PRESS DIGEST – British business – April 13

The Times

STRIKE-HIT BA IS THE ONLY AIRLINE TO AWARD PAY RISES

Previously unpublished figures from the Civil Aviation
Authority have revealed that the pay of British Airways (BAY.L: )
cabin crew increased by five percent last year despite the
airline reporting record losses and other carriers cutting or
freezing salaries. BA and Unite, the union which represents
cabin crew, are continuing negotiations about a pay freeze,
bonus cuts and changes to working practices, which led to seven
days of industrial action in March. BA said the strikes in March
cost the airline 45 million pounds and resulted in 200,000 fewer
passengers travelling with the airline.

NEED TO KNOW: LAND SECURITIES

Land Securities (LAND.L: ), the UK’s largest listed property
company, has purchased the O2 Centre in North London for 126
million pounds from Matterhorn Capital and Palos Investments.
They bought the scheme for 92.5 million pounds in March 2009.

NEED TO KNOW: THOMAS COOK

Holiday operator Thomas Cook (TCG.L: ) has announced that Dawn
Airey will join the board as a non-executive director with
immediate effect. Airey is currently the chairman and chief
executive of Five TV and was previously managing director of
global content at ITV. Airey will also join Thomas Cook’s
nominations committee.

NEED TO KNOW: SCOTTISH AND SOUTHERN ENERGY

Scottish and Southern Energy has bought a 15 percent stake
in Burntisland Fabrications for 11 million pounds. The energy
supplier has also secured an agreement with the offshore oil and
gas fabrications yard for the supply of infrastructure to
support its offshore wind developments.

TEMPUS:

Vernalis (VER.L: ) (buy for the brave)

Ithaca Energy (IAE.V: ) (a risky buy)

Carr’s Milling (hold)

The Daily Telegraph

GOOGLE SNAPS UP UK STUDENTS’ SITE

Google (GOOG.O: ), the Internet search engine, has completed
its first acquisition in Britain with the purchase of PlinkArt
for an undisclosed sum. PlinkArt allows users to identify a work
of art by taking a photo of it with their mobile phone. Anil
Hansjee, Google’s head of corporate development for Europe, the
Middle East and Africa, said: “It’s time to be much more
optimistic about the European tech start-up scene.” Mark Cummins
and James Philbin, who founded PlinkArt while studying at Oxford
University, won a 100,000 dollar prize from Google last year
after being selected as the best reference application for
Google Android mobile phones.

HENDERSON EYES 260 MILLION POUND SUNTRUST ASSET ARM

Anglo-Australian fund manager Henderson Group (HGGH.L: )
confirmed on Monday it was “in discussions” to acquire
RidgeWorth Capital Management, the U.S. asset management arm of
SunTrust Banks. An insider said the talks were at an “early
stage” and added that the deal could cost Henderson between 195
million pounds and 260 million pounds. RidgeWorth and its
subsidiaries manage assets worth around 40 billion pounds.
Shares in Henderson rose 3.2 pence to 149.5 pence.

YOUGOV “ON UPWARD SLOPE” DESPITE LOSS

YouGov (YOU.L: ), the polling company which makes two percent
of its revenue from political polls, says it is now on an
“upward slope” despite plummeting shares. The company reported
that it was in the red for the six months to January 31. Profits
fell from 683,000 pounds to a loss of 540,000 pounds. The news
was greeted with a seven percent fall in YouGov’s shares to 36
pence. Chief executive Stephen Shakespeare said: “We feel very
strongly that we have come out of the bad times and that we are
in more positive territory.”

QUESTOR:

Vodafone (VOD.L: ) (buy)

Home Retail Group (HOME.L: ) (buy)

The Independent

VERNALIS ON THE ACQUISITION TRIAL

Biotech firm Vernalis (VER.L: ) is setting aside funds to buy
up companies with later-stage drug development programmes. The
company posted on Monday a 27 percent increase in underlying
revenues for 2009 to 13 million pounds and ended the year with
cash of 26.4 million pounds. It also raised an additional 28.5
million pounds in March 2010, of which 21 million pounds was
used to regain the European rights to Frovatriptan, its sole
marketed product.

LADBROKES FOLDS ITS HAND IN ITALY

Ladbrokes (LAD.L: ), the bookmakers, is to sell its Italian
retail betting and gaming business to an affiliate of Italy’s
Cogetech. Ladbrokes said it expected a cash consideration of 4.6
million pounds to be paid upon completion of the deal. The
decision to quit Italy was made last August after revenues from
Italy failed to meet expectations. Cogetech will take on the
responsibility for an estimated 18 million euros of guarantees.

RIVER ISLAND BOSS RESIGNS

The chief executive of River Island, Richard Bradbury, will
retire after more than 20 years with the fashion chain and be
replaced by Ben Lewis, the company’s chief operating officer.
Bradbury, 54, was appointed in 2007 and is believed to have
informed the board of his decision 18 months ago. His future is
unclear but it is believed he will remain in the industry and
perhaps continue to help develop fashion colleges.

INVESTMENT COLUMN:

Cobham (COB.L: ) (buy)

Immunodiagnostic Systems (IDH.L: ) (buy on weakness)

Eckoh (ECK.L: ) (hold for now)

The Guardian

LABOUR’S “CADBURY LAW” DISMISSED AS PROTECTIONIST

The Association of British Insurers has reacted to Labour’s
election manifesto claim that it would raise shareholder voting
thresholds to two-thirds in takeover bids as being
protectionist. The so called “Cadbury law” is intended to stop
the “make a fast buck” investor activity displayed most notably
by hedge funds. Business Secretary Lord Mandelson wants to
protect the long term interests of British companies and their
workforces. However, the ABI said it could result in animosity
towards British takeovers, such as Prudential’s acquisition of
AIA, being blocked, as well as making it harder to replace a
failing management.

CAPITA PAYS BOSSES IN SHARES TO AVOID 50 PERCENT TAX

Outsourcing group Capita (CPI.L: ) has changed its bonus plan
to allow executives to avoid the new 50 percent tax rate and the
increase in national insurance. The company’s annual report said
a deferred annual bonus, worth 105 percent this year, could be
taken in restricted shares instead. Capita said it had frozen
executive pay in 2009 and would repeat the move in 2010. Last
year, chief executive Paul Pindar made 770,000 pounds in salary
and bonus plus 833,000 pounds from exercising share options.

Investing Tools

Prepared for Reuters by Durrants

PRESS DIGEST – British business – April 13