PRESS DIGEST – British business – April 18

The Mail on Sunday

ITV WANTS 250,000 POUNDS FOR 30-SECOND SLOT

Broadcaster ITV (ITV.L: ) is demanding a record 250,000 pounds
for a 30-second advertising slot in the latest season of
Britain’s Got Talent. Nick Ilston, of advertising-buying agency
Pace Media, said most advertisers would pay around 120,000
pounds leading up to the final. The World Cup in June has led to
predictions that advertising spending this year will be up 4.6
percent on 2009.

3.3 BILLION POUND RECORD PUSHES TESCO FURTHER AHEAD

Tesco (TSCO.L: ), Britain’s biggest retailer, is set to reveal
record profits of 3.3 billion pounds on Tuesday as global sales
are expected to hit 65 billion pounds. The figure, 12 percent up
on the previous year, is double that of the combined profits of
competitors Asda (WMT.N: ), Morrisons (MRW.L: ) and Sainsbury’s
(SBRY.L: ). Last week saw Asda confirm plans to double its sales
in the clothing and general merchandise sectors as it aims to
overtake Tesco in the next three to five years. Jonathan
Pritchard, retail analyst at broker Oriel Securities, said:
“Asda’s ambition to be the UK’s number one food retailer is
audacious at the very least.”

The Sunday Times

JUST THE TICKET FOR IMPRESARIOS

Ticket agency Encore is being bought-out by its founders, in
a deal valuing the company at 20 million pounds. Managing
director John Wales and Ashley Sherman, the deputy chairman,
will receive financial backing for their planned buyout of the
agency, which has a turnover of more than 40 million pounds,
from private equity firm Isis. Two-thirds of Encore’s sales are
driven by the Internet, in a business which started out selling
tickets for shows and visitor attractions to coach parties and
tour operators. Encore, whose sales increased almost six-fold
last year to 5.8 million pounds, expects the fundraising to
generate fresh capital to invest in new shows.

SAGE READY TO REPLACE LONG-DISTANCE WALKER

Software developer Sage (SGE.L: ) has appointed a headhunting
agency to find a suitable successor to replace chief executive
Paul Walker, credited with improving the firm’s brand profile.
Russell Reynolds Associates, which placed Mike Lawrie at Misys,
is preparing details of suitable candidates to replace the FTSE
100 boss, which could happen as early as 2010. Hailed as a
long-serving chief executive, spending 26 years at Sage,
Walker’s service is only eclipsed by a few other executives who
have held on for longer, including Sir Martin Sorrell at WPP and
Aidan Heavey at Tullow Oil. Among the internal candidates in the
running to succeed Walker are finance director Paul Harrison and
Paul Stobart, who operates the group’s UK and Ireland business.

INEOS WINS LAST-MINUTE DEAL OVER 6 BILLION POUND DEBTS

Chemicals giant Ineos has secured backing for a one billion
euro refinancing deal to help service the mountain of debt built
up by the firm during an acquisition spree. About 14 percent of
the firm’s seven billion euro loans will be raised by issuing
high-yield bonds with a maturity of five years, after lenders
voted overwhelmingly in support of plans to refinance its senior
debt. However, some banks, investment firms and hedge funds had
threatened to veto the move, accusing Ineos of trying to soften
the terms of its borrowings less than a year after a previous
balance sheet reorganisation. While the deal places the indebted
company on a firmer footing, it will still be required to
operate within stringent limits stipulated by lenders.

SHAREWATCH:

JD Sports Fashion (JD.L: ) (Shares gained 11 percent after a
profit surge)

The Sunday Telegraph

DEUTSCHE BAHN WOOS ARRIVA

UK train and bus operator Arriva (ARI.L: ) has entered a fresh
round of discussions with Deutsche Bahn [DBN.UL], the German
rail and logistics operator that made an unsolicited
700-pence-a-share approach for it earlier this year. The German
group is seeking expansion in light of changes to the structure
of the European passenger market, and French state-owned rail
group SNCF is believed to have held unsuccessful talks with
Arriva in January. Over the weekend, German media reported
Deutsche Bahn, which owns Chiltern Railways, was getting closer
to making a bid. Reports also said the group was looking to gain
support for the bid at a board meeting to be held on Wednesday.

BARCAP TO RAID ECM BANKERS

Barclays Capital intends to expand its equity capital
markets business by adding up to 20 new posts at its London
office. BarCap, the investment banking arm of Barclays Bank
(BARC.L: ), is understood to have appointed City headhunting firm
Hogarth Davies Lloyd to lead a top-level recruitment drive aimed
at turning its equity capital markets division into a global top
three player within five years. Recruitment specialists estimate
that the cost of the drive could be in the region of 20 million
dollars and BarCap, whose equity capital markets division was
ranked only 17th last year in terms of revenue, hopes to attract
customers due to its status as the only independent UK bank in a
sector dominated by JP Morgan, Merrill Lynch and UBS.

SALE OF JOHN WEST GIVES PRIVATE EQUITY MARKET WELCOME BOOST

The sale of MWBrands by its private equity owner Trilantic
Capital Partners is welcome news for the private equity industry
as the sector strives to show investors positive returns ahead
of a new wave of fundraising, which is expected later this year.
Trilantic has mandated UBS to sell MWBrands, whose ranges
include John West Tuna and Parmentier Sardines. The process
becomes the latest private equity deal to re-enter the market
after an 18-month period of little successful deal activity.

QUESTOR

Standard Chartered (STAN.L: ) (buy)

Primary Health Properties (PHP.L: ) (buy)

The Independent on Sunday

NETWORK RAIL MEMBERS LOOK TO VETO EX-RBS DIRECTOR

A significant minority of Network Rail members are intent on
blocking Janis Kong’s appointment to a non-executive director
role because of her association with Royal Bank of Scotland
(RBS.L: ) during the tenure of Sir Fred Goodwin. She was a member
of the bank’s remuneration committee when Goodwin’s pension
swelled to at least 20 million pounds. A spokesman for Network
Rail said Kong has a wealth of experience in project management
and customer service and feedback from the majority of members
has been positive. Kong is currently a non-executive director at
Kingfisher and has been chairman of Heathrow Airport.

PRIMARK PROFIT SURGE EXPECTED

Associated British Foods (ABF.L: ), owner of budget high
street chain Primark, is expected to announce on Tuesday annual
pre-tax profits of nearly 700 million pounds. Analysts at
Deutsche Bank believe the increase from 495 million pounds in
2009 will be due to improved revenues of more than 10.1 billion
pounds. The analysts said Primark is ABF’s “biggest profit
generator” with the greatest profit margins. The bank warned
Primark’s new chief executive Paul Marchant that the company has
now to demonstrate it can succeed in Europe where many UK
retailers have failed to do so.

The Observer

NEW SITE HELPS COMPARE COVER FOR HIRE CARS

Moneymaxim.co.uk went live on Saturday, a new comparison web
site which offers consumers the chance to browse alternatives to
mandatory hire car insurance policies. Hire firms offer
expensive “collision damage waiver” insurance, which often only
covers serious accidents and leaves customers liable for damage
to wheels or windscreens. Standalone car insurance is a market
which has been growing since 2002. Moneymaxim’s managing
director Mark Bower said: “Typically a car hire company will
charge around ten pounds a day for excess cover and drivers will
still not be fully covered. Independent companies tend to be
cheaper and offer better cover.”

ANGLO AMERICAN UNDER FIRE FROM PROTESTORS

Alaskan protesters are convinced that Anglo American’s
(AAL.L: ) latest project will destroy one of the world’s most
valuable salmon breeding grounds. The mining company plans to
build an open-pit gold and cooper mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay
region to extract the ore located underneath the breeding
grounds of the sockeye salmon. The protesters say the project
will create ten billion tonnes of waste and necessitate 160
billion litres of water being taken away from the rivers.
Company spokesman James Wyatt-Tilby said it will only pursue the
project if it can be done responsibly.

Stock Market Research

Prepared for Reuters by Durrants

PRESS DIGEST – British business – April 18