April 27, 2010 / 2:24 AM / 8 years ago

PRESS DIGEST - British business - April 27

The Times

SHELL DICTATED BLAIR’S LETTER TO GADDAFI

Documents obtained by The Times reveal that oil major Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) used Tony Blair to lobby Colonel Muammar Gaddafi on its behalf. The correspondence was written while Blair was prime minister and looks remarkably similar to a briefing note by Royal Dutch Shell weeks earlier promoting a 325 million pound deal it was attempting to complete in Libya. The documents raise questions about the motives behind the UK’s improved relations with Libya and the release of the Lockerbie bomber Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi.

MR SLEEP TAKES ON LENNY HENRY IN BATTLE OF THE BUDGET HOTEL ADS

Travelodge [DUBAHT.UL], the budget hotel chain, will launch a ten million pound advertising campaign charting the adventures of cuddly toys Mr Sleep and Zzzz Squad. It marks the return to the screen after a 20-year absence as the chain looks to cash in on the trading recovery. The campaign will be in contrast to rival chain Premier Inn which recently saw one of its adverts banned from children’s television for being too frightening. Travelodge’s campaign is being handled by the Mother London agency and is based on a 30,000 pound consumer research study on how to improve hotel stays.

FAREPAK CUSTOMERS SUFFER AS LIQUIDATORS’ FEES CONTINUE TO RISE

Customers of Farepak, the Christmas savings club that went bust in 2006, are expected to receive less than 50 pounds each as accountants and lawyers fees continue to rise. The total amount recovered by liquidators currently stands at 5.5 million pounds out of 37 million pounds lost. However, insolvency experts said the amount recovered will be little more than liquidators costs. According to the creditors’ report, BDO, the liquidator, had amassed fees of more than three million pounds by October.

NEED TO KNOW: IMAGINE HOMES

Veritas Investments, a joint venture between HBOS and Grant Bovey’s collapsed buy-to-let business Imagine Homes, has instructed Knight Frank to sell Imagine’s estimated 700 properties for 100 million pounds.

NEED TO KNOW: BALFOUR BEATTY

Balfour Beatty (BALF.L), the company best known for house building, has decided to sell 50 percent of its stake in Aberdeen Environmental Services to an affiliate of Kelda Water Services. Balfour has also received 24 million pounds from ERI Holdings for the sale of its 23.9 percent share in Consort Healthcare.

NEED TO KNOW: SHEARINGS

Shearings, the private equity backed holiday and hotel group, has reported an eight percent rise in 2009 operating profits to 4.1 million pounds from flat revenues of 180.4 million pounds.

NEED TO KNOW: COOKSON

Cookson CKSN.L, the British industrial materials company, has said the outlook for the first half improved due to steel production and electronics end-markets increasing faster than expected. For the first half ending June 30, Cookson revealed expectations for a trading profit of 110-115 million pounds, up 15 percent to 20 percent from the second half of 2009.

TIDDLER TO WATCH

Provexis NTR.L, the Windsor-based company that supplies additives to make food and drink healthier, has unveiled a long-term tie-up with the Institute of Food Research to develop commercial products aimed at tackling obesity problems. Provexis rose 0.2 pence to 4.96 pence and has been rumoured as a takeover target for Coca-Cola (KO.N).

TEMPUS

John Menzies (MNZS.L) (hold)

Nautical Petroleum NPE.L (risky buy)

Weir Group (WEIR.L) (hold)

The Daily Telegraph

BIG OIL BRACED FOR SAFETY OVERHAUL AFTER BP RIG FIRE

A top executive at one of the world’s leading oil companies has warned that the industry faces a “belt and braces” regulatory overhaul following BP’s (BP.L) Gulf of Mexico disaster. The BP rig burst into flames and sank last week. It is understood that at least 11 people were killed while 42,000 gallons of oil continues to pour into the sea. The unnamed executive said that the industry recognises that deepwater drilling regulations will have to change. The U.S. Mineral and Management Service is expected to introduce regulations to address the human error factor identified in many 1,400 offshore accidents between 2001 and 2007.

QUESTOR

Hargreaves Services (HASE.L) (buy)

WPP (WPP.L) (hold)

The Independent

FSA GETS NEW POWERS TO BAN SHORT SELLING

The Financial Services Authority, the city watchdog, will be given new powers to ban short selling of shares in the wake of the recent financial crisis. The FSA will also be allowed to introduce emergency rules without consultation should it believe there is a clear and present threat to financial stability as a result of fresh economic shock or turmoil. The new plans remain subject to debate but are being designed to allow the regulator greater flexibility to act.

INVESTMENT COLUMN

Kazakhmys (KAZ.L) (buy)

Redrow (RDW.L) (buy)

Carphone Warehouse CPW.L (buy)

The Guardian

REDROW EXPECTS RETURN TO PROFIT WITH 2,500 HOUSES

Housebuilder Redrow (RDW.L) has said it expects to return to profitability in the second half of 2010 and to build 2,500 houses during the year. In an interim statement, Redrow reported a “noticeable increase” in land market activity since December 31, adding that house prices had been stable since the beginning of 2010. The average sale price of Redrow’s homes since the start of 2010 was higher than over the same period last year. However, Redrow expects its net debt to increase from 50 million pounds as its land bank grows.

Prepared for Reuters by Durrants

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