With the President of the United States informing the FT’s own commander-in-chief he is willing to take unilateral action to eliminate the nuclear threat from North Korea, this morning’s edition of Opening Quote comes from a secure location – which, in the absence of a suitable bunker, may (or may not) be under your correspondent’s kitchen table.
From this nerve centre, it is possible to reveal that President Trump has given the FT an interview in which he says: “If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all I am telling you.”
On the assumption that said solution is probably not a deal to build a Trump holiday resort in the Mount Kumgang National Park, investors might want to consider the risk posed by the president’s plan for precision strikes. Asked how he would tackle North Korea, Mr Trump said: “I’m not going to tell you. You know, I am not the United States of the past where we tell you where we are going to hit in the Middle East.”
For Europeans, however, survival would appear to come with financial reward, as – apparently – everyone’s going to be a winner from the Brexit negotiations. Mr Trump, author of business book ‘The Art of the Deal’ told the FT that Brexit would be a “great deal for [the] UK and . . . really good for the European Union”. What a relief for all concerned.
As a precaution, though, it seems the Royal Navy has selected defence contractor Babcock as preferred bidder for its £360m contract to become Marine Systems Support Partner for new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers and Type 45 Destroyers.
Babcock’s success comes shortly after it secured a seven year contract from the Ministry of Defence, valued at up to £70m for six Maritime Equipment Consumables packages – basicallt ensuring that the spares needs of Royal Navy ships and submarines are met.
Chief executive Archie Bethel said:
Our selection as the MoD and Royal Navy’s partner for MSSP and MEC represents a real vote of confidence in our capabilities and performance as the Royal Navy’s key support partner. This has been a highly successful year.
Reckitt Benckiser is not stockpiling food in preparation for armageddon, however. This morning it has announced that it is beginning a strategic review of its food business.
Over the weekend, the Sunday Times reported that it was weighing up a sale of the division, which includes French’s – its top-selling US mustard brand – to help fund its $16.6bn takeover of baby food maker Mead Johnson. According to the report, Reckitt told banks it planned to sell the existing foods operation as it no longer considers it “core” to its consumer health strategy.
Last year, the food business had sales of £411m and the newspaper report suggested it could fetch more than £2.4bn from a buyer.
This morning, Reckitt said:
French’s Food is a truly fantastic business with great brands, people and a history of outperformance. It is nevertheless non core to RB. We have therefore decided to initiate a strategic review of Food where we will explore all options for this great business.
Ashtead, the equipment hire group, has no qualms about exposure to the US. Last week, analysts at Liberum Capital suggested investors should see more value in its US expansion, as the market there is set for growth. This morning, the company increased its bet on the market stateside: announcing that its US business, Sunbelt Rentals, has acquired Pride Equipment Corporation for a $279m in cash. Pride is a major provider of rental equipment in New York City and surrounding areas specialising largely in aerial work platforms to the construction, industrial and movie production industries.
Ashtead’s chief executive Geoff Drabble, commented:
This acquisition further enhances Sunbelt’s position in the important New York City market… and there will be significant opportunities to cross-sell to the enlarged customer base. This acquisition is consistent with our long-term strategy to take advantage of structural growth opportunities through both organic investment and bolt-on acquisitions.
But G4S is retreating from one business in the US: it has sold its juvenile detention centres business there for $57m.
It said done a deal with BHSB, a US “behavioural health care services company” that provides services to troubled young people
As part of the deal, senior management will stay with the business, which operates in Florida, Texas and Tennessee. In 2016 it recorded pre-tax profits of $5m, down 9 per cent on a year earlier.
G4S chief executive Ashley Almanza said:
The sale of our US Youth Services business is part of our portfolio management programme initiated in 2013 to improve our strategic, commercial and operational focus.
And, finally, BP has said it will sell its Forties Pipeline System business to Ineos for $250m, while retaining rights to capacity in the system. FPS. Under the terms of the deal, Ineos will pay BP a consideration of up to $250m, comprising a cash payment of $125m on completion and an earn-out arrangement over seven years that totals up to $125m.
BP chief executive Bob Dudley commented:
While the Forties pipeline had great significance in BP’s history, our business here is now centred around our major offshore interests west of Shetland and in the Central North Sea.
Have a productive day. Duck and cover.
FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here.