Interserve collapses into administration after investors reject rescue deal. Interserve (IRV) has collapsed into administration, handing its assets over to its lenders as part of a pre-pack administration process that wipes out its shareholders but saves the business and 68,000 jobs worldwide. In a brief statement the troubled outsourcer said under new ownership the firm will have “a strong balance sheet, competitive financial structure and a fundamentally solid foundation”. EY have been appointed as administrators following a failed vote in which shareholders rejected a rescue package put together by Interserve’s management team. Hunter Kelly, joint administrator at EY, said it was clear that “any period of uncertainty would have resulted in a collapse across the group”.
Patisserie Valerie black hole more than doubles to £94m. PMG, the administrators for scandal-hit cafe chain Patisserie Holdings (CAKE), has revealed that its forensic accountants found a £94m black hole, more than double the previous £40m estimate. In its latest report the accountancy firm said Patisserie Valerie which collapsed into administration in January, falsely claimed to have £54m in cash and that its assets were valued £23m higher than they were. It said: “The group’s majority shareholder, Mr Luke Johnson, provided rescue funding of £20m in October 2018, to fund the group’s trading operations in the short term.
Wetherspoons calls time on pub openings as higher wages bill bites. The boss of Wetherspoon (J.D.) (JDW) admitted that the pub chain had “reached the limits” of its rapid expansion as a higher wages bill hit profits. The FTSE 250 company’s pub openings hit a peak of about 100 a year in the early 2000s. That has since cooled, with analysts predicting between 5 and 10 this year. Tim Martin, Wetherspoon founder and chairman, said: “It is inevitable that going that from one to nearly 1,000 pubs, there will be reorganisation. “When property prices were cheaper, we over-invested in some towns, but we’ve gradually been sorting that out. The skill is trying not to fall into the trap of over-expanding.”
Top Cenkos shareholder fears rudderless broker is takeover target. One of the biggest shareholders in Cenkos Securities (CNKS) has warned that the City broker was at risk of being acquired while it remains rudderless. Richard Bernstein, the fund manager behind the Crystal Amber Fund and the group’s biggest investor, said he found it “baffling” that Cenkos still had so much uncertainty in its top ranks at a time of industry-wide consolidation. The business reinstated its former chief and co-founder Jim Durkin as chief executive in November, just 18 months after he stepped down, but he has still not officially joined the business. The firm is understood to be waiting on regulatory approvals.
Italian oil giant to plant huge forests to offset carbon emissions. ENI, the Italian oil and gas company, will plant forests four times the size of Wales across southern Africa to help cut its net carbon emissions to zero by the end of the next decade. The new strategy will also include planting enough trees to absorb more than 20 million tonnes of carbon every year by 2030. The €56bn oil company hopes the forests will help absorb its excess emissions while cleaning up its global oil and gas production business. Under the new strategy ENI will also tighten up on rogue methane emission leaks from its exploration and production business and cut gas flaring.
Berkeley Group Holdings (The) (BKG) was boosted to a nine-month high by signs that the London house builder is weathering the downturn in the capital’s property market. It confirmed it will meet its upgraded full-year guidance despite the Brexit deadlock paralysing sales in recent months. Property prices in London have slipped year-on-year every month since July, weighing heavily on Berkeley’s share price. The company said the market had been stable in the four months to the end of February, soothing nerves over the impact on its results of mounting political uncertainty.