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Today’s big UK corporate event is BP and Tony Hayward’s shake-up of management, first written about here by our award-winning Sheila McNulty. Hayward has said little about his plans since taking over from Lord Browne in May, so this is big stuff.
The highlights from the statement so far are: an admission that performance has lagged behind its peers; up to four layers of management to be shed; lots of job cuts; and a simplification of the business lines into two main divisions (E&P and refining & marketing). Keep an eye on the FT.com homepage for more details and analysis. We’ll have lots on this in tomorrow’s paper, too.
It’s grim up north (east) at the moment. Now a second great Newcastle company is having a rough time. Sage may hardly be a Northern Rock, but today’s news is not good: the chief executive and chief financial officer of its US business are leaving “with immediate effect”. Sage has made a number of US acquisitions over the last couple of years, moving into all sorts of new product areas, and the strategy does not seem to be working. The shares, which soared above 900p in 2000 but have done nothing for the last five years, are off more than 6 per cent to 236p.
Kate Swann, WH Smith chief executive, has delivered a 29 per cent rise in annual profits but says Christmas will be “very competitive”. With revenues continuing to fall, the profit growth is still coming from cost-cutting, which is very impressive (and good enough to trigger bonus payments) but a bit worrying. Ms Swann (ranked 17th most senior businesswoman in Europe by the FT this week) says there is unlikely to be any sales increase from the high street stores for “the next couple of years”. The shares are off 4 per cent.
The Financial Reporting Council has, rather as expected and very sensibly, decided that the restriction of people chairing more than one FTSE 100 companies should be lifted. It also wants to allow the chairman of a smaller listed company to be a member of the audit committee where he or she was considered independent on appointment.
Cookson, the engineering group, on Thursday completed a £150m share placing – at a premium to the market price, which is very impressive – to part-finance a recommended £497m offer for smaller rival Foseco.
We also have a strong trading statement today from Hays.