Branson’s hollow Victory

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It’s bad timing for Sir Richard Branson, just as he cuts up rough over BSkyB and ITV. Virgin is delisting Victory Corporation, its jeans and cosmetics business, and buying up the 11 per cent it does not already own. Ordinarily, it would not be much of a story, but Branson has made himself big news this week. Amid all the helpful coverage he has had over ITV, the opportunity to remind people of the stock’s 90 per cent decline in five years is too good to miss. I feel a share price chart coming on... Alas, looking at my page it may be hard to avoid using a picture of Branson. Apologies if you feel you have seen rather alot of him recently.

Great story from the FSA this afternoon: an equity salesman at CSFB, Sean Pignatelli, has been fined for passing on information which was not “inside”. At first, I thought Mr Pignatelli had thought the information was private. Apparently not (and apologies to Mr Pignatelli for misjudging him). Having read the FSA’s announcement more closely it seems that even Mr Pignatelli did not believe the information was “inside” and therefore didn’t think he was passing on inside information. His fault seems to have been that he passed on the information, which concerned Boston Scientific, “in a way that, in the FSA’s view, gave the impression that it was inside information”. He has been fined £20,000. Some people in the office here feel rather sorry for Pignatelli. Tell us what you think after you’ve followed the links above or caught up with the story on FTAlphaville.

Monstermob, the ring tones group backed by the Barclay brothers and suffering from problems in China, says it is in talks with potential bidders. However, it says it doesn’t expect a deal to result. It also says it is in talks about its financial structure. The stock is off 6 per cent.

Daily Mail & General Trust sees some signs of recovery in the national advertising market. This helped DMGT produce better-than-expected full-year results. Others seem to be seeing the same thing: have you seen how fat The Sun has been recently?

David Milne is to retire as chief executive of Wolfson Microelectronics, the specialist chipmaker he founded 22 years ago. The news comes a month after Wolfson issued a profits warning, blaming slow sales of MP3 players. However, this looks like a normal retirement. Mr Milne, 64, will be replaced by a former Intel executive. He will give up being chief executive at the end of February but remains on Wolfson’s board as a non-executive director.

Petronas, the Malaysian state oil company, is taking a 10 per cent take in Cairn India through a pre-float placement. Petronas has indicated it would pay a higher price than expected for the shares, which should bode well for the IPO. Cairn Energy shares are up almost 3 per cent .

Sales at Halfords have been boosted by new legislation requiring all child car passengers up to 12 years old or under 135cm in height to sit in a car seat. First-half pre-tax profits rose 1.5 per cent to £41m. Elsewhere in the sector, sales of laptop computers and flat-screen televisions in the run-up to Christmas lifted sales at Kesa Electricals, which owns Comet.

Fines and over-runs by Metronet - the joint venture that has a 30-year contract to maintain the track and trains on some lines of the London Underground network - hit profits at WS Atkins.

British Land shares, by the way, are the sharpest faller in the FTSE 100 after it was announced late yesterday that chairman Sir John Ritblat is dumping most of his holding. The stock is off 2 per cent.

Rumour of the Day: Not a huge amount around today but there is some talk that HSBC might be interested in buying Experian to take credit checking into Asia.

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