PRESS DIGEST – British business – Feb 5

The Times

SHORTAGE OF FUNDS FORCES START-UP BANK TO PULL IPO

Walton & Co, a start-up bank, has scrapped plans for a 200
million pound ($317.5 million) flotation due to lack of support
from investors. Sandy Chen, a Panmure Gordon banking analyst,
still aims to go ahead with the new bank, but will keep it in
private hands. Chen, who is working with several former senior
HSBC (HSBA.L: ) bankers and Sir Peter Middleton, the former
Barclays (BARC.L: ) chairman, now plans to raise significantly
less than 200 million pounds via “a number of alternative
options of financing the company”. Walton & Co aims to open two
branches in the South East in 2011 upon obtaining a banking
licence.

GUMMER SUPPORTS BAIL PLEA BY COUNT ON BAE CHARGE

John Gummer, the former Conservative minister, has given his
support to a bail request by an Austrian aristocrat accused of
funnelling millions of pounds in bribes to foreign officials on
behalf of defence group BAE Systems (BAES.L: ). According to Count
Alfons Mensdorff-Pouilly’s lawyers, the former Agriculture
Minister and Environment Secretary had written a letter to the
court vouching for their client. Count Mensdorff-Pouilly is
accused of arranging payments in order to win lucrative
contracts and is the first person prosecuted by the Serious
Fraud Office in its long inquiry into alleged corruption in BAE.

NEED TO KNOW: EASYJET

Easyjet (EZJ.L: ), the budget airline, reported carrying 3.14
million passengers in January, up from 2.84 million a year
earlier. It added that the January load factor, a measure of how
full its planes were, was 79.3 per cent, up from 75.7 per cent
in the same month a year ago.

NEED TO KNOW: BIRDS EYE

Birds Eye [AGLK.UL], the frozen food company, has cancelled
a five million pounds a year contract with pea farmers, citing
the loss of an agreement to export peas abroad. The Anglia Pea
Growers’ co-operative, based in Norfolk and Suffolk, has grown
30,000 tonnes of peas a year for Birds Eye for 64 years.

TIDDLER TO WATCH

Shares in Cellcast (CLTV.L: ), the producer of the technology
that allows people to interact with television programs using
their mobile phones, have jumped 0.63 pence to 5.25 pence.
Investor interest is based upon a company in which Cellcast has
a 37.5 per cent stake, which has enjoyed a fourfold leap in
sales. Interactive broadcasting in India, where Cellcast Asia
says it leads the field, is currently experiencing a boom.

TEMPUS

McBride (MCB.L: ) (hold)

Yell (YELL.L: ) (buy)

Fuller’s (solid long-term bet)

The Daily Telegraph

VODAFONE BOOSTED BY POPULARITY OF IPHONE

Mobile phone operator Vodafone (VOD.L: ) reported a one
billion pound increase in revenue for the last quarter of 2009
to 11.5 billion pounds. Chief executive Vittorio Colao raised
the group’s full-year operating profit forecast to between 11.4
and 11.8 billion pounds. UK revenue fell 4.9 per cent to 1.18
billion pounds, an improvement on the 5.7 per cent drop reported
in November. Much of the growth was due to increased demand for
smartphones, including Apple’s iPhone. The company is also “very
keen” to add Apple’s new iPad to its stable of devices.

GROSVENOR ADDED TO PORTSMOUTH PETITION

Grosvenor, the Duke of Westminster’s property company, has
added its name to the winding-up petition against Premier League
football club Portsmouth. Grosvenor claims it is owed rent on a
shop in its Festival Place shopping centre in Hampshire where
Portsmouth is thought to be the guarantor for the tenant.
Grosvenor made a pre-tax loss of 594 million pounds in 2008 due
to the sharp fall in property prices as the economy collapsed.
The figures were the worst for 16 years.

ICELAND BOSS ATTACKED FOR SUPPLIERS REMARKS

Malcolm Walker, the chief executive of supermarket chain
Iceland, has been rebuked by the Forum of Private Business (FPB)
after he branded a new code of conduct “a complete waste of
time”. Walker told The Daily Telegraph on Thursday that the
Grocery Supplier Code of Practice and the proposed supermarket
ombudsman were “madness”. He said: “Nothing is going to change.
Big suppliers bully small retailers and big retailers bully
small suppliers.” Phil Orford, FPB chief executive, said that
the organization will write to Walker to express its concerns at
the comments he has made.

DEBENHAMS’ BOSS IN SHOCK DFS BID

Rob Templeman, Debenhams (DEB.L: ) chief executive, risks a
conflict of interests as he teams up with a private equity firm
to consider a bid for DFS. Templeman and Cinven are tabling a
500 million pound bid for Britain’s biggest furniture chain. The
chairman of high street retailer Debenhams, John Lovering, is
also working with a private equity firm on a rival bid. One
shareholder said: “A chief executive’s role is a full time job
that needs 100 per cent focus. It is not clear how you can have
the time to work on a private equity bid and meet your
commitments under the service contract.”

YELL JUMPS DESPITE 57 PER CENT FALL IN PROFITS

Shares in Yell (YELL.L: ), the publisher of the Yellow Pages,
rose by nearly one fifth on Thursday despite the group reporting
a 57 per cent decline in profits. Pre-tax profits in the nine
months to December 31 were down at 75.1 million pounds compared
to 175.3 million pounds for the same period last year. Lorna
Tilbian at analyst Numis, which has rated the stock a “sell”,
said: “Yell has excessive gearing, and is very vulnerable in
difficult economies. It is also too exposed to the structurally
weak print market.”

QUESTOR

Unilever (ULVR.L: ) (buy)

National Grid (NG.L: ) (buy)

The Independent

GREEN ENERGY WILL NOT MEET WORLD DEMAND, WARNS BP BOSS

Tony Hayward, the chief executive of oil company BP (BP.L: ),
has warned policymakers that greener energy sources alone will
not meet Britain’s energy demands over the next decade. Speaking
at the London Business School, he said that hydrocarbons would
continue to play a key role in meeting global demands. He
estimated that global energy usage will double by 2050 and
require one trillion dollars of investment a year. He dismissed
suggestions that the Copenhagen climate change summit was a
failure and said the conference was the first time countries had
agreed to move in the same direction.

SUITS YOU CHAIN CUTS RENTS TO AVOID COLLAPSE

Retailer The Speciality Retail Group, the owner of the Suits
You menswear chain, has proposed a Company Voluntary Arrangement
to cut costs and avoid collapse. The move would see the company
pay 40 per cent less rent on 42 of its 71 stores for the next 18
months and requires 75 per cent landlord support. Suits You will
use the CVA to rebalance its portfolio of stores away from the
high street to designer outlet parks where its stores are
performing better. The SRG announcement comes at a time when
many retailers are struggling due to a drop in footfall caused
by severe weather conditions.

BETFAIR HIRES M&S FINANCE BOSS

Online betting company Betfair has recruited Ian Dyson, the
finance director at Marks & Spencer (MKS.L: ), as a non-executive
as it prepares a possible 1.5 billion pound flotation this year.
Dyson is also operations director at M&S, but failed to become
chief executive at the retailer, which hired former Morrison
(MRW.L: ) chief executive Marc Bolland. Betfair, which operates in
the US, Australia, Germany, Austria, Italy and Malta as well as
the UK, has over 1,500 staff.

INVESTMENT COLUMN

Vodafone (VOD.L: ) (hold)

Aviva (AV.L: ) (buy)

Fuller, Smith & Turner (avoid for now)

The Guardian

3,000 POUNDS FOR TESCO STAFF AS SAVINGS SCHEMES PAY OUT

Staff at supermarket group Tesco (TSCO.L: ) are set to collect
an average payout of 3,000 pounds after two of the firm’s
save-as-you-earn schemes matured. Payouts vary, as the 55,000
members of the scheme can save up to 50 pounds a month over
three-year or five-year periods. When the schemes mature, staff
get a tax-free cash bonus and can reinvest in Tesco shares at a
discounted option price. Shares closed at 422 pence on Monday,
delivering a 100 per cent return on the five-year plan and a 44
per cent return on the three-year scheme.

Stock Investing

Prepared for Reuters by Durrants
($1=.6299 Pound)

PRESS DIGEST – British business – Feb 5