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Newspaper Briefing, including 'Record quarter for dividends after Vodafone and Cairn pay out' - Independent


The Times

Caught in the middle and holding on to their cash: Eurozone turmoil has prompted mid-sized British companies to cut dividend payments for the first time in two years, according to new research. The constituent members of the FTSE 250 paid out only 915 million to shareholders in the first quarter, 9% less than the same period last year, according to Capita Registrars.

Results mean improved taste for takeover: In a world where takeover talk can centre on anything from iron ore to leather handbags, fish fingers have never been so popular. Hopes of a near 3 billion sale of the Birds Eye Owner Iglo Group will rise when Europes largest frozen foods business reports a 7% rise in annual profits.

Clean energy targets drift out of reach as cash dries up: A worrying slowdown of investment in renewables means that Britain is on course to miss its 2020 green energy generation commitments by as much as 15%, according to research. While all have talked a good green game, analysis of their investment shows that while SSE, ScottishPower and RWE npower are living up to their promises, the British Gas group Centrica is lagging far behind.

Bank Chief defies European stitch-up to fight for his job: The German head of Europes key development bank has accused European Union governments of trying to eject him unjustly in an increasingly bitter dispute over top jobs being shared out by nationality. Thomas Mirow is fighting a rearguard action for a second four-year term at the institution, which originally provided aid to former Eastern Bloc nations but has broadened its mandate to encompass Central Asia and the Arab Spring.

Solar giant turns the desert green (and blue) in Gujarat: Asias mightiest solar power farm has been switched on in the Indian desert state of Gujarat. It is part of a drive to transform the region into one of the worlds leading green energy producers and to provide electricity to some of the 400 million people who still have no access to it.

Karzai brother accused of role in airline deal that helped bring down Kabul Bank: President Karzais brother has denied that he was complicit in allegedly fraudulent investments made by the collapsed Kabul Bank, which was bailed out by the aid-dependent Afghan government at the cost of more than $900 million. Mahmoud Karzai disclosed that the banks former Chairman has accused him of being party to an investment in an airline and being the true Owner of a villa in Dubai bought with depositors cash claims he denies.

You want our piece of the Empire State? Youre not going to get it without a fight: The ageing investors are trying to block plans by Malkin Holdings, the Manager of the classic skyscraper, to create a real estate investment trust that would be floated on the New York Stock Exchange. Five lawsuits have been submitted to block the flotation amid claims by some of the investors that the initial public offering is an attempt to rob them of a family heirloom.

Developer plans to restore the faded glory of a flawed icon: Centre Point is set for a new lease of life if plans to convert the 34-storey building in Central London into flats are approved. Almacantar, which bought Centre Point out of administration last year for 120 million, believes that it can restore the faded Sixties tower to its former glory by turning it into an exclusive residential scheme.

Swann puts new spin on amateur cricket: The sportsman has invested in CricHQ, a company set up by New Zealand businessman Simon Baker and the Blackcaps alumni Stephen Fleming and Brendon McCullum, to devise an app that aims to revolutionise recreational cricket.

The Independent

Muppet hunt to put Goldman in the clear: Goldman Sachs is ready to give its London office a clean bill of health after investigating claims from its former employee Greg Smith that the bank had a toxic culture where traders routinely boasted of ripping off their clients.

Piazza and apartments to bring new life to brutalist Centrepoint in 350 million makeover: A new public realm to rival Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden will be created in an overhaul of Centre Point tower in London by the developer Almacantar. The 1960s tower, a Grade-II listed building, was bought from administrators of the property group Targetfollow for 120 million a year ago.

Aviva ready to offload U.S. unit at 1 billion loss: Aviva is preparing to take a 1 billion hit on the sale of its U.S. life assurance business. The move is part of a major overhaul of the group, which trails behind rival Prudential at less than half the market value. Aviva announced last week that three of the companys most Senior Directors, who run the groups European, North American and asset management businesses are to leave.

Union fury as U.S. firms eye nuclear work: A swath of U.S. firms are preparing to bid to oversee the multibillion-pound decommissioning of 10 obsolete Magnox reactor-powered nuclear stations, angering unions that want the work to go to British outfits.

Record quarter for dividends after Vodafone and Cairn pay out: Shareholder payouts by U.K. companies soared 25% in the first three months of the year, making it a record quarter for dividends. But the 18.8 billion total was boosted by a number of large one-off payouts, including 2.2 billion made by both Vodafone and Cairn Energy.

Gatwick better under new Owner says ex-BAA Chief: A former top executive at BAA has conceded that the Competition Commissions decision to break-up the airport operators South-east of England monopoly has already proven successful. Heathrow Owner BAA has long fought the Commissions rulings that it must sell three of its airports, but did offload Gatwick to Global Infrastructure Partners in 2009.

The Daily Telegraph

Vodafone to agree 1 billion Cable & Wireless Worldwide deal: Cable & Wireless Worldwide is expected to recommend to shareholders a 1 billion takeover bid from telecoms giant Vodafone on Monday. The board of the telecoms business has decided to accept the offer ahead of the midday deadline which was extended from last Thursday by the Takeover Panel.

Luciano Benetton hands over Fashion Empire to his son: Luciano Benetton, Founder of the Italian fashion empire that bears his name, has announced he is handing control of the business he helped start 47 years ago to his eldest son Alessandro, who will take charge this week.

Osborne calms speculation over Mervyn King succession: George Osborne has moved to quell rumours about Sir Mervyn Kings successor as Governor of the Bank of England by declaring that the appointment process will not begin until the autumn.

The Questor Column:

Avoid SuperGroup despite share price slide: The Company, which makes Superdry-branded clothes, had to confess it had got its sums wrong. There was an arithmetic error made in previous forecasts, which really does not inspire confidence. As a result and because of timing issues with stock the company now sees full year pretax profits of about 43 million, down from previous expectations of 50 million. The first warning in October was caused by teething troubles in a new computer system. This caused a significant, temporary reduction both in the amount of stock and range of sizes reaching its U.K. stores. This, it said, would knock between 6 million to 9 million off its profit. Profit guidance was cut again to the lower end of the 50 million-54 million range. Habitats Shaun Wills took over as Chief Financial Officer from Chas Howes, who stepped down due to personal reasons. Brave punters may wish to bet on a recovery but Questor would continue to avoid the shares, as has been the recommendation for some time.

Shell results should reverse share decline: Investors in Royal Dutch Shell must have been very relieved that the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was nothing to do with them. The oil came from natural seepage from the sea floor. Indeed, the shares have been on the slide all year, despite the price of Brent crude being above $120 for much of the year on concerns over supply from the Middle East and North Africa. They hit a high of 24.89 on 10 January. Credit Suisse recently increased its 2012 Brent crude forecast to $125 a barrel, with $132.5 in 2013 and $135 in 2014, citing a lack of supply and continued growth in demand. Shell is investing to increase output. Peter Voser, Chief Executive, revealed this week that the company is looking at projects worth around $4 billion (2.5 billion) to boost oil production in Nigeria and cut flaring of associated natural gas. After the recent falls, investors can now buy into the shares and secure a yield of 5.1%. Shell at 22.02. Questor Says Buy.

The Guardian

Postal workers union vows to step up resistance to Royal Mail privatisation: The postal workers trade union has vowed to step up its campaign against Royal Mail privatisation after warning that the process will be a ripoff. The Communication Workers Union (CWU), which represents 140,000 Royal Mail employees, said the 30% increase in the price of first-class stamps from 30 April proves that selling the business will disadvantage consumers.

Fashion tycoon Kevin Stanford plans House of Fraser comeback: Kevin Stanford, the embattled but irrepressible high street fashion tycoon, is stepping up his fightback against creditors by returning to the board of Highland Group, the company behind House of Fraser.

Walmart investigates claims of cover-up over $24 million in Mexican bribes: Walmart is investigating claims that its executives hushed up an internal report that found it paid $24 million (14.8 million) in bribes to Mexican officials. The worlds largest retailer said it was aggressively looking into allegations that it bribed officials in virtually every corner of Mexico as it fought to build up its empire in the country.

Make Poverty History 2 to launch in 2013: Britains leading aid groups will seek to recreate the high point of the international development movement when they launch a second Make Poverty History campaign to coincide with David Cameron taking the chair of the G8 group of rich nations next year.

Daily Mail

SuperGroup could face regulatory probe over accounting error: SuperGroup could face a regulatory probe over an embarrassing accounting foul-up that wiped nearly 170 million off its shares last week. The U.K. Listing Authority part of the Financial Services Authority is considering whether to look into the circumstances that led to a third profit warning since October.

The Scotsman Owner Johnston Press is poised for bank agreement: Troubled regional newspaper publisher Johnston Press is set to announce it has refinanced the debt-laden business when it unveils its annual results on Wednesday. It is expected that the publisher of The Scotsman and the Yorkshire Post will have completed negotiations with a group of about 20 banks over its 350 million debt, securing its lending arrangements until 2015.

Advertising giant WPP on course for worldwide revenue surge: Sir Martin Sorrells worldwide marketing services group WPP will report first quarter figures this week, showing it is on course to achieve its full year target of increasing global revenues by four per cent. On Friday, WPP, whose clients include HSBC, Vodafone and Ford, is expected to report that revenues for the period were up 3.6% on a like-for-like basis, to reach an expected 2.3 billion.

Barclays hopes bumper profit will placate angry investors: Barclays is poised to report a bumper 2 billion first quarter profit that it hopes will drown out investor ire over Bob Diamonds pay deal and a fresh 100 million bill for loan insurance mis-selling. The Local Authority Pension Fund Forum added its name to a growing list of investors who have refused to be mollified by measures to rein in Diamonds 25 million package.

Daily Express

Recession fears rise as U.K. firms feel the strain: A raft of profit warnings and under- whelming dividend payouts suggest British business is feeling the strain ahead of key data this week which will show whether the country has escaped sliding back into recession. Although the Dividend Monitor from Capita Registrars shows first- quarter dividends soared 25% to a record 18.8 billion, the headline figure was boosted by Vodafone and Cairn Energy each making a 2.2 billion special payout.

Weetabix faces China bid: Weetabix could soon be waking up to Chinese Owners in a deal valuing the British breakfast cereal at 1 billion. State-backed Shanghai firm Bright Food is believed to be in talks with Lion Capital, the Private Equity Owner of Weetabix, whose other brands include Alpen and Ready Brek.

Ashmore group strengthens client opportunities: Ashmore group is a blue-chip Asset Manager with a strong emerging markets focus, providing customers with the opportunity to invest in several core themes such as external debt, local currency, special situations, real estate, corporate debt and equity.

It should be plain sailing for Sweett after titanic museum: Working on the newly opened Titanic Belfast, the museum dedicated to the doomed ocean liner, should put Aim-listed Sweett Group on course for further expansion. The futuristic building houses galleries on the history of the citys shipbuilding industry, Titanics launch and, of course, the ships sinking.

The Scottish Herald

Black and Lizars Boss eyeing up acquisitions: The Chief Executive of Black and Lizars is on the hunt for acquisitions after leading the business back into profit. Mark Ross revealed the independent optician is in talks with 10 practices across the U.K. about potential takeovers.

McGrigors deal signals shift in Scots legal market: The landmark merger between McGrigors and Pinsent Masons will bring a new behemoth into the Scottish legal market when the deal formally completes on 01 May. The partners did not vote for the creation of a 280 million practice with 2500 staff at offices across the U.K., Asia and the Middle East just to get a bigger share of what is on offer in Scotland.

Home repair firm looks to challenge the big players: A Scottish home repair company is hoping to take on the big boys and garner 3 million in revenues in the next 12 months. First Call Home Assist is launching a range of policies covering areas like central heating, boilers and emergency repairs.

Profit warnings drop after tensions ease in Eurozone: The number of profit warnings by listed companies has dropped sharply after an easing in Eurozone tensions boosted confidence in the U.K. economy, according to a report.

Tyre firm partnership deal: Strathclyde Tyres has agreed a new partnership with Bridgestone which could be worth 120,000 a year. Brendan Tracey, Founding Director, hailed the deal which involves the Scottish independent supplying tyres to fleet customers from its four branches in Leven, Coatbridge, Johnstone and Kilmarnock.

City A.M.

London businesses ruling the waves: The winners of the Queens Awards for Enterprise have just been announced and London has plenty of worthy entrepreneurs among winners. Dating back to 1966, the awards particularly celebrate those exporting their products and services to the rest of the world.

Get the best out of a financial adviser: The new tax year is always a good incentive to review your finances, but with a host of changes to the financial landscape, and so many products on the market, its not always easy to see the wood for the trees.


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