PRESS DIGEST – British business – April 8

The Times

TERRA FIRMA CHIEF SAYS UK RISKS JOINING ‘THE WEAKEST’

Guy Hands, head of private equity company Terra Firma,
warned on Wednesday that the UK could become “one of the weakest
states in Europe” if it fails to properly handle its debts over
the next decade. Hands’ warning came alongside Terra Firma’s
annual report, which showed that the group made losses of 263.9
million euros last year, stemming almost entirely from
writedowns at music group EMI, Terra Firma’s largest portfolio
company. Next week, EMI executive chairman Charles Allen will
present Terra Firma with a new business plan for the music
group.

SHAREHOLDERS CALL FOR ‘NO’ VOTE ON BP PAY

Two leading lobby groups have questioned the pay structure
at energy group BP (BP.L: ). Pension fund consultant PIRC said
that pay awards to top executives were “excessive” and has
called on investors to oppose BP’s remuneration report at an
annual shareholder meeting next week. The Association of British
Insurers has issued an “amber top” alert over BP’s pay policy,
advising of possible concerns regarding BP’s discretionary use
of share-based bonuses. BP’s remuneration committee awarded
bonus shares to executives despite the failure to hit targets on
one of six performance measures.

TEMPUS

Electrocomponents (ECM.L: ) (Look to buy lower down)

Chloride (CHLD.L: ) (Hold)

Shed Media (Hold)

The Daily Telegraph

VODAFONE TARGETS MILLIONS OF AFRICANS WITH MOBILE WEB

The mobile phone operator Vodafone (VOD.L: ) is to begin
adding internet browsers on its cheaper phones, potentially
giving internet access to millions of people in developing
nations such as India, South Africa, Turkey, Tanzania and Egypt.
Through data compression Vodafone can now add the Opera Mini
browser to ordinary 2G handsets, which presently are unable to
access the Web. The company plans to extend the service to other
developing countries over time.

BAILEY’S PAY DOUBLED BY TRINITY MIRROR

The chief executive of Trinity Mirror, Sly Bailey, received
a 1.43 million pound pay package last year, dwarfing the 757,000
pounds she was awarded for her work in 2008. Bailey was rewarded
with her substantial pay packet after a successful year which
saw Trinity Mirror report pre-tax profits of 42 million pounds,
after the tribulations of 2008 which saw the company sink to a
73.5 million pound loss. The acquisition of Guardian Media
Group’s regional newspaper business for only 7.4 million pounds
has also been seen as a great success.

TESCO’S U.S. VENTURE SETS ITS SIGHTS ON HISPANICS

Fresh & Easy, the venture launched in the U.S. by Tesco
(TSCO.L: ), is concentrating on attracting Hispanic customers in
the areas of California, Nevada and Arizona where it is active.
Spanish-speaking customers comprise a large part of the
population in the catchment area of F&E stores, with 32 percent
of Californians of Hispanic origin according to the 2000 US
Census. F&E has called upon the services of RL Public Relations
in Los Angeles to increase the store’s appeal to the Latino
demographic.

RBS OFFERS LOANS TO BUY PAYMENT PROCESSING ARM

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L: ) may provide loans for private
equity firms looking to buy its payment-processing division
Global Merchant Services. Between 10 and 20 bidders are vying to
purchase the business, including global buyout houses such as
KKR, TPG and Bain Capital. RBS does not specify exactly how much
it will be willing to offer in loans, but similar
vendor-financed agreements have seen sellers pay out billions of
pounds in loans to the highest bidder.

QUESTOR

Ryanair (RYA.I: ) (Buy)

Electrocomponents (ECM.L: ) (Buy)

The Independent

UK CAR POOL SHRINKS FOR FIRST TIME SINCE 1904

Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders
indicate that the number of cars in the UK has decreased for the
first time since records began in 1904. The country’s “parc”, or
total car fleet, declined by 0.7 percent in 2009. Various
factors, such as the recession, the government car scrappage
scheme, and new DVLA regulations which remove the details of
unlicensed vehicles from the database were all noted as reasons
for the trend.

RECKITT BENCKISER CHIEF CLEANS UP WITH PAY PACKAGE

Bart Becht, chief executive of consumer products group
Reckitt Benckiser (RB.L: ), was awarded more than 90 million
pounds in pay, benefits and share options for 2009. The pay
package included a basic salary of 987,000 and a
performance-related bonus of 3.5 million pounds. In addition,
Becht exercised share options and vested restricted shares which
accounted for more than 87 million pounds. A spokeswoman said
that the company had provided a total shareholder return of 649
per cent over the last decade. Becht will donate three million
Reckitt shares, worth 110 million pounds, to his charitable
trust.

INVESTMENT COLUMN

Electrocomponents (ECM.L: ) (Buy)

Beazley (BEZG.L: ) (Hold)

Shed Media (Hold)

The Guardian

PRU’S M&G BOSS PAID CASH AND SHARES BONUS WORTH MILLIONS

Michael McLintock, the head of Prudential’s (PRU.L: ) asset
management arm, M&G, has received a multi-million pound cash and
shares bonus package under a three-year performance scheme
completed in 2009. McLintock was, ironically, one of the 50 fund
managers contacted by the City Minister Lord Myners on his ideas
for what restrictions should be placed on bonuses awarded to
bankers. His salary will also increase to 350,000 pounds.
Prudential stated that its remuneration policies were designed
to reward consistent good performance and align the interests of
directors and investors.

BA SAYS STRIKE COULD COST IT 45 MILLION POUNDS

British Airways (BAY.L: ) has reported that it carried 400,000
fewer passengers during March as a result of a seven-day strike
by its baggage handlers. BA stated that the industrial action
cost the airline 45 million pounds, as customers took their
business to rival airlines such as Ryanair (RYA.I: ), which
reported an increase of 600,000 in the number of passengers
carried in March. Negotiations are taking place with Unite to
avert further strikes.

Stock Market Money

PRESS DIGEST – British business – April 8