PRESS DIGEST – British business – April 15

The Times

REDUNDANT JARVIS STAFF FINISH JOBS ON HALF PAY

Redundant employees from Jarvis, the rail maintenance
company, are being hired at half their former pay by agencies
which are putting them to work on projects that should have been
completed before the company entered into administration. Bob
Crow, the general secretary of the RMT union, accused Network
Rail on Wednesday of putting the health and safety of rail
workers and passengers at risk by allowing Babcock Rail, a rival
contractor that has taken over Jarvis’s work, to bring in agency
workers.

DREAMING OF A MILLION MEN FROM THE PRU

Insurer Prudential (PRU.L: ) is aiming to increase its agency
workforce to at least one million in Asia following its 35.5
million dollar acquisition of AIA. Barry Stowe, the chief
executive of Prudential’s Asian arm, said the target was
“absolutely achievable, it’s realistic”. The purchase of AIA
will add a further 300,000 sales agents to its current 400,000
workforce, with another 300,000 expected to be added over the
next few years, according to Prudential. The deal, agreed last
month, will turn Prudential into the biggest overseas insurer in
Asia, with a market-leading presence in seven countries.

TEMPUS

Fresnillo (FRES.L: ) (better times to buy)

Alterian (ALN.L: ) (hold)

Homeserve (HSV.L: ) (buy on weakness)

The Daily Telegraph

PRIMARK OWNER’S SHARES FALL AFTER CITY CRITICISM

Analysts at Deutsche Bank have delivered a surprising
critique for Primark, one of the UK’s most successful fashion
stores, suggesting that the “fast-fashion” chain is overvalued.
The share price of parent company AB Foods was downgraded from
“buy” to “sell” after a 53-page note warned that its European
expansion plans, a market where other UK retailers have tried
and failed, is uncertain. The bank said Primark’s valuation,
based on a rebound on margins and a perfect European rollout, is
questionable.

APPROVAL FOR BGLOBAL’S SMART METERS

Aim-listed technology company Bglobal (BGBL.L: ), based in
Lancashire, has won regulatory approval for its new Smart 1
product. The product uses mobile phone technology to convert
traditional energy meters into “smart meters” without disrupting
the power supply. Bglobal chief executive Tony Barnes said the
technology marked “a big step forward for smart meters”. The
company has also signed a deal with mobile operator Orange.
Shares in Bglobal closed up two pence at 44.25 pence.

NESTLE SIZES UP WEIGHTWATCHERS

Nestle (NESN.VX: ), the nutrition and foods company, is set to
challenge the dominance of market stalwart WeightWatchers by
bringing its Jenny Craig weight-loss plan to the UK. The brand,
which is already a 340 million dollar business in the United
States, was trialed in the Midlands last year and sees its
customers being delivered ready-made meals to their house as
well as having weekly sessions with a diet consultant. Richard
Laube, head of Nestle’s nutrition division, said: “We don’t want
to hook clients for life. Over the period which is typically
about 12 weeks, non-Jenny Craig items are systematically brought
in to train clients to follow portion control.” Nestle bought
Jenny Craig in 2006 for 600 million dollars.

QUESTOR

JP Morgan Indian IT (buy)

Royal Dutch Shell ‘B’ (buy)

The Independent

BRITISH OPERATORS LINE UP TO OFFER IPAD AS APPLE DELAYS
GLOBAL.

The three largest UK mobile phone operators — Vodafone
(VOD.L: ), O2 (OTOW.PK: ) and Orange [ORNGF.UL] — have confirmed
they will offer Apple’s (AAPL.O: ) iPad to customers in Britain.
However, they will have to wait as Apple has been forced to
delay the worldwide launch due to unprecedented demand in the
United States. The three companies will offer competing monthly
pricing plans for customers who want to surf the web using 3G
mobile broadband services. Both pre-pay and contract deals are
expected to be offered.

ATKINS SEES RESULTS AHEAD OF FORECASTS

WS Atkins (ATKW.L: ), the design and engineering firm, posted
better-than-expected annual results. The group said profits for
the year to March 31 would be “slightly ahead” of the forecast
86 million pounds. This is down on last year’s figure of 102.7
million pounds. The results are attributed to strong cost
controls and an order book boosted by the winning of recent
contracts. Current projects include the 2012 Olympic Park,
widening of the M25 and inclusion in a team building an
experimental nuclear fusion reactor in France.

INVESTMENT COLUMN

JD Sports (JD.L: ) (buy)

ATH Resources (ATH.L: ) (buy)

International Personal Finance (IPF.L: ) (hold)

The Guardian

PSION SEES SALVATION IN MUTALISATION

Psion (PON.L: ), the former byword for British technological
innovation, could regain some ground lost to the Americans with
a new device it is field testing next month. Psion’s latest
handheld computer is modular, which allows customers to
configure to their individual needs and even add to, effectively
creating an inexpensive bespoke device. Psion is also embracing
the latest developments by encouraging its customers to share
their experience and get active in research and development, in
a process increasingly adopted by business and known as
“mutualising”. Psion gadgets were popular in the 1980s and 90s
but they were overtaken by the American’s.

Investment Research

Prepared for Reuters by Durrants

PRESS DIGEST – British business – April 15