Sunday Papers Roundup
Avoid Ocado shares they are too risky, Apple wants the money in your pocket, Sausage firm secures private equity backing, Rothschild hired for Phase Eight sale, Phones 4U founder attacks Vodafone, Dualit to destroy the humble teabag, Waitrose brushes off German price push, Big step for DMs, Phones 4u jobs at risk as creditors close in, Alibaba float could raise record-breaking $21bn, Â£250m paint sale, Up, up and away for Theo Paphitis and Peter Jones as Red Letter Days sales soar, Amanda Staveley joins Middle East investors 'to bid for hotel group'
Ocado said it had increased retail sales by 15.5pc to £218.5m during the 12 weeks ended August 10 as the deal to provide Morrison’s with an online grocery delivery service boosts sales. The average number of orders per week increased by 17.4pc but there are signs of the squeeze on household incomes and price cuts from supermarkets as the average order size fell 1.7pc to £111.6, and that is down from about £115 in early 2012.
News that Apple was stepping into the (payment) ring knocked $4.2bn (£2.6bn) off the value of owner of PayPals owner eBay. It’s an idea that has been tried before, but fallen flat. Now the world’s financial institutions think Apple can take on cash and plastic. Past failures don’t seem to have deterred Apple, but rather to have encouraged it. “We love this kind of problem,” said Mr Cook. Google’s own wallet service failed to shift the landscape, as providers could not get enough shoppers using the service for it to gain traction.
Heck Sausages, the Yorkshire-based start-up founded by a family of pig farmers in 2012, has secured £1m in growth capital from private equity firm Panoramic Growth Equity. The company, which appeared on Alex Polizzi’s BBC Two programme The Fixer last week, will use the capital to ramp up production to cope with rising demand, and to broaden its product range.
TowerBrook, the owner of Phase Eight, is pressing ahead with a sale of the women’s fashion retailer that is expected to fetch £300m. The American private equity house is understood to have appointed Rothschild to advise it on a deal, with an auction expected later this year. The buy-out firm invested in Phase Eight three and a half years ago in a transaction valued at £80m.
Sir John Caudwell, the billionaire founder of Phones 4U, has launched a scathing attack on Vodafone, describing the mobile operator’s decision this month to cut ties with the retail chain as “ruthless” and calling for a public boycott. Sir John, who sold Phones 4U for £1.46bn, said that he expected the business to struggle after Vodafone’s decision to pull out in favour of closer ties with Dixons Carphone, threatening 6,000 high street jobs.
Dualit, known for its iconic toasters and heavy-duty kettles, has a few new irons in the fire. The British manufacturer is now competing directly with Nestlé in the coffee capsule space, and plans to take on tea giants Tetley and PG Tips with a new range of “almost instant” high-quality tea capsules. “We’re the new tea pioneers,” says Dualit boss Leslie Gort-Barten, 64. “When the tea bag was invented, people said, 'Why bother when loose tea is fine?’
Until last month, the grocery market seemed polarised: Aldi and Lidl were stealing customers from Asda, Morrisons and Tesco at the lower end, while Marks & Spencer and Waitrose were persuading the well-heeled to trade up. Then Waitrose issued an alert that its half-year profits would be hit by “a period of unprecedented investment”. The John Lewis Partnership’s upmarket food and drink division confirmed the impact last Thursday. Sales rose 4.1% to £3.1bn in the six months to July 26 — they were up 1.3% stripping out the effect of adding new retail space — but operating profit was 9.4% lower at £145m.
Sales of Dr Martens — the boots loved by punks and rockers — grew 30% in the company’s first year of private equity ownership. Sales rose from £160.4m to £209.1m in the year to March, according to accounts at Companies House. Underlying earnings increased by a third to £33.9m. Dr Martens was bought for £300m last year by the private equity firm Permira, which also owns Hugo Boss and New Look. The deal brought a hefty payday for the Griggs family, who had held the licence to the brand since 1960.
The future of more than 6,000 Phones 4u workers has been thrown into doubt after the heavily indebted high street chain prepared for talks with its creditors. The mobile phone seller has hired advisers to restructure its colossal debts. The process could see its private equity owner handing control of Phones 4u to its bondholders. Earlier this month, the 700-strong chain said it was “blind-sided” when Vodafone, which accounts for one in three of its new mobile connections, unexpectedly dumped it as a supplier.
Chinese internet retail giant Alibaba is poised to become the biggest stock market float in history when shares begin trading this week. Shares in the ecommerce company, which was founded 15 years ago by entrepreneur Jack Ma, could cost between $60 and $66 when they list on the New York Stock Exchange.
Farrow & Ball could add a splash of colour to the stock market after its private equity owner put the company on the block. The home counties’ favourite paint maker, known for quirkily named shades such as Elephant’s Breath and Wimborne White, has hired investment bank Rothschild to conduct a review of the business, which is expected to lead to a sale or float.
Mail on Sunday
Sales are soaring at Red Letter Days – the London-based outfit which sells experiences including hot-air ballooning, supercar driving and skydiving – after a surge in the number of companies using it for corporate hospitality and staff rewards. The rise in sales and profits is being seen as a massive pat on the back for TV Dragons Theo Paphitis and Peter Jones who rescued the company after it collapsed nine years ago.
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