Some of Tesco's biggest shareholders have complained to the retailer's senior independent director (Sid) about its strategy and management, the Sunday Times said. An unidentified top 10 shareholder said it expressed its concerns with the Sid, Patrick Cescau, and not Tesco's Chairman, Sir Richard Broadbent, because Broadbent is too close to Chief Executive Philip Clarke. Clarke and Broadbent face shareholders at Tesco's annual meeting after its decline in like-for-like sales worsened in recent trading.
One of Tesco's largest investors has told the Sunday Telegraph that Sir Terry Leahy left a "poisoned chalice" for Philip Clarke, his successor as Chief Executive of the supermarket group. David Herro of Harris Associates, which owns 1.92% of Tesco, said Leahy was wrong to comment recently on Tesco's performance because Clarke was dealing with decisions made by Leahy. Clarke has "correctly specified the problems", Harris said ahead of Tesco's annual meeting on June 27th.
AstraZeneca is considering selling the rights to some of its future revenues to increase its cash reserves and help ward off a further takeover attempt by Pfizer of the US, the Financial Times reported. The drug maker is working with bankers on how to sell future income streams from some existing treatments after fighting off Pfizer's near-£70bn takeover attempt last month. Selling the rights would bring in large sums of money to fund research or be paid back to shareholders. It would also deny the funds to Pfizer if it bought AstraZeneca, making the UK company less attractive as a target.
Police are treating as arson a fire that badly damaged Asos's main warehouse and forced the fashion retailer to shut its website, the Sunday Telegraph reported. South Yorkshire police have started a criminal investigation into the fire at the Barnsley site on Friday night. The fire forced the online retailer to stop taking orders and caused "substantial damage", Asos said. Asos has issued two profit warnings since March and its shares
have fallen 55% since the start of the year on fears it is overstretched, the Sunday Times pointed out.
Shire, the FTSE 100 drugs company, will use a June 23rd webcast to investors to seek support for rejecting a £27bn takeover approach from AbbVie of the US, according to the Sunday Times. Shire revealed its rejection of the approach on June 20th but City sources expected AbbVie to return with a higher offer, the paper wrote. Shire's Chief Executive, Flemming Ornskov, will give details in the webcast of how Shire expects to double sales to $10bn by 2020.
The Governor of Norway's central bank and the head of Sweden's financial regulator have said the Bank of England (BoE) should rein in mortgage lending to prevent a housing crash, the Sunday Telegraph reported. Oystein Olsen, Governor of Norges Bank, said stricter regulation of banks was needed. Martin Andersson, who heads the Swedish watchdog, said his decision to require bigger deposits for mortgages had been vindicated. "The sooner you start, the less hard you need to be on the measures you take," he stated.
The Bank of England's Financial Policy Committee (FPC) is ready to constrain mortgage lending this week, the Sunday Times says. Policymakers are under pressure to rein in signs of risky lending in the mortgage market but lenders fear the BoE could strangle the slowing mortgage market. The FPC held its quarterly meeting on June 17th and its decisions will be announced on June 26th. The FPC is concerned about a rise in home loans with small deposits.
A group of 54 senior City executives have written to the Sunday Times expressing concern about the UK's lack of influence in warding off European measures to constrain financial services such as bonus caps and a financial transaction tax. Among the signatories are Robert Hiscox, Chief Executive of Hiscox, and Oliver Hmlsey, Chief Executive of Numis. The letter said: "As we enter a period of EU reform and renegotiation, we urge political leaders to remember the significant contribution that our industry plays in Britain's economic success."
Centrica is selling its gas operations in Trinidad and Tobago in a £250m auction that is part of a wider asset sale by departing Chief Executive Sam Laidlaw. The Sunday Times said the sale of the British Gas owner's Caribbean assets comes seven years after Centrica acquired them as part of a search for non-North Sea supplies.
Royal Bank of Scotland has told the Business Secretary Vince Cable that a sale of its Willams&Glyn business before the 2016 deadline is unlikely, the Sunday Telegraph reported. Cable said last week he wanted the sale speeded up. RBS has to sell the 316-branch business under orders from the European Commission and has said it needs time to building a £300m computer system.
The UK Treasury is ready to approve a "back-door" bonus plan at RBS that will pay millions of pounds in shares to top managers, the Sunday Times said. RBS's Chief Executive Ross McEwan is set to receive £1m a year in "allowances" that other RBS bankers are already getting. UK Financial Investments, which manages the Government's 80% stake in RBS, will approve the payments formally at RBS's annual meeting in Edinburgh. RBS has introduced the payments to get round European Commission limits on banker bonuses.
British Car Auctions, the UK's biggest seller of used vehicles, is planning a flotation that could value it at £1.2bn. The Sunday Telegraph said the company, bought by private equity firm Clayton Dubilier & Rice for £400m in 2010, has risen in value after a jump in the number and price of second-hand vehicles.
Inflexion, the private equity firm, is considering floating On the Beach in a transaction that would value the online holiday company at about £200m, the Sunday Telegraph holds. Inflexion has held a "beauty parade" of banks seeking to lead the initial public offering. Inflexion bought On the Beach for £73m last October.
Eircom, Ireland's biggest telecom company, is putting the finishing touches to a London stock market listing two years after it descended into bankruptcy. The Sunday Times said Eircom wants to raise about €1bn from investors in the UK and Ireland in a transaction valuing it at more than €3bn. The offering could come as soon as September and Eircom is considering having its primary listing in the UK.
Britain's business rates system needs radical reform to stop its effects undoing the Government's work in lowering corporation tax, the CBI business lobby group said, according to the Sunday Telegraph. Katja Hall, the CBI's deputy director general, said the Government's decision not to hold a fundamental review was "disappointing". She called for rates to be linked to rental rather than land values and to exempt small and medium sized enterprises.