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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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”.