January 12: Pensions turbulence for BA

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January 12: British Airways has attacked its pilots for threatening to strike over reforms to the airline’s pension scheme. It says their union’s threat was “unprofessional and unhelpful” when the company has not yet put forward any proposals. Pensions are a gigantic problem for BA, with its room for manoeuvre severely limited – discussion about this took up much of this morning’s editorial conference. After our front page story this morning, we’ll do plenty again in tomorrow’s paper but, in the meantime, it is worth keeping a close eye on the Professional Pilots’ Rumour Network for flight-deck commentary.

Hopes that Scottish Power might at last be sold have been stoked by today’s news that Philip Bowman, who successfully sold Allied Domecq, has taken over as chief executive from Ian Russell. He has no experience of the utility sector at all. Russell has grown extremely unpopular with investors after series of strategic flip-flops. We’ll remind you of them all tomorrow but he won’t be much missed, especially after he rejected quite an attractive takeover approach from Eon last year.

The flotation of Qinetiq has also been confirmed today, as expected. Much discussion in our morning conference about how to present this, especially how to treat the (in my view, overblown) debate about whether the business was sold too cheaply. We’ve got a great packaged planned for tomorrow, which will even tell you what this business does.

And we have yet another deluge of updates from various retailers. The most interesting is from HMV Group, which said its chief executive Alan Giles would be leaving, although not for another year. (Is it just me, or are more and more bosses announcing their departure far ahead of when they actually plan to leave?). HMV’s first half figures were weak, knocking 10 per cent of the stock. Decent news from Sainsbury and updates, too, from Boots (not very exciting but nothing to derail the merger with Alliance Unichem), GUS, Mosaic, Clinton Cards and Carphone Warehouse.

Man Group has enjoyed a large jump in fund inflows, but less than was expected.

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