PRESS DIGEST – British business – August 21

Saturday, 21 August 2010

The Times

SILENCE IN DRUG DEAL

Silence Therapeutics (SLN.L: ), the pharmaceutical company
that is utilising RNAi technology, has announced that its
partner Quark Pharmaceuticals has signed a deal with Novartis.
The exclusive deal will enable the development of a drug which
will prevent acute kidney injury for patients undergoing cardiac
surgery. The market reacted to the announcement with a 14
percent increase in its share price.

NEW BLOW FOR OCADO

Online grocery retailer Ocado saw its shares fall 3.25 pence
on Friday to a new low of 134 pence. Shares in the retailer are
now worth less than half of the 270 pence price tag which was at
the top of the range originally proposed before the company’s
recent initial public offering.

NEED TO KNOW: NBNK INVESTMENTS

NBNK Investments, a new banking venture planning to operate
as many as 600 UK branches, has raised 50 million pounds ($77.75
million) via a stock market listing. The money will be used to
acquire branches from existing banks and NBNK expects to make
its first acquisition within the next 18 months.

NEED TO KNOW: AVIVA

The country’s largest insurance provider Aviva (AV.L: ) has
renewed its agreement with Santander (SANS.MC: ) to underwrite
insurance policies sold through the Spanish group’s UK branch
network.

NEED TO KNOW: BAA

Airport operator BAA (FER1.MC: ) has successfully negotiated a
625 million pound lending facility with eight banks and has
pledged to repay a significant proportion of its borrowings in
September. Initially BAA had aimed for a deal for 500 million
pounds but quickly reported “excess demand from banks.” The
company has hailed the agreement as enabling it to make
significant headway to refinance 1.57 billion pounds of its
subordinated debt.

The Daily Telegraph

M&B SELLS 333 PUBS TO PUNCH FOUNDERS

Mitchells & Butlers (MAB.L: ) plans to sell 333 pubs to
Stonegate, a new company set up by private equity group TDR
Capital, for 373 million pounds cash. The move comes as M&B
plans to focus on pub restaurants. The pubs for sale are
drink-focused sites that saw a 21 percent drop in earnings
before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation over the
past two years as a result of the smoking ban and a drop in
disposable income. Analysts said the pubs were sold for less
than their net asset value, but M&B’s chief executive Adam Fowle
said the sale would enable the company to buy and build pubs
that focus on food.

LOOKING DOWN: CITY’S TOWER 42 TAKEN OFF THE MARKET

Tower 42 Estate, which is made up of funds managed by
BlackRock, Hermes (OHV2.L: ) and LaSalle Investment Management,
has withdrawn London’s tallest occupied skyscraper from the
property market. The eponymous Tower 42 was put up for sale in
April with a 300 million pound price tag. On Friday its owners
said that a recovery in rental values in London has led to a
“new direction in strategy”, which will focus on “asset
management” and “value-add initiatives.”

The Independent

WAL-MART VETERAN IN KEY ASDA POST

Supermarket Asda has appointed Wal-Mart (WAL.N: ) veteran
Charles Redfield as its new chief merchandising officer.
Redfield, who is the senior vice-president for food and beverage
at Sam’s Club, Walmart’s US warehouse division, will begin work
at Asda next month. Redfield’s appointment is the first
high-profile recruitment decision to be made by new Asda chief
executive Andy Clarke, who took the post in May. Redfield has
worked for Sam’s Club for over 20 years.

SINOCHEM SET TO GATECRASH BHP’S POTASH TAKEOVER

State-owned Chinese chemicals group Sinochem has indicated
that it is monitoring miner BHP Billiton’s (BLT.L: ) hostile 25
billion pound bid for Canadian fertiliser producer Potash
Corporation of Saskatchewan. Sinochem spokesman Li Qiang was
quoted as saying the firm would “pay close attention” to BHP’s
bid, adding that Sinochem was “interested in overseas potash
investment opportunities”. Earlier this week, Daniel Bubis,
chief investment officer of PotashCorp shareholder Tetrem
Capital Management, said PotashCorp could attract interest from
a Chinese bidder and that BHP may need to raise its offer from
130 dollars a share to as much as 170 dollars a share.

The Guardian

IRN-BRU HELPS STOBART KEEP TRUCKING, DESPITE RAIL SETBACKS

Haulage group Stobart (STOB.L: ) said that it had made a good
start to the year, helped by new multimillion pound deals with
drinks group AG Barr and the supermarket chain Tesco (TSCO.L: ).
The group said first half performance was in line with
expectations and “significantly ahead” of the same period last
year, despite worse than expected trading at its rail division.
Analysts forecast full-year pre-tax profits of 35.2 million
pounds, up from last year’s figure of 29.3 million.

MFI FLATPACK FURNITURE BRAND TO BE REASSEMBLED

A revival of collapsed furniture retailer MFI is expected,
after the plumbing firm Walker Group purchased the rights for
the MFI brand from its administrator for 250,000 pounds. The
trade magazine Retail Week revealed that a deal had been agreed
between Walker Group and administrator MCR for the high-street
brand, which became one of the biggest casualties of the
economic downturn, suffering from poor sales in homewares before
collapsing in 2008. MFI has now been resurrected by Walker Group
with the website mfi.co.uk, which includes the furniture
retailer’s trademark logo but with a “more innovative and
design-led product range”.

($1=.6431 Pound)

PRESS DIGEST – British business – August 21