It’s a shame Towel Throwing is not a sport. If it were, England would surely have overtaken Australia in the Commonwealth Games medal table. Because, today, two very English companies have Thrown In The Towel in gold-medal winning fashion: Hammerson, in the Ill-Judged Shopping Centre Takeover High Jump, and De La Rue in the Blue Brexit Passport Contract Marathon (although, oddly, it seems the French and Dutch have been allowed to compete in this most Anglophile of events).
Hammerson has this morning announced that it will not try to get its £3.4bn bid for rival shopping centre group Intu off the ground - after shareholders made it clear they were not willing give it a leg up in the current adverse conditions.
According to the company - which owns Birmingham’s Bullring centre and Brent Cross in north London - it had decided against an attempt at that level having seen so many retailers injured by poor trading, and forced to seek treatment in the form of company voluntary agreements (CVAs) to alleviate rent bills.
“This has led to a disconnect between the company’s share price and the fundamental value of its business and prospects,” Hammerson claimed - a painful condition made made worse by concerns over how long it would take to complete an Intu manouevre and then achieve the hoped-for returns.
But Hammerson tried to insist the decision to withdraw its recommendation was nothing to do with its own fitness. It said that said that despite the “resilience” of its own portfolio of shopping centres, it was a lack of support from investors that caused it to scratch.
Last week APG, a Dutch pension fund manager which owns a 7 per cent stake in Hammerson, said it would vote against the deal.
Hammerson is now looking to other pursuits:
“The Board…has concluded that the heightened risks associated with the Intu Acquisition outweigh the long-term rewards that can be expected in comparison to other strategic options open to the Company.”
For the moment, though, the event goes on. According to this morning’s FastFT report, the deal does not automatically collapse because the Hammerson board has withdrawn its recommendation to shareholders. Unless Intu and the UK takeovers watchdog agree otherwise, shareholders will still get to vote on the tie-up — although it is unlikely to go ahead without the board’s support.
De La Rue has also Thrown The Towel over an appeal against not winning gold for Making Post-Brexit Blue Passports.
Despite howls of protest from Union Flag draped supporters, led by MP and 1930 mens’ lawn bowls champion Jacob Rees Mogg, the banknote and document printing group has said it will “not appeal against [the] decision on the UK passport tender”’.
It had previously said it was disappointed to miss out on the contract.
After a series of furious editorials in popular newspapers, the blue passport debacle had been turned in to a long-distance event. It was shortly before Christmas that the Home Office fired the starting gun, by announcing that the UK would have national pride restored by being able to issue old-fashioned blue coloured travel documents. This was met by cheers from the crowd.
But their delight at the prospect of a big win for British group De La Rue turned to horror when Paris-based Gemalto entered the home straight in the lead and set to win the contract.
Urged on by The Daily Mail and more than 227,000 signatories to an online petition, Da La Rue started drawing up a court challenge.
But, this morning, having spent £4m on the bid process for the blue passports, the UK contender has decided not to appeal. It insists the result will have no impact on its performance over the next 18 months.
In fact, in true blue sporting manner, it said it would “assist with the transition to the new supplier”.
England’s proud tradition of plucky losers is maintained.
Today’s Lombard column asks whether Majestic Wine’s investment plans are more sober than Conviviality’s were:
For Lombard’s local wine merchant, investing in expansion meant buying a white Ford Transit, which it called — wait for it — Le Van Blanc. For collapsed wine merchant Conviviality, however, over-investing in expansion was enough to drive its shareholders to drink. And that might explain why, for retailer Majestic Wine, plans to invest more in expansion delivered a mixed case of reactions on Tuesday.
Read the rest of today’s Lombard column here.
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