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January 17: Reg Vardy has agreed to a £492m takeover by Lookers after the rival car dealership put forward a raised bid which trumped an earlier one from Pendragon, another competitor. Lookers is offering 875p a share in cash, beating the 800p bid from Pendragon by a mile. Vardy shares closed up 65p at 888p, so somebody out there thinks we haven’t heard the end of this.
Tesco’s trading update, published earlier today, is almost boring it’s so good. Yet again, the supermarket group has produced a very strong set of numbers: like-for-like sales excluding fuel for the seven weeks to January 7 rose 5.7 per cent in the UK. This compares with the 5.2 per cent for Sainsbury and 2.8 per cent for Morrison recorded over similar periods. It’s difficult not to run figures so good from a company so large on the front of our second section but everyone is getting a little blasé: the stock was off about 2 per cent this morning. Read Lex online.
Smaller, but more interesting perhaps, is the news that Marks and Spencer is buying 28 stores from Baugur’s Iceland food chain for £38m to expand its Simply Food format. What makes this story so appealing is that while I was covering the M&S battle against Philip Green 18 months ago, it wasn’t clear that Stuart Rose, M&S’s chief executive, was terribly excited by the Simply Food format. He used to speak at length about the virtuous circle of having food at the front of stores and food at the back or downstairs. Simply Food, however, was hardly a priority of his at the time and he was of the view that, although it had potential, it had to prove itself.
With apologies to Tatler, we are going to carry some fun stuff tonight about Lord Daresbury, aka Peter Greenall, stepping down as chairman of De Vere – the hotels and health & fitness group which was called Greenalls until it sold its pubs. This is a big moment: it was one of Lord Daresbury’s ancestors, Thomas, who started the business in 1762 as a brewery in St Helens, when George III was on the throne and Rousseau published his Social Contract. The family still holds about 4.6 per cent of De Vere but the company has been persistently regarded as a takeover target in recent months. These days, Lord Daresbury’s main preoccupations seem to be Aintree Racecourse and various natural resource interests. He is a senior adviser at Fleming Family & Partners and last year became a non-executive at Evraz, one of Russia’s biggest steel groups, which floated in London last year.
We’ll take a look at KPMG’s strong figures. Mike Rake, the boss, has received a chunky pay rise to £3m. I don’t want to get over-excited about pay stories on principle, but this is interesting because it comes in the same year as a tax advice scandal in the US.
And we’ll try to bring you more about British Airways and what look like quite smart negotiating tactics by Willie Walsh, the new boss. Read this morning’s piece, if you missed it, and catch up with what the pilots are saying on the Professional Pilots Rumour Network.
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