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Daily News Roundup: Friday, 24th May 2019

Posted: 24th May 2019


Lloyds boss summoned to explain pension payments

MPs have summoned Lloyds Banking Group’s CEO António Horta-Osório to explain the pension contributions paid to the bank’s executives. Mr Horta-Osório took home £6.3m last year, which included a pension contribution of 46% of his base salary - compared to a maximum 13% for other employees. In February, he voluntarily reduced his pension contributions down to 33%, which appeased shareholders as only 8% voted against the bank’s remuneration report. However, MPs on the Work and Pensions Committee and the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee said the reduction didn’t go far enough. In a letter responding to MPs, Stuart Sinclair, head of Lloyds’ remuneration committee, said the pension allowance cut for this year was an “important step” and the remuneration policy would be reviewed ahead of next year’s annual meeting.

NatWest plans to launch new online payment option

NatWest customers will soon be able to shop online without needing to enter their card details at the checkout. The bank is in talks with major retailers and expects shoppers to have the new payment option when making some online purchases in the coming months. It will mean NatWest customers can choose at the checkout to be redirected to the online banking page or mobile app, rather than entering card details. Paul Thwaite, of NatWest, said: “This new service provides our customers with an alternative way to pay, which is convenient and simple to use, and brings benefits to both our personal and corporate customers.”

Revolut opens Group Vaults

Revolut has launched a new Group Vaults feature, which enables Revolut account holders to save together by either one-off contributions or by rounding up spare change or by recurring payments. Revolut's original Vaults saving function has seen the creation of 1m vaults since last April - with around 3,000 new Vaults opening every day.

Metro Bank recovers after placating shareholders

Shares in Metro Bank continued to recover yesterday after its board survived a shareholder revolt at its annual general meeting. Regulators are still investigating the bank over a misclassification of loans, which saw chief executive Craig Donaldson offer to resign before the board asked him to remain. Meanwhile, the Mail reports that Royal London Asset Management, which owns a 0.4% stake in Metro, wants the bank to appoint an independent chairman to replace Vernon Hill.


Deutsche Bank chief prepares shareholders for ‘tough cutbacks’

Christian Sewing, Deutsche Bank's chief executive, has informed shareholders that he is planning “tough cutbacks” to help rescue the German bank’s struggling corporate and investment bank. Speaking at the bank’s annual meeting, Mr Sewing told staff that pace, and the demands, of change in the coming months would be high. He explained: “Since the end of talks with Commerzbank we’ve been asked repeatedly, 'What's Plan B or Plan C?' My answer is, everything we have done so far was just the beginning.” The bank was prepared for a tough meeting after two shareholder advisory groups had urged investors to issue a vote of no confidence in its leadership. However, the board survived the votes, with just under 10% of investors voting in favour of a resolution to remove chairman Paul Achleitner.

Is UBS losing its edge in investment banking?

The FT discusses what steps executives at UBS will take after earnings in its investment bank slumped dramatically over the past two quarters.

Chicago bank chief charged over loans to Paul Manafort

Stephen Calk, the CEO of the Federal Savings Bank of Chicago, has been accused of bribery by issuing President Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort with loans in the hope of securing a top administration post.


Aviation regulators meeting to determine when 737 Max can fly again

More than 30 aviation regulators from across the globe have met to discuss when to let Boeing’s 737 Max jets. Airlines and travel firms have been hit hard by the grounded jet. Tour operator Tui said earlier this month it had already taken a €200m hit from its fleet of fifteen 737 Max planes being stuck on the ground.


Business case for HS2 Northern extension is clear

Mark Thurston, the boss of HS2, has urged policymakers “not to lose sight” of the benefits the project will bring to the UK economy, saying the business case for the high-speed rail network was “clear”. Organisers have said that HS2 will deliver a £92bn boost to the UK economy, and that for every £1 spent, the country will receive £2.30 in benefits.


AJ Bell brushes off Brexit uncertainty

Investment platform AJ Bell has posted soaring revenue and profits in its maiden results as a public company, despite the ongoing Brexit headwinds. The business reported a 17% year-on-year increase in revenue to £50.1m in the six months to March 31, while profit before tax was up 27% to £17.7m. Manchester-based AJ Bell also saw retail customers grow to 214,813, an increase of 9%, while assets under management increased 3% to £47.7bn.

Mifid rules highlight the costs of investing

The FT examines how customers’ eyes have been opened by the amount wealth managers are charging them under Mifid II rules which came into effect in January 2018.


Colluding drug firms cost NHS millions

The Competition and Markets Authority has accused four pharmaceutical firms of illegally colluding to restrict the supply of an anti-nausea tablet, driving the price paid for it by the NHS up by 700%. The CMA said the cost of Prochlorperazine rose from £6.49 per pack to £51.68, after Alliance Pharmaceuticals, Focus, Lexon and Medreich agreed not to compete.


Thomas Cook shares in freefall after ratings cut

Two credit ratings agencies downgraded Thomas Cook to the lowest credit category, taking share prices down with it. Fitch and S&P Global both slashed the troubled travel agency's rating to a CCC+, meaning they both doubted the group's ability to pay its debt if the sale of its airline did not go ahead. Meanwhile, Triton Partners has launched a bid for the Nordic operations of Thomas Cook, which accounts for about 17% of the company’s revenues.

Activist recommends Merlin ‘go private’

Legoland owner Merlin Entertainments has been advised to put itself up for sale by San Francisco-based activist ValueAct Capital - one of its largest shareholders. A private buyout could value Merlin, whose attractions also include Alton Towers and Madame Tussauds, at a premium of more than a third, the US investment house said.


Eurozone manufacturing contracts as trade tensions weigh

IHS Markit’s flash composite purchasing managers’ index showed that Eurozone manufacturing reached a two-month low of 47.7 in May, below the 47.9 recorded in April.


Talktalk losses shrink

London-listed Talktalk narrowed its losses for the year on the back of lower costs and customers switching to faster fibre products. While Talktalk’s move to its new Salford HQ is set to save about £18m next year, the broadband provider made a small loss before tax of £5m for the year ending March 31, compared to £100m last year. Revenue fell 1% to £1.63bn.


Warehouse owner LondonMetric to buy Mucklow in £415m deal

LondonMetric is to buy rival warehouse landlord Mucklow for over £400m, in a deal which will position the firm alongside Segro, leader of the industry increasingly catering to online retailers.

Pimco fund to invest in troubled UK retail property sector

US investment giant Pimco has partnered with London-listed property investment trust NewRiver to buy UK retail properties, with its sights initially set on £500m in assets.


Body Shop owner to buy Avon

Brazilian cosmetics group Natura has announced that it is buying UK-based direct-selling cosmetics business Avon. Natura, which already owns The Body Shop and Aesop, is Brazil's top business in cosmetics, perfumes and toiletries.


May set to announce departure date

Senior Cabinet ministers are expecting Theresa May to announce the date of her departure from Downing Street today. The PM will reportedly give a timetable for her successor to be chosen, with June 10th likely to be the start of the official leadership race. Mrs May has been under pressure to resign, after an angry backlash by her own MPs against her latest Brexit plan. The government was due to publish the Withdrawal Agreement Bill on Friday but this was delayed as criticism mounted.

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