On the face of it, the admission by Lonmin that it needs to launch an 800m dollar
rights issue to cut its debt burden looks as though it will test investors' patience. They will be asked to put more money into a company whose main product platinum is priced largely according to demand for cars in Europe and whose operations are wholly concentrated in South Africa, where labour unrest seems to be striking a new mining company every day. And then there's the matter of a seriously disgruntled workforce. Lonmin reported that worker attendance is now back up to 93 per cent, considered a normal level. But given the damage done to industrial relations, how long it stays at that level is anyone's guess. This is not a stock for the faint-hearted, writes The Times´s Tempus column.
Investors could be forgiven for being slightly concerned when Regus, Europe's leading operator of serviced offices, starts talking about ramping up its expansion plans. In the 20 years since it was founded, Regus, which provides "flexible space" that can be hired for as little time as an hour, has been a rollercoaster of a business. Mr Dixon, who learnt his lesson about expanding at the top of the market "the painful way", believes that growing the business now in a recessionary environment is the right way to go. There are also big growth opportunities abroad. Some 80% of Regus's business is in mature markets, such as the UK and the US, but it is expanding in emerging markets such as China and India and last week opened in Sri Lanka. With its strong cash flow, which allowed it to invest a further £30m in expansion in the third quarter, Regus is looking a solid hold, Tempus writes.
Imperial Tobacco's £1.2bn writedown of its Spanish business is hardly a surprise. The company is the largest operator in the recession-hit country, where a quarter of the workforce is unemployed. Volumes are falling and companies such as Imperial have been increasing prices to boost profitability. It has also been focusing on its core brands, namely Davidoff, West, Gauloises and JPS. These have higher margins, Significantly, the Imperial's four strategic brands now account for 30% of sales, up from 26% in 2010 when Alison Cooper, chief executive, took the helm. Regionally, the UK and the Rest of the World categories generated the highest growth in adjusted operating profits, rising 8.7% to £627m in the UK, and 9.8% to £872m in the Rest of the World. The company does have a lot of debt, which stands at £9bn, but it is able to service this and the cost of borrowing fell this year to 5.5% from 5.7%. Imperial's shares
continue to trade at a discount to its peers because of this. Last tipped as a buy in September at £23.99 the rating remains the same - buy for the income, The Telegraph´s Questor team says.
Shares in gold miner Centamin have been suspended after they plunged yesterday following a Cairo court's ruling that appears to have stripped the company of its licence to operate the Sukari mine in Egypt. The shares remain suspended until the situation is clearer. The company is confident that its licence is still valid and there is bound to be an appeal should the judgement stand. It is also interesting to note that after the initial share price plunge, bottom fishers moved in to buy the shares. All investors can do is await developments, although it looks right now as if Centamin has a good case, Questor says.