LONDON BRIEFING: Stagecoach Co-Founder Souter To Step Down As Chair

(Alliance News) - Public transport operator Stagecoach on Wednesday said it had a "solid" ...

Alliance News 11 December, 2019 | 8:08AM
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(Alliance News) - Public transport operator Stagecoach on Wednesday said it had a "solid" half-year as profit rose, while announcing its co-founder is stepping down as chair.

Revenue for the six months to October 26 was GBP800.2 million, down from GBP1.01 billion a year ago. However, pretax profit rose to GBP65.9 million from GBP48.9 million.

The fall in revenue reflected the end of the Virgin Trains East Coast franchise in June 2018 and the end of the East Midlands Trains franchise in August 2019. The profit rise, meanwhile, was due to a non-repeating cost of GBP24.2 million taken a year ago in relation to the equalisation of guaranteed minimum pension benefits.

The transport operator said its expectations for adjusted earnings per share for the full year remain unchanged, having fallen to 10.0p in the half year from 12.9p a year ago.

Separately, Stagecoach unveiled some management changes, with Brian Souter to step down as chair at the end of the year but carry on as a non-executive director.

Ray O'Toole, a non-executive director, will be appointed as chair at the start of next year.

Deputy Chair & Senior Independent Director Will Whitehorn will support the chair transition and, as previously announced by Stagecoach, will step down from the board on June 30. At that point, reflecting the fact that an independent chair is in place, the role of deputy chair will be discontinued.

Souter co-founded Stagecoach and was its chief executive until 2013.

Souter said that "the time is right" to step down as chair. "My family and I continue to have a significant shareholding in Stagecoach, and I have every confidence in the management team, our strategy and the positive prospects of the business," he said.

In addition, Ann Gloag and Ewan Brown, both long-serving non-executive directors, will retire from the board at the end of 2019.

Stagecoach shares were up 3.9% in early dealings Wednesday.

Here is what you need to know at the London market open:

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MARKETS

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FTSE 100: up 0.4% at 7,243.83

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Hang Seng: up 0.7% at 26,627.38

Nikkei 225: closed down 0.1% at 23,391.86

DJIA: closed down 27.88 points, 0.1%, at 27,881.72

S&P 500: closed down 0.1% at 3,132.52

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GBP: down at USD1.3121 (USD1.3176)

EUR: soft at USD1.1084 (USD1.1095)

Gold: firm at USD1,465.42 per ounce (USD1,463.59)

Oil (Brent): down at USD63.90 a barrel (USD64.34)

(changes since previous London equities close)

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ECONOMICS AND GENERAL

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Wednesday's Key Economic Events still to come

0700 EST US MBA weekly mortgage applications survey

0830 EST US consumer price index

1030 EST US EIA weekly petroleum status report

1400 EST US Federal Reserve interest rate decision & economic projections

1430 EST US press conference with Fed Chair Jerome Powell

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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will go into the final full day of campaigning looking to win "every vote" after a fresh poll suggested a hung parliament could still be on the cards. YouGov's constituency-by-constituency poll predicts the Conservatives are on course for a 28-seat majority – but the margin of error and unknown impact of tactical voting means a hung parliament is still a possibility. The pollsters, who have analysed more than 100,000 voter interviews over the past week, predicted the Tories will win 339 seats and Labour 231. A 28-seat majority would be the best Tory result since Margaret Thatcher's showing in 1987 – but it is down from the sizeable 68-seat victory that the same YouGov-style poll had been predicting only two weeks ago. Chris Curtis, YouGov's political research manager, said: "The margins are extremely tight and small swings in a small number of seats, perhaps from tactical voting and a continuation of Labour's recent upward trend, means we can't currently rule out a hung parliament."

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BROKER RATING CHANGES

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SOCGEN RAISES IAG TO 'BUY' (HOLD) - PRICE TARGET 660 PENCE

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JEFFERIES CUTS ANTOFAGASTA TO 'HOLD' ('BUY') - TARGET 950 (1050) PENCE

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RBC CUTS BEAZLEY TO 'OUTPERFORM' ('TOP PICK') - TARGET 600 (650) PENCE

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COMPANIES - FTSE 100

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HSBC Holdings' Swiss private banking arm has agreed to pay nearly USD200 million in unpaid taxes, improper fees and fines after confessing to helping Americans evade federal taxes, the Justice Department announced. "HSBC Switzerland conspired with US account holders to conceal assets abroad and evade taxes that every American must pay," Stuart Goldberg, acting chief of the department's tax division, said in a statement. "Banks, asset managers and other financial firms enable such crimes – and we will hold these institutions to account, right along with the taxpayers that use them to facilitate and disguise illegal activities." Federal prosecutors say that for a decade starting in 2000, the Geneva-based HSBC Private Bank helped American customers hide offshore assets from US authorities, using code named and numbered accounts, hold-mail agreements and shell corporations in tax havens like Panama, Liechtenstein and the British Virgin Islands.

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COMPANIES - FTSE 250

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IG Group Holdings has appointed Robert McTighe as chair. McTighe is the chair of BT's Openreach, Together Financial Services, and Arran Isle. For over 20 years he has held various non-executive director roles in a range of both regulated and unregulated industries, said IG, whilst also spending eight years on the board of Ofcom and one year on the board of Postcomm. Jonathan Moulds will continue to serve as interim chair until February 3, when McTighe's appointment takes effect. McTighe's background in regulated industries comes as IG has had to adapt to recent European Securities & Markets Authority measures. In 2018, the European regulator placed restrictions on marketing, distribution or sale of CFDs to retail clients, in order to protect investors from losing more money than they put in, restrict the use of leverage and incentives, and ensure that risk warnings are provided.

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Numis said that some directors, senior managers and employees of stockbroker AJ Bell have sold 6.4 million shares in total at a price of 400p each, raising GBP25.7 million. Shares in AJ Bell closed at 405p on Tuesday.

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Homebase, B&Q, House of Fraser, Sports Direct and WHSmith have been rated the worst online retailers in the UK, according to an annual Which? survey. Shoppers complained about Homebase.co.uk ignoring complaints and selling products that were out of stock in a survey of more than 7,500 Which? members asked to rate the online shops they used over the last six months. Homebase ranked last with 57%, achieving just two stars for its range of products and two stars for value for money. The online stores of two Mike Ashley-owned brands – HouseofFraser.co.uk and SportsDirect.com – were both in the bottom five on 60%, just under B&Q's website DIY.com (59%), and WHSmith.co.uk (62%). SportsDirect.com is part of Sport Direct International, B&Q of Kingfisher and WHSmith.co.uk of WH Smith.

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COMPANIES - OTHER MAIN MARKET AND AIM

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Over-50s insurer Saga said it has appointed Euan Sutherland as chief executive, effective from January 6. Most recently Sutherland was the CEO of clothing retailer Superdry. He resigned from Superdry back in April after shareholders voted to re-appoint founder Julian Dunkerton to turnaround the business. "Alongside the recent appointments of Cheryl Agius as CEO of Insurance and Gilles Normand as COO, the board has every confidence in the team now in place to lead and accelerate Saga's turnaround strategy," said Saga Chair Patrick O'Sullivan.

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COMPANIES - INTERNATIONAL

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Saudi Aramco shares soared 10% to the daily limit on their trading debut on the Saudi stock exchange, boosting the energy giant's valuation to a massive USD1.88 trillion. The company's share price gained 3.2 riyals, about USD0.85, just seconds after the start of trading, raising its value to 35.2 riyals, about USD9.4, and making Aramco the world's largest publicly trading company. Aramco priced its IPO at 32 riyals, about USD8.53, per share, raising USD25.6 billion by selling three billion shares and eclipsing Alibaba's USD25 billion IPO of 2014 to become the world's largest. However, Aramco said in a statement to the Saudi Stock Exchange on Wednesday that it had sold 450 million more shares, boosting the value of the offering to USD29.44 billion. This means that Aramco has in effect sold 1.725% of its shares instead of the initial 1.5%.

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Chevron announced it will slash the value of its assets by USD10 to USD11 billion due to weaker oil and natural gas prices that prompted the company to consider abandoning some projects. The move hit a number of areas, including gas-related projects in the Appalachian region in the US and a Canadian liquefied natural gas project, and another in the Gulf of Mexico. The company also said it is weighing "strategic alternatives" for the assets, including divestment of some.

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Wednesday's Shareholder Meetings

AXA Property Trust

Westmount Energy

Bowleven

YouGov

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By Tom Waite; thomaslwaite@alliancenews.com

London Briefing is available to subscribers as an email newsletter. Contact info@alliancenews.com

Copyright 2019 Alliance News Limited. All Rights Reserved.

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Securities Mentioned in Article

Security Name Price Change (%) Morningstar
Rating
Antofagasta PLC 880.60 GBX 2.02 -
Stagecoach Group PLC 146.40 GBX 0.41 -
Beazley PLC 540.50 GBX 0.46 -
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA 620.00 GBX 1.81 -

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