May 31: Today is Standard Life’s big day: 98 per cent of the 1.6m policyholders who voted were in favour of ending 81 years of mutuality. This paves the way for a flotation this summer, markets willing. Our reporters were in the meeting in Edinburgh along with 450 policyholders. They will bring you all the colour and details in tomorrow’s paper. We’ll also take a close look at the cultural and organisational changes involved in turning this business from one where the owners and customers were the same people to one where they are not. Not everyone is thrilled: online, Ken Frost, who also has a petition on endowment mortgages, was blogging overnight. “The IPO would value Standard Life at £5.5bn. It is somewhat ironic that [chief executive Sandy] Crombie back in 2000 fought against demutualisation, when the reward for policyholders would have been 10 times as much,” he writes at kenfrostendowment.blogspot.com.
Will James Heneage, managing director of Ottakar’s, dare show his face at the Hay book festival in Wales this week? Today he agreed to sell the bookstore group to HMV, owner of Waterstone’s, regarded by most Hay-goers as the Voldemort of the industry. Opponents included the children’s laureate, Jacqueline Wilson (speaking tomorrow), and historian Antony Beevor (who spoke on Sunday). HMV is offering 285p a share in cash – a 0.7 per cent discount to yesterday’s closing price and a 35 per cent discount to what HMV offered in September before the OFT intervened and caused that offer to lapse. That should give them something to talk about in the Welsh marches.
After all the fuss about Citigroup’s Eurotunnel proposal yesterday, Goldman Sachs, Macquarie Bank and Barclays are still in there. Today, the Channel tunnel rail operator announced the terms of a deal which will see 54 per cent of its £6bn debt being written off. Could it be that Eurotunnel’s management, which seemed so hopeless, have played a blinder? Or have they effectively handed the company on the cheap to a group of much smarter investment bankers?
We also have news of Northern Foods’s rather desperate measures: after two profits warnings in the last year, it is halving its dividend and selling its distribution business, which accounts for about 40 per cent of revenues.
Icap has published decent full-year results but its shares are down on concerns about dollar exposure and disappointment about margins.
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