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PRESS DIGEST - British business - May 26
May 26, 2010 / 3:08 AM / 7 years ago

PRESS DIGEST - British business - May 26

The Times

FIRST-TIME PROFIT

Torotrak (TRK.L), the Lancashire-based transmission technology company, has reported its first profit. The one-time favourite of retail investors during last decade’s technology boom announced that full year pre-tax profits were at 197,000 pounds for the year to the end of March 2010, compared with the loss reported last year of 1.98 million pounds. However, shares fell by 2.5 pence to 23 pence, after Torotrak said that its operating cashflow had turned negative due to a recognition of pre-paid licence fees in last year’s revenues.

BUYER SOUGHT FOR BEER THAT BRITAIN FORGOT

Bass Ale, at one time Britain’s most popular beer, has been put up for sale for between ten million pounds and 15 million pounds. Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI.BR), the world’s biggest brewer, is said to be interested in selling the majority of its British beer brands. The Bass brand, currently brewed under contract by Marston‘s, a rival brewer, has witnessed a lack of marketing investment and failing consumer demand. Possible suitors including Marston‘s, Wells & Young‘s, Molson Coors and C&C Group are understood to have ruled themselves out.

NEED TO KNOW: VICTREX

Victrex (VCTX.L), the plastics company, reported a threefold increase in first-half pre-tax profits. It also raised its interim dividend to 6.4 pence, an increase of 23 percent. The figures were boosted by a sales increase in its PEEK polymer product that is used in car parts, aircraft components and surgical instruments, and the overall economic recovery.

NEED TO KNOW: ALPHAMERIC

Alphameric Solutions, the provider of technology systems for the betting industry, has appointed Richard McGuire as a non-executive director. McGuire is closely associated with billionaire trader Joe Lewis, who has a 29.9 percent stake in Alphameric. Lewis also has minority stakes in Ladbrokes, Probability and Betdaq.

NEED TO KNOW: INTERIOR SERVICES GROUP

Interior Services Group ISG.L, the construction and management services provider, announced that its retail sector order book had increased by 40 percent compared with last year. ISG said that by April the retail sector order book was up to 172 million pounds. Lloyds Banking Group has re-hired ISG to remodel its retail and commercial office property portfolio.

NEED TO KNOW: RENEW HOLDINGS

Renew Holdings (RNWH.L), the engineering and construction services group that formerly traded as YJ Lovell, announced a 30 percent decline in full year profits to 1.6 million pounds. The group blamed a 20 percent fall in revenue to 138 million pounds but pointed out that the business was debt-free and could report a 43 percent increase in its order book when compared with the same time last year.

TEMPUS

HICL (hold)

C&C Group (GCC.I) (buy)

De La Rue (DLAR.L) (there is better value elsewhere)

The Daily Telegraph

SPECULATION ENDS AS RTL FINALLY PUTS CHANNEL FIVE UP FOR SALE

RTL, the parent company of UK free-to-air broadcaster channel Five, is set to formally seek bids for a sale of Five. RTL is thought to have recruited a team to formulate what one insider called a “tender process” for Five’s sale. Thomas Rabe, the chief finance officer of RTL’s majority owner Bertelsmann, labelled Five’s business model “not sustainable” in March 2009, sparking speculation that Five would be sold.

KCOM PROFIT TURNAROUND AFTER RADICAL RESTRUCTURING

KCom (KCOM.L), the telecoms company, has posted pre-tax profits of 19.2 million pounds in the year to March 31, compared to a loss of 111 million pounds a year earlier. Bill Halbert, executive chairman, said: “We are ahead of all expectations, despite a 13 percent decline in revenue.” Halbert also said the company, which cut 150 jobs as part of a major restructuring, was currently fighting for big nationwide contracts against BT Global Services and Cable & Wireless Worldwide. Shares in KCom increased 2.5 pence to close at 44.75 pence.

VODAFONE FACES BILL OF ONE BILLION DOLLARS IN INDIA

Vodafone (VOD.L), the mobile network operator, could face a bill of around one billion dollars at Vodafone Essar, its majority-owned Indian operator, after a tribunal refused to intervene in a dispute between mobile phone operators and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India regarding proposals to charge retrospective fees for 2G mobile spectrum frequencies. The TRAI has insisted that firms pay a one-off fee for 2G radio spectrum with high bandwidth which was won several years ago based on 3G spectrum price. Last week saw Vodafone Essar spending 1.74 billion pounds on 3G licences in India.

DYSON AT PUNCH IN SEPTEMBER

Ian Dyson, finance director of retailer Marks & Spencer, will join Punch Taverns PUB.L, the pub and bar operator, as chief executive on September 6. Dyson will replace Giles Thorley, who will step down once an “orderly handover” has been completed, according to a Punch statement made on Tuesday. Dyson, who resigned from M&S two days after Marc Bolland began his tenure as chief executive, is also the retailer’s chief operations officer.

QUESTOR

HSBC Infrastructure Fund (buy)

CVS Group (CVSG.L) (buy)

The Independent

STANCHART OFFERING OFF TO SLOW START

Standard Chartered’s (STAN.L) Indian share sale was about five percent subscribed on its first day. The bank’s efforts to raise up to 404 million pounds and raise its profile in its second largest market is expected to pick up as institutional investors tend to place their bids near the end of the issue. Stock exchange figures show most bids have been at the low end of the 100-115 rupee a share price band. The bank is selling 240 million shares through Indian Depository Receipts with book-building set to close on Friday. Analysts said demand from retail investors was unlikely to be heavy due to the crisis in global stock markets.

INVESTMENT COLUMN

Homeserve (HSV.L) (hold)

Torotrak (TRK.L) (avoid)

BSS BTSM.L (buy)

The Guardian

ASDA LOSES MARKET SHARE WHILE WAITROSE GAINS

Asda (WMT.N), the supermarket group, saw its share of the market fall for the fifth consecutive month. Its growth was 2.5 percent in a market that was up 3.3 percent in the 12 weeks to May 16. Like-for-like sales were down 0.3 percent in the first three months of the year, the first fall in sales since 2006. Tesco’s share was 30.6 percent, growing in-line with the market, while Sainsbury’s and Morrisons registered growth of 4.4 percent and six percent respectively. Waitrose continued to impress with its market share up to 4.1 percent from 3.8 percent a year ago. Its sales growth was 12.5 percent.

Prepared for Reuters by Durrants

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