April 29, 2010 / 1:55 AM / 10 years ago

PRESS DIGEST - Financial Times - April 29

Financial Times

SHELL JOINS CLEAN-UP EFFORT FOR BP SPILL

Multinational petroleum company Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) has dispatched six boats to assist in cleaning up the oil spill caused by last week’s fatal accident aboard the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. The rig had been drilling a well for BP (BP.L) in the Gulf of Mexico — an area Shell deems “very important”, with three new exploration wells identifying reserves that could amount to 350 million barrels. News of Shell’s assistance came as the group reported a 60 percent rise in underlying post-tax profits, with earnings per share up 48 percent at 80 cents.

LONDON ATTRACTS GLOBAL RETAILERS

The appeal of London’s robust shopping demand has acted as a magnet for international retailers, according to research conducted by CB Richard Ellis, a commercial property and real estate services adviser. A survey of the world’s leading retailers revealed how 58 percent of international retail brands have been drawn into doing business in the UK, spurred by strong consumer demand in the capital city.

BUILDERS FACE SURGE IN INSOLVENCIES

Insolvency experts are predicting extra working capital could lead to the failure of struggling building companies as many prepare to resume work on a number of stalled projects. According to restructuring specialist Begbies Traynor, there has been a 30 percent rise in the number of construction firms experiencing significant or critical financial difficulties since the start of 2010. Furthermore, fears are increasing that the already ailing industry may find it increasingly difficult to access the government’s “time to pay” arrangements that allow rescheduling of tax payments and are heavily utilised by building companies.

CAMELOT ATTACKS CRITICS OF COMMERCIAL SERVICES PLAN

National Lottery operator Camelot Group [LOTT.UL] has defended its plans to supply commercial services. It said retailers and service providers “broadly welcomed” its proposed market entry, anticipating “substantial advantages” from competition. Camelot said moves to supply bill payment, mobile-phone top-up and other commercial services through its lottery terminals would not result in it becoming a predator, pricing rivals out of the market. Bill payment provider Paypoint, which is one of three similar firms that could lose out from Camelot’s entry into the market, said plans would breach competition law, undermine sub-post offices and represent an abuse of power by Camelot, as the lottery’s sole operator.

TUBE LINES’ INPUT HELPS AMEY ADVANCE

A substantial contribution from London Underground maintenance firm Tube Lines helped its majority owner, maintenance group Amey UK, report annual pre-tax profits of 105.6 million pounds for 2009. The figure represents a 70 percent increase on the previous year and, according to accounts filed at Companies House on Wednesday, Amey’s Tube services division, which manages the group’s 66.7 percent stake in Tube Lines, accounted for more than a quarter of profit and a third of revenue. Tube Lines has been in dispute with London Underground over the funding of its public-private partnership contract and Amey’s results come just as talks have reached deadlock.

F&C PAYS 54 MILLION POUNDS FOR THAMES RIVER

Fund manager F&C Asset Management FCAM.L has paid 54 million pounds in a mix of cash, debt and shares to acquire Thames River Capital, the boutique that manages 4.2 billion pounds in niche and specialist funds. F&C’s chief executive Alain Grisay said the deal was part of his wider strategy to diversify the fund manager’s revenue and expand into managing specialist and higher margin funds across asset classes. F&C also brought forward its quarterly management statement, which revealed a four percent rise in assets under management to 101.5 billion pounds since December.

ADAPT OR DIE, BUSINESS WARNED

A report published by Microsoft (MSFT.O) on Thursday will urge businesses to radically change their structure and operations to keep pace with social change. According to the technology corporation, over the coming decades, those businesses that fail to adapt will lose out to newer, more flexible companies. Microsoft’s report, which was compiled in conjunction with the Institute of Directors and a number of British academics, suggests companies should embrace collaboration between departments, dispensing with rigid structures and linear processes.

PRIVATE SECTOR LIFTS PROSPECT FOR JOBS

A survey of nearly 800 companies conducted by management and development institution, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and professional services firm, KPMG, has revealed a “stark difference” between the employment prospects in the public and private sectors, with the latter expected to surge this spring. Recent growth of +29 percent has buoyed the private sector and anticipation of further job creation for the April-June quarter contrasts sharply with the public sector’s net balance of -43 percent since the end of 2008. While KPMG’s Alan Downey suggests the figures show that “the recession has reached the public sector with a vengeance”, CIPD’s Gerwyn Davies points out that the overall figures could indicate that unemployment is nearing its peak.

Prepared for Reuters by Durrants

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