Newspapers: The Times, Independent, FT, Telegraph, Guardian, Mail, Express, Herald 220218

The Times

Irish tycoon pips Ashley to buy market: Aidan Brooks, a Limerick-born property investor, is understood to be leading the acquisition of Brixton Village and Market Row for an undisclosed sum. The grade II listed arcades are home to 140 retailers and restaurants and are renowned for their range of foods.

Elliott adds intrigue to Fidessa sale: One of the world’s most powerful and influential activist investors has disclosed a 4.9% stake in Fidessa, opening up the possibility of a bidding war for the British trading software company.

Sales rise in ‘remarkably resilient’ housing market: Housing transactions are holding steady across Britain, with even London’s precarious property market experiencing an increase in mortgages for new purchases at the end of last year.

Apple powers up fight over battery metal cobalt: Apple is seeking to buy cobalt directly from mining companies amid a looming shortage of the metal, a key ingredient for the lithium-ion batteries in its iPhones and iPads.

The Independent

Metro Bank posts first ever annual profit: Metro Bank has posted its first ever annual profit, helped by record lending to both commercial and residential mortgage customers. The challenger bank on Wednesday said that underlying profit before tax for the full year 2017 had come in at £20.8 million up from a loss of £11.7 million in 2016.

Hotel Chocolat’s profits boosted by new stores and Valentine’s Day sales: Hotel Chocolat, the British chocolatier, on Wednesday reported a 15% rise in first half revenue and profit as it expanded its reach across retail, digital and corporate channels.

Brexit: Britain’s largest house builder considers relocating block building operations from Germany to U.K.: Barratt Developments said that 90% of its large format blocks used in residential projects are sourced from the U.K. but the remainder are imported from abroad – potentially leaving it vulnerable to a shortfall in materials post-Brexit.

Financial Times

Glencore and Chad agree to restructure terms of ‘cash-for-crude’ loan: Glencore and Chad have agreed to restructure a more than $1 billion cash-for-crude loan, in a move that should free up borrowing from the International Monetary Fund for the west African country.

Citi creates new role for commodities banking across EMEA: Citigroup has created a new position to oversee its corporate banking activities in natural resources across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

JPMorgan plans to build massive HQ tower in New York’s Park Ave: JPMorgan Chase has given a big boost to the old business heart of midtown Manhattan, agreeing a deal to tear down its 60-year-old Park Avenue headquarters and replace it with one of the tallest towers in New York City.

Ford senior Executive departs over misconduct allegations: A top Ford Executive has been forced out after reported misconduct in another blow to the reputation of the Detroit carmaker at a time when its share price and profits are flagging.

ProSieben names former Dyson head as next Chief: German media company ProSiebenSat. 1 has chosen the former head of Dyson, the British technology group, as its next Chief Executive.

May braced for Unilever decision on headquarters: Theresa May is bracing for Unilever to choose the Netherlands over the U.K. for its new unified headquarters, after months of political pressure from both sides and amid an “emotional” atmosphere supercharged by Brexit.

Avis Budget shares jump on upbeat outlook: Shares in Avis Budget jumped in after-hours trading after the car rental company issued an upbeat outlook for the year ahead.

Facebook seen struggling with new European privacy rules: Facebook’s data collection policies will breach Europe’s stringent new privacy rules, threatening its ability to sell advertising based on targeted user information, according to a study that highlights the challenge faced by the social media company in adapting to the new regime.

Qualcomm says Broadcom ‘made an inadequate offer even worse’: Qualcomm has fired back at Broadcom’s latest proposal, saying that its rival chipmaker’s reduced bid “makes an inadequate offer even worse” in the wake of Qualcomm’s new deal for Dutch company NXP Semiconductors.

Qantas shares jump on buyback plans, profits growth: Shares in Australia’s Qantas gained as much as 7.5% on Thursday after the company reported first-half profits had come in above expectations and announced plans for a share buyback of up to A$378 million ($294.9 million).


German wage growth: payback time: Big pay settlements simply reflect past abstinence.

Qualcomm/Broadcom: slumpitrage: It will take a shareholder pressure to get a deal done now.

FirstGroup: late arrival: FirstGroup can strike the bus factor off its growing list concern – but only because there appears to be no plan.


Lloyds bankers need simply be boring as story grows exciting: Horta-Osorio must stick to his ‘kiss’ strategy for the recovery to continue.

The Daily Telegraph

ITV Boss Dame Carolyn McCall seeks peace deal in fees war with Virgin Media: New ITV Chief Executive Dame Carolyn McCall has ditched a long-running campaign by the broadcaster to force Virgin Media to pay tens of millions of pounds per year to carry its main channel.

Homebase owner’s profits plummet as turnaround efforts fall flat: Wesfarmers’ botched takeover of Homebase forced it to book a massive slump in profits today, casting further doubt on the logic behind the £340 million deal.

The Questor Column:

Questor: buy Future – it got shot of its nasty ‘lads’ mags’ but the market hasn’t yet twigged: Richard Power, who manages the Octopus U.K. Micro Cap Growth fund, said Future was well on the way to recovery but its prospects were not fully reflected in the share price. Power said the firm’s strategy was to drive its business online. Its focus on specific sectors such as technology, gaming, music and photography gave it access to a keen online audience ready to click on links carried on Future’s online coverage and buy advertisers’ products – with the publisher taking a cut. “It has also acquired the ‘home interests’ division from rival group Centaur. It will put these home improvement titles through its model and start to drive margin expansion,” he said. The figures show the extent of the new team’s achievements so far, he added. Turnover has risen from £59 million in 2016 to £84.4 million in 2017 and a forecast £91.7 million in 2018, while profit margins (on an “Ebitda” basis) are expected to reach 18.3% this year, from 8.8% in 2016 and 13% in 2017. He said the firm’s ambition was to double in size over the next three years or so and that as a result he was comfortable with the shares’ price to earnings ratio of about 18. “You are backing a duo with a tremendous track record. They are very clear in their ambition to build a substantial business,” Power said. “We came to this story later than we would have liked – we met them only last year and it was clear that they had a strong understanding of their market. “Before that, in our minds, the firm was struggling – investors do sometimes focus on the sins of the past. It’s also easy to think that a turnaround has already happened and you’ve missed it but they have built a platform for growth.” Questor says “Buy”.

Update: Craneware: In March last year we tipped Aim-listed Craneware, which focuses on selling software to American hospitals. We highlighted its “sticky” customer base, high profitability and lowly valuation. The shares have risen by 48.3% since our tip but the attractions remain. “The basic story has not changed at all,” said Rosemary Banyard, who holds the shares in her Sanford DeLand Free Spirit fund. But she pointed to several recent encouraging announcements from the company. Growth in sales and profits remained in double digits over the six months to Dec 31 and the firm won some “significant” contracts. One customer “clearly found [Craneware’s] product so useful that it has agreed to roll it out much more widely”, Banyard said. Then a share buyback programme was not fully subscribed, “suggesting widespread satisfaction among the shareholder base”. Questor says “Hold”.

The Guardian

Adani mining giant facing renewed claims of $600 million fraud in India: India’s customs department has revived allegations of a U.S.$600 million financial fraud against the Adani Group, challenging an order clearing the mining giant last year as “erroneous, illegal and improper”.

U.K. unemployment rises at fastest rate in almost five years: The prospect of an interest rate rise before the summer has receded after the number of people out of work in Britain rose at the fastest rate in almost five years.

NatWest Bank tests Cora, an AI bot that will answer customer questions: NatWest is testing an artificial intelligence-powered “digital human” called Cora that will converse with customers in branches – raising fears that bank tellers could be replaced by avatars.

Daily Mail

Fears over First Direct’s banking app which sneakily passes customers on to third party vendors: Fears of another mis-selling scandal have been raised over a banking app which offers customers utility deals and investment options.

End of the road for Greyhound? U.S. bus company is hit by 2.4% revenue decline as cheap air fares lure customers away: America’s famous 104-year-old Greyhound bus service looks under threat after declining sales forced its U.K. owner to issue a profit warning. Greyhound Lines suffered a 2.4% decline in revenues from the end of September to January as it was hit by fierce competition.

Britain’s most famous fund manager Neil Woodford loses £28 million as another bet turns sour: Neil Woodford, Britain’s most famous fund manager, must be wondering when his luck will change after another of his punts turned sour.

Car crash for the AA: Almost £200 million is wiped off the value of roadside rescue firm after it warns on profits: Almost £200 million was wiped off the value of the AA after the roadside rescue firm warned on profits and bet its future on new technology.

Daily Express

Carney warns interest rates will increase in bid to control inflation: Bank of England Boss Mark Carney has warned interest rates may have to rise quicker than originally expected in order to keep inflation at bay.

The Scottish Herald

Lloyds’ profits dragged down by PPI charges: Lloyds Banking Group has extended its provision for PPI mis-selling claims by a further £600 million, with the additional charges causing full year profits at the Bank of Scotland owner to fall short of City expectations.

Fife-based Havelock Europa lines up debt funding after tough year: Shares in Havelock Europa have surged around 16% from a low base after the interior fit-out specialist said it had lined up £3 million additional funding following what it described as a difficult year.

Aberdeen engineering giant wins work on gas field off Western Australia: Aberdeen-based Wood has won a contract to work on a giant gas field off Australia, which is likely worth millions of dollars and will help offset the impact of spending cuts in the North Sea.

The Scotsman

Brexit poses ‘significant’ questions for Scotland’s ports: Brexit raises “significant” questions for Scotland’s maritime economy and the future of its ports, industry figures have warned. Additional infrastructure could be required at the country’s busiest ferry terminals if the U.K. leaves the Customs Union and Single Market without agreements in place, while ports handling the import and export of goods could see traffic affected by tariffs.

City A.M.

Citymapper’s launched a mincab-bus hybrid carpooling service after TfL approves PHV licence: Citymapper is launching an on-demand carpooling service in the capital that’s part minicab, part bus, after Transport for London finally approved its application for a private hire licence.

AccorHotels beats expectations on profitability as expansion pays off: French hotel giant AccorHotels beat market expectations with its latest update this morning, proclaiming is has “never been so strong”. The group attributed the growth during 2017 to an expansion drive and a positive backdrop in the hotel market.

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