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March 21: The chief executive of Sainsbury’s Bank, Tim Pile, is leaving abruptly without the retailer having a replacement in mind. That suggests his departure wasn’t entirely his own idea. Indeed the bank, although a small part of the group’s business, is one of the group’s problem areas. The bank, which was supposed to be on track to make £90m by 2008, is on track to lose £10m this year, with bad debts up sharply.
Am very keen to do more on the merger of Alliance Trust and Second Alliance Trust. It seems extraordinary that combining these two closely related investment trusts can possibly cost £4.5m in fees. However, this is also an opportunity to look more closely at how the investment trust sector has been struggling with weak demand, wide discounts to NAVs and pressure to cut costs.
Corus shares are up 7 per cent on our story this morning that the steel group has had takeover talks with Evraz of Russia. While it’s interesting that the talks have taken place, and they may resume, it’s worth bearing in mind that not a lot seems to be going on at the moment.
Kingfisher full-year profits fell by a third as fewer and fewer people seem to be doing it for themselves at B&Q. The shares, which have fallen sharply since the group’s profit warning a year ago, are up a touch today. But they are being supported in large part thanks to the revaluation of the group’s store portfolio, which some investors hope might encourage private equity firms to bid for the group. The company, though, is in deep trouble: it isn’t just suffering from weak demand; it has also allowed the supermarkets to eat into its business. Read Lex online.
The New York Post says Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group is looking at bidding for Bally Total Fitness, the US health club chain worth about $1.2bn. We’ll take a look.
BAE Systems has firmly denied the story in this morning’s Guardian that it is considering buying L3 in the US and selling its stake in Airbus.
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