Sunday News Roundup
Landmark Court of Appeal ruling over tens of millions in retailer's unpaid rent could change high street rules. A collection of Britain’s largest property companies and the computer game retailer Game will clash in the Court of Appeal in the coming week over tens of millions of pounds of unpaid rent. A consortium of landlords including Land Securities, Hammerson and British Land claim they missed out on rental payments when Game called in the administrators in March 2012.
Leading US hedge fund Elliott, led by Paul Singer, has its eye on British business targets.Those who know Paul Singer describe him as professorial, intellectual, a “sort of philosopher king”. He is risk averse, prefers small gatherings to large ones, plays the piano, wears spectacles and has a white beard. It is not the archetypal image of a Wall Street titan, but that is exactly what he is. Singer is the billionaire activist investor behind Elliott Management Corporation, the New York hedge fund which has lately beaten a path to the British high street, taking stakes in Game, Wm Morrison, and the collapsed retailer Comet.
Two entrepreneurs behind a leading electronic cigarette brand could sell their business for up to £50m. Art Devlin and Tony Jones, the founders of Cheshire-based Ten Motives, have hired adviser BDO after receiving takeover approaches, but it is unclear whether the duo will sell. Ten Motives, which declined to comment, has become the latest ecigarette operation to attract potential buyers. British rivals such as Vapestick and Skycig have been snapped up by American companies, while Gamucci, another leading British player, is trying to raise £20m to finance expansion.
A former hedge fund executive has taken over the running of Linley, the eponymous furniture business founded by the Queen’s nephew. Anna Sweeting, 29, who has become managing director, is tasked with increasing sales and profits after a difficult period during which customer orders slumped and Linley’s Russian backer was forced to pull out. David Linley, who started the company almost 30 years ago, remains chairman. The viscount ceded control of Linley three years ago when the yacht broker Jamie Edmiston took a 60% stake. Edmiston replaced Sergei Pulgachev, once known as the “cashier to the Kremlin”, whose shareholding and £400,000 loan to Linley had to be repaid when his Mezhprombank collapsed.
Britain’s largest shopping club for sportsmen and women has raised £5m from a clutch of high-profile investors to fund expansion. SportPursuit, founded in 2011 by Rhys Jones, Victoria Walton, Luke Pikett and his brother Adam, sells more than 600 of the world’s top sports brands through its website. It has 45 staff and is based in Clapham, southwest London. A minority stake is being sold to raise the money.The funding round was led by the venture capital firm DFJ Esprit, with participation from Silicon Valley Bank. Entrepreneurs William Reeve, co-founder of Lovefilm, Alex Chesterman, founder of Zoopla, and Alex Saint, chief executive of Secret Escapes, are among the lead angel investors.
The Swiss owner of Alfred Dunhill has been forced to inject £28m because of losses and a widening pension deficit. Richemont, the luxury conglomerate that also controls Cartier watches and the Net-a-Porter website, shored up Dunhill’s finances in 2012, according to accounts filed this weekend. Pre-tax losses grew 17% to £15.1m in the year to last March, while its pension scheme shortfall expanded to £14.3m, though sales rose 16% to £123.7m.
Mail on Sunday
Consumer spending got off to a flying start this year, giving rise to further optimism that the economy is back on track. Exclusive figures from Barclaycard show that spending in January increased 4.2 per cent on the same month last year. Spending on clothing, household goods and restaurant meals jumped, while consumers found ways to cut bills for food and energy.The figures support increasingly optimistic data from other sectors raising hopes of a sustained economic recovery. Consumer confidence rose last month to its highest level since September 2007, according to figures from market researchers GfK.
Huge investment in the tourism industry has turned it into Britain’s fastest-growing employment sector – attracting record spending by visitors from home and abroad. A new hotel opens every ten days and more than 100,000 new hotel rooms have become available in the past decade, in addition to extensive refurbishment of existing properties at an estimated cost of £20 billion. Figures from the UK tourist board VisitBritain estimated that tourism spending last year hit £113 billion, of which £24 billion came from foreign tourists and £89 million from the domestic market.
Sources suggest that Asda is one of a number of interested parties looking at the business, which is owned by Mothercare. Last month it was reported that Mothercare is in talks to sell off the 40-store chain. One person familiar with the matter said: “Asda has a lot of space in its supermarkets and is looking at different ways to fill it. The Early Learning Centre would be a logical fit for the company, the brand still carries weight with consumers.” Last year Walmart-owned Asda launched a scheme with Barclays to try out small in-store bran-ches at some of its supermarkets.
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