April 18, 2010 / 3:04 AM / 9 years ago

PRESS DIGEST - British business - April 18

The Mail on Sunday

ITV WANTS 250,000 POUNDS FOR 30-SECOND SLOT

Broadcaster ITV (ITV.L) is demanding a record 250,000 pounds for a 30-second advertising slot in the latest season of Britain’s Got Talent. Nick Ilston, of advertising-buying agency Pace Media, said most advertisers would pay around 120,000 pounds leading up to the final. The World Cup in June has led to predictions that advertising spending this year will be up 4.6 percent on 2009.

3.3 BILLION POUND RECORD PUSHES TESCO FURTHER AHEAD

Tesco (TSCO.L), Britain’s biggest retailer, is set to reveal record profits of 3.3 billion pounds on Tuesday as global sales are expected to hit 65 billion pounds. The figure, 12 percent up on the previous year, is double that of the combined profits of competitors Asda (WMT.N), Morrisons (MRW.L) and Sainsbury’s (SBRY.L). Last week saw Asda confirm plans to double its sales in the clothing and general merchandise sectors as it aims to overtake Tesco in the next three to five years. Jonathan Pritchard, retail analyst at broker Oriel Securities, said: “Asda’s ambition to be the UK’s number one food retailer is audacious at the very least.”

The Sunday Times

JUST THE TICKET FOR IMPRESARIOS

Ticket agency Encore is being bought-out by its founders, in a deal valuing the company at 20 million pounds. Managing director John Wales and Ashley Sherman, the deputy chairman, will receive financial backing for their planned buyout of the agency, which has a turnover of more than 40 million pounds, from private equity firm Isis. Two-thirds of Encore’s sales are driven by the Internet, in a business which started out selling tickets for shows and visitor attractions to coach parties and tour operators. Encore, whose sales increased almost six-fold last year to 5.8 million pounds, expects the fundraising to generate fresh capital to invest in new shows.

SAGE READY TO REPLACE LONG-DISTANCE WALKER

Software developer Sage (SGE.L) has appointed a headhunting agency to find a suitable successor to replace chief executive Paul Walker, credited with improving the firm’s brand profile. Russell Reynolds Associates, which placed Mike Lawrie at Misys, is preparing details of suitable candidates to replace the FTSE 100 boss, which could happen as early as 2010. Hailed as a long-serving chief executive, spending 26 years at Sage, Walker’s service is only eclipsed by a few other executives who have held on for longer, including Sir Martin Sorrell at WPP and Aidan Heavey at Tullow Oil. Among the internal candidates in the running to succeed Walker are finance director Paul Harrison and Paul Stobart, who operates the group’s UK and Ireland business.

INEOS WINS LAST-MINUTE DEAL OVER 6 BILLION POUND DEBTS

Chemicals giant Ineos has secured backing for a one billion euro refinancing deal to help service the mountain of debt built up by the firm during an acquisition spree. About 14 percent of the firm’s seven billion euro loans will be raised by issuing high-yield bonds with a maturity of five years, after lenders voted overwhelmingly in support of plans to refinance its senior debt. However, some banks, investment firms and hedge funds had threatened to veto the move, accusing Ineos of trying to soften the terms of its borrowings less than a year after a previous balance sheet reorganisation. While the deal places the indebted company on a firmer footing, it will still be required to operate within stringent limits stipulated by lenders.

SHAREWATCH:

JD Sports Fashion (JD.L) (Shares gained 11 percent after a profit surge)

The Sunday Telegraph

DEUTSCHE BAHN WOOS ARRIVA

UK train and bus operator Arriva ARI.L has entered a fresh round of discussions with Deutsche Bahn [DBN.UL], the German rail and logistics operator that made an unsolicited 700-pence-a-share approach for it earlier this year. The German group is seeking expansion in light of changes to the structure of the European passenger market, and French state-owned rail group SNCF is believed to have held unsuccessful talks with Arriva in January. Over the weekend, German media reported Deutsche Bahn, which owns Chiltern Railways, was getting closer to making a bid. Reports also said the group was looking to gain support for the bid at a board meeting to be held on Wednesday.

BARCAP TO RAID ECM BANKERS

Barclays Capital intends to expand its equity capital markets business by adding up to 20 new posts at its London office. BarCap, the investment banking arm of Barclays Bank (BARC.L), is understood to have appointed City headhunting firm Hogarth Davies Lloyd to lead a top-level recruitment drive aimed at turning its equity capital markets division into a global top three player within five years. Recruitment specialists estimate that the cost of the drive could be in the region of 20 million dollars and BarCap, whose equity capital markets division was ranked only 17th last year in terms of revenue, hopes to attract customers due to its status as the only independent UK bank in a sector dominated by JP Morgan, Merrill Lynch and UBS.

SALE OF JOHN WEST GIVES PRIVATE EQUITY MARKET WELCOME BOOST

The sale of MWBrands by its private equity owner Trilantic Capital Partners is welcome news for the private equity industry as the sector strives to show investors positive returns ahead of a new wave of fundraising, which is expected later this year. Trilantic has mandated UBS to sell MWBrands, whose ranges include John West Tuna and Parmentier Sardines. The process becomes the latest private equity deal to re-enter the market after an 18-month period of little successful deal activity.

QUESTOR

Standard Chartered (STAN.L) (buy)

Primary Health Properties (PHP.L) (buy)

The Independent on Sunday

NETWORK RAIL MEMBERS LOOK TO VETO EX-RBS DIRECTOR

A significant minority of Network Rail members are intent on blocking Janis Kong’s appointment to a non-executive director role because of her association with Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L) during the tenure of Sir Fred Goodwin. She was a member of the bank’s remuneration committee when Goodwin’s pension swelled to at least 20 million pounds. A spokesman for Network Rail said Kong has a wealth of experience in project management and customer service and feedback from the majority of members has been positive. Kong is currently a non-executive director at Kingfisher and has been chairman of Heathrow Airport.

PRIMARK PROFIT SURGE EXPECTED

Associated British Foods (ABF.L), owner of budget high street chain Primark, is expected to announce on Tuesday annual pre-tax profits of nearly 700 million pounds. Analysts at Deutsche Bank believe the increase from 495 million pounds in 2009 will be due to improved revenues of more than 10.1 billion pounds. The analysts said Primark is ABF’s “biggest profit generator” with the greatest profit margins. The bank warned Primark’s new chief executive Paul Marchant that the company has now to demonstrate it can succeed in Europe where many UK retailers have failed to do so.

The Observer

NEW SITE HELPS COMPARE COVER FOR HIRE CARS

Moneymaxim.co.uk went live on Saturday, a new comparison web site which offers consumers the chance to browse alternatives to mandatory hire car insurance policies. Hire firms offer expensive “collision damage waiver” insurance, which often only covers serious accidents and leaves customers liable for damage to wheels or windscreens. Standalone car insurance is a market which has been growing since 2002. Moneymaxim’s managing director Mark Bower said: “Typically a car hire company will charge around ten pounds a day for excess cover and drivers will still not be fully covered. Independent companies tend to be cheaper and offer better cover.”

ANGLO AMERICAN UNDER FIRE FROM PROTESTORS

Alaskan protesters are convinced that Anglo American’s (AAL.L) latest project will destroy one of the world’s most valuable salmon breeding grounds. The mining company plans to build an open-pit gold and cooper mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region to extract the ore located underneath the breeding grounds of the sockeye salmon. The protesters say the project will create ten billion tonnes of waste and necessitate 160 billion litres of water being taken away from the rivers. Company spokesman James Wyatt-Tilby said it will only pursue the project if it can be done responsibly.

Prepared for Reuters by Durrants

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