to buy B&M European Value Retail S.A. (DI) (BME), which they said should see signs of improvement next year as its £39 million distribution centre in Bedford becomes fully operational. They estimated that the European non-apparel, general merchandise discount sector could be worth about €60 billion in the next decade, of which B&M could take €19 billion of sales.
 
AZN
Tempus – AstraZeneca (AZN): Hold. Pipeline of new medicines set to feed through to bottom line and to cut its leverage
ITV
Tempus – ITV (ITV): Avoid. Propects for new streaming service unclear amid sluggish advertising
SPD
Sports Direct International (SPD) in government talks over auditor trouble. Grant Thornton to quit next month and no other firm is willing to step in
NG.
National Grid (NG.) chief questions hospital power cuts. Problems at local network level in blackout made ‘rare’ outage more severe
FLTR
Lombard – No deal-Brexit is a risky bet for Flutter Entertainment (FLTR). Fewer horses at race meetings is real possibility under no-deal exit from the EU
AML
Lex – Aston Martin Holdings (AML): driving a hard bargain. If another cash outflow occurs, market doubts about its future will strengthen
TUI
TUI AG Reg Shs (DI) (TUI) warns Boeing 737 Max grounding to cost €300m. Travel group keeps full-year guidance unchanged despite sharp drop in quarterly earnings
AML
Hedge funds take record short positions against Aston Martin Holdings (AML). UK luxury carmaker has been struggling since it floated in October
FLTR
Flutter Entertainment (FLTR) warns of no-deal Brexit threat to horseracing. Head of Paddy Power owner signals ‘real risk’ of barriers to the free movement of thoroughbreds
BT.A
The feared American law firm that won Enron investors a record £6billion is targeting BT Group (BT.A) over its Italian accounting scandal. Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd is set to file a case against the telecoms giant within days on behalf of US shareholders, the Mail understands. The defendants named in the lawsuit include BT as well as former chief executives Gavin Patterson and Lord Livingston. The law firm is seeking to recover damages shareholders suffered when BT disclosed a massive fraud at its Italian business. The announcement two years ago – and an accompanying £530million writedown – sent the shares crashing by a fifth and wiped almost £8billion off its market value. BT accused staff and bosses at the foreign division of cooking the books to artificially inflate earnings, behind the backs of UK bosses. But the lawsuit brought on behalf of US investors takes aim at BT executives in London as well. It disputes claims they were ‘kept in the dark’ about problems in Italy and accuses them of withholding crucial information from the market.
BUR
The under-fire bosses of Burford Capital (BUR) scooped almost £120million selling shares last year – 15 times the amount they have since spent buying stock back as they attempt to shore up investor confidence. Chief executive Chris Bogart sold 4.4million shares for £59.4million in March 2018, while chief investment officer Jonathan Molot raked in £57.8million, offloading 4.3million shares. The American pair were still left with stakes worth £117million and £115million respectively, underlining the fortunes they have made since founding the litigation funding firm a decade ago. Having listed at 100p each in 2009, the shares peaked at 2045p in August last year, just months after Bogart and Molet sold a third of their stakes at 1350p a share. But the shares tumbled 56% in just two days last week following an attack from US hedge fund Muddy Waters. Bogart, who is married to Burford’s finance director Elizabeth O’Connell, and Molot have taken advantage of the rout to buy up stock, paying between 663p and 856p a share.
SPD
Sports Direct International (SPD) boss Mike Ashley has handed his future son-in-law another £5.35million for his work at the business. Michael Murray is engaged to Anna, Ashley’s eldest daughter, and was paid through his firm MM Prop Consultancy. It comes after the 29-year-old was tasked with delivering Ashley’s ‘elevation’ strategy, which involves taking its stores upmarket to attract luxury brands. Sports Direct’s annual report yesterday said Murray had been providing ‘property consultancy services’, with his payout linked to how many new stores he was able to find and negotiate the purchases of. It follows a £5.2million windfall the previous year. His largesse stood in stark contrast to cash meted out to other key figures at Sports Direct.
BUR
Muddy Waters has called on the City watchdog to beef up scrutiny of Burford Capital (BUR). In an effort to turn the spotlight away from itself, the hedge fund handed its 25-page dossier to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), urging it to seize internal emails from Burford. It came a day after Burford contacted the FCA after uncovering alleged ‘illegal market manipulation’ since a report by Muddy Waters prompted a fall in its shares last week. Muddy Waters said suggestions it manipulated the share price were false. ‘You, Burford, help drown the courts in more litigation, which is not something the world needs more of,’ said Muddy Waters. ‘We are happy to take a moral – and legal – purity test against you.’ The hedge fund wants the FCA to investigate whether Burford’s management used non-standard accounting to mislead investors.
COB
Andrea Leadsom has been urged to intervene in the £4billion takeover of defence group Cobham (COB) to protect the UK’s national interests. In a letter to the new Business Secretary, Liberal Democrat MP Chuka Umunna said that the company provided vital capabilities to the armed forces. Umunna, who is his party’s business spokesman, described Cobham as one of the jewels in the crown of UK industry but claimed it was being ‘sold on the cheap’. His intervention is the latest sign of growing opposition to a bid by American buyout firm Advent International to take the British company private. Critics, including the Cobham family, say the deal could cause jobs and expertise to be lost from the UK’s defence industry. Umunna claimed the takeover also risked loading Cobham with ‘excessive’ debt.
TUI
MNZS
The grounding of Boeing’s 737 Max jets has rocked profits at holiday firm TUI AG Reg Shs (DI) (TUI) and aviation services group Menzies(John) (MNZS). Tui has estimated the crisis will cost it as much as £278million between March and September. And John Menzies said it was a factor that pushed it into the red. Boeing’s worldwide fleet of 737 Max planes, its fastest-selling aircraft, were temporarily taken out of service in March following the second of two deadly crashes that killed 346 people. Tui, Europe’s biggest holiday company, has racked up costs from disruption to flight schedules, leasing replacement planes and hiring extra crew members.  Tui chief executive Fritz Joussen said: ‘It’s a critical situation, with the jet on the ground now for almost five months. It’s a lot of stress.’ Its loss widened from £108million to £299million, even though sales rose 2.4 per cent to £10.6billion in the nine months to June 30. It also said the fall in the value of the pound was putting people off booking holidays abroad. John Menzies plunged into the red in the six months to June 30, posting a £4.4million loss compared with a profit of £8.3million in the same period of the year before. Chief executive Giles Wilson also said airlines were failing to fly to their stated schedules, a fact compounded by the grounding of Boeing 737 Max craft.
NXT
A No Deal Brexit would create ‘mild disruption’ at best because of the preparations being made by Boris Johnson’s Government, The boss of High Street giant Next (NXT) claimed. Chief executive Lord Wolfson of Aspley Guise said he will be ‘much less frightened’ of the UK leaving the EU without a deal if the Government is well prepared – and he has ‘every indication’ they are now taking it seriously under the new Prime Minister. The peer has updated his position because of the change in political leadership, having warned in December that No Deal could lead to ‘chaos and disorder’, especially at the UK’s ports. He was sharply critical today of the no-deal planning by Theresa May’s administration, insisting there was ‘almost a wilful attempt’ to not prepare as they did not want to admit it could happen. The Conservative peer, a prominent Leave campaigner, said the required level of confidence, energy and vigour ‘certainly wasn’t’ in Mrs May’s Government.
AML
Aston Martin Holdings (AML) should be more like its arch-rival Porsche. That’s what analysts at Credit Suisse have said about the car maker. They warn that it is too dependent on the UK and would improve if it had a better spread of sales across the world – like those of its more diversified German peer. Turning sour on the company behind James Bond’s favourite marque, Credit Suisse downgraded its rating to ‘neutral’ from ‘outperform’ after a recent profit warning and slashed the target price on its stock by more than two-thirds to 529p.  That made grim reading for a firm that floated at 1900p ten months ago and has only seen its value crumble since then. Added to this, the Financial Times reported hedge funds have taken record short positions in the company by buying up its debt.
PLUS
Plus500 Ltd (DI) (PLUS) investors were able to see past the fact that it reported a more-than 80% plunge in pre-tax profit, coming in at £53million, and a 68% fall in sales to £123million between January and June. Shareholders instead focused on a slew of more positive updates, including Plus 500 sticking to its guidance for the full year, adding new customers, revealing plans to hand more cash back to shareholders and to buy back up to £41million worth of shares.
CARD
Card Factory (CARD) rang up higher half-year sales despite a weaker Father’s Day quarter as fewer customers hit the high street. Like-for-like sales rose 1.5% in the six months to July 31. It has taken extra costs for stockpiling ahead of the October 31 Brexit deadline as it puts in place contingency plans. It did not give details on stockbuilding, but said in April that it had bought in extra goods amid concerns over ports disruption.
SXX
Sirius Minerals (SXX) jumped 1.38p, to 9.5p in an impressive rebound. It had dipped after it said it would delay fundraising a £415million bond because it is worried the market isn’t trading well enough. The share price leap could show that investors are more optimistic that the bond raise will be successful – building its mammoth mine in Yorkshire is contingent on raising the funds, after all.
MER
Revenue at housing and care services specialist Mears Group (MER) was boosted by its acquisition of Mitie’s social housing arm, MPS, in November for £35million. Its turnover rose 10 per cent to £481million, while pre-tax profit fell 3 per cent compared with the same period last year, coming in at £12.5million.
TUI
MNZS
The grounding of Boeing’s 737 Max airliner in the wake of two fatal crashes continues to send shockwaves through the sector, with holiday company TUI AG Reg Shs (DI) (TUI) and aviation services group Menzies(John) (MNZS) warning of hits to their business as a result. TUI said not being able to fly the 737 Max meant it would run up a €300m (£278m) bill in the year to the end of September, as it totted up the cost of disruption to flight schedules, charters of replacement aircraft, additional crew and higher fuel bills. “It’s a critical situation, with the jet on the ground now for almost five months. It’s a lot of stress,” said TUI chief executive Fritz Joussen, adding that leasing planes is “very, very expensive” and the fuel bill was higher. John Menzies swung to a £4.4m loss for the first half of the year against a profit of £8.3m a year ago. Revenue rose 3.6% to £650m. Giles Wilson, chief executive, said a combination of the loss of contracts last year, weak cargo volumes and the grounding of the 737 Max drove John Menzies into the red. “Cargo volumes and yields have been weak and we are seeing a number of airlines failing to fly their stated schedules further compounded by the grounding of Boeing 737 Max,” Mr Wilson said. He added that “well-documented weaker markets across the wider aviation sector” were multiplying John Menzies’ woes. It has a launched an efficiency drive to save £10m a year, having warned on profits last month.
AML
After floating at a price of £19 per share target last October, Aston Martin Holdings (AML), the luxury carmaker has been stuck in the kind of speedy reverse that 007 would employ to avoid a roadblock. Investors might be hoping Aston Martin shares have found a spot to park. Unfortunately Credit Suisse analysts have slashed its target price to a third of the previous value, down from £16.30 to 529p. They wrote: “If the economic environment deteriorates further, a capital increase might be needed to deleverage the balance sheet.” The analysts added: “We believe that the growth pattern and the levels of profitability and vertical integration make it difficult to clearly characterise [Aston Martin] as a luxury goods company or car producer.” This is, to say the very least, not a great look for a company that is desperate to convince the world it is both. Panmure analyst Sanjay Jha thinks the company is worth even less and has set a target price of 327p, down from 543p — which would mean the struggling car firm’s share price falling by another third.
RR.
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) managed to shrug off a downgrade by Moody’s to end the day flat. The ratings agency cut the rating on Rolls’s long-term debt from Baa1 to A3, just three notches about “junk” status, with the outlook classed as stable from the previous negative. The downgrade came just days after an airliner taking off from Rome had to make an emergency landing when parts appeared to fall from its engine, a Rolls Trent 1000.
 
BUR
Muddy Waters, the US short seller behind the “bear attack” on Burford Capital (BUR), has dismissed the litigation funder’s response as “nothing more than distraction and thin excuses”. The San Francisco-based firm sought to regain the upper hand in a high-stakes spat that has left Burford’s shareholders nursing more than £1bn in losses and has descended into a daily exchange of verbal blows. “Leave it to former trial lawyers to talk so much, and yet say so little,” said Muddy Waters in a disparaging note hitting back after Burford’s claim on Monday that it had uncovered behaviour “consistent with illegal market manipulation”. The short seller went on the offensive a day after the City watchdog confirmed it was making “wide-ranging enquiries” into the saga, which began with a cryptic tweet from the short seller last Tuesday. The firm, led by former lawyer Carson Block, said it welcomed scrutiny from the Financial Conduct Authority, that it had “nothing to hide” and “stands ready to assist… in any inquiry”.
PLUS
Plus500 Ltd (DI) (PLUS) shrugged off fears over a potential crackdown in Australia as it battles rule changes aimed at protecting punters from running up huge losses. New powers given to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) are similar to those already held by European regulators, allowing them to tackle abuses in the sale and marketing of a range of financial products. One City analyst said sales at Plus500 could drop up to 6% if tighter rules were enforced Down Under, although it was unlikely to affect results for this year. Plus500 chief executive Asaf Elimelech said he “definitely” expected rules in Australia to change although he would not comment on when. “We are constantly assessing the potential impact of the regulatory landscape and are preparing ourselves for any event if it may come,” said Mr Elimelech. “There will most likely be a hit on the revenues, and maybe that’s up to 6% in the long term, but it will depend on the level of the restriction.”
CARD
Card Factory (CARD) has bucked the decline on the high street with rising sales and the promise of a special dividend for its shareholders. The company chalked up growth despite what it called a “challenging consumer environment”. Like-for-like sales in its shops open for more than year grew 1.2% in the six months to July, reversing a 0.7% slump in the same period of 2018. Total sales grew 5.5%, also an acceleration on last year. Unlike many of its peers, the company is opening new stores at pace, with 26 net new shops added to its estate this year so far. Card Factory teased the “return of surplus cash to shareholders” in 2020, with the amount expected to be announced next month when it reports its full interim results. The retailer was helped by a “successful Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day”, but reported a weaker performance on Father’s Day as footfall softened in the second quarter.
NXT
Next (NXT) boss Lord Simon Wolfson has said that no-deal contingency planning by Boris Johnson’s government means the UK will not suffer disorder and chaos if it fails to secure a Brexit deal with the EU. “We are a long way from disorder and chaos,” Lord Wolfson told the BBC, saying that no-deal planning meant the economy was better prepared for no-deal. “I think the encouraging thing is that we are rapidly moving from the disorder and chaos camp to the well-prepared camp.” He said that Next had moved all of its imports and exports out of Calais to other ports. However, he admitted that there was a risk that smaller companies that had not prepared for Brexit could cause major knock-on problems for other businesses at ports and other bottlenecks by getting in the way of those that were prepared. In such a scenario those smaller traders should be moved out of the way, he said.
CARD
Father’s Day failed to deliver the same boost as Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day for Card Factory (CARD) this year, the greeting cards retailer revealed alongside a rise in half-year sales. Sales at Card Factory rose by 5.5% in the six months to the end of July. Like-for-like sales rose by 1.5%. Despite other retailers closing shops as they battle rising business rates and the move of shoppers online, Card Factory plans to open 50 stores this year. The retailer said that its second-quarter performance had been “a little weaker in the season of Father’s Day, impacted by footfall”. Analysts at Investec said they estimated that this had knocked like-for-like sales to 0.7% in the second quarter.
BUR
The American short-seller targeting Burford Capital (BUR) has stepped up its campaign by issuing a second critical report on the litigation finance company and calling on the City regulator to launch a formal investigation. Muddy Waters said: “We believe that management’s conduct has possibly given rise to sanctions claims by the FCA. “Muddy Waters stands ready to assist the FCA in any inquiry and, as has been the case for the past nine years of our short activism, we have nothing to hide regarding our own actions.” Responding more fully to Burford’s counter-allegations, Muddy Waters said that the response had done nothing to dispel its view that Burford “aggressively marks its cases up to generate non-cash profits”, manipulates its return on investment metrics, “deliberately confuses investors about the extent of its fair value gains in each period, and has a fragile balance sheet with too much leverage, particularly given the excessive costs the business runs”. It claims that Burford has been expanding its portfolio because it has “so aggressively taken fair value gains that sap the business of future earnings power, and it therefore needs to add litigation assets to the balance sheet in order to take more fair value gains. In this way, we also see Burford as possessing the same illness that, in our view, brought Enron and Noble Group down.”
SPD
Sports Direct International (SPD) plans to extend its audit contract with Grant Thornton for at least another year, despite tensions over a €674 million tax claim. The publication of delayed Sports Direct’s annual results was further postponed for ten hours last month after the retailer said that it had discovered the tax demand from authorities in Belgium only at the “eleventh hour”. This led to reports of a row between Grant Thornton and Sports Direct. The retailer confirmed in its annual report yesterday that Grant Thornton had agreed to remain as its auditor and that shareholders would be asked to vote in favour of the move at its annual meeting.
NG.
National Grid (NG.) will need to pay for more batteries and gas engines that can compensate for sudden drops in electricity supplies to prevent further blackouts, according to experts. Aurora Energy Research, a consultancy, said that National Grid appeared to have had “insufficient flexible capacity” to cope with the sharp drop in supplies on Friday. The Little Barford gas plant and Hornsea offshore wind farm both disconnected from the grid, removing 1.4 gigawatts, or about 5% of supplies, shortly before 5pm. This caused a significant drop in frequency below the minimum 49.5Hz level that National Grid is required to maintain to ensure stable supplies, resulting in power cuts affecting a million homes, some train networks and a hospital. National Grid, which is responsible for keeping the lights on, is investigating the causes of the blackouts. It is understood also to be examining lightning strikes that affected the grid near Little Barford.
TUI
Europe’s biggest travel company reported a near-50% fall in underlying third-quarter earnings yesterday, but added that recent booking levels had improved and that it remained “in very good shape”. TUI AG Reg Shs (DI) (TUI), which has sought to distance itself from the travails of Thomas Cook, its closest rival, said that the grounding of its Boeing 737 Max fleet of passenger aircraft had taken a €144 million bite out of its profits, while customers had delayed booking their summer holidays. However, Fritz Joussen, its chief executive, pointed to improved booking levels in the third quarter. The 3% decline reported in the first half had narrowed to 1%, with average prices up 1%.
PLUS
Profits have plunged at a financial betting company in the wake of a regulatory crackdown and a lull in markets that deterred traders from placing wagers. Plus500 Ltd (DI) (PLUS) yesterday reported an 82 per cent slump in first-half pre-tax profits in the six months to the end of June, to $63.9 million from $346.4 million a year earlier, while revenues fell by 68 per cent to $148 million. It follows the introduction a year ago of tighter rules on financial betting by the European Securities and Markets Authority. Asaf Elimelech, 38, Plus500’s chief executive, said: “The group performed well during what was a difficult period for the industry. Financial markets from February 2019 to April 2019 were very stable, providing a limited number of trading opportunities for customers.”
NXT
A no-deal Brexit would not lead to disorder and chaos, the chief executive of Next (NXT) has claimed after being encouraged by Boris Johnson’s contingency planning. Lord Wolfson of Aspley Guise said that the worst outcome of no-deal would be “mild disruption” because the new government had simplified customs and border procedures, which made the chance of hold-ups at ports far less likely. The Eurosceptic boss previously has warned that a no-deal Brexit would bring “chaos and disorder” and higher prices. However, yesterday he told BBC Radio 4’s Today that while he would still prefer a deal before the deadline of October 31, he was “much less frightened by no-deal if the government is prepared and there is every indication it’s taking it more seriously. I think the encouraging thing is that we are rapidly moving from the disorder and chaos camp to the well-prepared camp . . . The fact that HM Revenue & Customs has introduced these transition methods will make an enormous difference.”
MNZS
Sluggish cargo volumes and disruption to flight schedules caused by the grounding of Boeing 737 Max aircraft has led to Menzies(John) (MNZS) reporting a loss for the first half of the year. The aviation company said that it had taken cost-saving measures and had restructured commercial operations to offset market conditions. Menzies has said previously that its cargo volumes had a slow start this year. Yesterday it said that the market remained challenging amid declining British exports and poor ecommerce performance in the United States. Conditions in South Africa and Australia were said to have improved. In March the Boeing 737 Max aircraft were grounded, which Menzies said had disrupted flight schedules. Giles Wilson, 45, chief executive, pointed to contract wins, such as the renewal of its largest global cargo deal with Cathay Pacific in Australia and New Zealand. He added that an efficiency scheme should lead to £10 million in savings.
COB
The government faces fresh calls to intervene in the £4 billion takeover of Cobham (COB) by an American private equity firm amid concerns that ministers have “abandoned” the British aerospace and defence company. Chuka Umunna, the Liberal Democrat MP, has written to Andrea Leadsom, the business secretary, to ask her whether the government is assessing the national security implications of the sale of the company to Advent. It comes after the founding family of Cobham wrote to the government this month to raise concerns the deal was not in the “national interest”. Silchester International Investors, Cobham’s biggest shareholder with a stake of more than 11%, has also criticised Advent’s 165p-a-share cash offer as being too low.
POLY
Buying rivals is doing a good job of hiding the real state of Britain’s stop-start construction market, latest figures from a leading supplier to the industry suggest. Polymetal International (POLY) reported an 8% rise in profits for the first half of the year on revenues up 6%. However, stripping out the impact of acquisitions, like-for-like revenues from housebuilding were up by only 0.8%. After price rises were stripped out, volumes in the residential market were down by 2.2%. In the commercial building sector and infrastructure projects, Polypipe said that comparable growth figures were only 1.1% year-on-year. Martin Payne, chief executive, admitted that Polypipe was not expecting any upturn through the scheduled Brexit date of October 31 to the end of the year.
AML
Aston Martin Holdings (AML) skidded after hedge funds took record short positions in the company’s debt and equity. A profit warning last month, which the luxury carmaker blamed on falling sales in Britain and Europe as well as on wider economic uncertainty, also led analysts at Credit Suisse to downgrade their rating and to slash their price target by more than two thirds to 529p. Shares in Aston Martin on loan exceed 8%, compared with about 5% at the start of the year, in an indication of short positions against it, the Financial Times reported.
JE.
Investors ordered a delivery of Just Eat (JE.) after Deliveroo, its rival, said that it was pulling out of the German market to focus on other European and Asian areas. Analysts at ING said that this was good news for Takeaway.com, the Dutch group that hopes to merge with Just Eat to create the world’s biggest takeaway group outside China. Analysts at Deutsche Bank raised their price target for Just Eat from 690p to 750p.
RR.
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) took another dive in morning trading after Moody’s, the credit rating agency, downgraded its rating of the aerospace engineer, citing “unsustainable” expected working capital gains. The shares were already in reverse after molten shards of one of its Trent 1000 engines rained down over Rome from a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
VOD
Fitch downgraded Vodafone Group (VOD), noting that foreign exchange effects, the sale of its Qatar business and competition in Italy and Spain from Iliad, a new rival, put pressure on the FTSE 100 group’s annual earnings. However, Fitch expects the pace of decline to slow in the next year before reversing to mild growth in 2021.
OEX
Oilex Ltd. (OEX) nearly doubled after it requested a halt in the trading of its shares on the Australian Stock Exchange over a proposed acquisition. The company then issued more than 257 million shares on Aim to raise capital.
TRT
Transense Technologies (TRT), a sensor systems producer whose technology measures the torque, temperature and pressure of industrial tyres, added 9½p to 70½p after it announced a collaboration with Bridgestone, one of the world’s largest tyre manufacturers.
HAT
Macroeconomic uncertainty has created a golden opportunity for Britain’s biggest pawnbroker. H&T Group (HAT) said that its pre-tax profit had risen by 7.9% to £6.8 million in the half-year to June, with revenue rising from £68.5 million to £70 million. Customers use pawnbrokers by handing over personal items, often jewellery, to secure short-term loans. Typically H&T charges between 8% and 9% a month on cash loans and if the customer fails to repay after an allocated time, the items are sold. John Nichols, chief executive, said that the robust gold price was good for business, noting that it had increased by 5.4% from £958 per troy ounce in the first half of last year to £1,010 per troy ounce in the first half of this year. Supposedly a safe haven, the yellow metal attracts investors in times of turmoil and is at a six-year high. “The demand for small-sum, short-term cash loans remains strong,” it said in a statement.
Tempus – Watches of Switzerland (WOSG): Hold. Good growth potential in a resilient corner of the retail market but risks remain
JPJ
Tempus – Jackpotjoy (JPJ): Buy. Well-run company with strong cashflow set to return to growth in the UK