Press | Vox Markets
EU plans tariffs on $20bn of American goods in Boeing row. Brussels is planning to impose tariffs on $20 billion of American exports, the latest salvo in a long-running battle over subsidies at the world’s two largest aerospace manufacturers. In a move which risks intensifying transatlantic tensions over trade, the European Union published a preliminary list of US products, from suitcases and tractors to video games consoles and ketchup, which could face duties. Cecilia Malmström, the bloc’s trade commissioner, insisted that officials “do not want a tit-for-tat” dispute with the White House as they escalated a 14-year-old dispute over illegal subsidies. She said that the EU must “defend a level-playing field” for its companies after the World Trade Organisation confirmed earlier this month that US subsidies to Boeing, the Chicago-based plane maker, “continue to cause significant harm” to Airbus, its European rival.
SGRO
Internet shopping boom is a boon for Segro. The boom in online shopping has sustained demand for warehouses, leading SEGRO (SGRO) to secure more than £20 million of additional rental income in the first quarter. The FTSE 100 property company has 11 million sq ft of industrial property under construction, or approved for development, of which 72% has already been leased to tenants before completion. The additional £21 million in annual rent secured since the start of the year came from a combination of new lettings, uplifts from rent reviews and renewals, and development activity. It compares with an additional £27 million of rent secured in the first quarter of last year.
PDG
Shares crash after Pendragon (PDG) falls into the red. Cutting prices to keep people buying cars or even getting them serviced has shunted one of Britain’s leading motor dealers in to the red. Four months after the surprise announcement that Trevor Finn would quit as chief executive after 30 years, Pendragon said that its profit margins — which are usually wafer thin — had tumbled and that the company had slumped to a loss of £2.8 million in the first quarter of the year. The car dealer had previously briefed the City that it expected to record a profit of at least £7.2 million. Pendragon trades as Stratstone and Evans Halshaw, operating from about 200 outlets. Last year it had revenues of £4.6 billion. Operating profits were down 9% to £76 million on margins of just 1.6%. At a pre-tax level, after factoring in borrowing costs and write-downs in the future value of the business, Pendragon crashed to a £50 million loss.
BNZL
Slowing demand from the US grocery and retail sectors has hit growth at Bunzl (BNZL), sending shares in the FTSE 100 goods supplier down more than 8% this morning. In a trading update for the first quarter, the company said that underlying growth had slowed to about 1% in North America, which accounts for about 60% of total revenue. “It is a highly rare event to see a disappointing Bunzl trading update and is therefore likely to lead to some share price weakness,” Paul Checketts, a Barclays analyst, said. He added that the company’s organic group revenue growth of 1.5% was the slowest in at least nine quarters, and was lower than Barclays’ expectation of 2%.
Asda accused of disguised pay cut for 3,000 staff. Britain’s second biggest supermarket chain has been accused of trying to disguise a pay cut for thousands of staff, as the campaign against its proposed changes to contracts escalates. Siobhain McDonagh, the Labour MP, has claimed that 3,000 staff at Asda will be financially worse off under the proposals released by the grocer last week. The MP for Mitcham and Morden, 59, who previously has campaigned against changes at J Sainsbury, wrote to Roger Burnley, Asda’s chief executive, raising concerns.
NSF
PFG
Provident Financial and Non-Standard Finance (NSF) trade blows in takeover fight. The battle between Provident Financial (PFG) and the rival doorstep lender that is trying to buy it erupted yesterday into one of the bitterest City battles of recent years, with the two sides attacking each other in an attempt to win over undecided investors. Patrick Snowball, Provident’s chairman and a former British Army tank commander, told shareholders that Non-Standard Finance’s unwanted £1.2 billion all-share offer was “more of a coup d’état than a hostile takeover”. He said that it had been “facilitated by two powerful shareholders”, referring to Woodford Investment Management and Invesco, Provident’s two biggest investors, which are also large NSF shareholders and are backing the bid. That prompted John van Kuffeler, Non-Standard Finance’s chief executive, to accuse Provident of appearing “to take the frankly astonishing step of attacking its major shareholders”.
GFRD
Galliford Try’s bridge of sighs sparks profit alert. Cost overruns at the £1.34 billion Queensferry Crossing in Scotland have forced Galliford Try (GFRD) to announce a profit warning and plans to shrink its civil construction business. The building group said yesterday that it expected its annual profit before tax to be between £30 million and £40 million lower than analysts’ previous forecasts of £156 million. That, and the announcement of a sweeping review of the construction unit, came as a nasty surprise to the stock market, which sent Galliford Try’s shares tumbling by 20%, or 149p, to 576½p last night, making the stock the biggest faller in the FTSE 250.
JD.
JD defies high street gloom with record results. The boss of JD Sports Fashion (JD.) has insisted that it will crack the American market, despite a string of failures there by other British retailers. The sports fashion chain has embarked on an expansion drive in the United States, having bought Finish Line, one of America’s biggest footwear and clothing chains, for £400 million last year. The business has managed to shrug off the problems faced by rival high street chains in recent years and the City has been keen to discover how it fares in America. Peter Cowgill, 66, its executive chairman, said yesterday that he was quietly confident, adding: “The early signs are pretty good.” Unveiling record full-year results yesterday, JD said that Finish Line had generated £24.6 million of pre-tax profit and revenue of £956.6 million in the year to February 2, beating analysts’ forecasts of about £15.6 million. The acquisition helped to boost JD’s group results, with revenue up 49.2% to £4.7 billion and profits up 15.4% to £339.9 million. Four years ago it was generating £100 million profit.
GFS
G4S secures rise in revenues with Canadian bidder on the doorstep. The troubled government contractor G4S (GFS) announced a rise in revenues yesterday in a surprise trading update rushed out before a possible bid from a Canadian rival. Shares in the support services company rose by nearly 4p, or 1.7%, to 233.90p after it reported a 4.8% year-on-year rise in revenues in the three months to the end of March, with growth in all its regions and divisions. Speculation has been growing about G4S’s future since Garda World, based in Montreal, disclosed last week that it was considering a bid for all or part of the British company. A deal would create a giant multinational security services provider.
LGEN
Insurer invests in housing for homeless. A leading insurance group has agreed to invest almost £50 million in providing accommodation for homeless families in a deal said to be a potential blueprint for solving Britain’s housing crisis. Legal & General Group (LGEN) has bought 167 homes in Croydon, south London, and has leased them over 40 years to the local council, which will pay the company rent that is expected to save Croydon about £20 million. After the 40-year term ends, the properties will belong to the council. L&G said that the agreement offered a model for how institutions and the public sector could help to provide for the more than 1.3 million people on waiting lists for social housing in the UK. In Croydon, there are more than 2,000 families seeking support for homelessness.
ASHM
Confidence in emerging market boosts Ashmore. Ashmore Group (ASHM) surprised the market yesterday with a jump in funds under management boosted by new money from clients and investment gains. Its shares rose by more than 6% — closing 28¾p up at 484¼p — after it said that assets had increased by 11% in the three months to March 31 to $85.3 billion. It came after a tough period for the emerging markets specialist, when inflows from investors’ slowed owing to factors such as China’s slowdown and turmoil in other countries.
HAS
German weakness applies brake to growth at Hays (HAS). Growth at Britain’s largest recruitment company has slowed on the back of weaker economic growth in Germany, its biggest market. In a trading update yesterday, Hays said that net fees had risen by 6% on a like-for-like basis in the three months to the end of March, compared with the same period last year. This was lower than the growth of 9% reported in the previous six months and was below market expectations of 7%. Shares in the company, which had hit a five-month high of 163½ p on Monday, fell by 4¼p, or 2.6%, to close at 158¾p yesterday.
CARD
Card Factory drop isn’t taken personally. Higher costs and weak demand for Card Factory (CARD) online personalisation service hit profits last year. The retailer yesterday reported an 8% drop in pre-tax profits in the year to January 31 to £67 million. However, shares in the company rose by 10% as investors breathed a sigh of relief that the figures were not worse amid dwindling shopper visits to Britain’s high streets. Card Factory said that like-for-like sales in its shops had fallen by 0.1% year-on-year, compared with growth of 2.9% the previous year. However, it had a record Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day since the end of its financial year.
BOO
ASC
Zalando has good news for dedicated followers of fashion. Europe’s biggest online fashion retailer was a trend-setter on the stock market yesterday, sending shares in its UK-listed peers higher after forecasting an unexpected first-quarter operating profit. The online fashion retail sector has come under pressure from increased competition as well as the costs of investing in logistics and technology. Adam Tomlinson, analyst at Liberum, said: “This is clearly a positive short-term development. Zalando has built an infrastructure that is uniquely placed to fend off competition and has a logistics network that is looking increasingly superior to Amazon.” The surprise update sent the Frankfurt-listed shares in the company up by €2.64 to €41.49, and triggered a positive response from its European peers. Boohoo.com (BOO), the British online seller of affordable fashions, closed up 8¾p at 208¾p; ASOS (ASC) rose 92p to £37.61.
EZJ
WIZZ
IAG
UK-listed airlines shrugged off disappointing results from Lufthansa, which blamed rising fuel costs and overcapacity in Europe as the German carrier reported an operating loss for the first quarter. Investors were encouraged by its outlook for positive revenues in the second quarter, supported by bookings levels and a slowing of market-wide capacity. easyJet (EZJ) closed up 28½p at £12.05; Wizz Air Holdings (WIZZ) rose 118p to £34.47; and International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) added 9½p to 553p.
PMO
Premier Oil (PMO) edged up ¼p to 101¾p after a report of a positive oilfield drill test in Mexico at the Zama block in which it holds a 25% stake. Tony Durrant, its chief executive, said: “We continue to collect further evidence that Zama has a world-class reservoir with excellent quality and well-connected sands.”
CPX
Shares in CAP-XX Limited (CPX), which makes energy management systems for electronic devices, dropped 1¼p to a shade over 4p after the company said that it was in the process of litigation with two counterparties in the United States. It also said that it had experienced weaker demand from manufacturers of wearable technologies.
DX.
DX (Group) (DX.), the delivery and logistics group that is undergoing a business turnaround plan after a series of profit warnings, was boosted by the purchase of stock in the company worth about £40,000 at 14p per share by Russell Back, a non-executive director.
 
QQ.
Tempus – QinetiQ Group (QQ.): Hold. Increasingly diverse group whose expertise is getting it into new markets
MCLS
Tempus – McColl’s Retail Group (MCLS): Avoid for now. Trading under pressure with costs on the up
GFRD
Galliford Try plummets 19% as crisis for builders spreads. Building giant Galliford Try (GFRD) became the latest government contractor to hit the rocks on Tuesday after issuing a colossal profit warning linked to its struggling construction division, triggering a 19% share price collapse. The builder piled more pressure on the struggling outsourcing industry as it said pre-tax profits in the year to June could be up to £40 million lower than the expected £156 million. Investors ditched the firm, which has been plagued by delays and budgets overrunning, sending shares down 138.17p, over 19%, to 587.33p.
PFG
NSF
Provident Financial lashes out at NSF offer. Provident Financial (PFG) on Tuesday launched a broadside against hostile bidder Non-Standard Finance (NSF), attacking its track record and warning that the deal would destroy shareholder value. NSF already has the backing of 50% of the shareholders for its all-share bid, putting it in a strong position. But the deal now looks much less certain to go through than it did at first, with the competition watchdogs investigating what effect a merger would have on the market for credit to the poor. Provident’s chairman Patrick Snowball, in a letter aimed at persuading the 50% of undecided investors to come out against the takeover, said it was “still the same dreadful deal that it was on day one. “It is more of a coup d’état than a hostile takeover, spearheaded by a management team at NSF with a track record of value-destructive acquisitions”.
ULVR
GSK
NXT
CNA
VOD
WPP
Some of Britain’s biggest companies are ripping up their advertising plans and rethinking how they communicate with consumers in a data-driven, digital world. Unilever (ULVR), GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Next (NXT), Centrica (CNA) and Vodafone Group (VOD) are some of the FTSE 100 giants to signal a change in marketing strategy over recent months. There is a common theme: they want more digital thinking, increased personalisation and greater speed and efficiency from their advertising and communications. All of them have reorganised their roster of agencies or put their advertising account up for pitch. There is a sense of urgency because many of these companies are at risk from the new breed of direct-to-consumer, digital disruptor brands. Ad agency groups such as WPP (WPP) and Publicis Groupe — which has just reported a 1.6% slump in first-quarter revenues and bought data business Epsilon in the search for growth — are feeling the pain.
LGEN
Legal & General Group (LGEN) – LGIM toughens stance on ‘overboarding’ directors. UK fund house joins BlackRock and Vanguard in bid to stop individuals with too many seats
IWG
Lex – IWG (IWG)/WeWork: new lease of life. UK office space provider has been spending heavily to keep up with its US rival
DEB
Debenhams (DEB) CEO Sergio Bucher set to step down. Interim chairman Terry Duddy expected to take over after retailer’s administration
IGG
IG Group Holdings (IGG) seeks new chair as Andy Green steps down. Online derivatives trader shakes up management in face of regulatory clampdown
RBS
Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) censured for stance on leasehold customers. Aggressive debt collection policies over freehold disputes under fire
GFRD
Galliford Try (GFRD) shares have tumbled by nearly 20% after the construction firm issued a profit warning and said it will scale down its business. The FTSE 250 company now expects profits to come in £30 to £40million lower than it previously expected – instead of £156million, profits could be as low as £116million amid rising costs. Galliford said the single largest element in the one-off costs related to its Queensferry Crossing joint venture in Scotland, after an estimate for final costs on the project was increased. It also said it intends to trim the size of its construction unit to focus on its ‘key strengths’ as part of a ‘strategic review’. It will give more information on such plans on May 21, when it will issue a trading update. Galliford has a construction arm, a housebuilding division, through its Linden Homes business, and a ‘regeneration’ arm.
CARD
Discount greetings cards retailer Card Factory (CARD) saw profits fall last year amid declining footfall and higher costs, but still continued to open new stores. At a time when many retailers are shutting down shops, Card Factory opened 51 new stores in the year to January 31 – even though like-for-like sales came in flat amid falling demand. The company, which sells card from 99p as well as party items like balloons, said pre-tax profits fell 8.3% to £66.6million. It also said it aims to grow its stores estate to reach more than 1,200 stores in the UK, from the current 972 stores in the UK and Ireland. Boss Karen Hubbard said: ‘Encouragingly, some initial trials with Aldi in the UK, in an Australian retailer, and with a franchise partner in Jersey show that the Card Factory brand is a footfall driver that has real resonance; we will pursue these types of opportunities to open new routes to market where we see attractive returns.’
JD.
FOOT
JD Sports Fashion (JD.), which is set to acquire smaller rival Footasylum (FOOT), saw its sales nearly double last year despite the ongoing gloom on the High Street. In the year to 2 February, the popular retailer saw revenues jump 49.2% to £4.7billion, with like-for-like sales at its sports fashion stores rising 6%. The company said the performance was ‘encouraging’ in light of the ‘widely reported challenges’ experienced by other retailers. Profit before tax rose 15.4% to £339.9million and the company nudged its dividend higher to 1.44p from 1.37p. Executive chairman Peter Cowgill said: ‘JD is not immune to the widely reported challenges to physical retail in the UK with lower footfall on many high streets, malls and retail parks combined with cost challenges from increasing minimum wage rates and rises in business rates. ‘Therefore, it is very pleasing that the core UK and Ireland Sports Fashion fascias, the most mature part of our Group, have delivered a further increase in sales and profitability.’
Boom in full time jobs and people becoming self-employed sees the number of people in work hit highest number since records began almost 50 years ago. The number of people in work has reached a record high driven by a surge in full time jobs and those becoming self-employed, official figures revealed today. Employment jumped by 179,000 in the three months to February, to 32.7 million, the highest total since records began in 1971 – 48 years ago. The figure has increased by 457,000 over the past year, all among full-time employees and the self-employed, while the number of people in part-time jobs fell by 15,000, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Unemployment fell by 27,000 to 1.34 million, continuing a general trend which started in early 2012. The UK’s unemployment rate of 3.9% is now lower than at any time since the end of 1975. The ONS’s deputy head of labour market statistics, Matt Hughes said: ‘The jobs market remains robust, with the number of people in work continuing to grow. ‘The increase over the past year is all coming from full-timers, both employees and the self-employed. ‘Earnings have now been growing ahead of inflation for over a year, but in real terms, wage levels have not yet returned to their pre-downturn peak.’
CNA
The boss of Centrica (CNA) is fighting for his job as investors lose faith in his leadership. Iain Conn has been chief executive of the British Gas owner since 2015 – picking up £11.1million in pay along the way. But the FTSE 100 group’s shares have tumbled 60% on his watch and are at their lowest level since 1999. The father-of-three’s position is seen as particularly vulnerable since the arrival of Charles Berry, who succeeded Rick Haythornthwaite as chairman in February. One major institutional investor said: ‘With the new chairman coming in, Iain Conn’s days are numbered.’ And with Centrica’s prized dividend under threat, a City source told the Mail that major shareholders are questioning Conn’s future.The source said: ‘Shareholders have voiced desires to see a change in management. I think, personally, people have no issues with Iain Conn. But there wouldn’t be too many who would be disappointed if he went.’
PFG
NSF
Provident Financial (PFG) boss has been landed with a major distraction by one of his other lucrative posts just as he fights off a hostile takeover bid. Malcolm Le May – who is leading the doorstep lender’s efforts to fend off rival Non-Standard Finance (NSF) – has been tasked with recruiting a chairman at trading company IG Group, where he is senior independent non-executive director. It is likely to raise questions over whether the 61-year-old is overstretched.
BARC
The corporate raider demanding a seat on Barclays’ board has insisted its investment arm must be hacked back to boost shares. As the war of words escalated, US-based Edward Bramson accused Barclays (BARC) bosses of pursuing a flawed strategy which will cost investors money. The latest broadside came ahead of the lender’s annual meeting next month when Bramson hopes to win a shareholder vote making him a non-executive director. He is thought to favour massive cutbacks to the lender’s prized investment banking arm.
LGEN
Legal & General Group (LGEN) – Legal & General Investment Management voted against a record number of companies last year as City shareholders flexed their muscles. The savings group took aim at firms over sky-high pay, incompetent auditors and a lack of women in the boardroom. The business – which looks after more than £1 trillion for savers – voted against the reappointment of 3,864 directors in 2018, up 37% on the previous year. It particularly targeted inflated pay packets, voting against more than a third of remuneration deals at AGMs.
SBRY
Sainsbury (J) (SBRY) is set for a major shake-up under new chairman Martin Scicluna if its £14billion merger with Asda is blocked, analysts have warned. Research by investment bank Jefferies suggested there is just a 20% chance the Competition And Markets Authority (CMA) will have a change of heart and wave through the supermarkets’ tie-up. The report suggested Asda would be snapped up by a private equity buyer if the merger does not go ahead, with its US owner Walmart keen to make a quick exit from the UK. And it said Sainsbury would be forced into a major overhaul as it loses further ground to arch rival Tesco. James Grzinic, equity analyst at Jefferies, said: ‘In reality, we struggle to assume anything beyond a 20 per cent chance of a drastic rethink by the CMA. It is therefore probable that a definitive CMA block would supply the catalyst for any potential private equity interest for Asda to materialise swiftly.’
MXO
MX Oil (MXO) shot up after announcing it had secured investment from a member of Dubai’s ruling family. Shaikh Ahmed Bin Dalmook Al Maktoum bought 1.3m shares in the energy company, worth £534,000, as MX Oil raised a total of £680,000 from investors. MX, which has an oilfield in Nigeria, said the Shaikh owns a portfolio of oil assets and his knowledge should be valuable. He now owns 29.9% of the company. Shares jumped 218.2%, or 0.12p, to 0.17p.
IWG
IWG (IWG) may have been popping a few corks last night after agreeing the firm’s first franchising deal in Japan. Worth £320million – more than double the best-case estimates of analysts at Peel Hunt – it comes as vindication for IWG’s chief executive Mark Dixon.Last year he walked away from takeover talks with a number of private equity firms, slamming the bidders for ‘totally mispricing’ his business. Dixon’s new franchising strategy, dubbed a ‘Plan B’ by several analysts after the failed takeover negotiations, will see it sell some of its office buildings and instead charge a fee to other firms for using its branding.
INDV
Indivior (INDV), the heroin addiction treatment manufacturer accused of fuelling America’s deadly opioid epidemic, continued its roller-coaster ride on the stock market. Its shares tumbled more than 70% last week after prosecutors in the US claimed the firm had used shaky evidence to promote a new version of its Suboxone treatment above rival products. The US Department of Justice demanded at least £2.3billion in fines. But the shares were up 19.1%, or 6.74p, to 41.97p yesterday, after analysts at Bernstein suggested the final sum of any fines is likely to be much lower.
RIO
Rio Tinto (RIO) was weighing on the FTSE 100, as it announced plans to plough £230million into its Resolution Copper project in Arizona. It will use the money to make sure it has done all of the relevant research, and completed all the surveys and assessments, to ensure it is granted permits to get the mine up and running. Rio claims the Resolution project could supply almost 25% of the US’s copper consumption, and it will now have spent more than £1.5billion on its development.
Employment hits another record high and wages rise despite Brexit turmoil. Jobs and pay powered ahead again in February as the employment miracle ignored Brexit chaos in Parliament to hit new record levels. A record 32.7m people were in work in the three months to February – a rise of 179,000 on the previous three months and a jump of 457,000 on the year. The quality of jobs improved as most of the increase came in full-time employment, while the very low unemployment rate forced employers to offer workers more money. Unemployment fell by 27,000 on the quarter and 76,000 on the year, with the jobless rate holding steady at 3.9% – the joint-lowest rate since the mid-1970s.
GFRD
Profit warning sinks Galliford Try shares. Galliford Try (GFRD) has vowed to slim down its contract construction arm after a series of problem contracts forced the builder to slash profit forecasts. The FTSE 250 firm has begun a review of the division, which builds roads, schools and commercial buildings, and said it plans to focus on less risky and more profitable areas of the market. Costs from the overhaul, along with new charges against existing and historic contracts, are expected to knock between £30m and £40m off Galliford’s pre-tax profits this year. Analysts had previously been expecting profits to come in at about £156m.
PFG
NSF
Provident steps up war of words with hostile bidder NSF. Provident Financial (PFG) has again hit out at Non-Standard Finance (NSF), renewing accusations that its suitor made illegal dividend payments. Provident’s chairman stepped up his rhetoric as the doorstep lender battles a £1.3bn takeover offer from its smaller rival NSF, branding the bid “more of coup d’état than a hostile takeover”. NSF acknowledged late on Friday that it committed “technical infringements” of company law by making several dividend payments since 2016 that were not part of its distributable reserves – amounts which may lawfully be paid to shareholders.
JD.
Finish Line takeover sends JD Sports sales and profits soaring. JD Sports Fashion (JD.) has bulldozed through the struggles on the high street to post record sales, helped by its takeover of US trainer chain Finish Line. The sportswear company, which is now more than three times bigger than arch rival Sports Direct, said sales leapt by almost 50% to £4.7bn. Like-for-like sales, which exclude the effect of new stores, rose 6%, helping pre-tax profits to jump 15.4% to £340m. Peter Cowgill, executive chairman, said that while JD Sports was “not immune to the widely reported challenges to physical retail in the UK”, the company was outperforming its rival because it offered “attention-grabbing theatre both in stores and online”.
GFS
G4S hails growth in cash handling as rivals continue to circle. Takeover target G4S (GFS) hailed a “good start” to its financial year, reporting a slight rise in revenues as rivals continued to circle the security outsourcer’s armoured van unit. Its “cash solutions” division, which stores and transports coins and notes for retailers and tops up ATMs, notched up sales growth of 4.4%. G4S is looking to spin off the unit, which accounts for 15% of revenues, amid pressure from investors to revive its share price. Last month the company said it had received potential offers from companies interested in buying the division, but other options including a stock market listing are also thought to be on the table.
CARD
Card Factory battles lower footfall on the high street. Card Factory (CARD) blamed fewer customers entering its stores, weaker demand at its online gifting business and foreign exchange costs for a slide in profits. The budget greetings cards retailer posted pre-tax profits of £66.6m in the year to January, a 8.3% drop compared to the same period the year before. Revenue rose 3.3% to £436m. However sales at stores open for more than a year were broadly flat, down 0.1pc, while around 1pc of those shops were loss making. The company’s sales through its website increased by 56% compared with the previous year, but its online gifting business, Getting Personal, had a “disappointing” performance with sales falling 8.4% as it was hit by “competitive discounting”.
LGEN
Legal & General votes against record number of UK bosses over pay and diversity worries. The number of votes cast by Legal & General Group (LGEN) against UK directors rose by nearly 270% last year compared to 2017 amid wider crackdown on excessive pay, lack of diversity and sloppy governance. Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM), which manages around £1 trillion worth of assets, voted against 479 UK company directors in 2018 compared to 178 in 2017 and just 89 in 2016. “Diversity has got better in the UK but we voted against more chairman of boards than we’ve ever done – we’re asking for more,” said Sacha Sadan, LGIM’s director of corporate governance.
ACA
Another setback for Acacia Mining (ACA) in Tanzania resulted in the embattled gold miner suffering its worst day of trading in a year as miners weighed heavily on London’s market. Acacia admitted that gold production had slipped 13% year-on-year to 104,899 ounces in its first quarter after “unanticipated production issues” at its North Mara mine. The gold producer’s production and share price has tumbled in recent years after being embroiled in a long-running dispute with the Tanzanian government. It vowed to hit its full-year production guidance of 500,000 to 550,000 ounces after taking “immediate steps to address” the problems, but analysts raised doubts over its ability to hit the targets.
SUS
Questor: high yield, low valuation: either something’s about to go wrong or this is a buy. Questor share tip: this column is in the latter camp when it comes to S&U (SUS), the specialist lender, although we must acknowledge the risks
Employment hits record high and wage growth outpaces inflation. The number of people in work has reached another high and wages are growing at their fastest pace since the Brexit referendum despite a slowdown in the economy. The Office for National Statistics said 32.71 million were now in employment, after a rise of 179,000 people in the three months to the end of February, the highest since 1971. Unemployment fell by 27,000 to 1.34 million, putting the rate at 3.9 per cent, the lowest level since 1975. In explaining the robust performance of the labour market, economists pointed to the flexibility of the British labour market. It is easier and cheaper to recruit workers to meet demand than to commit to extra business investment, which has been falling.
JD.
JD defies high street gloom with record results. JD Sports Fashion (JD.), Britain’s biggest sportswear retailer, has overcome a challenging market in the UK to report record annual profits. Pre-tax profits rose by 15% to £339 million on the back of a 49% jump in revenue to £4.7 billion in the year to February 2. Like-for-like sales at its JD Sports stores rose by more than 6%, with double digit growth in Europe and Asia. Peter Cowgill, the executive chairman, said that while the company was “not immune” to challenges in the British retail market, such as lower footfall and increased labour costs and business rates, its UK and Irish business had delivered a rise in sales and profits.
GFRD
Galliford Try’s shares fell by almost 20% in morning trading after the builder issued a profit warning and launched a review of its construction business. Galliford Try (GFRD) said that it expected its full-year pre-tax profit to be between £30 million and £40 million below analysts’ forecast of £156 million. The board expects the review of some legacy and current projects, as well as the costs of a restructure, to reduce its profits. The largest single element in the reduction in profit was attributed to payments related to its work on the Queensferry Crossing road bridge near Edinburgh, which was completed two years ago. The outcome of the review and a further update on trading is due to be published on May 21.
AML
Aston Martin seeks spark as shares fall. Aston Martin Holdings (AML) new electric to be unveiled today as the carmaker seeks to revive its stalling performance. The company was listed in London at £19 a share late last year, but the stock has since crashed amid worries over future sales, Brexit and costs. The shares closed at 937p yesterday, meaning that almost £2.2 billion in shareholder value has been erased in little more than six months. Aston Martin has high hopes for its new DBX sports utility vehicle as well as its electric car, which is one of many electric launches at the show.
LGEN
Legal & General Group (LGEN) – Fund giant Legal & General Investment Management ups pressure over corporate governance. Britain’s biggest fund management firm opposed proposals tabled by almost 400 UK companies last year, a sharp increase on the previous 12 months, as it pushed to improve corporate governance. Legal & General Investment Management voted against at least one resolution put to shareholders at 386 British companies in 2018, including one abstention. This marked a 53% increase on the 252 companies where it rebelled in 2017. LGIM is the fund management division of Legal & General, the insurer. It looks after about £1 trillion of savings and investments and is among the biggest investment firms in Europe.
KWS
We broke law on dividends, says Keywords. A video games company has admitted that it broke the law after handing millions of pounds in dividends to investors. Keywords Studios (KWS), which provides services to computer games developers, said that it had breached the Companies Act with a series of payouts between 2014 and 2016. The business, which is listed in London but based in Dublin, said that it had failed to move “sufficient distributable reserves” into its main holding company during the period. It also had failed to file accounts with Companies House before paying out its interim dividend, as required by law. It described the errors as “technical breaches” and insisted that “no party has been or is in a worse position as a result of these oversights”. It will put several votes to investors at its forthcoming annual meeting to rectify the shortcomings.
IWG
Regus office firm owner IWG (IWG) breaks model by sealing deal with TKP Corporation of Japan. The workspace company behind the Regus brand has sold its Japanese business in a deal that marks the start of a shift towards a new franchise business model. IWG said that it had struck a partnership with TKP Corporation, under which the Tokyo-listed company had paid £320 million in cash for 130 co-working centres. The deal also involves a long-term franchise agreement, providing TKP with exclusive rights for the use of IWG’s Regus, Spaces and Open Office brands in the country. IWG also will receive a fee for providing services to its Japanese partner, such as international sales, marketing and technology support. The City welcomed the deal, the valuation of which surpassed expectations, and forecast that IWG was in a position to clinch similar transactions in other markets that in turn could trigger returns to shareholders.
BARC
Edward Bramson appeals to Barclays investors. The activist investor trying to join the boardroom at Barclays (BARC) has made a fresh plea to shareholders to back his campaign. Edward Bramson, whose Sherborne Investors vehicle owns 5.5% of Barclays, wants other shareholders to elect him as a non-executive director at the bank’s annual meeting on May 2. “An alternative voice on the board would seem to be healthy for the company and its shareholders,” Sherborne said in its latest open letter to other Barclays investors yesterday.Mr Bramson, 68, believes that the bank should shrink its underperforming investment bank, putting him on a collision course with Jes Staley, 62, Barclay’s chief executive, who has made the division central to his plan to revive the company.
RWA
Brexit is no brake for recruiter Robert Walters (RWA). A leading recruitment group has brushed aside fears that uncertainty caused by Brexit will slow the jobs market by reporting a 10% rise in fees for its UK operations. The increase in net fee income in Britain, which makes up about a quarter of Robert Walters’ turnover, represents an improvement from the 2% growth reported in the final three months of 2018. The company, which takes its name from its founder and chief executive, operates in 30 countries and employs almost 4,300 people. It is one of the large listed recruitment companies, alongside Page Group and Hays.
RIO
BLT
Rio Tinto pours extra cash into American copper mine. Rio Tinto (RIO) has pledged another multimillion-pound investment in a vast copper project in the United States as it seeks to capitalise on the rise in demand for electric vehicles. The London-listed Anglo-Australian company and BHP Billiton (BLT), its joint venture partner in the Resolution Copper project in Arizona, have committed an additional $302 million, bringing the total invested since 2004 to more than $2 billion. Rio is the senior partner on the project, with a subsidiary holding a 55% stake in the vehicle behind it and an offshoot of BHP 45%.
PFG
NSF
Sub-prime merger is facing further delay. The mergers watchdog has delayed the next steps of an attempted hostile takeover of Provident Financial (PFG) by Non-Standard Finance (NSF) while the competition regulator considers the impact of combining the sub-prime lenders. The Takeover Panel said that tomorrow’s deadline for Provident to publish new information related to the bid would be delayed until two days after a decision by the Competition and Markets Authority. The CMA has been considering whether to investigate the proposed deal and it issued an enforcement order to stop the companies from integrating until it had completed its work. No date has been set for the CMA to give its decision, but the Takeover Panel also has extended the last date for Non-Standard Finance to publish a revised offer for Provident, although it added that the first closing date for an offer on May 8 would not be changed.
KIE
Crisis forces Kier boss into overhaul. Kier Group (KIE), the construction and local council services group, said that its new chief executive — who started work yesterday — would embark on a “strategic review” of the company’s struggling businesses. One of the great beneficiaries of the private finance initiative, Kier builds and maintains public infrastructure such as roads, hospitals, schools, student accommodation, prison facilities, airport buildings, offices, retail parks and affordable homes. It is also one of the largest household refuse collectors and is a main contractor on the construction of the HS2 rail link between London and Birmingham.
NXT
Next (NXT) shares were on the rise, gaining 72p to £56.88 amid growing confidence in the City that it should have benefited from an early spring. Jefferies stoked expectations ahead of a first-quarter trading update on May 1, telling its clients that Next “should confirm a strongly weather-boosted start” to 2019. Its analysts highlighted industry reports of healthy demand for clothing during February and March and they expect full-price sales growth of 3.7% during the first three months of the year — “well ahead” of Next’s annual guidance of 1.1% — with in-store sales down by 5.4% and online sales climbing by 13.2%. Jefferies, which maintained its “hold” rating and increased its target price from £46 to £52, warned, however, that there were downsides to an early spring. It said: “While supportive trading conditions at the start of the season bode well for markdown needs later in that same season, we are also aware of the extent to which Next expects [second-quarter] sales softness to balance out a buoyant [first quarter].”
PPB
Investors took a punt on Paddy Power Betfair (PPB), which is poised to change its name to Flutter Entertainment after its annual meeting next month. Goodbody, the Irish broker, believes that the gambling company is best placed to capitalise after the US Supreme Court paved the way for the legalisation of sports betting across the country. It highlighted Fanduel, one of the largest sports betting companies in America, which Paddy Power swooped on last year. The business “is in a prime position to obtain a podium position” in the United States, Goodbody said. “Product and marketing are the two things any business has to get right in online sports betting and [Fanduel] is already ahead on both fronts.”
WPP
WPP (WPP), the world’s largest advertising company, rose 13¼p to 885¼p as a deal by Publicis drew the sector into focus. The Paris-based company said over the weekend that it had agreed to pay $4.4 billion for Epsilon, a data-focused digital marketing agency.
ACA
Production woes rock Acacia. Shares in Acacia Mining (ACA) fell by almost 13% after the precious metals miner revealed a sharp dip in gold production. The company maintained that it was on course to deliver its annual production forecasts, despite issues at its North Mara mine in Tanzania. Gold production at the site fell by 14% to 66,324 ounces in the first quarter. Acacia attributed the drop to an unexpected rock movement at its Gokona underground mine and the breakdown of an excavator at its Nyabirama open pit. Analysts said that total gold production had failed to meet expectations in the first three months, falling by 13% to 104,899 ounces. Acacia is in the midst of a lengthy tax dispute with the Tanzanian government, which banned the export of mineral concentrates in 2017. It has since cut its output by a third. Peter Geleta, 55, interim chief executive of Acacia, said that “unanticipated production issues” had hit production. “We have taken immediate steps to address these, introducing a revised mining plan in mid-March,” he said.
CLIG
Tempus – City of London Investment Group (CLIG): Buy. High-quality portfolio, carefully managed, generates strong and consistent returns over long run
AML
Tempus – Aston Martin Holdings (AML): Avoid. A string of uncertainties could further depress shares
BARC
Activist investor Bramson launches major broadside at Barclays (BARC) bosses. The row between Barclays and Ed Bramson ramped up another notch on monday when the rebel investor attacked the make-up of the board and questioned the competence of incoming chairman Nigel Higgins. Bramson, a corporate raider who specialises in taking stakes in underperforming companies and agitating for change, is seeking a seat on the board as he pushes his plan for Barclays to ditch all or part of its investment bank. While the chances of him securing a seat are low — few investors have backed him — the continuing weakness of the Barclays share price is making him hard to ignore.
IWG
IWG offloads its Japanese offices arm in £320m deal. IWG (IWG), the world’s biggest serviced-offices firm, on Monday agreed to sell its Japanese arm for £320 million, marking the first in a string of planned international disposals. The FTSE 250 firm’s shift of focus to being a franchiser rather than a landlord, kicked off today with a deal to sell 130 co-working office sites to Tokyo-listed property firm TKP Corporation. The Japanese business contributed £94.4 million to IWG’s revenues in 2018. TKP will get the rights to use IWG’s brand names including Regus, Spaces and OpenOffice. IWG will also be paid ongoing fees for providing franchise services, including tech and marketing.
RIO
Investors give Rio Tinto’s Arizona cash plan the cold shoulder. Investors on Monday chose not to dig deep into their pockets for Rio Tinto (RIO). They ditched the mining giant, seemingly unimpressed by its new plans to invest another $302 million (£231 million) into a long-running US copper project. The firm said the money for the Resolution Copper scheme in Arizona will be used for additional drilling, studies and infrastructure improvements. Rio Tinto chief executive JS Jacques said: “The rise of electric vehicles, battery storage, new transmission technology and other green energy innovations are highly copper intensive. “We need to prepare now to meet this future demand. Resolution will be well positioned to provide North American manufacturers the copper that is essential to their products.” The City didn’t look quite so enthusiastic about the funding announcement, which brings the total spent by Rio Tinto and its partners on the project up to over $2 billion since 2004.
ENOG
Energean Oil and Gas (ENOG) said it has made a “significant” gas discovery at its Karish North exploration well, offshore Israel. The update was welcomed by the Israeli minister of energy, Dr Yuval Steinitz, who said: “I congratulate Energean for the significant amount of natural gas discovered in Karish North. I am sure that further discoveries will follow.”
ACA
Acacia Mining (ACA) fell 4.68p to 187.32p. The miner said gold production for the first quarter at its North Mara mine in Tanzania was 66,324 ounces, down 14% from last year. The firm has been grappling with a long-running tax dispute in the country.
IMMO
Immotion Group (IMMO), which produces virtual reality experiences for shopping centres and theme parks, last month released its latest short film: Swimming with Humpback Whales. It said it has been appointed to install immersive experiences which feature the video, which allows viewers a close-up look at whales migrating from Antarctica, into two major US aquariums in Arizona and Connecticut.
MXO
The chairman of the Emirates airline group has invested £534,000 in AIM-listed MX Oil (MXO). In total £680,000 was raised through a share placing, with Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum becoming a holder of 29.86%. The natural resources investment group’s shares fell 6% to 0.052p.
ROL
Big changes are underway in the UK’s bus market and that can play nicely into the hands of bus group Rotala (ROL). German transport giant Deutsche Bahn is reportedly keen to sell its Arriva business, which as well as running the Northern Rail franchise is also the UK’s largest bus operator. Arriva is too big for Rotala but if its German owner decides to sell the bus operation piece-meal the West Midland-based group would be very interested in some of the parts, says Simon Dunn, chief executive. Rotala currently has less than 1 per cent of a UK bus market dominated by five large players – Arriva, Stagecoach, FirstGroup, Go-Ahead and National Express. That quintet account for 70% of the market and realistically the best way for Rotala to increase its size is to acquire smaller rivals but if Arriva does shed routes that presents interesting options, Dunn says.
EML
Potash miner Emmerson (EML) is close to inking a supply deal that could be worth as much as £4.4 billion over the next 20 years. It has signed an initial agreement to provide a global fertiliser trader with all of the product from its Morocco-based mine for the next five years. But the Mail understands it is in discussions to provide all of its potash to the international firm, which it has not named, for the next two decades. Emmerson listed on the London Stock Exchange last year and has a current market value of £24 million.
BLT
A bumper one-off dividend from BHP Billiton (BLT) helped shareholder payouts leap to a record £19.7 billion in the first quarter of this year. The amount paid surged by almost 16%, helped by FTSE 100 miner BHP’s £1.7 billion special dividend from the more than £8 billion sale of its US shale oil assets to BP. Total UK dividends are expected to break the £100 billion barrier for the first time this year, according to figures from Link Asset Services, which forecast investor payouts to rise by 6% to £106 billion in 2019.
SGC
Stagecoach Group (SGC) has upped the ante in its battle with the Government after it was disqualified at the 11th hour from bidding for three rail contracts over a row about pensions liabilities. The rail and bus operator said it has written to the Department for Transport and it is understood the letter is a prelude to High Court action. Stagecoach has asked for the DfT to respond to it by today. Stagecoach wants to know why its bid for East Midlands, which it currently operates, was deemed ‘non-compliant’ at the last minute. It claims the Government has passed the burden of underwriting liabilities for the huge Railway Pension Scheme on to rail operators for the first time.
SDRY
Activist investor Oasis Management has thrown its support behind Superdry (SDRY) founder Julian Dunkerton who seized back control of the business just 12 days ago. Oasis Management, which recently forced the chief executive at Mr Kipling-to-Bisto owner Premier Foods to resign, has bought 3.3% of the fashion firm’s shares. It is understood to have met with Dunkerton since he won his bid to be reinstated as a director with the backing of 51.2% of shareholders. Support from Oasis is a boost to the entrepreneur and his team, which includes former Boohoo chairman and Selfridges chief executive Peter Williams.
DEB
SPD
An ally of tracksuits tycoon Mike Ashley last night emerged as one of the big winners from the demise of Debenhams (DEB). City sources said Crispin Odey, who has previously backed the Sports Direct boss in boardroom disputes, made £30million after shorting Debenhams stock before the chain crashed into administration last week. Odey, one of the Square Mile’s most daring hedge fund managers, made millions shorting British banks in the run-up to the financial crisis and in subsequent government bail-outs in 2008. Odey is a shareholder in Ashley’s Sports Direct International (SPD) with a stake of almost 2.5%.
IAG
British Airways owner shakes up boardroom. International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG), the company that owns British Airways, has reshuffled its boardroom with boss Willie Walsh picking a new sidekick. The FTSE 100 airline group, which also has Iberia, Aer Lingus and Vueling in its stable, said chief financial officer Enrique Dupuy de Lôme will step down in June and be replaced by Steve Gunning, the CFO of British Airways. The changes mean that for the first time IAG will be run by two executives from the British Airways side of the business.
BARC
Ed Bramson hits back at Barclays (again) as top investor offers him glimpse of hope. The battle between Barclays (BARC) and Ed Bramson ramped up again on Monday as the corporate raider accused the board of placing “unreasonable demands on management” in his final fight for support. The two sides are racing to get their arguments heard ahead of the 300-year-old bank’s annual shareholder meeting on May 2 when Mr Bramson is hoping to be elected onto the bank’s board. Both sides issued scathing letters defending their plans last week. The secretive investor, who owns more than 5pc of the lender through his fund Sherborne Investors, has struggled to win over Barclays’ shareholders with one saying there was “nothing” the activist could do to convince him.
IWG
Regus owner IWG eyes more deals after £320m Japanese sale. The boss of IWG (IWG) said more deals were on the way after the FTSE 250 serviced office provider agreed to sell its Japanese business to a Tokyo-listed rival for £320m, sending its shares up more than a fifth. Mark Dixon, who started the business formerly known as Regus three decades ago, said the deal with TKP Corporation was a “very important milestone” in his new strategy of selling off its offices to focus on partnerships with franchisees. TKP, which rents out conference rooms and banquet halls in Japan, will acquire IWG’s entire Japanese business comprising 130 flexible co-working spaces.
KIE
New Kier Group boss embarks on strategic review of troubled contractor. The new chief executive of Kier Group (KIE) will lead a strategic review of the troubled outsourcer aimed at simplifying its operations and improving its financial position. Andrew Davies starts as chief executive on Monday and will oversee the review, which will consider how to make Kier more “focused”, improve cash generation and reduce leverage. Its conclusions will be announced in July. Last month the company reported half-year losses of £35.5m and slashed its dividend after suffering a slowdown in road and housing maintenance work.
DGE
End of plastic rings as Guinness joins Carlsberg in getting rid of packaging that strangles birds and fish. Guinness, part of Diageo (DGE),  has joined Carlsberg in scrapping plastic ring carriers, many of which end up in the oceans and endanger sea life. The brewer has promised that all multi-can packs will be sold in “sustainably sourced, recyclable and fully biodegradable cardboard” instead. Carlsberg was the first to ditch plastic last September, creating a special glue that holds cans together. Guinness said it will take time to phase in its changes though. It will start in Ireland in August before implementing them in the UK and around the rest of the world next year. And it won’t just be cans of the black stuff. Ring carriers and shrink wrap will be removed from multipacks of Harp and Smithwicks too.
DOM
Heat is on bosses’ bonuses at Domino’s Pizza. Bonuses at Domino’s Pizza Group (DOM) have put in the spotlight after the chain cut payout targets. Influential proxy advisers, who guide some of the world’s biggest institutional investors, have raised concerns on plans to reduce earnings figures that trigger share awards to bosses. Glass Lewis urged Domino’s to drop the changes without “a more thorough and convincing explanation” but suggested shareholders vote for the remuneration report. PIRC opposes Domino’s pay, labelling as “excessive” a maximum bonus for David Wild, chief executive, of more than three times annual salary. It also wants share awards deferred for at least two years.
IWG
Questor: it may not be as highly valued as WeWork but IWG (IWG) is still best avoided. Questor share tip: the former Regus has suffered declining profits as it invests more in new sites, while debt has surged
IWG
Shares jump as IWG (IWG) sells off Japanese office space business. The workspace property company behind the Regus brand has sold its Japanese business in a deal that marks the start of a major shift towards a new franchise business model. IWG said it had struck a strategic partnership with TKP Corporation under which the Tokyo-listed company has paid £320 million in cash for the operations, which has 130 co-working centres. The deal also involves a long-term franchise agreement, providing TKP exclusive rights to the use of IWG’s Regus, Spaces and Open Office brands in the country. IWG will also receive a fee for providing services to TKP, such as access to international sales and marketing.
BATS
BAT boss Richard Burrows gets coded message to go. Chairman under threat from new governance rules. British American Tobacco (BATS) is under pressure to replace its long-serving chairman to comply with new corporate governance rules. Richard Burrows, 73, has been BAT’s chairman since November 2009. The corporate governance code, published in July 2018 and applying to accounting periods from January, states that “the chair should not remain in post beyond nine years from the date of their first appointment to the board”. However, to “facilitate effective succession planning”, it says that the period can be extended for a “limited time, particularly in those cases where the chair was an existing non-executive director on appointment. A clear explanation should be provided.”
DEB
Debenhams looks in-house for new chief to oversee recovery. Sergio Bucher is to be replaced as chief executive of Debenhams (DEB) after the department stores chain was handed to its lenders via a pre-pack administration. The new owners, including Barclays and Bank of Ireland and the Silver Point Capital and Golden Tree Asset Management hedge funds, are believed to have asked Terry Duddy, the retail veteran who is the company’s interim non-executive chairman, to become executive chairman. A source close to Mr Bucher, who joined from Amazon in 2016, said: “Having stayed on after the AGM and got the refinancing in place, Sergio thinks now would be the right moment to move on. The upcoming restructuring can then be led by someone offering a fresh start.”
BARC
Edward Bramson’s bid for Barclays (BARC) seat dismissed by investor group Glass Lewis. Edward Bramson has been dealt a blow after a leading shareholder advisory group told Barclays’ shareholders to oppose the activist investor’s bid for a seat on the bank’s board. Glass Lewis said yesterday that Mr Bramson’s campaign to be elected as a non-executive director of the lender “falls short” and that other Barclays shareholders should reject his appointment at the bank’s annual meeting on May 2. The intervention is the latest twist in a bitter fight between the activist and Barclays, which has urged its shareholders not to back Mr Bramson.
GWP
Couple accuse Dr Pot’s ‘hired gun’ over farm eviction. One of Britain’s leading insolvency practitioners has been dragged into an acrimonious legal battle between a millionaire known as Dr Pot, who made his money out of medical cannabis, and a couple who live on his 100-acre estate in Dorset. Duncan Swift, vice-president of R3, the professional body for insolvency experts, has been accused of acting as a “hired gun” for Geoffrey Guy, whose worth is estimated at £100 million. Dr Guy runs GW Pharmaceuticals (GWP), whose largest stakeholder is Capital Group, an investment firm that employs Philip May, Theresa May’s husband. Dr Guy, 64, is locked in a legal tussle over Axnoller Farm in Beaminster, a wedding venue and farm that he has owned since 2017. He is trying to evict from the property Alo and Andrew Brake, his former employees who previously managed the estate. A barrister for the Brakes has claimed in court that Mr Swift “connived” with the tycoon in a “secret deal” to sell their possessions, including furniture and show-jumping horses, and remove them from a cottage on the site, the ownership of which is under dispute. Mr Swift denies the allegations.
SGC
Stagecoach to challenge Department for Transport ban over rail bids. Stagecoach Group (SGC) has warned the Department for Transport that its credibility is on the line unless it publishes its reasons for replacing the train company on the East Midlands Trains franchises and barring it from bidding for HS2 and South Eastern rail services. Stepping up the pressure on Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, over his unprecedented decision to bar Stagecoach from the railways, the passenger transport group has said that it will challenge the government. “We can confirm we have written to the department seeking answers to the numerous legitimate questions many people have about their decision,” a spokesman said. “We expect a prompt, full and transparent response to help restore public confidence in the integrity of the government’s procurement process, which has been badly shaken by this and other recent events.”
WTB
Costa sale brings Whitbread job cuts. Whitbread (WTB) is expected to cut more than 100 head-office jobs as a result of its sale of Costa Coffee to the Coca-Cola Company for £3.9 billion. The FTSE 100 leisure group, which is returning £2.5 billion of the proceeds to shareholders, is understood to have launched a consultation process involving almost 10% of the employees at its head office in Dunstable, Bedfordshire. Some are being offered alternative jobs within the business. A source close to Whitbread, which has 35,000 employees, said that the consultation was expected to be concluded this month, although up to ten people had already left the company. None of the executive committee is thought to be affected.
BRW
INVP
Brewin Dolphin Holdings (BRW) is in talks over the acquisition of Investec (INVP) wealth management business in Ireland in a deal worth an estimated €60 million. The business is understood to have attracted interest from Allied Irish Banks, Bank of Ireland and Rathbones, another City wealth manager, before Brewin Dolphin was granted a period of exclusivity to negotiate a deal. Brewin Dolphin confirmed that it was “in exclusive discussions with Investec in relation to this possible acquisition”.