Elon Musk says 'I was not on weed' as Tesla tycoon defends his $420 buyout tweet

Elon Musk says 'I was not on weed' as Tesla tycoon defends his $420 buyout tweet

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Tesla’s colourful founder Elon Musk today moved to deny rumours he had been intoxicated when sending last week’s now-notorious tweet about taking his carmaker private.

“I was not on weed,” he said. 

Speculation was rife that he was high at the time of the tweet because he said his plan was to pay $420 a share; 420 is a number Americans associate with marijuana smoking.

Musk told the New York Times he was driving to the airport at the time.

However, his explanation will do little to stem Wall Street regulators’ investigations into the message, which saw its shares rocket, causing big losses for short-sellers betting the price would fall.

Musk, who appeared overcome with emotion at times during the interview, said friends were worried he was exhausted from working  120-hour weeks. He worked 24 hours through his 28 June birthday, he said: “All night. No friends. Nothing.”

He admitted to taking the sedative Ambien when he was not working: “It is often a choice of no sleep or Ambien.”

A search for a deputy to take his workload has been fruitless, he said. “If you have anyone who can do a better job, please let me know.”

Source Article from https://www.standard.co.uk/business/i-was-not-on-weed-tesla-tycoon-musk-says-to-critics-of-his-buyout-tweet-a3914196.html

August 17, 2018 |

House of Fraser debt: Department store owes millions to brands from Armani to Barbour and Phase Eight

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Household brands including Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren and Kurt Geiger are owed millions of pounds each by House of Fraser, it emerged today. 

The 169-year-old High Street stalwart is laden with almost £1 billion of debt, which could leave suppliers, concessionaires and logistics companies out of pocket, new documents from administrator EY show. 

Luxury brands Giorgio Armani and Mulberry are owed £1.59 million and £2.4 million, with Kurt Geiger £4.8 million and Ralph Lauren’s Polo UK Limited standing to lose £9.4 million, as well as Phase Eight owed £3.4 million. 

Other names include Superdry (£236,000), Warehouse (£1.4 million), Aspinal of London (£350,594), stock-market-quoted sofas seller ScS  (£1.6 million) and jackets maker Barbour (£3 million). 

XPO Logistics, the company which looked after House of Fraser’s distribution centre in Wellingborough and has refused to fulfil online orders since the deal was struck, is owed £30.4 million.  

The department stores chain was bought by Sports Direct billionaire Mike Ashley for £90 million last Friday, hours after it collapsed into administration, in a “pre-pack deal”, an agreement which allows the buyer to shed its pension scheme and other liabilities. 

House of Fraser’s finances deteriorated rapidly, the documents showed. 

It made a pre-tax loss of £4.1 million for the year to January 27. Moreover, turnover fell by 7.7% in the first quarter to April 28 and it made underlying losses of £31.4 million. The accountancy giant held talks with 48 potential bidders for the chain, of which 15 signed a non-disclosure agreement to be able to look at House of Fraser’s finances more closely before they tabled an offer. 

However, only six came forward, including retail tycoon Philip Day and Ashley. 

Most of the £90 million will be used by EY to pay House of Fraser’s banks and bondholders with very little left for unsecured creditors. Suppliers, who provide clothing and other products, and concessionaires, who sell their products from inside a department store, are unsecured creditors. Suppliers often get as little as 2p or 3p in the pound back in cases of administration. 

A major supplier to House of Fraser told the Evening Standard it was considering pulling out the brand, regardless of whether Sports Direct pays the money it owes to suppliers and concessionaires.

Source Article from https://www.standard.co.uk/business/house-of-fraser-owes-millions-to-brands-from-armani-to-barbour-and-phase-eight-a3914036.html

August 17, 2018 |

Deloitte lands £2.6m for crash Whitehall course in post-EU trade

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​The International Trade department is shelling out £2.6 million for Deloitte to run a pre-Brexit crash course for mandarins in international commercial disputes.

Deloitte will be training the 100 investigations staff manning the new Trade Remedies Authority, which will probe unfair trade practices such as the “dumping” of goods on this country that might harm British industry.

Currently, the TRA’s work is done by the European Commission, but the Government has had to set up its own duplicate version due to Brexit.

The TRA will investigate unfair practices and recommend actions such as imposing tariffs. MPs have voiced concerns it will become politicised if not kept adequately independent.

Under the contract reported by tenders research group Tussell, Deloitte has to train up the new department’s staff quickly, “to enable the TRA to be operational in time for the UK’s exit from the EU”.

The contract is one of many wins for private consultancies resulting from Brexit.

Deloitte is already earning up to £5 million for work handling the application process for EU citizens living in Britain seeking “settlement” status here.


Source Article from https://www.standard.co.uk/business/deloitte-lands-26m-for-crash-whitehall-course-in-posteu-trade-a3914291.html

August 17, 2018 |

World beater: Boden is a global hit

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Boden, Middle England’s favourite online clothing retailer, has revealed that its international sales have surged past those in the UK for the first time.

Founder and chairman Johnnie Boden also said the mail order business remained committed to distributing 50 million catalogues a year, as its customers “love to browse” them before ordering products online.

Boden, which counts David Cameron and his wife Samantha as fans, said its overseas sales has overtaken UK revenue in the last three months.

Johnnie Boden, who owns 60 per cent of the company, said: “We are still growing in England but the international markets are growing faster. The US is now a $200m business. We are one of the most successful British clothing retailers in the US.”

He launched in America in 2002 and also delivers to scores of countries, including Germany, Japan and India.

In the UK, Johnnie Boden said trading in the first few months of this year had been “very difficult”, partly because of the extended near-Arctic weather. But he added it enjoyed “strong” sales in April.

The founder declared that it was “highly unlikely” he would seek to float the business but refused to rule it out in the long-term.

He said: “We are fortunate at the moment that we do not need to raise any money. There is no real reason [to float] unless we wanted to use equity to buy another company but we have quite a lot on our plate at the moment.

“It is a possibility if there is an amazing corporate deal that falls into our lap with something that we felt was unmissable.”

Click here for Boden discount codes

Source Article from https://www.standard.co.uk/business/business-news/world-beater-boden-is-a-global-hit-8614067.html

August 16, 2018 |

Jim Armitage: Companies may regret writing off the scribblers, some were good

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For years, company bosses and investors would bemoan the City analysts. 

These “scribblers” were paid small fortunes by the brokers who employed them to opine (with no great insight, the complaint went) on the financial prospects of stock market companies. 

The brokerages would offer their research as an additional service to the fund managers for whom they were buying and selling stock. Hopefully, the brokers reasoned, their analysts’ recommendations and ideas would encourage clients to do more trading.

The complaint from the CEOs and fund managers was that there were too many analysts and most of their work was superficial or downright wrong; if only we could get shot of them altogether, they’d moan.

Be careful what you wish for. The new Mifid II financial rules mean brokers can no longer “bundle” the cost of research with the commission they charge fund managers for executing trades. In the interests of transparency, research has to be sold separately, at a price that reflects the salaries and overheads of the analysts.

Fund managers have been shocked by the cost and largely refused to pay, trimming the number of firms from which they take research to a handful.

This has dropped an H-bomb on the brokers’ business models. Unable to justify paying salaries, they have canned more than 160 of them.

Some fund managers say good riddance. Others are less happy. They say many of those fired were good at their jobs, and that their absence means less diversity of thought about companies’ valuations and strategies. 

There’s no doubt the value of the “consensus analyst forecast” — the average of brokers’ views on where companies’ earnings should be — is denuded. Where a few years back, the average would be taken from a dozen or more, now it may be five or six.

This matters. On results day, companies’ shares rise or fall depending on whether they beat or miss the consensus. If the consensus is out, so is the share price.

The scribbler shortage is even worse for smaller firms. As fund manager Downing warns today, smaller companies are now covered by an average of just 0.6 analysts. About 200 have none at all. With little independent research on these businesses, few small investors are prepared to buy their shares. Given that private individuals make up 30% of small-cap share trading, that’s a big problem; SMEs are stifled of investment and fail to achieve their growth potential.

Some specialist research houses are carrying out analysis paid for by the company being analysed. That’s a start, but the quality can be questionable and investors fear the piper is calling the tune.

Mifid II was done with good intentions but has had unintended consequences. The City has yet to figure out how to deal with them. 

Meanwhile, many are thinking: perhaps all those scribblers weren’t so bad after all.

Source Article from https://www.standard.co.uk/business/jim-armitage-companies-may-regret-writing-off-the-scribblers-some-were-good-a3913496.html

August 16, 2018 |

Small-cap round-up: Abzena shares up over 100% on private equity takeover

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The real winner today among the small-caps has been life sciences group Abzena which said it is in talks with the world’s largest healthcare-focused private equity house in a deal worth £34.4 million. 

WCAS, which since 1979 has invested $9 billion in 90 companies, is offering 16p a share, a 167% premium to yesterday’s closing price.

Abzena shares climbed steeply – up over 100%.  

On the Beach was also racing a long to as the online travel agent has decided to go up market buying Classic Collection for £20 million. 

The firm said buying Classic Collection would help it to access the five million short-haul beach breaks each year that Britons still book offline. 

Classic Collection, with underlying earnings of £2.6 million last year and assets worth £18 million, sells holidays through travel agents who work from home and in High Street branches.

Meanwhile RA International Group said it has secured a new five year contract for two camps in Somalia.

The company, which provides services to remote locations, has been contracted for electrical works and construction of power infrastructure at the United Nations Support Office and African Union Mission in Somalia camps.

Work is due to start this autumn and the contract is worth £30 million.

“We are delighted to have secured this long-term contract for the construction of power houses in Somalia,” said Soraya Narfeldt, chief executive RA International.

“RA International has managed and completed power house projects effectively in the past and it demonstrates great confidence in our capabilities that we have been reselected as the preferred provider by UNSOS and AMISOM for construction and support services for this project.”

Finally Ariana Resources said the Turkey crisis has helped its business. 

The company said the value of the Turkish lira is providing a positive financial effect as operational costs incurred in the local currency are decreasing. 

Dr. Kerim Sener, managing director, said: “As a result of recent movements in the value of the Turkish Lira, operational costs incurred in local currency are decreasing, which along with increasing grades is providing a positive financial effect.  

“Consequently, the Company is funded internally for its current operations, although it will continue to appraise a variety of external funding strategies to accelerate its project pipeline in the longer term.”

Source Article from https://www.standard.co.uk/business/smallcap-roundup-abzena-shares-up-over-100-on-private-equity-takeover-a3913481.html

August 16, 2018 |

Sainsbury's boss Mike Coupe defends Argos buy as good deal despite weak pound

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Sainsbury’s chief executive Mike Coupe today defended the supermarket’s £1.4 billion takeover of Argos, saying he was “more confident than ever” that the deal would deliver much-needed growth.

Coupe was responding to analyst claims that the pound’s plunge had wiped out potential gains provided by Argos, which buys much of its goods in dollars. HSBC said Sainsbury’s may not have done the same deal had it seen Brexit coming.

Coupe insisted the forecast £160 million in synergies from the tie-up had not been affected by currency swings.

“There will be ups and downs but we are as confident as ever and, if anything, more confident than ever that it will deliver.”

He also rejected the idea that Argos was especially vulnerable to sterling’s weakness. “The focus on Argos as if this is somehow unique is just wrong. Whatever pressures exist across the entire market.”

Sainsbury’s bought Argos to strengthen its non-food and online operations to offset falling food prices and shifts in customers’ shopping habits. The challenges facing Sainsbury’s core supermarket business were reflected by a 1% fall in first-half same-store sales.

Underlying profit before tax slumped more than 10% to £277 million as a price war with rivals bit. The big four supermarkets – Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda and Morrisons – have slashed prices to fend off discounters Aldi and Lidl.

Coupe said Sainsbury’s will remain competitive on price and “will do everything we can” to avoid passing on higher costs, triggered by the pound’s move, to customers.

Consumer goods giant Unilever last month asked supermarkets to raise prices on its products, including Marmite, to make up for the pound’s drop in value. Tesco refused in a highly publicised spat dubbed Marmitegate. Coupe said today the price of Marmite at Sainsbury’s remains at £2.50. 

Tesco pulls Unilever brands like Marmite, Ben & Jerry’s and Persil after post-Brexit price row

Sainsbury’s profit will be lower in its second half because of a higher wage bill and a “hangover” from price cuts. Full-year profits are still expected to hit expectations of £573 million and Sainsbury’s offered an interim dividend of 3.6p, but shares fell nearly 6% to 240.8p.

Coupe extended cost-cutting plans, pledging to find another £500 million in savings over three years from 2018. It is on track to save £500 million by the end of its next financial year. The cuts will occur across the company, Coupe added.

He also unveiled a franchise partnership with Euro Garages to trial convenience stores in six forecourts.

Click here for Argos discount codes

Source Article from https://www.standard.co.uk/business/sainsbury-s-boss-mike-coupe-defends-argos-buy-as-good-deal-despite-weak-pound-a3391061.html

August 15, 2018 |

Sainsbury's agrees £1.3 billion takeover of Argos owner Home Retail Group

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Sainsbury’s has sealed its £1.3 billion takeover of Argos owner Home Retail at the fourth attempt after months of tough negotiations. 

Bosses at the supermarket had been desperate to get their hands on the High Street giant and it emerged on Tuesday that the board received three previous offers, including one previously announced in November, that had been deemed too low.

But today Home Retail accepted a £1.3 billion or 161.3p a share offer, although this is below the 200p a share some in the City hoped for.

Sainsbury’s chief executive, Mike Coupe, explained that the deal would be for cash and shares in the supermarket and could be entirely funded without the need to ask shareholders for funds.

The offer would see Home Retail investors receive 55p per share in cash, along with 0.321 new Sainsbury’s shares. It means Home Retail shareholders would own 12% of the total group.

“Strategically this is exactly the right thing for the business. It’s financially compelling.”

Mike Coupe

Coupe claimed Sainsbury’s was essentially buying Argos for £250 million, as it was inheriting a £600 million loan book of money owed by customers, along with cash of around £200 million from the Homebase sale.

The deal today is for a “possible offer” with the takeover panel giving Sainsbury’s an extra three weeks of due diligence, although Coupe said he expects the entire process to take between three to six months once the competition watchdog gives the green light.

Sainsbury’s will also need to persuade its shareholders, including the Qatar Investment Authority, on the merits of the deal. Its shares rose 1.8% to 249.1p.

Coupe said: “Clearly we’re going to be engaging with investors in the coming weeks, but strategically this is exactly the right thing for the business and believe it’s financially compelling.”

The company would want to move Argos concessions into the vast majority of its larger store estate — pointing out that 10 successful trial concession stores have ranged in size from 900 sq ft to 5000 sq ft, meaning they could fit into most stores. Some Argos standalone stores would close but Coupe would not be drawn on job losses. 

He said he wanted a total of 2000 stores — Sainsbury’s currently has 1300, with Argos operating 800.

Sainsbury’s has identified around £120 million of synergies, including £60 million from relocating Argos stores, but it would also cost £140 million in execution costs and a further £140 million in capital costs to open the concessions.

Click here for Argos discount codes

Source Article from https://www.standard.co.uk/business/sainsburys-agrees-13-billion-takeover-of-argos-owner-home-retail-group-a3170586.html

August 15, 2018 |

Argos takeover 'so far, so good', says Sainsbury's boss

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The results of Sainsbury’s £1.4 billion takeover of Argos are “so far so good”, the supermarket’s boss said today.

Speaking at the Retail Week Live conference, Mike Coupe said he was “100% confident” the enlarged group would achieve its targeted £160 million of cost savings, and if possible would deliver them quicker than originally expected.

Coupe added that the figure did not include any potential boost from homeware chain Habitat, which it bought along with Argos and which “fits well” with Sainsbury’s customers, or Argos’s financial services arm, which could help it roll out more banking products.

Asked about the effect of uncertainty thrown up by Brexit, Coupe said there would be no change to Sainsbury’s strategy.

“I don’t think Brexit negotiations will change trends we are seeing in customer shopping habits. The basic premise of the business is to adapt to the changing world. Customers have more choice and are exercising that choice digitally and expect to be served whenever and wherever they want.”

Click here for Argos discount codes

Source Article from https://www.standard.co.uk/business/argos-takeover-so-far-so-good-says-sainsburys-boss-a3484831.html

August 15, 2018 |

Gideon Spanier: Tech platforms must face the music over fake news

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It is time to impose tighter regulation on technology platforms that carry news and current affairs. When democracy and the rule of law are at risk, then the argument in favour of independent, regulatory oversight is compelling.

Politicians, regulators and even advertisers, who do so much to fund online content, are stepping up the pressure on both sides of the Atlantic in a so-called techlash.

Facebook, which suffered a 20% plunge in value in July after reporting slowing growth and a fall in user numbers in Europe in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, is the biggest target.

That is why Facebook has been running a big ad campaign, insisting “fake news is not our friend” and using trusted, established media outlets such as newspapers and posters to get out its message.

All the tech companies are vulnerable because they are finding it increasingly difficult to abdicate responsibility for the content they allow on their platforms.

Apple pulled five InfoWars podcasts, hosted by Right-wing US conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, from iTunes last week because of concerns about “hate speech”, a move that prompted Facebook, YouTube and Spotify (but not Twitter) to take similar action.

The social media companies, in particular, are on the back foot as they face a double whammy of political pressure and investor concern. Shares in Twitter and Snap as well as Facebook have fallen in recent weeks because of slowing user growth.

The Commons digital, culture, media and sport select committee’s report into “fake news” and disinformation, published in July, laid down an important marker about the need for greater online regulation in the UK.

Damian Collins, the committee chair, was withering about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s refusal to testify about Cambridge Analytica’s shocking misuse of data that could have undermined the integrity of the US Presidential election and the Brexit referendum.

Collins demanded that tech companies “take greater responsibility for misleading and harmful content on their sites” and provide “greater transparency for users on the origin of content that has been presented to them”. Importantly, that content could include misleading or harmful ads, especially political messaging. The committee also raised the possibility of an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority into fake accounts.

It would be easy to dismiss the MPs’ report as well-meaning rhetoric but regulatory intervention is possible.

Sharon White, the chief executive of Ofcom, said last month that the tech companies need to be “more accountable” and “the argument for independent regulatory oversight has never been stronger”.

White suggested that social media companies must make greater efforts to protect consumers from “harmful content” and a regulator should have powers to “enforce standards” and to “act if these are not met”.

Advertisers have an important role to play because tech companies get most of their revenues from digital advertising, which is worth upwards of £10 billion a year in the UK.

There is still limited evidence of a swingback towards trusted, premium content but, following last year’s YouTube brand safety scandal, marketers have recognised that it is a mistake to depend on algorithms to buy online audience reach, without caring about the context of where an ad appears.

Advertisers also don’t like the fact that Facebook, Google and others “mark their own homework” when it comes to setting standards for viewability — how long an ad is viewed — and sharing audience data.

“I’m fed up with it, it’s not right and we need to change it,” WPP’s Robin O’Neill, arguably the most influential buyer of online advertising in London, told a recent conference, hosted by Newsworks, the trade body for the newspaper industry.

O’Neill, who is UK managing director of digital trading for WPP’s media-buying arm, Group M, warned the status quo “suits tech platforms and discriminates against premium environments where users have a greater engagement with content”.

He went on to cite new research that showed that an advertisement that appears on a newspaper website is 42% more cost-effective in terms of user engagement and brand awareness, compared with an online ad bought on the open market.

Advertisers’ anger combined with consumers’ distrust may be having some effect.

Investment bank Liberum Capital says it has heard from a leading, unnamed media agency that Facebook’s UK ad revenues fell in June, which would be a big deal after years of uninterrupted, double-digit growth.

If there’s one thing that the tech giants fear more than the threat of regulation, it’s the prospect of making less money.

Source Article from https://www.standard.co.uk/business/gideon-spanier-tech-platforms-must-face-the-music-over-fake-news-a3911356.html

August 14, 2018 |
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