Britain seems to have gone savings mad. Strong demand for annuities and individual protection products in the UK helped Legal & General report a forecast-smashing 42 per cent jump in annual sales this morning. UK sales rose 79 per cent in the final quarter. St James’s Place also reported strong full-year figures, with new business from long-term savings up 58 per cent and fees in wealth management up 26 per cent. What we really want to know is why its chief executive, Mark Lund, left St James’s so abruptly a few weeks ago. Overall though, we’ll look closely at what is driving this savings boom (much of it is related to A-Day and the rising housing and stock markets) and how sustainable it is. Today’s figures certainly put the Pru under pressure.
Great stuff this morning from Autonomy, the UK-based search engine software company. It reported record revenue and profit for its fourth quarter on strong demand for its products and the integration of acquisitions. Revenue rose 132 per cent in the three months to December 31. Splitting out organic growth from the effects of the Verity acquisition is a little tricky, and some investors feel the share price already fully reflects the group’s prospects. The stock has hardly moved this morning. Our correspondent Maija Palmer is having lunch with Mike Lynch so we’ll have lots more to tell you in tomorrow’s paper.
Monsoon confirmed fears that it had a difficult Christmas. The retailer reported an 8 per cent drop in like-for-like sales in the eight weeks to January 20. Interim pre-tax profits fell 5 per cent to £24.2m. No news on how Peter Simon, chairman and controlling shareholder, plans to replace Rose Foster, chief executive, and Mark McMenemy, finance director, who are scheduled to leave in the next few months.
The British Airways strike is on after last-ditch talks with cabin crew failed. BA has cancelled all passenger flights into and out of Heathrow next Tuesday and Wednesday. Kevin Done has all the details and explains the implications.
Ian Norris, the former chief executive of Morgan Crucible, has become the latest business figure to lose an appeal against extradition to the US over alleged “white collar” crimes. The decision taken by two senior judges in London’s High Court could pave the way for him to be sent to face charges that he was involved in fixing the price of carbon products between 1989 and 2000.
We’re looking for more also on Nasdaq’s bid for the LSE, which reaches a key point tomorrow. Although they have until midnight on Saturday to agree a higher price, tomorrow is the last trading day before that deadline. People may be beginning to believe Nasdaq’s Bob Greifeld: LSE shares have been slipping and are down another 1½ per cent this morning at £12.90 (Nasdaq offered £12.43).
Marston’s (the former Wolverhampton & Dudley) is buying rival pubs group Eldridge Pope from Michael Cannon for £155m. Eldridge management is leaving and the price looks a little high. We’ll take a good look at the details, especially at how the Eldridge Pope stub equity has performed.