Sunday News Roundup
12 August 2012 | by The Retail Bulletin
The Mail on Sunday
Virgin Rail in legal fightback as FirstGroup is to grab West Coast contract 'for up to £7billion' Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Rail Group is preparing to launch a legal fightback if, as expected, it is stripped of the lucrative West Coast rail franchise this week. Virgin is resigned to losing the London to Glasgow franchise it has held for the past 15 years. The Department for Transport is expected to hand the franchise to transport company FirstGroup. Several leaks have suggested that FirstGroup has bid between £6.5billion and £7billion for the 14-year contract, which would be as much as 20 per cent more than Virgin is understood to have tabled.
Universal threatens to sell EMI if demands from competition regulators are too tough Universal Music, home to Lady Gaga and Lana Del Rey, is preparing to offload EMI if the sell-offs demanded by competition regulators are too tough. It has agreed to buy EMI from US investment bank Citigroup, but is being forced to sell parts of the business to win approval for the takeover from competition authorities. But the record label is considering whether so many concessions are being demanded that the £1.2billion deal no longer makes sense, in which case it plans simply to sell the whole of EMI straight on to a new buyer.
Red Letter Days records its second year in profits after its rescue
It was founded by one ‘Dragon’ and rescued by two others. Now Red Letter Days, the company launched by Rachel Elnaugh and bought out of administration in 2005 by her fellow Dragons’ Den judges Peter Jones and Theo Paphitis, has recorded its second year in profit.The London-based outfit – which sells experiences including hot-air ballooning, supercar driving, bungee jumping and skydiving – made a profit of £404,700 in the year to the end of last December compared with £372,300 the previous year on a turnover of £13million.
Heineken UK's profits dive after £420m investments writedown
The British division of Dutch brewing giant Heineken had to write down £420million in investments last year, halving its profits. Heineken UK, the owner of drinks brands including Foster’s, Heineken, Strongbow and John Smith’s, contributed a £9.3million dividend to its parent company in 2011. Turnover at Heineken UK was flat at £1.6billion, but pre-tax profits dropped from £731million to £351million following the writedown at its S&N Angel Investments arm.
YO! Sushi gives rewards to gamers in tie-up with U.S. firm Kiip
Restaurant chain YO! Sushi is the first British brand to tie up with Kiip, a US firm enabling smartphone users to win prizes by playing games. Under the deal, anyone using apps linked to Kiip could win plates of YO! Sushi food. A Kiip spokesman said the rewards were partly awarded by chance, not solely by success at games.
BA may buy key stake in American Airlines to block Delta
British Airways' parent company is considering buying a small stake in American Airlines to prevent it from being taken over by Delta and turning into a global rival. Willie Walsh, chief executive of International Airlines Group that owns BA and Iberia, said: ‘We are open to that [buying a stake] if there is a strong strategic argument for investment. But it would be a small investment.’ American is seen as a possible target for a hostile takeover by Delta and a deal would create a giant competitor on the lucrative transatlantic route. It would also break up the Oneworld airline alliance of which both IAG and American are members.
Longer Sunday opening for big shops sparks new coalition rift
Trading restrictions on bigger stores have been dropped for six weeks this summer to coincide with the Olympics - and some leading Conservatives want this to be used as a springboard for longer hours to come in permanently. However, Liberal Democrats led by Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, is opposed to such a move, which would also be fought by unions, small businesses and the Church.
Next sees new gardening centres as path to greater growth
Fashion retailer Next is branching out into garden centres after a trial format came up smelling of roses. The high-street favourite has planning applications for five new home and garden centres in the pipeline after its first, at Shoreham, West Sussex, proved a hit with customers. Next, whose chief executive is Tory peer Lord Wolfson of Aspley Guise, has identified a total of 19 locations suitable for the new format. Each large shop sells fashion, homeware and DIY goods, as well as featuring a small garden centre. A second Next Home and Garden opened in Ipswich this summer and another is planned for Warrington.
Dog fight over pilot seat at easyJet
When Sir Mike Rake was awarded the job of chairing easyJet's board just over two years ago, he was, he said, "delighted". The BT chairman who spent most of his career at KPMG claimed that he was "looking forward to being part of the continuing development of the business." Today, Sir Mike might not be feeling quite so delighted. For at 3pm tomorrow, easyJet's founder and biggest shareholder, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, will call for the airline's chairman's scalp at an extraordinary general meeting, with the only item on the agenda being the removal of Sir Mike from his post.
British farmers wilting as supermarkets pile on the promotions
At this time of the year keen cooks can be found scouring supermarket shelves for fresh artichokes and plump beetroots to whip up into summer salads in tune with the rhythm of the seasons. But farmers are warning that a basketful of British produce – from tomatoes and cucumbers to apples – could disappear from greengrocery aisles. Producers complain of being crushed by the big supermarket chains which, under pressure themselves, are running an unprecedented number of promotions.
Team GB's success boosts retailers
National pride in the London 2012 Olympics have brought people flocking back to the shops, with soaring sales of bikes, sportswear, picnic foods and TVs. Last week in London the West End – usually buzzing with tourists at this time of year – was described as a "ghost town" as people were put off travelling by warnings of potential transport chaos. The widely feared travel disruptions never materialised, and shoppers were this week back out in force. Shopper traffic increased by more than 13% in the West End on Tuesday compared with a year earlier, according to the latest footfall figures from Experian, which credited the impact of the triathlon. Having witnessed the historic victory for the Brownlee brothers from Yorkshire, spectators then hit the shops.
The Sunday Times
Barclay twins seize Connaught
The luxury hotel company that owns the Berkeley, Claridge’s and Connaught is readying itself for a £660m refinancing at the end of a vicious High Court battle between its two main shareholders. Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay, the billionaire tycoons, won a four-month legal fight against the Irish property developer Paddy McKillen on Friday. McKillen claimed the brothers used “dishonourable” means in an effort to take control of Maybourne Hotel Group, and that they ignored his right to have first refusal on other investors’ shares when they paid £70m for a 25% foothold in January last year. Justice David Richards dismissed his claims.
Late gold rush for London
Retailers have enjoyed a late boost to sales in the second week of the Olympics, confounding predictions that the Games were putting off shoppers. The British Retail Consortium said activity in the capital had gained momentum after a slow start. The number of people visiting west London was up 4.1% year on year from Monday to Wednesday, compared with a fall of 2.9% in the first week of the Games, according to Experian, the credit agency.
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