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Lots of interesting news around today, led by Anglo American’s surprise choice of a new chief executive. Cynthia Carroll, currently chief executive of the primary metals group of Alcan, the Canadian aluminium producer listed in the US, will take over from Tony Trahar on March 1. She is the first woman appointed to run a large miner. This shouldn’t be news but it is, even though it is probably less interesting than the fact that she is also the first non-South African and the first from outside the company (let alone outside the industry) to run the group. We’ll tell you more about Ms Carroll later, and the challenges she faces, but in the meantime there is information about her on Alcan’s website. Alison Maitland will also provide some background on senior women in business.
BP has produced Q3 figures which are in line with expectations but no better. Profits have been boosted by asset sales but production is as weak as expected. The oil companies have some cheek sometimes: our front page this morning carries a story saying: “North Sea energy companies have warned the government that it risks losing out on substantial amounts of future oil and gas production unless it takes on some of the financial risks of decommissioning old platforms.” It is a shameless attempt to take advantage of political fears about energy security in order to make the taxpayer pick up the tab for things the industry has known for years it would be liable for. If the liabilities associated with decommissioning make it difficult to sell old fields to smaller operators, then surely this is nothing that cannot be solved by some robust price negotiations between buyer and seller.
We’ll see if we can find out more today about who is bidding for Premier Oil. Paul Murphy and Neil Hume held their own steward’s enquiry into Premier’s oddly-timed announcement last night in their Markets Live discussion this morning on FT Alphaville.
Interesting, if emotional, warning in the Telegraph today from Hugh Freedburg, Euronext Liffe’s impressive chief executive, about the risk of Deutsche Börse moving derivatives trading to Frankfurt if were to merge with Euronext. However, Euronext still expects regulatory clearance for its preferred deal with NYSE soon. Frankly, so what? You could put Liffe on the moon but the people who trade on it would stay here. And that’s what matters, not whether a few techies tweaking Liffe’s computers work in London or Frankfurt. Nevertheless, there are some issues here we need to pick over so we’ll see where that takes us.
A warm autumn has hurt like-for-like sales at Debenhams. The predominance of grey among autumn collections has been blamed by some for failing to inspire. But chief executive Rob Templeman says grey was Debenhams’ fourth best selling colour. Certainly all the men I can see from my desk are wearing grey (except me; I’m in blue today), and so is our retail correspondent, Elizabeth Rigby. Maybe we can have some fun with that in the paper.
Q3 profits at Autonomy, which bought Verity last year, have tripled, helped by a combination of contract wins and acquisitions. With some analysts struggling to pin down the extent of organic growth, the stock is off more than 4 per cent.
Whitbread says it will return £350m to shareholders after reporting strong first half figures helped by strong sales at its Premier Travel Inn budget hotels. The pay-out is slightly less than some expected but it brings the total since May 2005 to £1.16bn.