It is an unusually busy Friday for news, led by Gerald Corbett saying he will step down as chairman of Woolworths at the annual meeting in June. It hasn’t exactly been a glorious tenure but he has stuck it out for two three-year terms. For that alone he deserves a medal. Richard North, former chief executive of Intercontinental Hotels and ex-finance director of Bass, will take over.
Nobody who owns a property in central London, or is trying to, can have been surprised by the doubling in profits at Rightmove, the property website company. The rate of growth has exceeded the company’s expectations when it floated a year ago.
There is also good news today from United Business Media, the publishing group which has published strong final results and is giving back £203m to shareholders. And also from Schroders, where retail investors and a focus on higher-margin products helped it offset an outflow of institutional money and lift annual profits 16 per cent. Schroders looks set to re-enter the FTSE 100 next week.
Bodycote shares are flying again, having been supported by takeover rumours. Today (despite denials from people close to the company, which FT Alphaville is rightly furious about) it said it had rejected a 325p cash offer from Switzerland’s Sulzer
Those not having a very good day, however, include the appropriately-named Rank, where the smoking ban is hurting profits and the dividend, and JD Wetherspoon, where the shares fell sharply on the group’s warning of lower growth (because of higher staff and utility costs, the need to invest to counter the smoking ban and tough comparisons with last year). Also, another profit warning from Photo-Me International, picture booth people. The shares, above 125p at the end of last year, are below 60p this morning (after a 24 per cent drop this morning)
BSkyB and Virgin Media face the possibility of a super-complaint from the National Consumer Council over their disagreement about the cost of Sky channels to Virgin. Sounds serious to me (BSkyB has enough regulatory mess on its plate you might think) but BSkyB shares have hardly moved.