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We kicked off this morning with a fantastic overnight scoop from our media team in New York and London: that Alain Levy and David Munns, two of EMI’s most senior executives, have been ousted – sorry “de-layered”, the company says – in an effort to restructure the faltering record company. Their departure was accompanied by a profits warning and the announcement of a broader restructuring plan by executive chairman Eric Nicoli. The shares are off more than 7 per cent. There are still many unanswered questions, not least whether Nicoli shouldn’t have gone and has just axed the other two to save his own neck. Also, what pay-offs will Levy and Munns get? And does this make EMI more vulnerable to a bid? The statement also has an ominous line that EMI is “reviewing its balance sheet”. What does that mean? We have extensive coverage and analysis running on FT.com.
The bloggers have not wasted any time. “There are opportunities for EMI. Whether Eric Nicoli will embrace these or be replaced when private equity investors swoop down and buy the whole operation is unclear,” writes Bob Lefsetz at Lefsetz.com. “I’m betting on the latter. But if Nicoli wants to save his job, he must make major moves.”
“There is no question that the management challenge for EMI now is to reinvent the model for the business to take it through into a successful digital era,” writes Jeremy Silver at jeremy1.wordpress.com “The company has the opportunity to create a whole new kind of relationship with its artists. The landmark Robbie Williams deal that included share in live performances and other parts of the artist’s income was just the beginning of what needs to be done... Nicoli now needs to head an aggressive acquisition program of signing new talent under completely new terms. He should also go out and acquire a share in or outright ownership of a major live promoter’s business in order to capture all of the scope for income creation from artists’ entire range of activities.”
Simon h b at xrrf.blogspot.com adds: “This isn’t a side effect of piracy: this is the side effect of a label who think Keith Urban is going to be a big seller for an English Christmas.”
One of our tasks today will be to present the EMI story in tomorrow’s paper in a way that still looks fresh after it has been heavily digested all day online. As I said, we have a lot of questions still and our media team in New York and London are busy talking to their sources in the company and the industry.
Check out the disaster that is Bridgewell. The smaller company stockbroker has issued a profits warning, saying its 2006 numbers would be hit by difficult trading last year (when most companies who depend on Aim were hit) and bonus payments to keep key staff. Another example of the time-honoured investment banking practice of putting staff before shareholders? Its chief executive, Rennie McConnochie, is leaving. Hasn’t he only been in the post for two minutes? The shares have been a disaster since they listed in June: they are down 26 per cent and have underperformed their sector by almost 40 per cent. Paul Manduca recently took over as chairman. Perhaps this is him shaking the place up.
We also have Carphone Warehouse saying its full-year results would meet analysts’ expectations after reporting a 3 per cent rise in third-quarter retail gross profit. However, the number of customers connected to Carphone‘s unbundled broadband service was lower than some had expected.
Focus DIY has appointed Rothschild to advise it on future options for the group which may include a sale. The retailer, chaired by its founder Bill Archer and owned by private equity groups Apax Partners and Duke Street and management, is in discussions with lenders, bondholders and shareholders about its requirement to restructure debt and equity.
Rumour of the Day: Neil Hume on our markets desk says Home Retail Group, which owns Argos and Homebase, is the biggest FTSE 100 riser today on rumours of a 530p bid from KKR.