Sunday News Roundup
Walgreens Alliance boss: Boots is part of the great heritage of the UK, Honest Burgers: Tapping into a burger boom, Europes airline industry prepares for take-off, Irish hotel group eyes expansion, Allan leads race to chair Tesco,Teenage director axed after Nisa leak, Wearing well, Ocado is poised to unveil profit for first time in 15-year history
When Stefano Pessina struck a deal to merge Alliance Boots with Walgreens, it was seen as an astute and glorious finale to the veteran dealmaker’s time in charge of Alliance Boots, Britain’s biggest pharmacy chain. Instead it appears that this mega-merger may just have been the start. Rather than settling into retirement, the Italian is excited about the future, having effectively engineered an extraordinary reverse takeover of Walgreens, one of America’s oldest companies, with himself in control as acting chief executive. “Well, this has been a necessity because someone had to do it,” the billionaire insists in an exclusive interview.
The first Honest Burger outlet opened in Brixton Village in 2011, quickly becoming a success, and there are now nine restaurants across London. Its “better burgers” have had rave reviews among burger fans and diners are in for a long wait at peak times. The chain is about to get even bigger. The company has just raised £7m from Active Private Investment, the private equity firm that also owns stakes in Evans cycle shops and Leon cafes. The plan is to open five new restaurants in the next year.
As BA’s owner awaits the outcome of its bid for Aer Lingus, what are the other potential mergers in the offing? Aer Lingus, Ireland’s flag carrier, had rejected two takeover approaches from IAG in December, but Walsh, the boss of the British Airways and Iberia parent company, is determined to prevail. His previous two bids had been pitched at €2.30, then €2.40 a share. This time, he's back with a third attempt that he thought would be enough to convince his Irish counterparts to open talks. Ryanair – Aer Lingus’s biggest shareholder with a 29.8pc stake – had indicated that an offer of at least €2.50 a share might be enough to clinch a deal...
The largest hotelier in Ireland is poised to raise €50m (£37.5m) on London’s junior market to fund a major expansion into the UK. The Dalata Hotel Group, which operates 37 hotels with some 5,700 rooms across Ireland, is set to raise €50.3m (£37.8m) on the Aim market this week. The new money and a €318m loan will be used to fund the €455m acquisition of the Bewley hotel group, an Irish chain that includes nine hotels and about 2,500 rooms with two hotels in London, one in Leeds and another in Manchester.
Tesco is closing in on the appointment of retail veteran John Allan as chairman, marking the latest step in its attempts to recover from three years of chaos. Allan, deputy chairman of the high street electricals chain Dixons Carphone, has taken pole position to succeed Sir Richard Broadbent after Tesco’s other shortlisted candidate, the former Kingfisher boss Sir Ian Cheshire, indicated he would rather take another chief executive role. Allan has some knowledge of selling groceries — he worked at Fine Fare, which later became part of Somerfield, from 1977 to 1985 — but some of Tesco’s biggest shareholders are understood to be concerned at his lack of recent experience.
Nisa Retail has fired two non- executive directors after The Sunday Times reported a leak of members’ data last autumn. Harris Aslam, an 18-year-old who tried to run for the chief executive’s job, and his cousin Raza Rehman, 24, were dismissed last week after an investigation by EY and Kroll. The probe looked into the circulation of a spreadsheet containing shopkeepers’ details and online passwords in the run-up to Nisa’s annual meeting. A statement sent to Nisa members said the two men “had acted improperly and have left the board”. Aslam, who grew up in Fife, left school at 13 to work in his family’s grocery business and joined the Nisa board at 16. He and Rehman did not respond to a request for comment.
Shirtmaker TM Lewin returned to the black last year, having lost £1.4m two years ago, writes Matthew Goodman. The retailer generated pre-tax profits of £636,000 in the year to last March, according to its latest accounts. Sales nudged up slightly from £106.7m to £106.8m over the same period.
Mail on Sunday
Grocery delivery firm Ocado is expected to report its first ever annual profit this week as it gears up for a major expansion drive. The business is set to reveal it made a profit of about £10million – its first after 15 years of trading – when it announces its full year results to December 1. The company is predicted to hit turnover of £1billion this year as it expands its main business while at the same time aiming to earn revenue from a proposed new venture – operating the delivery arm of supermarket Morrisons.
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