The Trump administration has threatened to slap 100% tariffs on up to $2.4bn (£1.9bn) of French goods in retaliation to the country’s digital tax against US tech companies. The US trade representative (USTR) said on Monday night, after completing an investigation, it found the French digital services tax unfairly discriminated against American technology companies such as Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon. Sparkling wine and cheese – including Roquefort, Edam and Gruyere – are on the list of goods that could be targeted as soon as mid-January, as well as handbags, porcelain, yoghurt and other French products.
Ocado’s aggressive expansion of its robots and software business has split the City after it announced another £500m fundraising to fuel growth. The firm has launched a bond sale to pay for building automated warehouses, which it has sold to supermarket chains worldwide as they fight off the likes of Amazon. This £500m debt issue spooked traders, sending shares down to 1214p, as analysts disagreed over whether Ocado Group (OCDO) would have been better off relying on cash from shareholders instead. The company tapped investors for £143.2m last year. Bruno Monteyne, of Bernstein, said: “As a shareholder you would not want that investment program to be funded by equity.
Former Eddie Stobart Logistics (ESL) boss Andrew Tinkler has launched a stinging attack on the troubled trucking company’s biggest investor, calling it a “hypocrite” and blaming it for a strategy that has taken the firm to the brink. Mr Tinkler hit out at a rescue deal led by Isle of Man-based investor DBay Advisors, backed by Eddie Stobart’s board, which is due to be put to a shareholder vote on Friday. Late last week the company warned it would run out of cash if investors snubbed the DBay approach. Shares have been suspended since August, when the firm uncovered a major error in its accounts. Mr Tinkler has lodged a rival offer though investment vehicle TVFB and provided further details on Monday.
Bovis Homes Group (BVS) has been stung by a major shareholder revolt over plans to hike its bosses’ bonuses. The firm suffered a rebellion by more than 30% of shareholders over the proposals, which will allow chief executive Greg Fitzgerald to earn up to £4.1m a year if he hits targets. Bovis is planning to hike the maximum payable under its bonus scheme, claiming it is becoming more complex due to a takeover of rival Galliford Try (GFRD) residential business. Around 31% of voters opposed the business’s new long-term incentive policy at a shareholder meeting, and 34% voted against Bovis’s overall pay policy.
A hedge fund tycoon who is the biggest backer of Metro Bank (MTRO) has sold down a chunk of his stake in the troubled lender after a bruising year. Billionaire Steve Cohen has offloaded 3.8 million Metro shares for about £7m, according to regulatory filings published days after it emerged that Colombian billionaire Jaime Gilinski Bacal had snapped up a big stake in the bank worth almost £15m. The shares sold by Mr Cohen – an investor whose company was once accused of insider trading – were worth an estimated £152.7m when the bank’s shares peaked last March.
A key backer of Just Eat (JE.) merger with Dutch peer Takeaway.com has said it will switch sides to backing hostile suitor Prosus for a £1.5bn sweetener. Cat Rock Capital Management, a major investor in both Just Eat and Takeaway.com, said it was “deeply disappointed” with Prosus’s unsolicited 710p-a-share approach and more money is needed. It wants the offer hiked to 925p per share, valuing the business at £6.5bn. Just Eat and Takeaway.com agreed to merge in July after a campaign led by Connecticut-based activist Cat Rock, which claimed a tie-up was essential to secuure the British firm’s future.
Fashion firm Ted Baker (TED) has been forced to reveal a £25m accounting blunder – piling fresh pressure on bosses of the troubled business. Shares in the retailer dropped as much as 13% to a ten-year low after bosses said it had over-calculated the value of stock on its books. Ted Baker has now called in a magic circle law firm and independent accountants to investigate amid calls for an overhaul of its accounting practices. The company’s auditor KPMG could also come in for criticism following a string of scandals at other companies whose books it vets. Analysts at Liberum, Ted Baker house broker, described the development as “less than ideal”.