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Sunday newspaper round-up: Brexit, Melrose, Stagecoach, Barclays, WPP

By Digital Look

Date: Sunday 14 Apr 2019

Sunday newspaper round-up: Brexit, Melrose, Stagecoach, Barclays, WPP

(Sharecast News) - David Lidington, the cabinet minister overseeing cross-party Brexit talks with Labour, has insisted that there is now "more that unites than divides" the main parties, amid desperate attempts to find a breakthrough that avoids European elections that could prove disastrous for the Tories. His claims that the meetings had been "serious and constructive", with large areas of agreement, comes as Theresa May and her team want to show progress as soon as possible, in a bid to avoid taking part in European elections late next month. - Observer
Theresa May's Brexit deal would win widespread public approval if the prime minister made a more persuasive case, according to a new poll. The survey, commissioned by the Open Europe think tank, found that Tory and "leave" voters could switch to support the deal - which has been rejected three times by MPs - in big numbers. - Sunday Times

The bitter fallout from Brexit is threatening to break the Tory party apart, as a Europhile former cabinet minister Stephen Dorrell on Sunday announces he is defecting to the independent MPs' group Change UK, and a new opinion poll shows Conservative support plummeting to a five-year low as anti-EU parties surge. Dorrell, who was health secretary under John Major, says he can no longer continue in a party that "has fallen progressively under the influence of an English nationalist outlook" and turned its back on the traditions of many of its greatest former leaders. - Observer

Jeremy Corbyn is on course to sweep into No 10 after Theresa May failed to deliver on her promise to take the UK out of the EU by March 29, a major polling analysis reveals. The Conservatives would lose 59 seats in the event of a general election, making Labour the largest party in the Commons, according to an exclusive poll of polls for The Sunday Telegraph.

Jeremy Corbyn has been warned by Labour's leader in the European parliament and other grandees that the party will be deserted by millions of anti-Brexit voters if it fails to clearly back a second referendum in its manifesto for next month's EU elections. The message from Richard Corbett, who leads Labour's 20 MEPs, comes amid growing fears at the top of the party that it could lose a generation of young, pro-EU voters if it does not guarantee another public vote. - Observer

Corporate raider Melrose has cut nearly 900 jobs at GKN since its highly controversial takeover of the historic British engineer, The Mail on Sunday can reveal. Following last week's news that Melrose was shutting a GKN factory near Birmingham with the loss of up to 170 jobs, this has sparked a row about whether the FTSE 100 conglomerate has broken promises made to the Government as part of its £8 billion takeover of the car and plane parts maker a year ago.

Stagecoach has dramatically raised the stakes in its battle with Chris ­Grayling over his decision to derail its train operation, with a threat of court action against the embattled Transport Secretary. The row over pension liabilities ­intensified this weekend as Stagecoach's lawyers issued the Department for Transport with demands for information about its exclusion from bidding on train franchises. - Sunday Telegraph

Stagecoach is considering a bid for some or all of rival Arriva, the UK's largest bus operator. City sources said the FTSE 250-listed transport giant is particularly interested in buying Arriva's bus business. - Mail in Sunday

A leading investor in Barclays has voted against Edward Bramson's bid for a board seat, as tension between the activist investor and the bank reaches boiling point. Merian Global Investors' Richard Buxton, one of the UK's best-known fund managers, said Barclays did "not need a hostile disruptor in their midst, arguing on false numbers against their execution of the existing strategy to improve returns, for his own short-term ends". - Sunday Times

WPP's post-Sorrell clear-out kicks off in earnest this week as the advertising giant has brought in Goldman Sachs to find a buyer for Kantar, its market research firm. First-round bids for Kantar are due in the coming days, with WPP hoping to complete a deal by the end of June. - Mail on Sunday

British Gas owner Centrica is on a collision course with trade unions after handing its chief executive a bumper bonus while cutting thousands of jobs, raising the threat of strikes. The energy giant will enter talks with Britain's biggest trade unions tomorrow to negotiate pay for thousands of front-line workers after revealing what was branded a "perverse" pay hike for chief executive Iain Conn. - Sunday Telegraph

Cannabis companies are making their way to London to tap into a £100billion European market and cash in on the Square Mile's so-called 'green rush' among investors. In the past few weeks alone, four firms have decided to ditch their previous business plans and instead switch their focus to cannabis-based medicines. - Mail on Sunday

Billionaire Warner Music owner Sir Len Blavatnik is plotting a blockbuster London stock market flotation of his broadcasting service, dubbed the 'Netflix of sport'. Hammersmith-based DAZN, which was acquired by Blavatnik's Access Industries in 2014, is understood to be drawing up options, including a London share sale that would value it at up to £3billion. - Mail on Sunday

The chairman and chief executive of Ladbrokes owner GVC Holdings signed off each other's mammoth share sales last month, The Sunday Times can reveal. It is understood that chairman Lee Feldman and boss Kenny Alexander gave each other permission to sell a combined £20m worth of shares - a highly controversial move that wiped 20% from the bookie's valuation in a day.

BT hired a group of "culture experts" to quiz managers about their attitudes towards its legal split from Openreach. The former telecoms monopoly recruited consultants to carry out a "hearts and minds" review to look at staff's feelings about the structural overhaul. - Sunday Times

Lloyds Bank has sparked a new pensions row, with investors warning over a director's generous deal just weeks after chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio gave up his final salary retirement perk. Chief operating officer Juan Colombas receives a pension allowance worth 25% of his £779,000 salary, which could trigger an "amber top" alert to shareholders from the Investment Association - a powerful body representing fund managers - before Lloyds' annual meeting in May. - Sunday Times

John Roberts disrupted the white goods industry with AO World. Now he has hired a start-up doctor to stop it happening to him. AO has brought in L Marks, which runs accelerator programmes for big companies, to find start-ups that will help it develop new technology and improve the efficiency of the 50,000 deliveries it makes every week. Companies that fit the bill will be offered investment. - Sunday Times

The new owners of Debenhams are preparing to force out its chief executive after taking control through a pre-pack administration, believing he is the wrong person to lead a turnaround of the stricken department store chain. The new owners, including the hedge fund Silver Point and Barclays, are understood to be in talks with Terry Duddy, Debenhams' chairman, in the hope he will agree to take on an executive role, although nothing has yet been agreed. - Sunday Times

Struggling Thomas Cook has suffered a new blow after the value of the company's debt dropped to less than two thirds of its original value. The travel firm has a £1.6 billion debt pile, some of which has been sold to City investors as company bonds. - Mail on Sunday

British American Tobacco has been plunged into a pay crisis for the second year in a row as investors fume over a multimillion-pound golden parachute handed to its former boss. The cigarette titan, the world's second-biggest and one of Britain's largest companies, has enraged shareholders by awarding ex-chief executive Nicandro Durante at least £7.5m. - Sunday Telegraph

Glaxosmithline is under fire from shareholders over the "excessive" travel expenses of its chief scientist. Hal Barron, the drugs giant's highest-paid executive, received $807,000 (£620,000) in flights and hotels last year. - Sunday Telegraph

Big banks and asset managers including Goldman Sachs are to blame for the "crazy" valuations of technology companies coming to market, one of the world's leading fund managers has claimed. William De Gale, who until 2017 was the sole portfolio manager for BlackRock's offshore global technology fund, said technology companies were now "coming to the market at valuations that can't be supported". - Sunday Telegraph

Activist investor Oasis Management has thrown its support behind Superdry founder Julian Dunkerton who seized back control of the business just 12 days ago. Oasis Management, which recently forced the chief executive at Mr Kipling-to-Bisto owner Premier Foods to resign, has bought 3.3 per cent of the fashion firm's shares. - Mail on Sunday

British Steel is urgently seeking funding of £100m from the Government as a failure to agree a Brexit deal left it short of carbon emissions permits. Business Secretary Greg Clarke is said to be aware of the request, and his department has reportedly hired KPMG to advise on the situation. - Sunday Telegraph

The former boss of the audit regulator has trashed the competition watchdog's plans for a dramatic shake-up of the big four accountants after a string of high-profile corporate disasters that have cost thousands of jobs and burnt investors. Paul Boyle, who ran the Financial Reporting Council between 2004 and 2009, said that most of the proposals from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) for ending the dominance of the big auditors - Deloitte, PwC, EY and KPMG - would lead to greater costs for companies and deliver uncertain benefits. - Sunday Times

Opening a hotel in America and buying 14 pubs across London and the southeast pushed cult craft beer maker BrewDog to a loss for the first time last year. The Aberdeen-based brewer, which has boomed as craft beer becomes ever more popular, made a £576,000 pre-tax loss in 2018, compared with a £1.4m profit in 2017, despite sales growing by 55% to £171.6m. Many fast-growing companies lose money as they scale up. - Sunday Times

LK Bennett has been sold to its Chinese franchise partner in a deal that will result in the immediate closure of 15 stores and 110 job losses. Byland UK, a company formed a few weeks ago by LK Bennett's Chinese franchise partner Rebecca Feng, bought the collapsed retailer for an undisclosed sum. - Sunday Telegraph

NHS outsourcing provider Babylon Health is more than doubling its operations in North America in a bid to seize a larger slice of a market set to hit $400bn (£305bn) by 2025. Babylon, which has developed an app that lets people book virtual appointments with GPs and order prescriptions, is currently looking to fill 29 new positions in Canada and the US and has hired 16 people in those teams since the start of the year. - Sunday Telegraph

The Gambling Commission is investigating claims that the online casino company LeoVegas accepted £20,000 from a problem gambler who had stolen the money from his mother, then bombarded him with emails encouraging him to keep betting. Details of the case, uncovered by the Guardian, sparked renewed calls from campaigners and politicians for gambling companies to perform more rigorous checks before customers place bets. - Observer

Property tycoon Nick Candy paid just £450,000 for the intellectual property assets of failed virtual reality business Blippar - a staggering sum for a start-up that once claimed to be worth more than $1bn (£760m). Blippar was considered among Britain's most promising tech businesses, but fell apart due to "overexpansion and competition in the industry" from Apple and Google, according to an administrator's report filed at Companies House. - Sunday Times

Struggling outsourcer Amey is offering Birmingham city council £300m to wriggle out of a troublesome 25-year road-repair contract. Amey, owned by Spanish infrastructure giant Ferrovial, is understood to have made an informal offer to the Labour-run council in recent days. - Sunday Times

Facebook more than doubled the money it spent on top executive Mark Zuckerberg's security in 2018 to $22.6m, a regulatory filing has showed. Zuckerberg drew a base salary of $1 for the past three years, and his "other" compensation was listed at $22.6m, most of which was for his personal security. - Observer





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