PRESS DIGEST – Financial Times – Jan 28

Financial Times

BSKYB GOES 3D IN SELECTED PUBS

British Sky Broadcasting (BSY.L: ) will this weekend broadcast
a football match in 3D in selected pubs around Britain. The
satellite broadcaster will also announce on Thursday that its 3D
TV service will be available to subscribers from April, showing
live Premier League football every week. Sky hopes screenings in
pubs will help to publicise its 3D service. Sunday’s match
between Manchester United and Arsenal will be the first sports
event shown live in 3D on TV sets.

WH SMITH CONSIDERS FURTHER BUY-BACKS AS GROSS MARGINS
IMPROVE

WH Smith (SMWH.L: ) has posted a further rise in gross margins
over Christmas, as the newsagent and stationery retailer said it
was considering more share buy-backs. Chief executive Kate Swann
said the group had already purchased more than 30 million pounds
of shares in its 35 million pound rolling share buy-back
programme announced in October. WH Smith’s gross margins
increased in the 21 weeks to January 23, although like-for-like
sales at high street stores dropped four percent. Like-for-like
sales at its travel division were also down, falling by two
percent.

CHARLES STANLEY ADVANCES PAY-OUT

Charles Stanley (CAY.L: ) has become the latest company to
bring forward its dividend pay-out. The group’s board declared a
second interim dividend of five pence, to which a scrip
alternative will be offered. The move will allow Charles
Stanley’s wealthy private shareholders to avoid the new top tax
rate before it comes into effect in April. In a trading
statement, Charles Stanley said third-quarter revenue increased
5.2 percent to 28.4 million pounds as it was boosted by
commission from higher levels of private client activity. Its
shares climbed five pence to reach 245 pence.

KKR SNAPS UP PETS AT HOME FOR 955 MILLION POUNDS

U.S. private equity group KKR (KFN.N: ) has acquired Pets at
Home [PETSH.UL], the UK’s leading pet shop chain, for 955
million pounds. The deal sees Bridgepoint, which bought Pets at
Home in 2004 for 230 million pounds, making more than an
eight-times return on its initial equity investment in the
chain. The announcement suggests a recovery in credit markets,
following a two-year slump in buy-outs, is encouraging private
equity companies to be more ambitious.

ECONOMY LIKELY TO RECOVER AFTER SNOW

Analysis by HSBC economists suggests that although severe
weather is likely to weigh on indicators of economic activity
when they are reported, these effects are likely to be reversed
in the following months. The analysis came as the CBI employers’
body revealed a more downbeat mood on the high street in January
than had been seen in the last months of 2009. From looking at
periods of severe weather over the past 30 years, the HSBC
economists found the greater impact was in retailing and
industrial production. However, the impact of adverse weather on
gross domestic product overall was lessened because of a pick-up
in output of energy supply industries. The economists cautioned
that this did not wipe out the effect totally.

ATTRACTING INVESTORS REMAINS CHALLENGE

Britain’s debt levels rocketed following the collapse of
Lehman Brothers in September 2008, as the government borrowed
heavily to bail out banks and reverse the downturn. According to
Treasury figures, this financial year 225.1 billion pounds will
be borrowed from capital markets. The ratio of public sector net
debt to gross domestic product has now risen to 55.6 percent,
which are levels last seen in the early 1970s.

SCOTLAND BANS CIGARETTE DISPLAYS

On Wednesday the Scottish parliament approved a ban on the
display of cigarettes and tobacco products in shops that will
come into force for large retailers next year. Small retailers
have been given until 2013 to implement the ban, and similar
measures for England and Wales were also passed by MPs recently.
Public Health Minister Shona Robison said it was crucial to cut
smoking rates if Scotland was to turn round its appalling health
record. The Scottish government also announced a ban on
cigarette sales from vending machines.

E-CLEAR HAS “NO SOURCE OF FUNDS”

The company that handled payments for Flyglobespan, the
collapsed Scottish airline, has “no immediate source of funds”
among its assets, according to the London-based group’s
administrators. E-Clear, which also handled payments for Zoom,
XL, Sunwings and SkyEurope, was placed into administration by a
High Court judge last week following a request from Flyglobespan
administrators PwC, who had accused E-Clear of holding 35
million pounds from the airline.

SMALL BUSINESSES MISS OUT ON WEB

According to a poll by Business Link, the small business
advisory service, nearly half of London entrepreneurs trying to
develop small businesses do not have a website. Growing
companies are missing out on valuable potential revenues because
of the “digital divide” in the capital’s small and medium
enterprises, said Business Link. The poll revealed that more
than 45 percent of entrepreneurs did not have a business
website. Of those, 62 percent said their business did not need
an online presence.

Growth Stocks

Prepared for Reuters by Durrants

PRESS DIGEST – Financial Times – Jan 28