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Very good news day today, with lots more money market action, Ken Costa moving from UBS to Lazard and a smashing scoop we’re incubating for later.
Ken Costa’s move is big news in the City. He’s an immensely respected banker, has been at UBS and its antecedent firms for 30 years, and joins Lazard at a time when its London and continental European arms could really use an adrenaline shot. Ken, currently vice-chairman of UBS investment banking, will be chairman of Lazard International and deputy chairman of Lazard. He starts next month, so tchüss, as they say in Zurich. We had a story up online fast but Peter Thal Larsen has spoken to him and, with Lina Saigol and James Politi, will have more later.
The other story I love today is right at the other end of the food chain. We have great drama from Max Petroleum which, a fortnight after a huge drop in its share price prompted a statement saying everything was fine, has suspended its chief executive and others (including a former Australian honorary consul to Kazakhstan) “pending an investigation into potential breaches of their employment contracts involving the undisclosed receipt of share options.” And, the company goes on: “The scope of the investigation, however, will not be limited to these matters.”
There was a moment of excitement over ITV this morning when it looked like the OFT had delivered a big win for Michael Grade by agreeing to review the Contract Rights Renewal that in effect caps the ad rates it can charge. In fact, though, it is indeed only a review and there was never really any chance the OFT would refuse to review it. The shares shot up but fell back to about where they started.
Punch Taverns is complaining it was hit by the wet summer. Chief executive Giles Thorley said on the call this morning that he was open minded about demerging Spirit, its managed pubs, which is odd: Punch only bought Spirit 18 months ago.
We also have disappointing H1 numbers from Drax. Aegis’s interims look OK and we’ll also take a good look at Amec’s interims, if only because Samir Brikho is one of the most interesting chief executives to follow at the moment.
Finally, tell me this isn’t news: like-for-like sales at HMV- yes, HMV - rose by 5.8 per cent in the 18 weeks to September 1. If you dig into the statement it isn’t all good news but it isn’t all bad either, for once.