Peter Dicks is free to return to the UK. The former chairman of Sportingbet was saved from extradition to Louisiana by New York governor George Pataki’s refusal to sign the order. If I understand the situation correctly, Louisiana’s warrant remains active and Dicks may want to cancel any plans he had to holiday in the Bayou state. “I’m very grateful,” he said as he left court but we’re trying to have a longer talk with him.
Today is extremely busy. Having counted 89 UK companies reporting yesterday, I stopped counting at 80 today (the last working day of the quarter) and had only got half way through the list. We’ll pick the most important ones, but there is a lot of interesting stuff around.
Good news from Man Group lifted the stock more than 5 per cent in early trading and lead the FTSE 100 index up past the 6,000 mark. Man said pre-tax profits in the first half would exceed market expectations and funds under management had risen to over $56bn. The FTSE 100 has since dropped back below 6,000 but the mid-250 index has gone back above 10,000. All eyes on US economic data this afternoon.
British Airways says its pension deficit has risen to £2.1bn, following an actuarial valuation. The figure a lot higher than expected and is bound to increase the tension with the unions. The airline says contributions of nearly £500m would be needed to fund the scheme unless changes to future benefits proposed by the airline are approved.
Bad news from Emap. It warned that underlying revenue for the first half would fall by 2 per cent as it continues to suffer from a slowing UK consumer advertising market. “Trading conditions have remained tough in the first half of the 2007 financial year, particularly UK consumer advertising,” the group said in its latest trading update.
Standard Chartered has launched a tender offer to buy Hsinchu International Bank, a mid-sized Taiwanese lender, for US$1.2bn (£650m). The offer is priced at 2.3 times book value and a hefty 31.37 premium over the Taiwan bank’s closing stock price on Friday. It will finance the deal through a $1.2bn share placing. Standard Chartered shares are unmoved but Lex says it is a smart move.
I expect we’ll do more today on our story this morning out of Moscow that Gazprom, Russia’s gas monopoly, which yesterday confirmed its interest in buying a stake in TNK-BP. We described it as an apparent bear hug on the private Russian shareholders in the 50:50 Anglo-Russian oil joint venture and said the move would mark further consolidation of oil assets in state hands ahead of the 2008 presidential elections. It comes amid mounting pressure on BP’s Russian venture over its licence to develop the giant Kovykta gasfield in Eastern Siberia.
At long, long last some decent news from Britvic, thanks to the warm summer and the World Cup. It says annual profits will be at the top end of expectations, although having depressed them so much since floating last year, that isn’t saying very much. The shares, which floated at 230p in December and have since underperformed their sector by 13 per cent, are up 6¼ per cent today at 233¾p.