The Mail on Sunday
More than 100 employees at recruitment firm Hays (HAYS.L) have been made redundant after training their replacements. The staff, at one of Hay’s southwest London offices, were asked to show the visiting employees from India how to complete office administration tasks, such as payroll and credit control. John Harrington, shared service centre director, initially informed the work force in a letter that stated redundancies maybe necessary given the continuing economic climate and restructuring which includes “offshoring some activities to our service delivery centre in India”. A Hays spokesman said: “When offshoring work, it is not unusual for the people carrying out the work to be involved in the knowledge transfer process.”
Jazz FM, which has 463,000 listeners, is returning to the market after its founder re-acquired the business that he sold in 2002 for 44.5 million pounds. Richard Wheatly, with backing from investment firm Herald Ventures, regained control following a management buyout last year. Wheatley founded the station in 1990 and sold it for 44.5 million pounds to Guardian Media Group in 2002. Cenkos, the City brokers, and Kinmont, the advisory firm, have been appointed to table the stock market flotation.
Centrica (CNA.L), which owns British Gas, is anxious to get planning for its nuclear power station in Hinckley approved by 2012, before the country is plunged into a rush for gas. Chief executive Sam Laidlaw says that unless the future of energy supply is secured in Britain there will be a need to import around 75 percent of the country’s gas requirements. Laidlaw urged speedy approval for the building of the four nuclear plants, which are being planned in partnership with EDF (EDF.PA).
The Sunday Times
Shareholders in Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY.L) are calling on the bank to buy back shares worth billions of pounds from the taxpayer. The biggest shareholders believe the bank has now accumulated a large surplus of cash, a figure that analysts at UBS believe to be nine billion pounds. The bank is not keen to release capital before new international capital rules are fully outlined. The value of shares held by City fund managers would increase in value if the government’s shares were cancelled. The buyback would need approval from UK and European regulators, but failing this the bank could pay a substantial dividend at the first available opportunity.
Cattles CTT.L, the doorstep lender, is preparing for administration after failing to agree terms with creditors. The move will threaten 3,000 jobs and 160,000 small shareholders and comes after the company learned of an 850 million pound hole in its accounts in April 2009. At the end of 2009, loans and receivables were 2.5 billion pounds and borrowing totalled 2.7 billion pounds. Creditors could still reach an agreement, but any deal to keep the company out of insolvency would need the consent of 75 percent of shareholders.
Bourne Lesiure, the holiday business, reported a 61 percent increase in pre-tax profits to 88 million pounds in 2009. Sales increased 6.3 percent to 792 million pounds. The Cook, Harris and Allen families that own majority stakes in the company paid themselves 40 million pounds in dividends. John Dunford, director at Bourne Leisure, said the company benefited from a continued growth in short breaks and an increase in the number of people holidaying in the UK. The company spent 78 million pounds improving and refurbishing its Haven holiday parks and Warner hotels.
The Sunday Telegraph
The London Stock Exchange (LSE.L) has reportedly hired headhunting firm MWM Consulting to help find a replacement for outgoing chairman Chris Gibson-Smith whose contract expires in summer 2012. Possible contenders include John Varley, the outgoing chief executive of Barclays, and Roger Carr, chairman of Centrica, both of whom are believed to have been told they are “in with a chance” of succeeding Gibson-Smith. The successful candidate is likely to operate as deputy chairman until Gibson-Smith finishes his nine-year tenure at the LSE. The news comes as current chief executive Xavier Rolet prepares to set up a clearing house with a number of banks with the aim of guaranteeing share trades.
Dyson, the engineering and vacuum cleaner company, has raised 270 million pounds in debt from banks, including Barclays and Clydesdale in order to finance a 350 million pound expansion plan in Britain and abroad. The company is expected to recruit up to 350 engineers to work on research and development at Dyson’s Wiltshire laboratories. A spokesman confirmed the company had “big growth plans” and will aim to use a “prudent mix of bank debt and equity to fund investment at the lowest rate”. Dyson is set to publish 2009 figures within the next two weeks.
Gulfsands Petroleum GPX.L (buy)
The Independent on Sunday
French utility group EDF Energy (EDF.PA), which plans to build the first of a new wave of nuclear power facilities at Hinkley Point and Sizewell, is seeking to secure agreements with UK unions to remove the threat of industrial action at the sites. The move is aimed at ensuring that the construction phase can proceed to the strict timetable that governments require developers of these projects to adhere to. To this point, only preliminary work has begun and negotiations between EDF and the unions will begin once the main construction contracts are let.
Network rail is expected to name a replacement for outgoing chief executive Iain Coucher by the end of this month. The rail company’s chairman Rick Haythornthwaite is currently interviewing the final “handful” of prospective candidates and there is growing speculation that the final choice will come from overseas. Headhunter Egon Zehnder has been tasked with finding someone from outside the rail industry, with experience of running a large international company. Whoever replaces Coucher, who leaves at the end of October, will likely be expected to embark on a radical overhaul of the government-backed group.
VODAFONE BOSS IN SECRET TALKS WITH VERIZON OVER DIVIDENDS
Investment bankers in London are predicting the return of dividends at Vodafone (VOD.L), with the possibility that the telecommunications firm could increase its payments from seven to ten billion pounds. The optimistic forecast comes after it emerged that Vodafone chief executive Vittorio Colao and Ivan Seidenberg of Verizon Communications (VZ.N) have been involved in secret talks over the future of Verizon Wireless, the U.S. group’s mobile subsidiary, in which Vodafone has a 45 percent stake. Negotiations are understood to relate to the reinstatement of dividends previously suspended by Verizon in 2005, which was part of a move by the U.S. group to force Vodafone to sell its stake in the company.
SANTANDER HAS NO PLANS TO SELL OFF BRITISH BANKS UNTIL SPRING
Banking group Santander (SAN.MC) has put back plans for a flotation of its UK banking arm until spring 2011, which comes as a blow to investment bankers who have been campaigning for the role of bookrunner to manage the share sale. Speculation about a possible flotation first emerged when the Spanish banking group negotiated a deal with rival Royal Bank of Scotland to buy the 318 bank branches that the UK bank was forced to sell under EU rules governing state-aid. But the RBS deal is now not expected to be completed until the end of 2011. Santander is thought likely to sell 20 percent of its UK banking interests, which has an estimated value of three billion pounds.
Prepared for Reuters by Durrants