Beth Rigby, our retail correspondent, has just returned from seeing Sir Philip Green and found him defensive and combative. Hardly surprising: he will draw no dividend from Arcadia this year, having received £1.2bn a year ago. Annual pre-tax profits are down 20 per cent, operating profits are 8 per cent lower, like-for-like sales are down 2 per cent and operating margins are also off almost 2 percentage points. At the same time he has been having real problems with BHS and, within Arcadia, Miss Selfridge is losing money and Top Shop - a third of profits - has just lost its fashion guru, Jane Shepherdson. Beth actually thinks the figures don’t look too bad compared with others on the high street. But the question remains: is Philip as good a merchant as he is a financier?
Are we all over-interpreting Big Bang’s legacy? Wouldn’t most of the significant changes we have seen – the explosive growth of the debt and derivative markets, the technological advances, the emergence of hedge funds etc – have taken place regardless of the reforms 20 years ago, which were focused on the equity markets? Attributing London’s success to reforms of the stock market smacks of a Whig intepretation of history.
That is the impression I am left with, having read Peter Thal Larsen’s analysis this morning. See what others have said on our Big Bang special page online, where you will also find some fabulous pictures AND a podcast with insights from Philip Augar, the former Schroders executive and author of books on the City. Tell us what you think of Big Bang’s significance here, or share your thoughts on FT Alphaville. Tomorrow, you can join our Q&A with Sir Nicholas Goodison.
Nice to see some friends among the 115 new Goldman Sachs partners, who, as we said in this morning’s paper, were drawn mostly from the trading and principal investments side of the group, which has produced record profits in recent months. We are running the full list of new partners online. Those who owe me dinner know who they are. Looks like one of the new partners, Richard A Kimball Jr, is the son-in-law of Blackstone co-founder Peter Peterson. Check out the New York Times’s wedding notice. The tip came from a posting on Dealbreaker.com.
Today, we also have Royal Dutch Shell delighting investors with a strong set of Q3 figures. Ed Crooks, our energy editor, says the company reported a 33 per cent underlying rise in earnings per share for the third quarter, in spite of production problems caused by insurgent attacks in Nigeria. Solid Q3 figures, too, from BAT.
AstraZeneca shares, however, are off more than 4 per cent after the group said it had hit problems with an important new stroke drug which had forced it to give up on it. We think this means Astra has only got one blockbuster drug in its armoury. The group’s Q3 figures are due later, as are GlaxoSmithKline’s.
Cadbury-Schweppes has surprised investors with a warning that full-year sales and profits growth would not meet expectations, which it blamed on a decline UK confectionary sales following a hot summer and the recall earlier this year of thousands of salmonella-contaminated chocolate bars. We reported in this morning’s paper that Cadbury has ceded the top spot in the UK chocolate market to Mars.
I’m very keen for us to do more on the decision by Independent News & Media, the media company headed by Sir Anthony O’Reilly, to launch a bid for APN News & Media, the Australian media group. The changing media ownership laws in Australia offer the likes of IN&M and Daily Mail & General Trust a long-awaited opportunity either to increase the significance of their interests there, or to withdraw now that the universe of buyers has grown. What is it about the Australian media market that is so attractive?
Rumour of the Day: Neil Hume thinks Grainger Trust shares are being supported by rumours that Vincent Tchenguiz may bid. The stock is off after yesterday’s collapse of takeover talks, but some think they should have fallen further.