Press | Vox Markets
MYSL
MySale shares plunge by more than 50% after profits warning. £29m wiped off paper value of flash-sale site part-owned by Philip Green and Mike Ashley. Mysale Group (MYSL), the online flash-sale retailer part-owned by retail tycoons Sir Philip Green and Mike Ashley, issued an unexpected profits warning on Tuesday, prompting a plunge in the shares that wiped out half the company’s market value. In an unscheduled trading update, MySale said it expected revenue and profits for the year to 30 June 2019 to be significantly below market expectations, blaming “challenging conditions” in the run-up to Christmas. Shares in the Australia-focused but UK-listed firm plunged by 54% to 17.9p, wiping £29m off the value of the company.
WPP
WPP advertising group to cut 3,500 jobs in £300m restructuring. Firm to shut or merge almost 200 offices worldwide months after Martin Sorrell’s exit. WPP (WPP) is to cut 3,500 jobs worldwide and shut or merge almost 200 offices as the embattled advertising group seeks to restructure after a torrid year that included the exit of its founder and chief executive, Sir Martin Sorrell. The restructuring, which will be revealed in full at a lengthy analyst and investor presentation on Tuesday, will include shutting 80 offices globally and combining operations of a further 100 in locations where business is slow. The company is to cut 3,500 of its 134,000 global workforce but would not say how many roles or offices would be affected in the UK. It has 400 ad businesses in more than 3,000 offices in 112 countries.
SDRY
Co-founder takes a swipe at Superdry (SDRY) business model. Julian Dunkerton steps up campaign to return to fashion retailer he quit this year. The Superdry co-founder Julian Dunkerton has stepped up his campaign to return to the fashion retailer by voicing his concerns over the company’s direction in a City stockbroker note. In an unusual intervention, Dunkerton criticised the firm’s business model in comments to the Liberum analyst Wayne Brown, a former head of investor relations at Superdry. The retail entrepreneur states in the Liberum note that he quit the company’s board in March because he could not “put his name to the strategy”. Dunkerton told Liberum: “The interaction between stores and the internet is going to be so fundamental to the future of retail. Consumers have adopted the internet and, by doing so, have moved away from the limitations of the high street and towards a world of unlimited choice. The premise here is if one does not participate in this world you will get left behind.”
Interserve in financial rescue talks with creditors. Shares plunge more than 70% as government contractor tries to avoid fate of Carillion
JUST
Just Group (JUST)/equity release: the burden of roof. Shares leap 20% on welcome news from regulator but lender needs to diversify
JUST
Just Group (JUST) jumps as PRA softens equity release stance, Insurer welcomes greater clarity on changes to accounting rules
BA.
Small businesses to receive boost from BAE Systems (BA.) pension fund. Lending programme with ThinCats aims to transform the way SMEs get financing
MYSL
Online retailer Mysale Group (MYSL) saw more than half of its value wiped off today after it warned it will make a loss in the first half of its financial year due to changes to tax sales regulation in Australia, its largest market. Mysale – which operates flash-sales websites selling clothes, beauty and homeware products also in the UK, New Zealand and South East Asia – said it expects to make an underlying loss in the first half to December. It also warned sales and profits would come in ‘significantly below’ market expectations for the full-year to the end of June 2019. Shares in MySale fell by over 53% to 16p in morning trading.
WPP
WPP (WPP) is cutting 3,500 jobs across the world as it looks to close some offices and remove some job roles that overlap across its agencies. It comes as new chief executive Mark Read, who recently replaced founder Martin Sorrell, announced the advertising group is going to slash costs by £275million over the next three years in a bid to return to growth. The 3,500 job cuts but will be partially offset by adding 1,000 in key locations such as New York, according to Reuters.
Average earnings are rising at the fastest level in a decade at 3.3%, new figures on the jobs market revealed today. Average earnings were up by 3.3% in the year to October – an improvement from 3.1% in September. It is highest figure since 2008 and beats the current inflation figure of 2.4%. Employment is also up by another 79,000 to a record high of 32.4million people, according to the Office for National Statistics report. Those out of work was also up, by 20,000, though unemployment rate is still lower than a year ago at 1.38million. The UK’s jobless rate is now 4.1%
CPR
Carpetright (CPR) shares, which have been in the doldrums since the firm unveiled a radical store closure plan last April, spiked by more than 9% in early trading today. The minor rebound came as the flooring stalwart revealed hefty losses relating to the closure of 65 shops, but reassured investors with signs of green shoots. Carpetright racked up losses of £11.7 million in the six months to the end of October, compared with a small profit a year ago, while sales declined 15.7 per cent to £191million.
IRV
Lloyds Banking Group’s chairman has been dragged into the crisis at Interserve (IRV), having led the ailing outsourcer for a decade. With fears mounting that the service support and construction group could follow Carillion into oblivion, the spotlight has turned on the company’s former and current decision-makers – including Lord Blackwell. Analysts said the seeds of the crisis were sown years ago when bosses embarked on a dangerous expansion plan. The aggressive push for growth – and a disastrous move into the energy-from-waste sector – was spearheaded by then chairman Blackwell, chairman of Lloyds, and chief executive Adrian Ringrose. Having made millions during their time at Interserve, Blackwell left in 2016 and Ringrose in 2017 following a collapse in the share price.
TED
Ted Baker (TED) chairman told to quit for failing to take action over claims chief exec harassed staff. Ted Baker’s chairman is facing calls to resign as the fashion chain reels from allegations of harassment against its chief executive. David Bernstein, 75, is under pressure to step down having failed to take action over claims that founder and boss Ray Kelvin massaged, kissed, hugged or inappropriately touched members of staff. Bernstein has been on the fashion chain’s board since 2003 and became chairman in 2013.
CARR
One might think that the worlds of agricultural feed blocks and nuclear engineering make very unlikely bedfellows, but Carr’s Group (CARR) seems to prove that the two can sit comfortably together in a business that looks to be growing well. Carr’s traces its roots back 150 years to a bakery business that diversified into flour milling and animal feed manufacture and, as a result, grew to include an engineering side to service its mills and a transport side to deal with distribution. The bakery business provides a lasting legacy through the Carr’s Water Biscuits name, savoury crackers of note, although the company disposed of that business in 1964 and all of its remaining food operations in 2016, having dropped the Carr’s Milling name a year earlier.
BOWL
Hollywood Bowl has announced a special dividend for the second consecutive year as it booked record profits and revenues. The UK’s largest 10-pin bowling operator said it will hand investors a special dividend of 4.33p per share on top of the ordinary dividend for the year, returning a total of £15.9million to shareholders. Shares in Hollywood Bowl Group (BOWL), which listed on the London stock exchange in 2016 at 160p, rose 9.2% to 200.5p in morning trading.
SDRY
Superdry slump sparks call for a rethink as founder Julian Dunkerton slams management for ‘halting innovation’. Superdry (SDRY) is under pressure to rethink its strategy with concerns about its performance growing. The fashion retailer is expected to post an £8million drop in half-year profits to £17million tomorrow. The figures come amid a row between management and Superdry founder Julian Dunkerton, who is eyeing a return to the business. The group has blamed a lack of cold weather for poor sales of its coats and jumpers which account for almost half of annual turnover.
JUST
Equity release rule change sees Just Group shares soar 19% as Bank of England deals the firm a good hand. Investors in Just Group (JUST) breathed a sigh of relief today after it emerged that new rules around lifetime mortgages will hurt the pensions provider and equity release specialist far less than feared. Shares rose by as much as 27% to 101p in early trading after the Bank of England’s Prudential Regulatory Authority published its new rules. They closed the day up 19%, or 15.65p, at 97.75p. Just Group said the rules are ‘considerably less onerous’ than those set out in a consultation paper earlier this year.
AVCT
Pharmaceuticals business Avacta Group (AVCT) has shot up on signing a deal with the life sciences branch of LG Group, worth up to £143million. Avacta is developing an alternative to vaccines, which don’t rely on antibodies and the immune system’s response to them. It has signed a development partnership and licence agreement with LG Chem, but did not reveal what diseases it would be targeting. Avacta’s shares rose by 31.5%, or 7.3p, to 30.5p.
PHTM
Photo-Me International (PHTM) wasn’t looking so healthy. Revenue for the six months ending in October fell 2% compared with last year to £119.8million, while profit before tax plunged 21% to £26million. There were some rays of light for Photo-Me. Operations in Japan recovered faster than expected after a tricky period, while the roll-out of its Revolution outdoor self-service washing machines helped revenue in that division climb 28.5%. But it blamed slow activity in its UK business-to-business arm for dragging down profits, saying there had been a lag in the number of large orders placed by firms buying its equipment.
IRV
KIE
In another terrible day for outsourcers, as Interserve (IRV) plunged 53.1%, or 13p, to 11.5p on revealing its rescue plan, Kier Group (KIE) continued to slide lower. Kier told investors last week it was planning to reduce its debt by offering them new shares to buy, since banks had become less willing to lend to the sector following the collapse of Carillion. These shares will be sold at 409p, and banks and brokers including Numis, Peel Hunt, Citigroup, HSBC and Santander promised that if they couldn’t find investors to buy all the shares, they would buy the excess themselves. Since Kier’s share price is significantly lower than the 409p offer price, down 1.5%, or 5.6p, at 376.4p yesterday, it looks like the banks may have to stump up. Investors aren’t likely to buy the new shares for 409p when they can buy existing ones for just over 376p. The offer for the new shares closes next Wednesday, so Kier still has a little time to start climbing again.
MKS
Justin King, the former Sainsbury’s boss, is to return to Marks & Spencer Group (MKS) as a non-executive director as the struggling retailer beefs up its board. Mr King was credited with reviving Sainsbury’s during his decade-long rein at the supermarket between 2004 and 2014 by turning it from a retailer that struggled with empty shelves to spearheading its lucrative push into the convenience market, notching up nine years of sales increases. He previously ran Marks & Spencer’s food division and set up its Simply Food chains, which until recently had remained the biggest growth driver for the retailer.
WPP
WPP (WPP) will cut 3,500 jobs and shut dozens of offices in an attempt by new chief executive Mark Read to steady the advertising giant after a torrid two years marked a bitter parting with the architect of its sprawling empire, Sir Martin Sorrell. Mr Read said the overhaul would cut costs by £275m by 2021 and restore sales growth. About 80 WPP offices worldwide have been earmarked for closure, with a further 100 agencies due to share accommodation. “The old WPP was in structural decline,” he said. “The new WPP will not be.” Half the savings will be reinvested, including hiring 1,000 new staff to reinvigorate the creative side of its business and push further into technology.
CPR
Carpetright (CPR) losses have widened dramatically as the embattled retailer has been hurt by weak consumer demand and the whiplash of a rescue plan that has closed dozens of stores. The company said that it had been a “transitional year” as it reported that pre-tax losses had ballooned to £11.7m in the 26 weeks to Oct 30, compared to losses of £0.6m a year earlier. Sales tumbled 15.7pc to £191m after the retailer shut 65 stores during the period. The company said that like-for-like sales had improved from a 16.8pc slump in the first quarter to an 8.9% drop as the company repaired some of the damage to its reputation caused from its restructuring. Suppliers withdrew their product and consumers shunned the brand while there was “negative sentiment” associated with its company voluntary arrangement (CVA), it said.
MYSL
Mysale Group (MYSL), the Australian online retailer backed by retail tycoons Mike Ashley and Phillip Green, lost half its market value as the fashion seller issued a profit warning amid “challenging” market conditions.
Carl Jackson, chief executive, said he was “very disappointed” with the performance after the company said that revenue and profit for the year to June 2019, would be “significantly” below market expectations
The Aim-listed retailer also said that it swung into a loss before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation in the first half of the year, though it expected an improvement in the second half.
Shares in the company fell more than 50pc to 16p in afternoon trading. Its market cap fell to £25m.
Crossrail delayed indefinitely as bosses warn it could require £1.7bn injection. The crisis-hit Crossrail project has been delayed indefinitely as bosses warn that the project could require an extra £1.7bn funding injection, according to transport executives and politicians. The flagship new Elizabeth Line that will run east-west through London was originally due to open this month. Now the company has admitted it does not know when it will open. “It has now become clear that more work is required than had been envisaged to complete the infrastructure and then commence the extensive testing necessary to ensure the railway opens safely and reliably,” Crossrail said in a statement.
IRV
Shares in outsourcer Interserve (IRV) plunge after confirming plan to hand control to lenders. Crisis-hit outsourcer Interserve saw the value of its shares cut in half on Monday after revealing plans for a deal with its lenders that could leave its current investors’ stakes all but wiped out. The company, which builds schools, cleans prisons and maintains roads, said it was in talks with creditors including HSBC and RBS about a possible debt-for-equity swap to tackle its ballooning debt pile which is expected to grow as high as £650m by the end of the year. It hopes to cut its leverage to 1.5 times pre-tax earnings in a move that “could result in material dilution for current Interserve shareholders”. Cenkos analyst Kevin Cammack said the figures implied Interserve would need to create new shares worth as much as £500m, dwarfing its current stock market value of around £17m.
IRV
CPI
MTO
KIE
Interserve (IRV) scrambles for survival in the shadow of Carillion. Since the dramatic collapse of Government contractor Carillion 11 months ago, the question on the City’s lips has been: “Who will be next?” Outsourcers have had a rough time over the past few years, competing fiercely for contracts on tiny margins and racking up big debt piles that have forced several of them to tap shareholders for more cash. Some thought Capita (CPI), the “white collar” contractor that runs recruitment for the British Army and IT networks for a number of Whitehall departments, was done for. Others turned their attention to facilities management specialist Mitie Group (MTO) and  construction contractor Kier Group (KIE). But it has now become clear that Interserve, which cleans hospitals, feeds prisoners and builds roads, is the most in peril.
BOWL
Shares in Hollywood Bowl Group (BOWL) were on a roll after the bowling alley operator announced a special year-end dividend for the second consecutive year. Pre-tax profits rose 12% to £24.9m in the year ending September 30 after a 5.8% rise in sales to £120m sending stock jumping 26.50p to 210.0p on the back of the news. The company, which is the largest bowling alley chain in the UK, proposed a special dividend of 4.33p per share, 30% higher than last year’s special dividend, while the final dividend was raised 7.1% to 4.23p. Chief executive Steve Burns, said that while the company was “mindful” about the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, Hollywood Bowl offered a “low-cost experience which is less likely to be impacted by any squeeze to consumer spending”.
CNA
Shares in electricity and gas supplier Centrica (CNA) dipped 4.58%, or 6.40p, to 133.20p following a report that suggested the firm might find it difficult to maintain its dividend policy. In a review of European utilities, Deutsche Bank downgraded its rating for the British Gas owner from ‘buy’ to ‘hold’ and reduced its target price to 115p from 135p. Last month the company confirmed it had lost an additional 370,000 customers at its residential supply division in the four months to October.
WGB
Questor: this wallpaper firm has had two thirds stripped from its share price and is now a buy. A series of mishaps has sent shares in Walker Greenbank (WGB) to a valuation of just seven times earnings, so there is plenty of scope for gains
Treasury’s Brexit analysis is overly optimistic, warn MPs. Parliament cannot rely on the Treasury’s analysis of the economic impact of leaving the European Union because its models are overly optimistic and ignore the effect of triggering the “backstop”, MPs said today. In a scathing response to government analysis of the withdrawal agreement, the Treasury select committee said that it could not be used to inform a meaningful vote. The judgment was unanimous on the 11-strong committee of four Conservative MPs, five Labour MPs, one independent MP and one member of the Scottish National Party. “The committee is disappointed that the government has modelled its white paper, which represents the most optimistic reading of the political declaration, rather than a more realistic scenario,” Nicky Morgan, the committee’s chairwoman, said.
WPP
WPP (WPP) shake-up will make 3,500 people redundant. The advertising giant WPP plans to axe 3,500 jobs in an attempt to reduce overheads by £275 million a year so that it can compete more effectively in an industry dominated by Facebook and Google. Mark Read, its new chief executive, said that “painful steps” were unavoidable as he laid out a three-year plan to reboot the company for the digital era. The bulk of the redundancies are expected to come from back-office and finance teams as Mr Read simplifies WPP’s sprawling empire. “As an industry we are facing tremendous changes from technology and we have to change the way we work. We need to return the company to growth, and unfortuantely some painful steps will be necessary over the coming years,” said Mr Read.
IRV
Interserve plummets over worries that it is ‘Carillion Mark Two’. The crisis engulfing Interserve (IRV) intensified yesterday after it warned of a big hit to shareholders from an emergency rescue plan. Shares in the outsourcing company slumped by as much as three quarters to 6p, valuing it at less than £9 million. The latest sell-off was triggered by Interserve warning that its deleveraging plans were likely to involve the conversion of a “substantial proportion” of its debt into new shares. “If implemented in this form, the deleveraging plan could result in material dilution for current Interserve shareholders,” it said.
KIE
Falling share price piles pressure on ailing Kier. The pressure on Kier Group (KIE) increased yesterday as its shares fell deeper below the price at which the company is seeking to sell new stock. The construction and outsourcing specialist unveiled a surprise £264 million rights issue last month as it tries to cut debt and boost its balance sheet. Its discounted offer price of 409p was 45% below its share price, but the shares have continued to slide since then. Indeed, they have halved since November 30, when Kier announced the fundraising, and they closed down 1.5% at 376½p yesterday, a 15-year low. Kier traces it roots back to the late 1920s as a concrete design and construction business.
JUST
New rules are what Just Group hoped for. The insurance regulator has softened rules that would have imposed strict capital requirements on the providers of lifetime mortgages. Shares in Just Group (JUST) rose by nearly 20% after the Prudential Regulation Authority announced what the life insurer described as “considerably less onerous” proposals than had been expected. The watchdog had been considering additional capital requirements on providers of lifetime mortgages that could have forced Just Group to raise capital. Lifetime mortgages are loans usually taken out by retired people to release equity from their home.
AZN
Astrazeneca works with Cancer Research UK. A new partnership has been launched between AstraZeneca (AZN) and Cancer Research UK to harness big data and genetics and accelerate the development of new medicines. The Anglo-Swedish pharmaceuticals company and the charity are collaborating on a new centre of excellence based in the Milner Therapeutics Institute at the University of Cambridge. Astrazeneca, which is also building a new headquarters in the city, is one of the world’s leading drugs companies with a filling pipeline of cancer treatments. Sales of its oncology products jumped by 42% to almost $2.7 billion in the first half of its financial year.
SDRY
The co-founder of Superdry (SDRY) has increased the pressure on the retailer after convincing a City broker that the present management’s strategy is flawed. Julian Dunkerton has “spoken extensively” to analysts at Liberum about his objections. Under a plan announced in September 2017, the company has scaled back the breadth of its clothing range, arguing that it was offering too many variations that didn’t generate enough sales. Mr Dunkerton, however, is not impressed. A “halt to innovation” has affected performance, he told analysts. “One should be generous with customers, offering them a wider and greater choice”, he said. “This is what they are asking for, if not demanding.” Superdry, he added, could become “the Asos of branded  clothing in a very exciting way”. A presentation by in April showed that it had cut its product lines from 5,900 to 3,800. Asos has 114,000, up from 84,000 in January.
GSK
BATS
DGE
CRST
Brexit uncertainty and a weak start to trading on Wall Street put pressure on stocks. The FTSE 100 closed down 56.57 points, or 0.8%, at 6,721.54. Losses were limited by a fall in sterling, which gave a boost to multinational companies that make a high proportion of their earnings overseas. GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) rose 32¼p to £14.70, British American Tobacco (BATS) gained 57½p to £27.21 and Diageo (DGE) edged up 16p to £28.01. The more domestically focused FTSE 250 tumbled 351.80 points, or almost 2%, to 17,492.31. Housebuilders and retailers were sold off as uncertainty around Brexit is expected to dampen demand. Crest Nicholson Holdings (CRST) was among the biggest fallers after Peel Hunt downgraded the stock to “reduce” from “hold”, saying that the builder was one of the most exposed in the sector. Its shares fell 28¼p to 309½p.
MTO
The chief executive of Mitie Group (MTO) put nearly £200,000 into its shares as investors fled the outsourcing sector, spooked by rescue talks at Interserve and Kier’s discounted rights issue. Phil Bentley bought 146,800 shares at just under 136p per share. That was not enough to convince investors worried about the risk of contagion and the security and maintenance  contractor closed down 7¾p at 129½p.
GFRD
Galliford Try (GFRD), the FTSE 250 housebuilder and construction group struggling with cost issues on the Aberdeen bypass, was also caught up in negative sector sentiment. Its shares fell 51p to 597p
AVCT
Avacta Group (AVCT), the biotech company developing cheaper alternatives to antibodies, shot up 7¼p to 30½p after announcing a development and licence agreement with LG Group, of South Korea. LG Chem Life Science will inject up to $180 million to help Avacta to develop drug technology for different diseases.
TCG
Investors in Thomas Cook Group (TCG) could be forgiven for feeling a little fraught. Since its latest profit warning two weeks ago, shares in the travel business have been bouncing around like a Super Ball in a concrete bunker. Yesterday was another day to forget after UBS cut its price target on the 177-year-old company’s stock from 60p to 34p, citing “lower estimates on underlying profits, higher exceptional costs as well as more conservative assumptions on working capital”. The shares duly fell by 4½p to 26½p, valuing the group at £409 million.
BOWL
Hollywood Bowl Group (BOWL) closed 25½p higher at 210p, a jump of 14.5%, after Britain’s biggest tenpin bowling operator accompanied strong full-year results with a second consecutive year-end special dividend.
MRW
SBRY
TSCO
Tempus: Buy Morrison (Wm) Supermarkets (MRW); hold Sainsbury (J) (SBRY); avoid Tesco (TSCO). Morrison’s has room to grow, trading is on a roll and the shares are good value
Under-fire Theresa May dealt fresh blow as Brexit wilts economy. More warning lights flashed over the UK economy on Monday as a deluge of data signalled slowing growth in a crucial week for Brexit. The latest official estimates for the economy’s performance revealed a deceleration in the quarter to October as overall output expanded 0.4%. That compared with a much faster 0.6% in the three months to September. The Office for National Statistics data painted a grim picture, with only services keeping the UK from stagnation in October as construction and manufacturing slid into reverse. A 0.2% expansion for the UK’s dominant services firms in the month, accounting for nearly 80% of overall growth, kept the UK just about in expansion territory, growing 0.1%. The latest evidence of a stuttering economy comes amid growing business uncertainty as the country’s EU exit looms closer.
IRV
The rout of Interserve’s bombed-out shares intensified on Monday as the firm said restructuring its debt would hammer investors. Shares in the company tanked nearly 60% — down 14.25p to 10.25p — after it admitted that a likely debt-for-equity swap of its £600 million-plus borrowings “could result in material dilution for current Interserve (IRV) shareholders”. Shares in Interserve, whose contracts include back-up services for the Metropolitan Police on demonstrations and ceremonial occasions, have plunged 90% this year.
BOWL
Hollywood Bowl Group (BOWL) dishes out special divi after sales jump. The tenpin bowling operator revealed revenues increased 5.8% to £120.5 million in the year to September 30. It saw pretax profits rise 13.4% to £23.9 million and said a special dividend of 4.33p per share will be paid on top of ordinary dividends. That means a proposed £15.9 million return to shareholders for the year. Shares in Hollywood Bowl jumped 18.5p, or more than 10%, to 202p. The company said it benefited from a number of revamps, plus consumers still viewing a trip to centres as affordable- a family of four can bowl for £20. Boss Stephen Burns said Hollywood Bowl is confident of further growth and excited to be opening new branches within big extensions at Intu Properties’ Lakeside and Watford centres this financial year
AVCT
Avacta Group (AVCT) was the top riser in London after agreeing on a development partnership and licence agreement with South Korea’s LG Group. The AIM-listed developer of Affimer biotherapeutics and reagents said the multi-target therapeutics development agreement provides for upfront and near-term milestone payments, plus longer-term clinical development milestones totalling $180 million.
IRV
Interserve (IRV) in rescue talks as Labour calls for ban on new contracts. Investors fear that outsourcing firm, a big builder of schools, could be the next Carillion. The embattled outsourcing firm Interserve – which has thousands of government contracts to clean hospitals and serve school meals – is in rescue talks with its bankers as it attempts to convince Whitehall and the City it is not the next Carillion. The heavily indebted group, which employs 75,000 staff worldwide, said on Sunday night that the talks with lenders would probably leave shareholders nursing big losses as the company drifts into the hands of the banks that have loaned it more than £600m. The Labour party called for a temporary ban on Interserve bidding for public contracts while the discussions take place.
BBY
VOD
SVT
UU.
DNLM
BWY
BVS
CRST
City investors call on listed companies to pay living wage. Share Action campaign group has written to firms including Balfour Beatty (BBY) and Vodafone Group (VOD). A group of City investors with assets worth more than £180bn has written to listed firms including Vodafone, Balfour Beatty and Severn Trent (SVT) urging them to pay all employees a living wage. The chief executives of the utilities firms Severn Trent and United Utilities Group (UU.), homeware retailer Dunelm Group (DNLM) and telecoms firm Vodafone have received letters saying that paying the living wage to all staff and key contractors is the hallmark of a responsible business. Signatories to the letters, coordinated by the Share Action campaign group, include the Strathclyde Pension Fund, which is run by Glasgow city council, Hermes Investment Management and Nest, the state-backed workplace pension scheme. The investors have also targeted construction firms, which are “particularly vulnerable to precarious work and low pay”, Share Action said. Along with Balfour Beatty, the chief executives of Bellway (BWY), Bovis Homes Group (BVS) and Crest Nicholson Holdings (CRST) have received the letters.
BP.
RDSB
BP faces shareholder challenge over carbon targets. Company is among energy firms being urged to set goals in line with Paris agreement. BP (BP.), Chevron and ExxonMobil face a shareholder challenge to set carbon targets in line with the Paris climate agreement, as a green group seeks to repeat its success in pressuring Royal Dutch Shell ‘B’ (RDSB) to set environmental benchmarks. When Shell’s chief executive, Ben van Beurden, laid out an ambitious long-term carbon target last year, he acknowledged the role played by a resolution on carbon targets submitted by Dutch activist shareholders Follow This. Follow This is hoping to use investor power to push other major oil and gas firms into setting similar goals. The organisation has bought shares in several major fossil fuel groups and has submitted two resolutions to the European firms BP and Shell. It will file identical resolutions with the US companies Chevron and ExxonMobil later this week if other parties do not submit a similar demand.
CNA
Centrica’s motion tracker service aims to assist unpaid carers. Firm will install devices in homes of elderly, disabled and ill people for monthly fee. British Gas owner Centrica (CNA) is planning to put motion trackers in the homes of elderly, ill and disabled people as part of a service aimed at easing the concerns of millions of unpaid carers. The company has already built a connected home business selling smart thermostats and other devices to more than a million households. In the latest sign of how the UK’s biggest energy company is diversifying away from traditional electricity and gas supply, Centrica’s Hive unit is launching a subscription service to help unpaid carers keep track of those they look after. The service, which costs £15 a month, plus a one-off £150 charge upfront, will involve British Gas engineers fitting sensors in the home of the person being cared for, with their permission. Carers receive alerts via an app if anything out of the usual routine happens, such as a kettle not being switched on at the same time each day or a room not being entered.
BA.
BAE Systems (BA.) – Small businesses to receive boost from BAE pension fund. Lending programme with ThinCats aimed at transforming the way SMEs get financing
TCAP
TP ICAP (TCAP) – TP ICAP rules out big deals for the coming year. New chief admits that interdealer broker needs to complete project as soon as possible
[ticker code=”BP.”[ – Activist group targets BP over slow response to global warming. Follow This wants oil company to set hard goals for cutting carbon emissions
BOWL
Hollywood Bowl Group (BOWL) has announced a special dividend for the second consecutive year as it booked record profits and revenues. The UK’s largest 10-pin bowling operator said it will hand investors a special dividend of 4.33p per share on top of the ordinary dividend for the year, returning a total of £15.9million to shareholders. Shares in Hollywood Bowl, which listed on the London stock exchange in 2016 at 160p, rose 9.2% to 200.5p in morning trading.
IRV
Interserve (IRV) shares crashed by more than 70% first thing this morning after it confirmed a major debt restructuring that could result in ‘material dilution’ for shareholders, and creditors taking control of the company. Interserve, which works for the likes of the Metropolitan Police and Edinburgh Zoo, said it is in ‘constructive discussions’ with lenders to cut its £614million debt, with the debt-for-equity swap set to be announced in early 2019. Shares in Interserve regained a little ground and were down 57% at 10.50p by mid morning.
TED
Ted Baker shares dive by 3% as boss takes time out over allegations of giving ‘forced’ hugs and straddling a female employee. Ted Baker (TED) faces another week of turmoil after founder Ray Kelvin took a leave of absence over more ‘serious allegations’ about his behaviour with employees. Investors in the fashion retailer are braced for a bumpy ride when markets open today. Its shares plunged 3% in the final minutes of trading when Kelvin’s leave was announced on Friday.
Amazon ‘set to land on the British High Street with a high-tech, till-free supermarket’ after launches in the U.S. Amazon is planning to open one of its high-tech till-free supermarkets in London’s West End, it has been claimed. The Amazon Go stores allow customers to pick up their shopping and leave without having to go through a checkout, by charging them automatically through their phones. The internet giant wants to open its first British bricks-and-mortar store close to Oxford Circus, the Sunday Telegraph reported.
Britain’s High Street is braced for a tough Christmas as heavy discounts fail to lure shoppers from the internet. Britain’s High Street faces a bleak Christmas amid warnings that heavy discounting is failing to lure shoppers away from the internet. The year-on-year drop in footfall at small stores, shopping centres and retail parks will accelerate this month as even more people go online to buy their festive gifts, according to experts. It comes on the heels of disappointing Black Friday sales in November, piling further pressure on retailers. And although Christmas is traditionally the period of peak sales, analysts now fear it will offer little respite.
IRV
Interserve’s shares lost almost 60% of their value after the struggling outsourcer announced a rescue plan that was likely to see a big part of its debt converted into new equity, potentially handing control of the company to its creditors. Interserve (IRV), which employs 75,000 people worldwide and has thousands of Government contracts to clean hospitals and serve school meals, said on Sunday it would seek to cut its debt to 1.5 times core earnings in a plan it hopes to finalise early next year. The company told investors that although the plan was yet to be finalised, it was “likely to involve the conversion of a substantial proportion of the group’s external borrowings into new equity”. This could result in “material dilution” for shareholders, prompting the sharp sell-off. The company’s problems follow the collapse of peer Carillion in January and a parliamentary inquiry that has raised questions over whether private companies should be running essential public services.
BOWL
Hollywood Bowl Group (BOWL) is confident that Brexit uncertainty will not affect business as it rewarded shareholders with a special year-end dividend for the second consecutive year following bumper results. Pre-tax profits at Britain’s largest bowling alley chain grew 12% to £24.9m in the year to September 30, after an 5.8% rise in sales to £120m. The continued strength of its balance sheet meant that it offered shareholders a special dividend for the second year in a row, increasing 7% to 4.23p a share.
IRV
Lenders to seize control of Interserve. The outsourcing giant Interserve (IRV) has admitted it is in talks to hand control to its hedge fund and bank lenders in a deal to cut its debt that is likely to wipe out the value of its shares. The company, which provides services and construction in prisons, schools and hospitals, said last night that it is looking to implement a debt-for-equity swap that will “deliver a strong balance sheet” as banks including RBS, HSBC and BNP Paribas, together with Emerald Asset Management and Davidson Kempner Capital, attempt to force a fresh deal in an extraordinary move that would hand control of the company to the group. Last month Interserve, which employs 75,000 globally and whose shares have declined by more than 70% this year, warned its debt by the year’s end would be £625m to £650m compared with a forecast of £575m to £600m.
TED
Ted Baker (TED) shareholders waver amid fresh ‘serious allegations’. Shareholder support for Ted Baker’s boss is wavering in light of Ray Kelvin abruptly announcing he was taking a leave of absence from the company following fresh “serious allegations”. One top five shareholder, who previously supported Mr Kelvin and had wanted him to stay, said he could no longer back the retail boss without knowing the full extent of the “sinister” allegations. The Telegraph reported yesterday that a female employee alleged the 62-year-old businessman had straddled her at a staff fancy dress party. The allegations add to complaints of inappropriate behaviour that have included forced hugging, neck massages and asking employees to sit on his knee.
DC.
Fresh crisis for Dixon’s as EE threatens to pull lucrative supply contract. Dixons Carphone (DC.) is in high-pressure talks towards a new contract with BT’s mobile arm EE, amid investor fears the retailer could be cut off. Chief executive Alex Baldock is attempting to secure a deal in the coming days as Dixons Carphone prepares to report interim results on Wednesday, when it is also expected to reveal a new wave of store closures. Sources said that discussions were positive but there was no guarantee that agreement will be reached. EE’s current deal with Dixons Carphone expires early next year and it has recently signed up John Lewis and Amazon partly to broaden its distribution channels if talks with Mr Baldock collapse.
HSX
Questor: joining the FTSE 100 caps the Hiscox Limited (DI) (HSX) success story, but at 17 times earnings it’s a hold. A fourfold increase in the share price has propelled the insurer to the top flight, but valuation is a concern