Delighted to see our scoop on Philip Bowman being appointed chief executive of Smiths Group confirmed. Succeeding Keith Butler-Wheelhouse shouldn’t be too hard but his recent record (Allied Domecq and Scottish Power) suggests a sale is on the cards. Not at all, says the company. Really, honestly. John Willman, who remembers Smiths from when it was known for clocks and watches, will explain more tomorrow. In the meantime, Maggie Urry has written a great analysis online. The shares are up 3 per cent.
The other good story around today is the news from Barratt Developments that Northern Rock has led to a dramatic fall in its sales in the last week. “We would normally expect an uplift in volumes from the second week in September,“ said chief executive Mark Clare. “But the Northern Rock issues have changed customer sentiment and there has been a 5 to 10 per cent fall in sales since last week.”
Northern Rock shares, by the way, are up nearly 9 per cent on last night’s news that the bank is in talks with potential buyers. Anybody amused by yesterday’s story about Spain’s Jose Maria Ruiz-Mateos wanting to control of the Rock should check out the great clips of him on YouTube. His bit dressed up as Superman is particularly special but him slapping the former Spanish finance minister isn’t bad either.
Also, the Bank of England said this morning it had not received any bids for three-month loans under its new emergency facility. This could be good news – it might indicate the money markets have loosened up and banks can fund themselves cheaper elsewhere – or it might be bad, suggesting that while the big banks don’t need the money (the ECB is cheaper) smaller ones who might have needed it felt the stigma was too great.
BHP Billiton is a bit disappointing today. Some in the market thought it might have found the largest gold mine in the world. It now looks like the find may be the largest in Australia, which is a big place but not quite the same thing.
Finally, we have a great hedge fund scoop for later.