March 5, 2010 / 4:20 AM / in 8 years

PRESS DIGEST - British business - March 5

The Times

NORTHGATE LOOKS WEST TO TAKE ON ANOTHER MILLION PAYSLIPS

Northgate Information Solutions [NINFO.UL], the Hemel Hempstead-based IT firm, has become the world’s second-biggest human resources outsourcing company, after paying 100 million dollars for the HR division of Convergys. The deal will add another one million salaries to those already administered, and includes companies such as Dupont, Johnson & Johnson and Honeywell. Chief executive Chris Stone said the acquisition takes on a division of a company which has been significantly underperforming, as well as removing any “question marks” over whether or not Northgate can scale up in the North American market.

DEAL OF THE DAY

Antrim Energy AEN.TO has sold 30 percent of its Causeway asset in the North Sea to Valiant Petroleum VPP.L. Antrim, will receive 21.75 million dollars it had contributed to development costs, while retaining a 35 percent stake. Shares in Antrim fell eight pence to 78.5 pence, while shares in Valiant fell 34.5 pence to 530.5 pence.

TIDDLER TO WATCH

Shares in Intandem Films IFML.L rose 0.62 pence in Thursday’s trading to three pence, after the film financing and production group said it had cut first-half losses by 71 percent. The group also said it had transformed its balance sheet, after the sale of an investment in Radical Publishing allowed it to clear its overdraft.

NEED TO KNOW: EMIS

Leeds-based software firm Emis has published its pathfinder prospectus ahead of its AIM float. The group is hoping to raise 25 million pounds to pay down a loan from its founders.

NEED TO KNOW: CHI-MED

The biotech firm Chi-Med, a subsidiary of Hong Kong conglomerate Hutchinson Whampoa, said on Thursday it had reduced its full year loss to 4.6 million dollars, from 14.2 million dollars in 2008. Revenue at the group, which is focused on traditional Chinese medicine, rose 28 percent to 111 million dollars, aided by deals with leading pharmaceutical firms such as Eli Lilly.

TEMPUS

Schroders (SDR.L) (hold)

Spirax-Sarco (SPX.L) (pass)

Spirent (SPT.L) (hold)

The Daily Telegraph

SPIRAX UPS DIVIDEND DESPITE DIP IN PROFITS

Despite a ten percent fall in pre-tax profits to 76.4 million pounds, engineering group Spirax Sarco (SPX.L) raised its final dividend by ten percent. Redundancy costs were blamed for the fall in profits, but acquisitions and favourable exchange rates boosted sales by three percent to 518.7 million pounds in 2009. Growing indications of recovery in the global economy have led the company to point out positive industrial production rates in Asia and improvements in Europe and America, but a “rapid rebound” is thought unlikely due to the current fragile state of the upturn.

COSTA COFFEE GIVES WHITBREAD A LIFT

Whitbread (WTB.L) reported a three percent rise in like-for-like sales in the fourth quarter, aided by strong growth at its Costa Coffee chain. The group was also helped by a return to growth at Premier Inn. Chief executive Alan Parker put Costa’s increased sales down to the marketing push behind the new “flat white” coffee variety, which was introduced in January, and continued spending on store interiors so they remain attractive places in which to pass the time. The group has already raised earnings forecasts for the year, and analysts are now forecasting pre-tax profits in the region of 235 million pounds, compared with 198 million pounds last year.

QUESTOR

AMEC AMEC.L (buy)

IMI (IMI.L) (buy)

The Independent

HOWZAT: ITV SECURES RIGHTS DEAL TO SHOW IPL TWENTY20 CRICKET

Following the collapse of Setanta Sports, broadcaster ITV (ITV.L) has secured the UK broadcasting rights to the third season of Indian Premier League cricket, which starts next week. After exclusive broadcast in the UK by Setanta for the past two years, ITV will now screen this year’s tournament, which comprises 59 live games over 45 days, on its ITV4 channel and itv.com website. Other broadcasters interested in the rights were Five, BSkyB, Eurosport and ESPN. The deal between the IPL and ITV follows January’s announcement that Google-owned video site YouTube had signed a worldwide deal to show IPL matches online.

BLACKS SET TO DEMAND DEADLINE FOR ASHLEY BID

Blacks Leisure BSLA.L, owner of the outdoor pursuit retailers Blacks and Millets, is set to ask the Takeover Panel to issue Sports Direct (SPD.L) with a “put-up or shut up” deadline in the absence of any concrete proposals. Blacks rescued itself from collapse with a company voluntary arrangement last year, and intended to push ahead with refurbishment and new openings via a 20.3 million pound cash call. However, Sports Direct blocked that call after it regained its 28.5 percent shareholding. Blacks said it intended to find an alternative source of fund-raising if Sports Direct fails to formalise its offer.

INVESTMENT COLUMN

Aggreko (AGGK.L) (hold)

PartyGaming PRTY.L (avoid)

Intandem IFML.L (buy)

The Guardian

UNION DRAWS UP LAST-DITCH PLAN TO AVERT BA STRIKE

The Unite trade union is putting together a number of proposals aimed at saving around 60 million pounds, the minimum British Airways BAY.L wants to cut from the cabin crew budget, in order to prevent strike action and save jobs at the airline. Representatives of Bassa, Unite’s cabin crew branch, have been discussing potential strike dates ahead of a March 15 deadline, but sources say industrial action would not be announced until next week at the earliest.

Prepared for Reuters by Durrants.

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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