March 28: GUS has announced more details about its plan to break itself up. Its Argos Retail Group, which owns Argos and Homebase, is being spun off as a separate company, as is Experian, its fast-growing credit data business. Both companies are to be demerged within the next six to 12 months. Experian’s listing will include the sale of 10-15 per cent of its share capital, raising up to about £900m to fund further expansion of the business. You have to wonder, though, how this business will fare as the credit cycle turns and now that consumers are borrowing less. It is also interesting that Experian will list in London even though most of its business is in the US, where it would be better understood and command a better rating. But, it seems, UK institutions don’t want US paper.
If you want a laugh, go to http://argos-employee.blogspot.com/, a very funny blog by an Argos employee about life on the shop-floor. This blog - http://www.wired.com/news/privacy/0,1848,67811,00.html - has some bellyaching about Experian, no doubt an occupational hazard for such a company. There are more complaints here: http://fishwagon.blogs.com/home/
Standard Chartered shares are off about 3½ per cent after last night’s news that Temasek, the Singapore state investment fund, is buying the Khoo family stake in the bank. The reading seems to be that this dashes any hopes of an auction developing for the group. For useful background on Temasek, have a look at this blog - http://www.myfat4.com/2006/03/28/singapores-big-foot-strikes-again/. A piece on Temasek (but not on Standard Chartered) by Jack Burton, our man in Singapore, seems to be attracting attention from bloggers at http://singabloodypore.blogspot.com/2006/03/backlash-for-temasek-over-singapore.html
London Stock Exchange shares are off a touch after it published a pretty ordinary trading update. Still no news on whether Nasdaq will improve its offer and, as readers will have seen from our piece on Monday, it doesn’t look like the NYSE is in any rush to accelerate the auction. There’s a decent blog on how Sarbanes Oxley legislation could spoil a deal with Nasdaq at http://www.insidesarbanesoxley.com/2006/03/could-sarbanes-and-oxley-spoil-nasdaq.asp
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