Interserve (IRV) shares suspended as company heads for pre-pack sale in hours. Interserve is expected to be sold to its lenders on Friday night as part of a pre-pack administration process that will wipe out its shareholders but save the troubled business and 45,000 jobs. It comes hours after shareholders rejected a rescue package put together by Interserve’s management team that it hoped would have avoided a costly administration process. US hedge fund Coltrane Asset Management, which owned 28% of the shares, together with another hedge fund, Farringdon Capital, were instrumental in getting the deal, which was rejected by 59% of voting shareholders, binned.
Wagamama owner to close scores of Frankie & Benny’s restaurants. Restaurant Group (RTN) plans to close scores of “unattractive” Frankie & Benny’s restaurants, turning its back on its biggest chain. The Wagamama owner plans to “exit” a third of its 248 outlets in the casual dining chain, as the casual dining sector continues to be buffeted by headwinds such as rising rents, punitive business rates and increased staff costs. TRG said that its casual dining chains accounted for less than a third of its profits. It had therefore “analysed every restaurant” across its 408-strong portfolio, which also includes Chiquito and Garfunkel’s.
Wetherspoons profits hit by higher labour costs despite sales rise. Wetherspoon (J.D.) (JDW) has reported lower profits following a sharp rise in labour costs after increasing wages late last year. The pub chain, which operates more than 900 venues, said pre-tax profits fell 18% £50.3m in the six months to January, squeezed by an additional £33m on labour costs. As well as the pay rise in November, the bottom line was also hit by higher utility bills and maintenance costs. The decline came despite a 6.3% rise in like-for-sales, which strips out new openings, with revenues up 7% to £889.6m.
HSBC slashes pension contributions for top bosses following outcry. HSBC Holdings (HSBA) chief executive John Flint’s pay packet has fallen by almost quarter of a million pounds after shareholder pressure forced the bank to revamp its pension plan for bosses. Investors urged the banking giant to change its pension payouts earlier this month after it emerged that Mr Flint was getting 30% of his base salary, or £372,000, in lieu of his pension while most other staff got just 16%. HSBC said on Friday that after speaking to shareholders it had decided to reduce the cash in lieu of pension allowance to 10pc of base salary. The decision will affect all executive directors including Mr Flint, whose pension cash payment will now fall to £124,000.
Sky courts Openreach rivals as ultrafast broadband race accelerates. Sky (SKY) has opened exploratory talks with upstart rivals to BT Group (BT.A) network infrastructure arm Openreach in an attempt to accelerate the rollout of ultrafast “full fibre” broadband. Britain’s second-largest broadband provider has positioned itself as a potential kingmaker for new network owners as they race Openreach to connect homes with faster and more reliable fibre-optic lines. Ventures such as CityFibre Infrastructure Holdings (CITY), backed by Goldman Sachs, and Gigaclear, owned by M&G, plan to build millions of new lines but need retailers to sign up consumers.
Martin Sorrell to earn £2m bonus from WPP (WPP). Sir Martin Sorrell, former WPP boss, is poised to receive a £2.1m bonus, despite leaving the firm last year. The advertising giant said the reward is part of its long-term incentive plan and that it would not challenge Sir Martin’s right to benefit from the scheme. WPP reportedly took independent legal advice and found ‘there was no basis to withhold or adjust his bonus’, which covered the period between 2014 and 2018. He will receive payouts as part of the scheme for a further three years. Sir Martin was awarded £70.4m in 2015, £48.1m in 2016 and £13.9m in his last year at the firm. The company added that in recent weeks he had repaid personal expenses owed to the company.