PRESS DIGEST - British business - Sept 11

Fri Sep 10, 2010 9:45pm EDT

The Times

JIMMY CHOO MAY SELL 500 MILLION EURO PRICE TAG

The private equity firm TowerBrook Capital has appointed investment banks Morgan Stanley (MS.N) and Goldman Sachs (GS.N) to advise on a floatation or sale of its Jimmy Choo luxury goods business. The banks will conduct a strategic review of Jimmy Choo, which could result in the business being floated on the London Stock Exchange (LSE.L) for up to 500 million pounds ($770.4 million). TowerBrook co-chief executive Ramez Sousou said: "We are now initiating a review of the best strategic and financing options for the business to support its long-term development and continued success."

WEATHERSPOON CHAIRMAN ATTACKS ALCOHOL TAX HIKES

Tim Martin, chairman of pub group JD Wetherspoon (JDW.L), has attacked the government's taxation and social policies, arguing that the policy of increasing taxation on alcohol was causing many pubs to close. The pub group reported a 7.3 percent increase in profits to 71 million pounds before exceptionals for the year to July 25, with turnover increasing 4.3 percent to 996.3 million pounds. Like-for-like sales increased by only 0.1 percent over the period, with bar sale down 0.8 percent and food sales up by 0.1 percent.

The Daily Telegraph

BARCLAYS' VARLEY TURNS DOWN HSBC

HSBC (HSBA.L) offer of a chairmanship to John Varley, the outgoing chief executive of Barclays (BARC.L), has been turned down. The reason for Varley's refusal is thought to be the time-consuming nature of the job, which will require a lot of international travel. The former Goldman Sachs banker John Thornton is now considered to be the favourite for the position, which recently became vacant when Stephen Green left to become the UK's new Trade Minister.

HARD-HIT CANDOVER SELLS EQUITY

The private equity firm Candover (CDI.L) has sold off one of its assets, the administrative services provider Equity Trust, to Doughty Hanson. Candover hopes that the 288 million pounds sale can partially compensate for drastically reduced returns since the beginning of the credit crunch. The value of the firm's assets fell by 13 percent to 903 pence a share during the first six months of 2010 alone, mainly due to the declining value of its stake in the oil services company Expro.

MAKER OF FAMOUS GROUSE WHISKY SEES PROFITS JUMP 52 PERCENT

Edrington Group, the privately owned maker of Famous Grouse and Highland Park whisky, has announced a 52 percent increase in annual profits. Pre-tax profits rose to 125 million pounds during the twelve months to the end of March 2010, compared to 82.1 million pounds for the same period in the previous year. The company also reported strong demand in Spain for its Caribbean rum brand Brugal.

BP DELAYS DATA AS IT LOSES ETHICAL STATUS

BP (BP.L) has been evicted from the FTSE's ethical investment index and has had to delay the release of its financial results due to the ever-increasing cost of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Attempts to mitigate the effects of the disaster have already cost the company eight billion dollars (5.2 billion pounds) and are thought to be costing it 90 million more dollars every day. The resultant complexity of accounting means that results will only be released on November 2.

The Independent

LAURA ASHLEY BACK IN BLOOM

Home furnishings and fashion retailer Laura Ashley (ALY.L) has reported achieving a "thriving performance" during the first half of the year. Pre-tax profits increased ten-fold from last year to 10.5 million pounds. This was partly attributed to a one-off 4.8 million pounds property gain but was also contributed to by a 63 percent increase in online sales and a 9.2 percent increase in furniture sales. The chain's decorating supplies also saw increased sales, gaining 7.1 percent on the year. Chairman KP Khoo said: "In a difficult economic climate, Laura Ashley has continued to demonstrate the strength of its brand."

SLOWER INFLATION CLEARS WAY FOR MPC TO BOOST ECONOMY

Official figures have shown that the rate of factory gate inflation fell to a six-month low during August. The measure of the increase of the price of goods from manufacturers declined to 4.7 percent from 5 percent in July while the cost of raw materials increased by 8.1 percent, down from 10.8 percent in July. The figures provide weight to calls for the central bank the Bank of England to renew its quantitative easing policy to help stabilise the economy.

The Guardian

UNITE THREATENS TO WIDEN ITS BA STRIKE OVER 'UNION-BUSTING'

Trade union Unite has warned that broader strike action may be effected by staff at airline British Airways BAY.L if allegations that BA is attempting to reduce the union's influence are found to be true. Tony Woodley, the general secretary of Unite, said that he is calling a meeting of shop stewards to discuss BA's alleged attempt to limit the union's power. BA chief executive Willie Walsh rejected the allegation of union-busting as "nonsense". A BA spokesperson said: "We have been available for talks at every stage and continue to remain in contact with Unite."

BUYOUT OF COLLAPSED CONNAUGHT COSTS 700 JOBS

Approximately 700 employees of the recently collapsed social housing maintenance firm Connaught CNT.L have been made redundant, many of whom were informed about their termination over the telephone. A further 1,200 workers at the firm remain uncertain about the future of their jobs. On Friday, Connaught's administrator, accountancy firm KPMG, sold the majority of Connaught's contracts to construction firm Morgan Sindall (MGNS.L) for 28 million pounds, a move which saved 2,500 jobs. KPMG conceded that it had to resort to informing staff of their redundancy over the telephone because of the large number of workers and their geographic spread. ($1=.6490 Pound)

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