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No wonder Stuart Rose looked so relaxed at the Chelsea Flower Show last night in his £499 M&S suit (six hours of hand-stitching apparently). Today’s full-year figures show M&S is in full bloom. Not only is it gaining market share in all its food and clothing categories but it is winning margin as well, although the Q4 performance wasn’t so hot. Rose is now talking about expanding into India. He also let slip in the press conference that he may not end up being the best-paid person at M&S this year, prompting speculation that Kate Bostock, the director of womenswear who has had a very good year, would be.
For more about who was whispering what to whom at Chelsea last night, read the People column’s account of it online now.
LogicaCMG was also very much in evidence at the Flower Show but its executives will have had more on their mind than Rose. The computer services group issued another profit warning today, saying life was tough in the UK. The shares are down 10 per cent. Logica, with its highly controversial acquisition record, is a very interesting company and we’ll have plenty on all this tomorrow.
British Airways confirmed it was joining a consortium led by Texas Pacific Group to explore a takeover bid for Spain’s Iberia airline.
And Mitchells & Butlers could return up to £1bn to shareholders from a refinancing of its pub portfolio. The group, which owns All Bar One pubs and Harvester restaurants, is exploring setting up a 50:50 joint venture on the majority of its property assets, with activist shareholder Robert Tchenguiz as the likely partner.
Hull City Council is finally selling out of Kingston Communications. It is selling its 30 per cent stake for about £100m. It is the end of an extraordinary story: Hull’s telephone system has, for more than a century, been the only one in the country to have remained independent – a hold-out from various episodes of consolidation, nationalisation and privatisation. Today’s placing should clear a blocking stake and make Kingston an easier takeover target.