April 4, 2008 / 3:34 AM / 10 years ago

PRESS DIGEST - British business - April 4

The Times

VIRGIN MAY RUB-OUT IN-FLIGHT BEAUTY OFFER

Virgin [VA.UL] Atlantic has called its entire team of 280 in-flight beauty therapists to a London meeting next week, sparking speculation that it could be about to withdraw the in-flight beauty therapy it has offered to Upper Class passengers for the past 18 years. Virgin insisted that no decision had been taken to withdraw the pampering service - a trademark of its transatlantic flights - a spokeswoman saying only that the beauty therapists were being called in “to get their input into the product and service review of our Upper Class cabin”.

FIRMS FILE WITH LLOYD‘S TO RECOUP SUB-PRIME LOSSES

Richard Ward, the chief executive of Lloyd’s of London, acknowledged that almost 100 financial firms have filed claims over the past eight months related to the sub-prime credit crisis. Ward declined to specify which firms were involved, nor to comment on the size or nature of individual claims. Lloyd’s said on Thursday its exposure to sub-prime claims totalled less than 100 million pounds, Ward noting that individual syndicates were setting aside capital to cover potential payouts.

INFLUENTIAL ANALYST RAISES FRESH DOUBTS OVER TESCO‘S US VENTURE

Jim Prevor, one of the most influential commentators on the US supermarket sector, has claimed that Tesco‘S (TSCO.L) fledgling business in the States, the Fresh & Easy chain, needs a major strategic overhaul if it is even going to be a success with American consumers. “They’re doing horribly,” he said. “There’s no question they have made some mistakes and they are still making them.” Tesco revealed last week that having opened 59 stores in five months, it was going to “pause for breath” until July, a decision which Prevor claimed had taken the supplier community completely by surprise. “Many are becoming disenchanted and some are deciding to walk away,” he said.

The Daily Telegraph

DUNSTONE: I WON‘T CUT OFF PIRATES

Carphone Warehouse CPW.L has described as “unreasonable and unworkable” the music industry’s plans to crack down on customers who illegally download music. Music trade body, the BPI, has put forward a system whereby those who repeatedly download pirated material are disconnected from the internet, though Carphone will not be adopting such measures. Chief executive Charles Dunstone said: “We believe a fundamental part of our role as an internet service provider is to protect the rights of our users to use the internet as they choose.”

LORD BURNS TO TAKE M&S PAY-OFF IN INSTALMENTS

Outgoing Marks & Spencer (MKS.L) chairman Lord Burns will pocket his 450,000 pounds pay-off in monthly instalments, as the retailer informed shareholders that it would make a number of concessions pertaining to the planned promotion of chief executive Sir Stuart Rose to the position of executive chairman. In a letter to investors, M&S disclosed that it would appoint at least one new non-executive director and that Rose will stand for re-election as a director every year. Burns will receive his pay-off in 12 monthly instalments, rather than the bonus being voided, to demonstrate his support of M&S’s succession plan .

BREWER MARSTON‘S EXPANDS ITS PEDIGREE

Pub owner and brewer Marston’s (MARS.L) has acquired Ryland Thompson, which operates under the name Refresh, paying an undisclosed sum thought to be between 11 million pounds and 15 million pounds. The brewer, which said that it expects sales growth of around four percent for the six months to March 29, lost 9.75 pence to 196.25 pence after disclosing that it remains “cautious” for the year ahead. Chief executive Ralph Findlay nonetheless said that the group is performing “reasonably well in what is a tough market,” adding: “It is difficult to differentiate between the effects of the smoking ban and consumer slowdown but we are definitely being affected by both.”

The Independent

RANK FALLS 11 PERCENT AFTER FINANCE DIRECTOR QUITS

Rank Group (RNK.L) fell by 11 percent on Thursday after analysts said that the resignation of finance director Peter Gill indicated that there would be no imminent takeover of the firm. Landsbanki leisure analyst Mark Reed opined that if there was “a meaningful chance of Rank doing significantly better in the next 12 months, the finance director would be less likely to be leaving,” adding: “And if the company was about to receive a bid, then he would also be hanging on for a couple of months.” Genting Berhad, meanwhile, revealed that it had no intention of tabling a bid for Rank despite speculative news reports.

CO-OPERATIVE TAKES 31.8 MILLION POUNDS WRITEDOWN ON SIV INVESTMENTS

The Co-operative Bank last year saw its pre-tax profit fall by a third to 50.4 million pounds, after the credit squeeze caused 31.8 million pounds worth of writedowns on investments in structured investment vehicles. In spite of this, overall profit across the financial services business was 6.3 percent ahead at 155.4 million pounds, while general insurance profits were 81 percent ahead at 67.1 million pounds. Co-operative Financial Services chief executive, David Anderson, said that the profits decline, “relative to the size of the balance sheet and the profits in the business,” was “not a big issue.”

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