Head of government RBS agency to quit
Oliver Holbourn, chief executive of UK Financial Investments, is to step down. The news comes as the agency, which is in charge of selling the UK’s stake in RBS, prepares to be amalgamated into UK Government Investments, which manages overall government investments. Separately, plans for RBS to split its investment banking business from its high street lending operation have been approved by the High Court.
Profit upturn at Secure Trust
Secure Trust Bank has reported a 28.9% increase in full-year profits to £25m after it moved away from the consumer credit market. Chief executive Paul Lynam commented: "The refocusing of the group's lending activities has materially reduced our exposure to higher-risk consumer credit, enabling us to allocate more capital to lower-risk lending."
Corporate clients gun sales restricted at Citigroup
In response to continuing gun violence in the US, Citigroup has threatened to cut off funding from retailers that sell ‘bump stocks’, which enable semi-automatic weapons to fire like automatics, and also imposed other firearm restrictions on its corporate clients.
Morgan Stanley to take on 80 Paris staff after Brexit
Morgan Stanley is to create 80 jobs in Paris after Brexit, according to reports. This comes on top of approximately 200 positions the bank is preparing to transfer to its Frankfurt offices.
£100m Flybe takeover abandoned
Flybe shares fell by more than 25% after Stobart Group gave up on plans for a £100m takeover. Flybe's board noted that it has an “exciting future as an independent company”. Shares closed at 34.6p last night, with Stobart's falling 4.1%, or 9.5p, to 220p.
Hammond says Britain is world's best for fintech
Philip Hammond has championed Britain's £5bn fintech sector ahead of Brexit by arguing that UK start-ups attract far more funding than firms in Germany, France and Sweden. The Chancellor told a meeting of financiers in London that investment in UK fintech more than doubled last year and far outpaced the funding of EU rivals, and that the UK's "doors will always be open to the innovators and inventors" in this space. Meanwhile, Mark Tucker, chairman of HSBC, and Nigel Wilson, chief executive of Legal & General, said that there was no room for complacency in Britain's so-called fintech industry, warning that China may challenge Britain’s supremacy in the sector. This comes as David Duffy, the chief executive of Clydesdale Bank parent group CYBG, was appointed "fintech envoy" for England by the UK government.
Bank of England fintech hub to be established
The Bank of England is to set up a fintech base to monitor developments that could help boost the UK's weak productivity levels. Deputy governor Dave Ramsden commented: "We have set up a new fintech hub that will sit at the heart of the Bank, to consider both how the Bank understands and how it applies fintech, relevant to its mission".
FOS to review complaints
The Financial Ombudsman Service will conduct an independent review following accusations that some consumers' claims were not decided correctly. The move follows an investigation by Channel 4's Dispatches into the service. The programme suggested some staff with inadequate training or knowledge were making decisions on complaints.
Brexit assurances for banks sought
Financial services minister John Glen has said that European Union regulators should provide financial firms with reassurances that they will be able to continue operating as usual during the 20-month Brexit transition deal agreed this week.
LEISURE AND HOSPITALITY
Carluccio’s raises for sale sign
Carluccio’s, the struggling UK Italian restaurant chain, is reported to have approached multiple private equity groups in an effort to secure a sale, with high street dining chains in the UK suffering as consumer spending slows just as business rates, wages and food prices increase. Revenues at Carluccio’s increased 2.7% to £140m in the year to September 2016, but pre-tax profit fell from £5.2m the year before to £982,000, according to its latest accounts.
Brewdog profits more than halved
Turnover at Brewdog increased by 55% to £111.6m in 2017 but increasing costs brought pre-tax profit down to £1.4m, compared with £3.8m in the previous 12 months. UK turnover was up by 54% to £89.9m, with European sales up 33% to nearly £13m and rest of the world sales up 31% to £4.7m.
£44m shares windfall for Fevertree boss
Charles Rolls, deputy chairman of tonic maker Fevertree Drinks, has launched a sale of 1.5m of the shares he holds in the company. He would continue to own 11.4m shares, or around 9.9% of the firm. Shares closed up 0.2%, or 7p, at 2957p last night, with Mr Rolls standing to make £44m.
Shareholder attacks Unilever's handling of HQ move
A leading Unilever shareholder has hit out at the company’s decision to abandon its double-headed structure in favour of a single corporate entity in the Netherlands. Iain Richards of Columbia Threadneedle, which owns a 1.5% stake in Unilever’s UK arm, said his company was “disappointed” by its “lack of engagement with shareholders” ahead of the decision, which could lead to its expulsion from the blue-chip FTSE 100 index.
MEDIA AND ENTERTAINMENT
Advertisers begin boycott of Facebook
Mozilla, maker of the Firefox web browser, was the first organisation to suspend advertising on Facebook following the Cambridge Analytica data scandal. Commerzbank said it was also stopping adverts on the site over "data security" fears. David Kershaw, chief executive of M&C Saatchi, noted that clients now believed that "enough was enough", likening the situation to last year, when more than 250 brands abandoned YouTube because adverts were appearing next to questionable videos. The ISBA, a trade body which represents major UK advertisers, will meet Facebook on Friday.
Tailors squeezed by business rates
The head of Henry Poole & Co, the tailor widely regarded as the "founder of Savile Row", has voiced concerns about the effect that rising business rates are having on his neighbouring outfitters. Simon Cundey said smaller tailors may be forced to move their workshops elsewhere, potentially jeopardising their business.
Retail sales figures for February bounce back
The Office for National Statistics has reported that retail sales volumes rose 0.8% in February after two months of declines. This beat analysts’ forecasts of a 0.4% increase and was driven by growth in spending on supermarkets, petrol and online shopping.
More staff laid off at Maplin with no buyer in sight
The administrator to collapsed electronics chain Maplin said it has been unable to find a buyer for the business, with a further 66 redundancies at head offices in London and Rotherham announced.
Bank of England holds interest rates
The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee has voted to keep interest rates at 0.5% but has given its strongest hints yet that rates will go up in May. The MPC voted 7-2 to keep the current rates and noted that, at 2.7%, inflation had fallen closer to the 2% target than expected.
Senior Labour MP calls for £20bn a year in new wealth taxes
Labour MP Rachel Reeves, chair of the business select committee, has called for the imposition of an extra £20bn a year in wealth taxes to create a fairer society.