Sunday Papers Roundup
Administrator PwC says talks with a preferred bidder for pawnbroker at advanced stage. Sir Peter Burt, the former Bank of Scotland chief executive, is to buy the majority of failed pawnbroker Albemarle & Bond out of administration. The City veteran is looking to acquire the company through his Promethean Investments private equity vehicle. Promethean is unlikely able to take on all of Albemarle & Bond’s stores which have 183 branches and around 900 staff.
Retailer breaks silence over sport tycooon's apparent attempt to derail Chinese sale. Mike Ashley will be given no voice in the strategic direction of House of Fraser even if he succeeds in buying 11pc of the company, the group has said.House of Fraser also unveiled that the sale of the remaining 89pc of the company to Chinese conglomerate Sanpower valued the department store chain at £480m, higher than previously thought, and confirmed that executive chairman Don McCarthy will step down following the sale.
The supermarket's embattled chief executive is under pressure as the retailer faces criticism from investors and rivals. The only time Philip Clarke has publicly hinted at the toll that being the boss of Britain’s biggest retailer is taking was at a retail conference last month. With the company losing sales at a rapid rate to the discounters and rumours swirling around the City that Clarke had fallen out with his finance director, Laurie McIlwee, the Tesco chief executive was asked how long he envisaged continuing in the job.
The retailer is under increasing pressure to engineer a corporate turnaround but unfortunately, these are hard to pull off. It seems that Tesco is going through a midlife crisis. Only a few years ago, the company seemed unbeatable. It dominated the UK retail sector, it had grown year on year, it had extended abroad, and was continually seen as one of the best run businesses in the UK. But just as with any success story, many of the triumphs began to breed complacency. Tesco knew it was number one. This led it to over-expand itself.
Dissatisfaction among investors and analysts is growing as the once dominant British supermarket sinks lower. The supermarket business is conducted in the language of wars – price wars – so embattled Tesco boss Philip Clarke probably needs to channel his favourite military hero if he is to survive the barrage heading his way. With heavy losses expected at the Co-op's annual results this week, we identify key areas the business must focus on.
Another crucial week for the Co-operative Group begins on Monday as the troubled chain of supermarkets, pharmacies and funeral homes prepares to publish its annual results. Before he walked out after a leak to the Observer about his £6.6m pay deal, chief executive Euan Sutherland had warned that the figures would be "ugly".
New head confronted at board meeting over interview in which he said Co-op's reputation for being democratic was a myth. Lord Myners dramatically quit the Co-operative Group's board after being accused by a board member of damaging sales by talking down the mutual's brand, the Observer has learned. The former Labour City minister quit just four months after being brought in to reform the troubled chain of supermarkets, funeral homes and pharmacies.
HoF plans to open 20 stores in China under the name Oriental Fraser after its takeover. Sanpower, controlled by the tycoon Yuan Yafei, confirmed its purchase of 89% of the department store chain yesterday. The deal values it at about £480m, including debt. Yuan intends to open the first branch of Oriental Fraser in Nanjing, the home of his empire. He will open 20 across the country over the next few years and believes there could be scope for as many as 50.
Sir Ian Gibson is facing pressure from some of Wm Morrison’s biggest investors to stand down as the supermarket’s chairman. Two top 10 shareholders said they wanted to see motor industry veteran Gibson replaced by a retail grandee who could get a grip on Morrisons’ performance. City sources said candidates could include John Gildersleeve, the former Carphone Warehouse chairman and veteran Tesco executive, and John McAdam, chairman of United Utilities and JSainsbury’s senior independent director.
Uniglo, the Japanese fashion giant, is in talks about a possible takeover of Cath Kidston, the British retailer famed for its distinctive colourful prints. The Tokyo-based Fast Retailing, parent of Uniqlo, is understood to be weighing up a bid for Cath Kidston as part of a plan to become the world’s No1 high-street clothing chain. The interest of the Asian powerhouse comes as a Chinese conglomerate, Sanpower, seals a shock takeover of House of Fraser.
Heineken is considering plans to offload up to 10% of its British pub estate.The Dutch brewer owns 1,250 pubs in this country but is plotting a possible sale of about 100 of the poorest- performing outlets. Discussions over a potential sale are understood to be in the early stages. Industry sources cautioned that no decision had yet been taken on whether to push ahead.
City says Clarke is on borrowed time as discount chains continue to steal sales. Tesco is poised to admit to another year of falling sales and profits as top shareholders warn that time is running out for its chief executive, Philip Clarke. On Wednesday, Britain’s biggest supermarket is expected to reveal a 1% drop in sales and a 6% slide in trading profits to £3.2bn. Clarke has struggled to halt a flow of bad news and downgrades since 2012, when Tesco was forced to issue its first profit warning in more than two decades.
First it was a float. Then it was the French. Finally a Chinese tycoon sealed the deal for the venerable House of Fraser. Until maverick Mike Ashley emerged with 11%. It had not been a good weekend for Don McCarthy. For months the 58-year-old chairman and co-owner of House of Fraser had been trying to find a buyer for the department store chain. After abortive talks with a Qatari family and the French retailer Galeries Lafayette, McCarthy had tentatively agreed a £480m deal with a Chinese tycoon, only to find the news splashed across the front of the business section of The Sunday Times.
In the 1950s, the Co-operative movement controlled 30 per cent of the British grocery market and produced more than 50 per cent of the milk. More than half a century on, it is hard to conceive of what a profoundly important part of the social fabric it was, and had been for most of its history.
David Williams was walking through the streets of Liverpool with his life-long friend Oliver Press and noticed how: "the fourth Tesco and third Costa Coffee [had] opened up in a square mile of where we live. We knew we had to do something". The pair, both 23, started a blog about the city's independent traders and, after it gathered momentum, launched Independent Liverpool in August last year. The concept is a simple one: shoppers pay £10 for the discount card for their city.
Mail on Sunday
The Co-operative Group could slash its stake in its ailing banking arm to less than a quarter as the bank rushes through a £400?million emergency cash call. The group’s stake in the bank has already dropped to 30 per cent after last year’s bail-out in which City and Wall Street investors took over the majority of the shares. But it is now expected to cut its holding to between 22 and 24 per cent as part of the new emergency fundraising.
Fresh details about the collapse of sports chain JJB in 2012 could emerge this week when the firm’s chairman and his son appear in court to face fraud charges. The case brought by the Serious Fraud Office will begin in Leeds Crown Court tomorrow. The prosecution is set to start presenting its case on Wednesday.
Anthony Thomson, the founding chairman of Metro Bank, has performed a major U-turn. Seven years ago he was preparing the launch of the revolutionary challenger to the big high street banks and boasting about its commitment to good old-fashioned branches. Now he is back with a plan to launch another new bank – Atom. But this time he is singing a very different tune. He says: ‘In the future children will ask, “Tell me daddy, what was a bank branch?”’
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