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As if earning 90 per cent of its revenues from the States wasn't enough, Ferguson has now made crystal clear where its future lies. Less than three months after US activist Nelson Peltz appeared on its share register, the London-listed plumbing merchant has announced it will sever its (operating) ties with the UK by demerging its Wolseley business. 

The remaining business will be entirely focused on the US. And so it will get a US-based chief executive, Kevin Murphy, with a background that sounds about as American as they come. Midwest Pipe and Supply, his family business, was bought by Ferguson in 1999. Murphy has been with the group ever since. John Martin, the Imperial College London-educated chief executive since 2016, is out. 

Wolseley will be a UK-focused, UK-listed group after the demerger (unless of course it gets snapped up first). That leaves the question of Ferguson's listing. Ferguson has confirmed it is "again considering the most appropriate listing structure for the group". It has already talked to shareholders about switching to a US listing. That did not go down well. The sole remaining UK tie is the most difficult one to break.


Tesco has agreed to sell its UK residential mortgage portfolio to Lloyds Banking Group at a 2.5 per cent premium to its gross book value, after announcing in May it was getting out of the market amid a fierce price war. Lloyds will pay £3.8bn for the £3.7bn book of loans. Tesco's 23,000 mortgage customers will move to Lloyds' brand Halifax. Margins have come under pressure in the UK mortgage market as banks like Barclays and HSBC have pumped more money into UK retail banking, pushing up competition in lending. 

Restaurant Group, the new owner of Wagamama, has its first set of results out since former-HBOS boss Andy Hornby took over as chief executive. Its half-year figures show like-for-like sales up 4 per cent, and total sales up 58 per cent in the wake of the noodle chain acquisition last November. But the numbers also show an exceptional pre-tax charge of £116m as it took £100m of impairments on restaurant sites it identified as "structurally unattractive". Pre-tax losses were £88m, compared to a statutory profit in the equivalent six-month period last year of £12m. 

Just Eat's takeover by rival takeaway outfit Takeaway.com is under pressure as a top-ten shareholder said it would vote against the deal. New York-based hedge fund Eminence Capital reckons the deal is a "gross undervaluation" of the UK group. Aberdeen Standard Investments, another top-ten shareholder, has already hit out at the offer price. 

Job moves

Neil Woodford has lost one of his key allies on the board of Woodford Patient Capital TrustSteven Harris, the chief executive of Circassia Pharmaceuticals, in which Woodford was until recently the largest shareholder, is stepping down as a board director at WPCT after four years. The board came under fire earlier this year for being too close to Woodford.

We're looking to feature more job moves. If you're in senior management and moving jobs or you know someone who is, let us know about it at quote@ft.com

Markets speed-read

The main move in markets this morning is the pound (or the Great British Peso as it's called round these parts). The UK currency fell to its weakest level against the US dollar since 2017 as investors brace themselves for a crucial day in parliament. Sterling dropped as much as 0.62 per cent in early London dealings to $1.1991, the first time it has traded below $1.20 since early 2017. We've got a live blog up and running covering all the latest UK Brexit developments here.

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Beyond the Square Mile

Saudi Arabia has removed its energy minister as chairman of Saudi Aramco and replaced him with Yasir al-Rumayyan, head of the country’s sovereign wealth fund, ahead of a planned blockbuster stock market listing. The appointment of Mr Rumayyan, a close ally of crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, comes as Khalid al-Falih, energy minister and chairman since 2015, has seen his position weakened. Read more

A senior executive in the crumbling alliance between Renault and Nissan has quit, blaming the boss of the French carmaker Thierry Bolloré for his departure from the business. Meanwhile, Japanese carmaker Toyota is accelerating its push into China.

Long-running merger talks between City law firm Allen & Overy and O’Melveny & Myers of the US have collapsed. The two groups failed to agree on a valuation for the combined business, marking the latest abortive attempt by a UK law firm to expand in America. Our Due Diligence newsletter has more on where this leaves UK magic circle firms eyeing expansion into America.

Finally, chess world champion Magnus Carlsen’s company Play Magnus has purchased the UK-based chess training platform Chessable.com, in a move that marks the Grandmaster’s latest attempt to conquer the lucrative world of online chess. Read the full story 

Closing quote — essential comment before you go

The 'spotlight effect' and how to cope with it Have you ever blurted out the wrong answer during a staff meeting, quickly fired off an email without catching a typo, or struggled through awkward elevator small talk with the boss? And how many more of us have replayed these moments in our mind for days, if not weeks, on end? Here's some advice to help you get over it.

Philipp Hildebrand Business as usual is no longer an option for policymakers in the next recession. Central banks are going to have to put money directly into the hands of public and private sector spenders, rather than relying on lower interest rates. The former chairman of the governing board of the Swiss National Bank outlines the policy known as "going direct".

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