Wednesday, 23 April 2008


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Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Virgin Comics

Stan Lee, the legend and co-creator of some of the world’s best-known superheroes including Spider-Man, X-Men and the Hulk, has been recruited to create a new line of characters for Sir Richard Branson’s upstart Virgin Comics.

The new venture will see the 85-year-old, former president of Marvel Comics, back as both a writer and editor, overseeing a line of new comics that will be launched next year, including a title he is writing himself.

Sir Richard Branson said "Stan Lee is a cultural icon and we welcome him to his new home, Virgin Comics, for this bold new chapter in his great legacy,"

Mr Lee ended his exclusive relationship with Marvel in the 1990s but still has ties to the company, including cameo roles in films Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. He trained some of the industry's most influential figures in the industry under a system called the ‘Marvel Method’. While not commonly used in the industry today, Mr Lee's process enables the writer and artist to sculpt the story together from the ground up in iterative stages, rather than writers just delivering a full script to an artist.

Virgin Comics launch in November 2005 saw Virgin Group enter a partnership with Gotham Entertainment Group, South Asia's leading comic publisher; Shekhar Kapur, the filmmaker, and Deepak Chopra, the author, to launch two companies, Virgin Animation in Bangalore and Virgin Comics in New York. (source: Timesonline) - Virgin Comics

Monday, 21 April 2008

World's Top Brands

Google - $86.1 billion
General Elecric - $71.3 billion
Microsoft - $70.8 billion
Coco-Cola - $58.2 billion
China Mobile - $57.2 billion
IBM - $55.3 billion
Apple - $55.2 billion
McDonald's - $49.5 billion
Nokia - $43.9 billion
Marlboro - $37.3 billion
Vodafone - $36.9 billion

Ephren W Taylor II - Youngest African-American CEO

Ephren W. Taylor II is the youngest African-American CEO of any publicly traded company ever City Capital Corporation (stock symbol:CTCC). Described as “walking history” by popular radio show host Tom Joyner, Taylor started his first business venture at age 12, when he began making video games. By age 17, he built a multi-million dollar technology company;

In 2007, at City Capital Corporation, Taylor started the Goshen Energy initiative; which focuses on producing alternative energy specializing in biofuels. Taylor’s commitment to green energy is part of his concept of empowering local communities with both profitable and socially-conscious investing and development. Through his action on green energy and philanthropy, Taylor is leading a new wave of CEO’s focusing on corporate social responsibility.
Taylor’s diverse business portfolio is quickly transforming him into a household name. He appears weekly on FOX News and has been featured on network shows such as ABC’s 20/20 and Montel Williams show. He also has regular appearances in print and radio media including PBS, Black Enterprise, and the Miami Herald.

Beyond his unprecedented accomplishments at an early age in business, Taylor is an author, inspirational speaker, and real estate mastermind. His first book, “Creating Success from the Inside Out”, is published by the world’s number one business publisher, Wiley and it recently ranked as the #1 best seller at CEO Read. The book serves as an expose of the mindset of today’s multi-millionaires while defining success as not only attaining wealth, but how to utilize it.

In celebration of their 170th anniversary, Taylor completed a specialized curriculum for high school-aged aspiring entrepreneurs at Cheyney University, America’s oldest historically black college and university. After providing a donation to get the program started, The Ephren Taylor Entrepreneur Academy opened in July 2007.

What Warren Buffet is for baby boomers, Taylor is for today’s generation X and Y a rapidly emerging premier financial expert; a true “wealth engineer”.

· Made first million by 16
· Youngest Black CEO of a Publicly Traded Company
· Oversees over 250 Million in Assets
· Starting Investment Clubs at schools across the nation
· Developing national business plan competition for university students
· Started business ventures at the age of 12
· Works with superstar entertainers such as Snoop Dogg and Fat Joe
· Diverse client list ranges from Stock Market Day Traders to Hip Hop Icons

· Getting P.A.I.D.
· Vision Driven Wealth
· Sow to Grow
· Investment U
· Becoming a Wealth Engineer
· Pennies to Billions
· Instant Entrepreneur
· Lessons from the Sandbox: How to raise a Millionaire

Friday, 18 April 2008

Google report profits

It appears as if Google, the internet search giant, is immune against the credit crunch as it reported better-than-expected financial results for the first three months of the year, igniting a huge rally in its shares.

Chief Executive of Google, Mr Eric Schmidt said “We are obviously very pleased with another strong quarter for Google. It is clear to us that we are well positioned for 2008 and beyond, regardless of the business environment that we find ourselves surrounded by."

The results came as a relief to investors, who were bracing for a big slowdown in Google’s business. The company issued its report after the close of markets, and its shares surged more than $76.42 (£39.59), or 17%, in after-hours trading, to end the day at $525.96 (£272.5).

Still, Google’s performance is not likely to ease anxiety among investors about the overall health of the online advertising business. The company relies almost exclusively on short text ads that appear next to search results and on other Web sites. Analysts say that because those ads are more targeted and are used by marketers to drive traffic to their sites, they are more impervious to a slowdown than banners and other graphical ads, which are intended to increase brand awareness.

Google, said net income grew 30%, to $1.31 billion (£678 million), or $4.12 (£2.13) a share, compared with $1 billion (£500 million), or $3.18 (£1.64) a share, in the first quarter of 2007. Revenue climbed 4%, to $5.19 billion (£2.68 billion), from $3.66 billion (£1,89 billion) a year earlier.

On average, Wall Street analysts were expecting Google to report revenue, excluding commissions to advertising partners, of $3.61 billion (£1.87 billion) and income, excluding the cost of stock options, of $4.52 (£2.34) a share.

Google said that DoubleClick, which it acquired in mid-March, had little impact on the company’s finances this quarter. Executives said they were working on integrating the two companies’ products. They said the integration would help growth in Google’s nascent display advertising business. (source: New York Times)

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Co-op to buy Somerfield & how John Paulson made billions from the credit crunch

The UK’s fifth largest supermarket chain, The Co-operative Group (Co-op), is in talks to buy rival Somerfield. Discussions are at an early stage between Co-op and the owners of Somerfield, Apax & Barclays Capital, but the Co-op said there would be a strong fit between the two companies. The news came after Co-op said it was investing £1.5 billion in an attempt to double its profits by 2010.

The Manchester-based Co-op is a mutual business, run on behalf of its 2.5 million members. It expanded in July of last year when it merged with fellow mutual United Co-operatives. With more than 4,300 retail outlets across the UK, it employs 85,000 people. Bristol-based Somerfield has 900 stores.

Dividend payments to its customer members have more than doubled from £22 million to £45 million. Apax, Barclays Capital and a private equity consortium led by property tycoon Robert Tchenguiz bought Somerfield for £1.1 billion in 2005. (source: BBC News)

It is a jarring comparison for the millions of American homeowners struggling with their soaring mortgage payments, but there is one man who has profited so much from the credit crisis that he is jumping a few rungs on the property ladder this year.

He is John Paulson (pictured), a previously obscure hedge fund manager from New York, who took home $3.7 billion (£1.9 billion) last year, after betting on a calamity in the mortgage market. This is the equivalent of a lottery jackpot every day for a year.

Mr Paulson bought a 10.4-acre lakefront compound in Hamptons, the upstate playground for New York's rich and famous, complete with staff quarters, two outhouses and ocean views for $41 million. His more modest seven-bedroom, three-acre "cottage" a mile down the road, is up for sale with a price tag of $19.5 million.

It has turned Mr Paulson into an industry legend overnight, courted by powerful bankers and politicians, anxious for insight on how bad the housing crisis in the US and the global credit crunch might still get.

Mr Paulson's story is rich with other ironies. Now 52, he learnt his trade in part during four years at Bear Stearns, the investment bank which lost billions in 2007 making optimistic bets on mortgages that were the mirror image of Mr Paulson's. Its collapse last month is the defining catastrophe of the credit crisis. He also shares a name with – but is no relation of – Hank Paulson, the US Treasury Secretary, whose tenure has been spent trying to shore up the housing market.

John Paulson set up his hedge fund in 1994 and spent more than a decade as a middle-ranking fish in an increasingly crowded pond, until realising 18 months ago that the mortgage market was headed for disaster as millions of US homebuyers were signing up to loans they would not be able to afford. There would soon be a day of reckoning for borrowers and their profligate lenders, he calculated, and the multi-billion dollar market for mortgage derivatives was bound to collapse.

Putting his own money, his clients' money and billions of dollars of borrowed funds into the bet, he won big. Paulson & Co, his fund, had $6 billion under management at the start of 2007 and $28 billion at the end. The gains on his own capital and his cut of the fund's fees netted him $3.7 billion over the period.

That puts him atop Alpha's list of top earners ahead of George Soros, the veteran trader who has also been betting on economic calamity in the US and who took home $2.9 billion. A hedge fund manager had to earn $210 million to make the top 50. (source: The Independent)

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Tesco reported annual profits of £2.84 billion

Despite a the gloomy economic conditions, Tesco reported an 11.8% rise in underlying annual profits for 2007 of £2.846 billion. Group sales at Tesco rose to £51.8 billion, up 11%. Tesco said prices had risen by about 1.5% across the board, but increases in food prices masked price cuts in non-food items.

Online and non-food items helped to boost Tesco's UK business, while sales from its international stores also showed strong growth, up 25.3% in 2007. The supermarket group said it would create 30,000 new jobs worldwide this year, with about a third planned in Britain.

In the UK, like-for-like sales excluding petrol rose 3.5% during the year to February as Tesco battled a wet summer, a consumer slowdown and "recovering competitors". By the same measure, sales were up 4% in the first five weeks of its new financial year starting 23 February, helped by the early Easter break.

Tesco shares rose 7.29%, or 28.50 pence, to 419.50p at close of trade. (source: BBC News)

JJB Sports revealed a major blow to the high street today after it said it was shutting 72 stores with the loss of around 800 jobs. Details of the closure move emerged a day after discount clothing chain Ethel Austin went into administration and figures from the British Retail Consortium showed the first monthly sales drop for nearly two years.

It said the stores in question were unlikely to make any "significant contribution" to group profits and that many were already close to newer and larger stores in its estate. The sites will shut by the end of this month.

The moves were announced as JJB said adjusted profits fell 28% to £33.8 million in the year to January 27. A £25 million hit relating to the cost of closing the stores meant bottom-line profits fell 72% to £10.8 million. It said total revenues for JJB stores and fitness clubs for the seven weeks to March 16 were 3.5% lower than the same period last year, while margins also came under pressure as a result of the competitive trading conditions. (source: The Independent)

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Virgin to takeover bmi

A £750 million takeover bid for bmi is discussed by Sir Richard Branson with Dubai International Capital (DIC), the $12 billion sovereign wealth fund, about financing a possible takeover. The billionaire entrepreneur is understood to have joined senior executives from Virgin Group when they visited Dubai recently to discuss potential deals in the health, mobile phone and airline sectors.

Sir Michael Bishop, who owns 50% plus one share in bmi, is widely expected to put his stake up for sale this year, although he insists that he is under no pressure to do so. However, Lufthansa, is a 30% shareholder in bmi and has an option to buy out Sir Michael. However, if Lufthansa passes on Sir Michael's stake, then Virgin Atlantic will try to take control of the airline. Alternatively, there are rumours that Lufthansa and Virgin may co-operate in a deal to buy bmi and create a European super-carrier.

Virgin will not be able to takeover bmi without a fight from rival British Airways, which revealed last year that it would be interested in acquiring bmi. Virgin and DIC were partners last year in the failed bid for the struggling Northern Rock bank. The recent meetings are thought to have been preliminary discussions on how the two groups could co-operate in the future.

Other than bmi, the possible joint ventures could include developing a Middle Eastern Virgin mobile operation and expanding the presence of Virgin Active health clubs in Dubai.

Virgin is also interested in bmi because it would give it a short and medium-haul feeder network. This would bring passengers from across Europe to its base at Heathrow, allowing them to transfer to long-haul Virgin flights. (source: Timesonline)

In a move to create the US largest air operator, Delta Air Lines agreed a $3 billion (£1.5 billion) takeover of Northwest Airlines. The all-share offer has to secure regulatory approval although analysts do not expect it to hit unsurmountable obstacles with the competition authorities. The new airline will fly under the Delta flag, be based in Atlanta and employ 75,000 people.

Airlines in the US are seen as under great pressure to consolidate as they face a range of challenges including high fuel costs, a weakening domestic economy, and competitive threat from European operators.

Delta and Northwest both came out of bankruptcy last year. Delta believes that the takeover will generate $1 billion (£500 million) in annual savings but it has said that no hubs will be closed. The two operators have very little geographical overlap so the merger will initially take no capacity out of the system. The takeover is likely to take months to complete. (source: Timesonline)

One of the key contenders, Joseph Brandon, to take over Berkshire Hathaway when Warren Buffett eventually retires was taken out of the running yesterday after he resigned amid federal pressure over a fraud case. Mr Brandon stepped down as chief executive of Berkshire's General Re insurance group.

His departure comes after the convictions in February of four of the firm's former executives for fraud. Franklin “Tad” Montross, General Re's co-president, will assume Mr Brandon's position immediately.

The defendants helped to add $500 million (£250 million) to AIG's loss reserves - a key indicator of an insurer's health, prosecutors said. One AIG executive was also convicted.

Neither the US Securities and Exchange Commission nor prosecutors has charged Mr Brandon with any wrongdoing. However, the conviction of his fellow executives in relation to the AIG case and an ongoing inquiry into General Re appears to have made his position untenable.

Other possible candidates to succeed Mr Buffett included David Sokol, chairman of Berkshire's MidAmerican Energy, and Ajit Jain, who runs the Berkshire Hathaway Reinsurance Group.

Berkshire owns more than 60 businesses, including furniture, jewellery, restaurants, natural gas and corporate jet companies, although its biggest exposure is to insurance. (source: Timesonline)

Monday, 14 April 2008

Silverjet News & 7 Attributes of Leadership

Following on from our article on the possible sale of Silverjet (10th April 2008 - Silverjet in takeover talks & How to earn from the Credit Crunch) directors of Silverjet have held talks with Lufthansa and Gibraltar’s Bland Group in their search for a buyer. Senior aviation-industry sources say cash constraints have forced the company to put its expansion plans on hold, with two new aircraft that were due to arrive this summer having been delayed.

The company’s share price finished the week at 21p, valuing the airline at £13.5 million. It floated on AIM in May 2006 at 112p, reaching a high of 209p in May last year.

Lufthansa, the German airline has looked at investment in Silverjet as a possible riposte to British Airways’ plans to operate services from continental cities this summer for the first time. Directors have also attempted to drum up interest from Middle Eastern investors, and from the Bland Group, a family-owned Gibraltar investment company.

The talks are thought to be only at an exploratory stage. (source: Timesonline) - Silverjet gets new lifeline

Philips, Europe’s biggest consumer electronics manufacturer, suffered a 28% drop in its core profits as its key TV business was hit by deepening losses.

The group warned that it would feel more impact from the global credit crunch with a softening in “mature economies”. Phillips posted a drop in first quarter profits to €265 million (£219 million) follows last week’s sharp profits drop at Philips’ US rival General Electric.

Operating losses in the television division deepened to €95 million compared with €51 million for the same period last year. Philips recently said it would stop making televisions for the North American market following continued losses.

Philips' sharp drop in core profits comes against a backdrop of a 75% fall in overall profits after the electronics group pulled out of much of its electronic chip interests last year. The company is trying to refocus on areas, which offer more stable earnings.

Shares in Philips fell 2.5% to €23.3million (£19.4 million) in early trading. (source: Timesonline)


7 Attributes of Leadership:

Friday, 11 April 2008

Google hires controversial banker

Google has hired controversial banker Frank Quattrone as a strategic advisor to help meet the threat of a potential takeover of Yahoo by Microsoft.

At Credit Suisse, Mr Quattrone once earned $120 million (£60 million) in one year and underwrote some of the biggest dotcom boom flotations. Frank Quattrone was accused by Federal prosecutors in 2003, as the internet boom had turned to bust, of forwarding an e-mail to colleagues in December 2000 suggesting that it was “time to clean up those files.”

Over 25 years, Quattrone led teams at Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse, which were responsible for 400 mergers valued at more than $500 billion (£250 billion).

Last month, Quattrone announced that he and some former colleagues had started Qatalyst Group, a tech-focused investment-banking boutique based in San Francisco, to provide merger and corporate finance advice to technology companies.

Yahoo announced on Wednesday it had agreed to a test of whether it should turn over its Web search advertising sales to Google so it can focus on other efforts.

Analysts say Google appears to have held back from getting involved in the Yahoo-Microsoft deal until it had antitrust clearance for its own $3.4 billion (£1.7 billion) DoubleClick acquisition, closed a month ago. (source: Timesonline)

Yahoo and Google, the world's two biggest search engines, have announced a two-week experiment that will see them share advertising space. During the pilot, Google will be able to place ads alongside 3% of search results on Yahoo's website.

Analysts say the move is designed to frustrate Microsoft, which has offered to buy Yahoo for $44.6 billion (£22.6 billion), or extract a higher offer. The news came as both sides were reported to be forging other alliances.

Microsoft and News Corporation are discussing making a joint bid for Yahoo, according to the New York Times. The idea would be to combine three of the world's most visited websites: MySpace, Yahoo and

Microsoft criticised Yahoo's advertising trial with Google, saying any lasting deal would not be in the consumers' interests. "Any definitive agreement between Yahoo and Google would consolidate over 90% of the search advertising market in Google's hands. This would make the market far less competitive," Brad Smith, Microsoft's General Counsel said.

But Yahoo said the testing did not necessarily mean that "any further commercial relationship with Google will result". Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer on Saturday gave Yahoo three weeks to agree to the company's offer or risk having the offer lowered. (source: BBC News)

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Silverjet in takeover talks & How to earn from the Credit Crunch

Rumours are that Silverjet, the business-class only airline, was in takeover discussions after receiving a bid approach, which led to shares soaring to 43% to 21.75p.

EasyJet has been rumoured as a potential predator since Silverjet appointed Amir Eilon, a former board member of EasyJet and a close friend of easyJet's founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou, as a non executive. However, a move into business class only flights would be a change of strategy for easyJet whereas British Airways might be more interested since it has already announced plans to launch business class only flights to New York next year from London City airport, using two A318s.

SilverjetSilSilverjet’s planes have been flying only slightly more than half full and it has had to battle with a soaring fuel price as well as the credit crunch hitting demand for business travel and struggled to break even last month.

The struggle of the airline was clear after the Reuben brothers, who lent the carrier £10 million before Christmas, declined to convert their loan into shares earlier this year. Until today's news of a bid approach, the shares have slumped from 200p a year ago to 12.5p last week. (source: Timesonline) - Silverjet gets new lifeline

A messy legal battle with BSkyB over Virgin Media’s bid for ITV and a fall in customer numbers in 2007 contributed to the broadband giant missing a £1.3 billion target for cash that Virgin generated.

Virgin’s top six executives were awarded a total of just over $20 million (£10 million) in pay and share awards, compared with $50 million (£25 million) accrued by the seven top earners the previous year.
Steve Burch, who left abruptly as chief executive last August after disagreements at the top of the company, saw his total fall from $11.4 million in 2006 to $3.4 million. His base salary for the year was cut from $722,115 to $476,297. However, he received a further $1.5 million payment (twice his salary) on termination of his contract.

The total of Jim Mooney, executive chairman, fell from $7.29 million to $5.19 million.

Neil Berkett, who was promoted from chief operating officer to chief executive last month, was awarded $4.3 million, down from $5.1 million in 2006. This included a base salary of $850,723 (against $783,233 in 2006) and included compensation, such as insurance and private medical cover, worth $219,454.

Virgin Media blamed the failure to reach its target operating cashflow on intense competition and falling product prices in the UK. The shares have also fared poorly, falling from $29.39 at their peak in July to $14.02 yesterday.

Virgin’s second-quarter results for 2007 showed that it had lost more than 70,000 customers. However, it has since been clawing them back, with 13,000 added in the third quarter and 24,400 in the fourth. (source: Timesonline)


PRIVATE INVESTORS have made stunning profits of more than 1,000% during the credit crisis by betting that share prices will fall. However, some UK stocks have beaten the turmoil with gains of almost 180%.

Markets have suffered their worst quarter for five years, with the FTSE 100 share index down 12%, the poorest three-month performance since the third quarter of 2002.

Many investors have watched in dismay as the value of their funds has slumped; the average UK unit trust and pension fund has dropped 6% over the past three months.

The brave, however, have made big profits by using spread-bets, contracts for difference (CFDs) and fixed-odds financial bets. These tools, which enable you to “short-sell” – or make money by betting that shares will fall – were once the preserve of hedge funds and are not without their critics.

However, the techniques are now being exploited by a growing number of ordinary investors – with some spectacular results. Joe Paterson from Fulham, southwest London, made a £25,500 profit betting that the share price of the banking giant Citigroup would plunge earlier this year. His winnings represent a 1,020% return on his original £2,500 bet.

Paterson, 24, a sales and marketing manager, said: “During the credit crisis I have been focusing on banking shares. I also made good profits betting that Barclays would fall but sadly missed Northern Rock.”

Trading in CFDs has jumped by 292% over the past year, and it’s not just City professionals who are taking advantage.

Roy Camps, a self-employed painter and decorator from Witney in Oxfordshire, has taken to trading CFDs in winter. He said: “I could spend the winter months shivering on a building site or sitting in the comfort of my home and trading the markets. It’s not without risks. Overall this winter I’m about even in terms of profits and losses, but I have had big successes: I made £6,500 in 20 minutes betting that the dollar would weaken against the Swiss franc.”

Investors should be under no illusions about the risks. Only one in five spread-betters makes money, according to research by City University’s Cass Business School. However, there are things you can do to limit losses. Firms allow a “stop loss” that closes the bet if it moves against you.

If this sounds too risky, or complex, it is still possible to make money trading shares in the conventional way.
Although the FTSE 100 has
dropped 12% since the market’s peak about nine months ago, a closer look reveals that about a quarter of stocks are worth more today than they were then.

The winner in the FTSE All-Share index is the oil-equipment supplier Wellstream Holdings, up 177% over the past nine months. In the FTSE 100, Cairn Energy, also an oil explorer, is top with a 65% gain. The brewer Scottish & Newcastle is up 25% and defence group BAE Systems has risen 23%.

Henk Potts at Barclays Stockbrokers said: “The mining sector has hugely outperformed the broader market over the past nine months as emerging markets continue to demand ever-increasing amounts of commodities. Oil stocks and related industries have also performed well.”
But which shares are tipped for success now? We asked City fund managers and analysts to pick the companies they think can still make money.

British American Tobacco
Tobacco stocks are renowned for their ability to do well when markets are falling because they have strong brands, consumers continue to buy cigarettes even when conditions are tough and they are committed to growing dividends. BAT is favoured by Richard Hunter at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers: its shares have gained 19% over the past year to stand at £18.92 with a yield of 3.5%.

Investment banks say that companies paying good dividends have a better chance of withstanding further turbulence. Last year, Vodafone, the world’s biggest mobile-phone company, increased its dividend by 11% to 6.76p and yields 4.3%, which is high for a former growth stock. Morgan Stanley, the investment bank, expects it to raise its dividend by 10% a year until at least 2010. The shares have gained 15% over the past year to 159.20p.

Land Securities
Property stocks have taken a pounding over the past year: Land Securities is down 29% from £21.61 to £15.44. However, Nick Raynor at the Share Centre, a stockbroker, said: “The decision to split up the £15 billion Land Securities property portfolio into three separately quoted businesses should prove attractive. Due to the ongoing market volatility, this should be seen as a long-term investment but is still a worthwhile buy.” The shares are yielding 3.4%.

Reckitt Benckiser
Raynor also recommends Reckitt Benckiser, the world’s largest household cleaning-products group, which owns brands such as Vanish and Harpic. “The company’s strategy is simple and well executed,” he said. “As long as its core products remain strong, the constant stream of innovations should keep sales moving upwards.” The shares have gained 6% over the past year to £28.10 and are yielding 2%.

Thomas Cook
The global economy is slowing, household costs are rising and oil prices are high. It doesn’t sound like a good time to back a travel group such as Thomas Cook. But David Cumming at Standard Life said: “The negative effects of higher fuel prices and pressure on consumer spending will be more than offset by management actions to turn round the business.” The shares have dropped 4% over the past year to stand at 299p and now yield 1.9%.

CONTRACTS FOR DIFFERENCE When you trade CFDs you agree to receive the difference between the price when the contract is opened and the price when it is closed. If you think the value will rise, you go ‘long’. If you think it will fall, you go ‘short’.

Say you thought shares in a company were about to drop and took out a CFD to go short of 1,000 shares at 100p. The contract value would be £1,000, but you would put down only about 20%. If you closed the contract at 95p, the difference in price would be 5p and you would make £50. If it rose to 120p, you would lose £200.

SPREAD BETS When you spread bet, the bookmaker will quote you a spread for a share or the level of an index or asset at a given date, and you bet on how far you think it will move above or below the spread.

Last week CMC Markets was quoting 5,933 to 5,936 for the FTSE 100 in June. If you thought it would beat that, you could bet £10 a point above 5,936. If you wanted to short-sell, you could bet below 5,933. If the Footsie finished at 5,900 and you had bet on it falling, you would have made £330 (£10 times 33). If you had closed the bet at 6,000 you would have lost £670

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Airline News

After an already delayed programme, Boeing is expected to announce today that its 787 Dreamliner has been delayed by 18 months. This setback will cost the company billions of pounds and will make this revolutionary aircraft enter into service at the end of 2009.

The delay will affect all airlines that have ordered the 787, including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. The delay is particularly bad for BA as it means the British flag carrier might not get the aircraft in time for the 2012 Olympics. BA needs the 787 to increase capacity and reduce operating costs.

The Dreamliner has taken orders worth more than $150 billion (£76 billion). It was scheduled to enter commercial service next month but this initially slipped to early 2009 and has now been delayed again.

Boeing is also thought to be ready to postpone or even scrap one of the three variants of the aircraft to enable its engineers to focus on solving existing problems.

The likely victim will the 787-3, a high passenger density model designed for the Japanese market. The 787 is a radical new design because its fuselage is entirely made out of composite materials — essentially carbon fibre.

Airlines are likely to demand billions in compensation from Boeing and the company will also have to allocate huge resources to prevent the problems worsening. Its share price has already fallen 25% since the 787 delays were first announced, wiping more than $18 billion (£9 billion) from Boeing’s value. (source: Timesonline) - Even more delays for the Dreamliner, BP fined for a record amount (Article on Dreamliner delays) (Also see Wednesday 12th December 2007 entry for more on this.) - Nintendo Wii dominated Argos toys sales over Christmas (article on delays effecting Qantas)

Hundreds of passengers have been left stranded after the Hong Kong airline Oasis stopped flying and applied to go into liquidation. Oasis first flew in October 2006, offering flights from London to Hong Kong for as little as 1,000 Hong Kong dollars (£65) each way. It later added flights from Hong Kong to Vancouver. (source: BBC News)

A further cancellation of flights is expected from American Airlines today after cancelling about 500 flights on Tuesday. Wednesday after cancelling about 500 on Tuesday. The cancellations came after American grounded its MD-80 aircraft to conduct extra safety inspections on wiring.

The FAA has been clamping down on safety inspections and several airlines have been forced to ground planes. Two weeks ago the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) raised concerns about the wiring inspections that led to planes of American Airlines being grounded.

Southwest, Delta and United have also grounded some of their fleets for safety inspections. The FAA said that it had checked several American MD-80s and decided that the work carried out two weeks ago did not meet its standards. The airline runs about 2,300 flights a day, more than one third of which use MD-80s, mainly on mid-range flights. (source: BBC News)

Monday, 7 April 2008

Microsoft gives Yahoo! ultimatum

Microsoft has given Yahoo! a three-week deadline to accept its offer for a buy out at $44.6 billion (£22.3 billion). Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said his company would take its case directly to Yahoo's shareholders if Yahoo's directors did not respond by 26 April 2008.

Since the original bid on 31 January 2008 which Yahoo! rejected, has since explored alliances with other firms, but no offer has surfaced. In a letter, Mr Ballmer acknowledged that such negotiations were underway, but wondered why Yahoo was not talking to Microsoft too.

Mr Ballmer said his company's offer - 62% above Yahoo's market value at the time - had grown stronger as time had passed. "We believe that the majority of your shareholders share this assessment," he wrote, adding that Microsoft would take its case directly to them and work to elect a new board of directors if they did not respond within three weeks.

Last month, Yahoo estimated it would almost double its operating cash flow over the next three years and generate $8.8bn in revenue after costs in 2010. (source: BBC News) - Microsoft serious about takeover & Businessman of the Month, Yahoo! and AOL continue merger talks, Yahoo! rejects Microsoft offer, Microsoft not intending to raise its stake in Yahoo!

Thomas Cook the travel agency has snapped up bespoke holiday firm Elegant Resorts. Founded in 1988, the shareholders Geoff Moss and Barbara Catchpole have sold the business for an undisclosed sum.

The firm's packages feature luxuries such as helicopter transfers and champagne on arrival, and last year catered for more than 20,000 travellers. Thomas Cook is planned to run the business as a standalone unit with the current management team remaining in place.

Group chief executive Manny Fontenla-Novoa said "Elegant Resorts has a very strong brand name, associated with luxury, style and bespoke holidays and fully supports our strategic aim to become a leading independent travel provider."

Elegant Resorts currently has 160 staff, with three overseas offices in Barbados, Dubai and Mauritius. Last year it had total gross assets of £22.3 million. Chairman Mr Moss and PR director Ms Catchpole are the main shareholders, with other staff also holding shares.

The deal follows the £21.8 million paid by the travel giant hotel for booking website in February, which boosted its presence in the independent travel sector.

Thomas Cook shares were up nearly 1% today. (source: The Independent) -Thomas Cook on track for record profits

Friday, 4 April 2008

Apple iTunes to be taken on by MySpace

Apple iTunes is taken on by the world’s largest social networking group, MySpace, as they have plans to set up a music downloading service. Three of the “big four” record labels have signed up to the service, which will give users access to the music of big artists. With MySpace’s 30 million users a month, it is viewed as an ideal hub to showcase new music.

MySpace will be able to cash in on its vast community of loyal users. MySpace has more than 25 localised websites, in countries including, India, Brazil and Australia. The site will also sell ringtones, artist wallpaper, ticket sales and merchandise. There will also be a number of advertising-funded free services, from free downloads to video clips.

The online music store iTunes has sold more than four billion songs since its launch in 2001, and claims to be the No one music retailer in the US. However, iTunes users can only listen to song clips through the Apple store.

The launch comes as welcome news to the music industry, with many concerned about a lack of competition for iTunes in the digital music market. In the US, for example, iTunes takes more than 70% of digital download sales. Concerned about Apple’s increasing influence over its business, the music industry has been keen to see other sizeable players. (source: Timesonline)

After 18 years of offering the in-flight beauty therapy for its upper class executive customers, it appears as if Virgin Atlantic might withdraw this service. The airline has called its entire crew of 280 in-flight beauty therapists to London next week for a review of its Upper Class offering. This service was introduced to allow upper class travellers to arrive at their destination looking relaxed and refreshed with treatments such as the Handsome Hands mini-manicure and the Back in the Clouds upper back massage.

With a much smaller fleet than rival British Airways, Virgin uses the quirky treats to woo transatlantic passengers away from its more stuffy competitors which offer many more departures each day from London to the US.

However, the move appears to underline fears that the worsening economic climate is hurting business air travel and that mounting costs for airlines, particularly for aviation fuel, are dragging down margins.

“We are calling our in-flight beauty therapists in to get their input into the product and service review of our Upper Class cabin. We constantly look to review our Upper Class service to make sure that our investment is where it should be and that it is meeting the expectations of our customers,” a spokeswoman for Virgin Atlantic said.

One aviation analyst said: “It could be a huge mistake for Virgin to get rid of its service frills. Virgin’s treats have always been hugely enjoyed and a large part of the brand’s identity. Airlines are so competitive on price now that passengers look at other things, and Virgin doesn’t have the frequency of services that other airlines do because it only has 38 planes” (source: Timesonline)

Luqman Arnold is understood to have built up an 0.7 per cent stake in UBS, in a bid to push through a break up of the struggling Swiss bank. A former chief executive of UBS, Mr Arnold has been acquiring his shares, worth $450 million (£226 million), through Olivant, his London investment firm.

It is thought that he is also pushing for the separation of the bank’s investment and private banking arms and the sale of its asset management division. His proposals are detailed in a letter sent to Sergio Marchionne, the UBS chairman and recommend drastic changes to the bank’s board.

Mr Arnold’s activist campaign follows the announced resignation of Marcel Ospel, UBS’s chairman, earlier this week. Mr Ospel said that he was quitting as he revealed that losses had more than doubled to $37 billion (£18.6 billion). Mr Arnold, who recently led a failed rescue bid for Northern Rock, left UBS in December 2001 due to “differences of opinion,” between him and the board. (source: Timesonline)

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Virgin to expand to Middle East

Virgin is looking to expand to the Middle East as it held informal talks with Dubai International Capital (DIC) about securing investment backing from the $12 billion (£6 billion) sovereign wealth fund. It is understood that financial support could come from a sale in a stake of Virgin Active which is valued at £1 billion or a joint mobile phone venture. Sir Richard Branson currently owns 75% of Virgin Active.

DIC bought Travelodge, the hotel group, for £675 million two years ago, and also owns Tussauds, the entertainment group. The fund also has large equity stakes in Daimler, Sony, EADS and HSBC and became one of Virgin's backers in the failed bid for Northern Rock.Virgin plans to expand aggressively some of its largest businesses, such as its airline, mobile phones and gyms. It wants partners to help to fund that growth, particularly in new markets such as India, East Asia and the Middle East. Virgin Active is also looking at expansions plans to countries such as Italy, Portugal and South Africa.

Virgin could sell a stake in the Active division to DIC or to another sovereign wealth fund if it determines that the financial markets, still coping with the waves of the credit crunch that began in the United States, are too turbulent for an IPO. Sir Richard Branson does not have a good track record with the stock market and would therefore firstly consider a private venture.

Middle Eastern wealth funds could also be interested in Virgin's plans to establish its pay-as-you-go mobile phone model in the region. Virgin is understood to be bidding already for spectrum licenses in the Middle East.

Sir Richard Branson has handed day-to-day control of the Virgin empire, which has total revenues of about £10 billion a year, to an investment team. Their strategy is to operate as “branded venture capitalists”. This involves investing in a sector such as health clubs, rebranding the business with the famous Virgin name and then seeking other investors to help to develop the asset. (source: Timesonline)

The credit crunch and the pressure of the sub-prime mortgages has shown its strain as Marcel Ospel, UBS’s chairman, once fĂȘted as the most brilliant banker in Europe, said that he was quitting. This is after he revealed that losses had more than doubled to $37 billion (£18.6 billion). This is equivalent to three times the annual wages bill of UBS’s 80,000 staff worldwide and much larger than the next most exposed banks so far, Merrill Lynch, with $24 billion (£12 billion), and Citigroup, with $18 billion (£9 billion).

UBS has been forced into a second emergency capital-raising to shore up its balance sheet, announcing a fully underwritten SwFr15 billion (£7.5 billion) rights issue. Shares on both sides of the Atlantic soared as investors welcomed the UBS move to address its sub-prime issues, and Lehman Brothers successfully raising $4 billion cash. The FTSE 100 closed up nearly 3 per cent at 5,852.6, while the Dow soared 391.5 points to close at 12,654.4.

Jerker Johansson, the newly appointed chief executive of the investment bank, who took up his job on March 17, is understood to be sifting the options. His background is in equities. Peter Kurer, UBS’s in-house general counsel, was named successor to Mr Ospel, who will step down at the annual meeting this month. UBS shares rose more than 12% on hopes that the bank could draw a line under its ill-fated foray into American sub-prime.

In the wake of UBS’s announcement, Gordon Brown called for better daily cooperation between the world’s financial regulators and better disclosure from banks to give early warning of market turbulence. Mr Brown said that he will use talks with international leaders before next week’s G7 meeting to call on financial institutions to make prompt and full disclosure of losses. Possible remedies to deal with the crisis include a temporary suspension of capital requirements, taxpayer-funded recapitalisation of banks and public purchase of mortgage-backed securities (source: BBC News, Timesonline & Reuters)

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Battle over Clear Channel

Bain Capital and Thomas H Lee Partners had agreed to acquire Clear Channel as part of a mega buyout funded by a consortium of six banks, including Citigroup. The battle over Clear Channel Communications however escalated today after a US judge issued a temporary order directing six banks not to interfere with the $20 billion (£10 billion) merger by refusing to fund it or demanding new terms.

But the private equity firms are determined to press ahead with the deal and late on Wednesday they filed lawsuits in New York and Texas, accusing the banks of backing out of their commitments.

Clear Channel itself has also joined in the Texas lawsuit.

In a statement, Clear Channel said that Judge John Gabriel, of the Bexar County district court in Texas, on Wednesday night found that the company would suffer irreparable harm if the banks refused to fund the merger. Clear Channel had agreed last May at the height of the private equity boom to be acquired by Bain and Thomas H Lee for $39.20 a share.

Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Deutsche, Credit Suisse, Royal Bank of Scotland and Wachovia had all originally signed up to back the deal. Under the original plans, the six banks were to fund $16 billion (£8 billion) of new debt to take Clear Channel private. (source: Timesonline)

The luxury UK-based brands Jaguar & Land Rover owned by Ford have been sold to Tata the Indian company owned by billionaire Ratan Tata. Tata, India's biggest vehicle maker, is paying $2.3 billion (£1.15 billion) for the British brands after months of negotiations over price and supply relationships.

Although Land Rover remains profitable, Ford has never managed to make money from its investment in Jaguar. Ford has been forced to sell the two companies, based at Solihull and Castle Bromwich in the West Midlands and Halewood on Merseyside, in order to concentrate on its loss-making core US car business, which it hopes to turn around in the next two years.

The $2.3 billion price tag is about half the amount Ford originally paid leading some analysts to argue that the purchase was a mistake. Ford sold its iconic Aston Martin brand to a UK-led investment consortium in a deal worth $955.2 million (£482.4 million) last year. (source: BBC News)

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Losses for Borders

Weakening economy and higher borrowing costs were raised as the issues why Borders, the American-owned bookstore chain, were showing slowing sales and losses in seven of the last eight quarters. Borders could be up for sale after it suspended its dividend and hired advisers to review options for the business.

Chief executive George Jones said: "We will be slowed in our progress and expect that we'll reach them later than originally anticipated. Still, we believe that our strategic plan remains the right path toward achieving these goals. The company is determined that additional capital was required to execute our operating plan. The current credit environment has made many of these alternatives prohibitively expensive or entirely unavailable.”

Pershing Square Capital Management, Borders' largest shareholder, has agreed to bail it out by lending it $42.5 million and making an offer for some of the bookstore chain's international businesses.

The company faces stiff competition from online retailers and grocery stores for sales of books, CDs and DVDs. Shares have dropped by 66% in the last year.

Borders reported a net profit of $64.7 million (£32 million) in the three months to the end of December compared with a loss of $73.6 million (£36.8 million), a year earlier when it took large charges associated with the closing of Waldenbooks stores. (source: Timesonline)

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Yahoo! to apply pressure on Microsoft

The online search engine, Yahoo!, yesterday tried to apply new pressure on Microsoft to raise its hostile takeover offer, after outlining a rosy outlook for the next two years. Yahoo! shared its internal revenue projections with shareholders and claimed that, according to numbers drawn up in December, the board expects sales to rise by more than 70% over the next three years. That would see total sales of $8.8 billion (£4.4 billion) by 2010.

At the beginning of February, Microsoft made an offer to the Yahoo! board outlining its proposals for $31 (£15.5) a share, payable in cash and shares. At the time, the deal valued Yahoo! at $44 billion (£22 billion) – a 61% premium to the Yahoo! share price the day before the approach was made public. (source: Timesonline)

Donald Trump’s top 10 list of things that he always emphasize in all his speeches.

1. Never give up! Do not settle for remaining in your comfort zone. Remaining complacent is a good way to get nowhere.

2. Be passionate! If you love what you're doing, it will never seem like work.

3. Be focused! Ask yourself: What should I be thinking about right now? Shut out interference. In this age of multitasking, this is a valuable technique to acquire.

4. Keep your momentum! Listen, apply and move forward. Do not procrastinate.

5. See yourself as victorious! That will focus you in the right direction.

6. Be tenacious! Being stubborn can work wonders.

7. Be lucky! The old saying, "The harder I work, the luckier I get" is absolutely right on.

8. Believe in yourself! If you don't, no one else will either. Think of yourself as a one-man or one-woman army.

9. Ask yourself: What am I pretending not to see? There may be some great opportunities right around you, even if things aren't looking so great. Great adversity can turn into great victory.

10. Look at the solution, not the problem. And never give up! Never never never give up. This thought deserves to be said (and remembered and applied) many times. It's that important.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

The Ben Way story

The Storey about Ben Way – I thought that it would be so much interesting to publish this then to go on about business news again about the credit crunch etc. Hope you enjoy this. For me this guy is an inspiration to have achieved so much at such an early age. Enjoy!

When Ben Way's teachers told him that his dyslexia would stand in the way of success, he was determined to prove them wrong. His Young Enterprise (YE) company, Grass Heads, produced home-grow grass plants, so Ben spent evenings packing seeds and sawdust into tights. He went on to become one of the first dot com millionaires when he was only fifteen years old. He attracted media attention following his early success, and he also featured in numerous media stories. Before his eighteenth birthday, Ben had negotiated a £25 million deal to launch an internet-based business to business data aggregation service which continues to trade. He has won "New Business Millennium Young Entrepreneur Of The Year" in 2000 which was given to him by (now Prime Minister) Gordon Brown.

However, after a dispute with the investors in 2001 he was diluted out of the business and lost everything. It is reported that he was in the Sunday Times Rich List under Robbie Williams the same day he could not buy a tube ticket.

He then went on to advise both the UK and US governments in 3rd Generation Mobile Technology, before heading up technical and environmental investments and due-diligence for the Rotch Property Group who have over £1 billion in asset management. It was with the latter company that he developed his passion for environmental technologies.

In 2003 he started a successful mobile innovations company that developed one of the first remote monitoring medical devices as well as many other projects, this evolved into the Rainmakers after developing a number of successful innovations for clients and the market. The Rainmakers continues to grow. Due to the success of The Rainmakers, he was able to in 2006, appeared on the Channel 4 TV show “Secret Millionaire” where he gave away £40,000 in a philanthropic act after spending two weeks in Hackney as a volunteer. £20,000 was given to a youth organisation, £10,000 to a young entrepreneur, and another £10,000 as a thank you to one key member of the Hackney community.

He is now regarded as one of the leading experts on web 2.0 the Semantic web and also sits on a one hundred million dollar venture capital fund called Brightstation Ventures. Has been quoted as describing the Semantic Web as "the most powerful development of information management since the creation of the database"

In early 2007 he was invited to join Brightstation Ventures an $100 million (£50 million) technology Venture Capitalist fund as the CIO (Chief Innovations Officer) where he has worked with projects such as miomi and Shiny Media. Launched in 2007a social website HorsesMouth made it into the top 25 UK web 2.0 start ups. In September 2007 he also launched the world’s first POIP service, ViaPost which allows printing of documents over the internet which are then sent by Royal Mail.

The way he is developing new innovations at such an early stage is just astonishing. He refused to give up after he lost everything and proved to be a typical entrepreneur that he can make it again.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Bear Sterns to be sold to JPMorgan Chase

Bear Sterns the famous investment bank, will be acquired by rival giant JPMorgan Chase for a bargain $236.2 million (£124.2 million). The last-minute buyout was aimed at averting a Bear Stearns bankruptcy and a spreading crisis of confidence in the global financial system.

Early indications, though, pointed to continued fear about the stability of the US market, as the dollar hit fresh record lows against the euro, gold broke through 1,015 an ounce and Asian stocks sank. JPMorgan said it will guarantee all business - such as trading and investment banking - until Bear Stearns' shareholders approve the deal, which is expected to be completed during the second quarter.

JPMorgan Chase chief financial officer Michael Cavanaugh did not say what would happen to Bear Stearns' 14,000 employees worldwide or whether the Bear Stearns name would survive. (source: The Independent)

Air France-KLM’s takeover offer for Alitalia, the ailing state airline was accepted yesterday and values it at just €139 million (£107 million), a fifth of its market capitalisation at the end of last week.

Alitalia said two weeks ago that it had less than €300 million (£232 million) in cash remaining, having lost more than €3 billion (£2.32 billion) since 2000, and warned it could be forced to stop trading by the middle of the year. Alitalia's problems over the past 10 years include the emergence of the budget airlines Easyjet and Ryanair, which both now provide stiff competition in the airline's home market. However, the company is also regarded as inefficient and over-manned.

The French company plans to cull 1,600 jobs from Alitalia as it cancels unprofitable routes and eliminates inefficiencies. It has also said it will take over only part of Alitalia's ground services division, which could mean the airline faces more job losses than publicly stated.

This business model is likely to put Air France at loggerheads with Italian trades unions, which must back the deal in order for it to go ahead. The takeover also needs clearance from the Italian government, which may take some time following the collapse of the administration led by Romano Prodi in January.

In addition to the €139 million (£107 million) purchase price, Air France has also agreed to buy out the airline's convertible bond holders for €608 million (£471.3 million), taking its total outlay to €747 million (£579.05 million). (source: The Independent) - (further articles on this Velocity Interactive Group - New Investment Company, ArcelorMittal to by China Oriental Group Co., Alitalia SpA in sight for Air France-KLM)

Friday, 14 March 2008

Virgin Mobile USA lost £124 million

Virgin Mobile USA that was set up six years ago between Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Sprint (the US telecoms company) has lost $250 million (£124 million) after an 85% collapse in the company’s share price since its flotation last year. Poorer than expected fourth-quarter results caused the mobile phone operator’s share price to drop a further 41% yesterday to close at $2.46 (£1.23) in New York.

The initial public offering (IPO) for Virgin Mobile USA took place in October and Virgin Group reduced its holding from 42% to 37%.

The listing price was $15 (£7.50) a share and in early trading on the first day. However, the price has slid since then and the company now has a market capitalisation of only $130 million (£65 million). This has reduced the value of Sir Richard’s holding from $295 million (£140 million) to $48 million (£24 million).

The poor performance of Virgin Mobile USA is an embarrassment for the Virgin Group, which promotes itself as a private equity-style investor. After years of treating stock markets with suspicion, Sir Richard’s asset managers have looked at a number of possible IPOs to release value in the group’s divisions but the rapid drop in value within Virgin Mobile USA may encourage Virgin Group to keep companies private.

Service revenue rose 8% to $293.6 million (£148.28 million) and new customer additions were 958,000, down from 1.29 million after the company refused to cut prices in the run-up to Christmas.

Virgin Mobile USA has also come under increasing pressure from national carriers expanding into its pay-as-you-go space. The company expects revenue in 2008 will be flat and earnings to be between $105 million (£53 million) and $130 million (£65.6 million). These forecasts were also lower than Wall Street expectations. (source: Timesonline)

Michael (37) and Xochi (36) Birch made an estimated $600 million (£295 million) yesterday after the sale of their 70% stake in Bebo, the social networking site, to the AOL division of Time Warner for $850 million (£429.9 million) in cash. The Briton and his Californian wife set up Bebo – their sixth internet business – in 2005 and are not expected to remain with the company, which is the second most popular social networking site in the UK and the third globally after MySpace and Facebook.

No financial data regarding Bebo’s performance was released yesterday, although Randy Falco, chairman and chief executive of AOL, contrasted the price that Time Warner had paid with the $260 million (£125 million) that Microsoft paid for a 1.6% stake in the $15 billion (£7.5 billion)-rated Facebook. Bebo has 40 million users. Facebook is thought to have generated $100 million (£47 million) in revenues in 2007, which is likely to represent a benchmark for Bebo.

The plan is to develop Bebo internationally, with new sites around Europe, while at the same time trying to promote Bebo using AOL’s AIM instant messenger and ICQ chat technologies. (source: Timesonline)

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Profit increase for Morrisons

The troubled Morrison supermarket, today signalled a turnaround in fortunes by reporting profits up 66% and a pledge to return £1 billion to shareholders over two years. The capital return, through a share buy-back, was announced as the supermarket chain's veteran chairman, Sir Ken Morrison, confirmed that he will retire from the company from today.

Morrisons began to struggle after difficulty integrating rival Safeway, which it acquired in 2004. The company said pre-tax profits rose from £369 million to £612 million for the 12 months to February 3, 2007, on total sales up 6% to £13 billion. Like-for-like sales rose 4.6%, a fall on 5.2% in the previous period. Total dividend increased 20% to 4.8p, up from 4p.

Morrisons plans to open eight new stores in 2008 and extend 19 with an additional 100,000 square feet of selling space.

Keith Bowman, an analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said that “all the group’s key financial metrics were moving in the right direction, noting that its shares had out performed rival Tesco by 13.5% in the last six months and that the acquisition of Safeway was now behind it. However, the remaining management at Morrisons will know that they cannot afford to be complacent, today's success comes from a low starting base and the comparatives will become much harder going forward. In addition, UK consumers under pressure from numerous angles will not prove easy to satisfy.” (source: Timesonline)

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Ian Kerr to be replaced by Bert Pijls

Ian Kerr, the chief executive of Egg since November 2006, has resigned after the internet bank was accused of unfairly withdrawing credit cards from thousands of responsible customers. Mr Kerr will be replaced by Bert Pijls, the country manager for Citigroup, Egg’s parent company in the Czech Republic.

Egg last month sent out an unexpected warning to 161,000 card users saying it would end their agreements in 35 days because they had a “higher than acceptable risk profile”. The cards were withdrawn on Thursday last week.

Egg has even blocked some borrowers with perfect credit histories from using their cards. Experts said the bank, which has 2.3 million card customers, was effectively penalising these borrowers for being good with their money because they were not profitable customers, and that other banks are likely to follow Egg’s lead.

Mr Kerr, the former HBOS retail banking head, was also the head of UK consumer banking for Citigroup, which bought Egg from insurer Prudential last May. George Awad, Citigroup’s consumer chief executive for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said he was disappointed to loose Mr Kerr, but respected his decision.

Mr Pijls will move to London this month from the Czech Republic where he turned the consumer franchise around with high double-digit year-on-year growth, according to Citigroup. (source: Timesonline) - Egg dumps millionaires

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Financial losses for EADS

Europe’s leading aerospace group, EADS, the owner of the Airbus aircraft company, suffered a heavy financial loss last year, burdened by a weak US dollar and restructuring charges. They recorded a net loss of €446 million (£341 million) compared with a €99 million (£75 million) profit in 2006. They are expected to deliver more aircraft this year with delivering revenues of €40 billion (£30.3 billion), up from €39.1 billion (£29.6 billion) in 2007.

The aerospace group said it hoped to capture 700 aircraft orders in the current year and deliver 470 planes to customers. In 2007, EADS delivered 453 units to airlines, up from 434 in the previous year. Airbus however still suffered a €1 billion revenue hit from the weakening US dollar while profits were hurt by the cost of restructuring charges.

EADS chief executive, Louis Gallois, was optimistic, forecasting earnings before interest and tax of €1.8 billion (£1.36 billion) in 2008. Mr Gallois said “there had been a promising start to 2008 with improvements across the board and recent success in the US military aircraft market. EADS is gaining speed and altitude. Our short-term focus is now to further improve programme management and to secure the ramp-ups ahead."

The annual loss for EADS was higher than market expectations of some €320 million (£242.4 million). The Airbus business was affected by €881 million (£667.42 million) in provisions for restructuring and delays in the A380 and the A400M heavy lift aircraft. The A380 secured 33 new orders during the year making a total of 180 "firm orders" for the superjumbo aircraft. The Airbus order book stood at €283 billion (£214.39 billion) at the year end, up from €210 billion (£159 billion). (source: Timesonline)

Monday, 10 March 2008

World Duty Free to be sold to Autogrill

Italian caterer Autogrill spent $1.5 billion (£742 million) on airport retail assets on Monday, making it the world's top airport retailer and easing the financing problems of one seller, Spain's Ferrovial.

Autogrill said it would buy World Duty Free from construction and services group Ferrovial and acquire full control of another airport retail operation, its joint venture Aldeasa, for a total 990 million euros (£742 million).

The Italian catering giant paid Ferrovial 715 million euros for World Duty Free funds, which should help the Spanish company towards refinancing of £9/£10 billion pounds in debt related to its purchase of British airports operator BAA in 2006.

Autogrill, which operates restaurants on motorways and in airports, also bought the 49.95% stake it does not own in Aldeasa from Altadis, now controlled by Imperial Tobacco Group Plc after a takeover last year.

Autogrill, which bought Britain's Alpha Airports last year, said it expects annual synergy benefits of about 40 million euros by 2011. It said the acquisitions would add to earnings from 2009 and be neutral this year. (source: Reuters)

Thursday, 6 March 2008

The World's Richest People

If you want to become one of the richest people in the world, then, change you nationality its seems to be Russian. The average age of Russia’s elite is 46, bringing the overall average of the world’s richest to 61.

Warren Buffett has finally unseated Bill Gates from the top spot for the first time in 13 years. The surging share price of Berkshire Hathaway saw his personal wealth rise to $62 billion (£31 billion). This is up by £5 billion from a year ago.

Gates is now worth $58 billion (£29 billion) and is ranked third in the world. He is up $2 billion (£1 billion) from a year ago and would have been perhaps as rich -- or richer -- than Buffett had Microsoft not made an unsolicited bid for Yahoo at the beginning of February.

Mexican telecom tycoon Carlos Slim HelĂș is the world's second-richest person, with an estimated net worth of $60 billion (£30 billion). His fortune has risen $11 billion (£5.5 billion) since last March. Fourth on the list is Laksi Mittal from Ancelor Mittal the world’s largest steel provider. The world’s youngest US billionaire is the CEO and owner of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg with an estimated wealth of $1.5 billion (£750 million).

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Virgin Mobile India to be derailed by Vodafone

A few days after going live with sell mobile phones in India, the world’s fastest-growing market, it seems like Sir Richard Branson faces being derailed by Vodafone. On Sunday, Sir the Virgin Group unveiled a partnership with Tata Indicom, under which the Indian company will market a mobile service aimed at young consumers using the Virgin brand.

However, a very powerful industry group, which includes Vodafone, the world's largest mobile operator, has now demanded that the Indian Government declare the deal void. The Cellular Operators Association of India claims Virgin is entering the market via the backdoor as an illegal "mobile virtual network operator" (MVNO), where it effectively buys mobile capacity wholesale from Tata and sells it on under its own brand - a model not permitted in India.

A spokesman for the Indian Department of Telecommunication said that Virgin could be ejected from the Indian market. "The spectrum [used by the Virgin-branded mobile service] was allocated to Tata. It is up to Tata to intimate any transfer of that spectrum to the department," he said.

Virgin runs virtual networks in six countries. When it launched in 1999, Virgin Mobile UK was the world's first MVNO – breaking with tradition by not having its own network but using another service provider's. Being denied access to India's explosive growth would be a severe blow to Virgin. While Western markets are largely saturated, it is estimated that more than 870 million of India's 1.1 billion population are yet to own a mobile.

It is only two years since India raised the ceiling for foreign ownership in telecoms groups to 74% from 49%, a move that led to a flood of new investment. The Indian authorities have received more than 550 applications from more than 45 domestic and foreign firms to launch mobile services in the country. (source: Timesonline)

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Record fines for Microsoft

Yet again, Microsoft was fined, but this time a record €899 million (£683 million) by the European Commission yesterday. This came as Microsoft received its third financial penalty for failing to comply with a landmark antitrust ruling issued four years ago.

As the battle between the American software giant and European regulators enters its tenth year, Microsoft has now been fined almost €1.7 billion (£1.28 billion) for abusing its dominance of PC operating systems through its Windows software. Microsoft had unfairly tied its web browser, Internet Explorer, to its Windows operating system, and was making it difficult for competitors to work with Windows by not disclosing sufficient interoperability information.

Under the ruling of March 2004, Microsoft was instructed to make complete and accurate interoperability information available on reasonable terms to competitors so that they could develop their own operating systems for servers.

The fine is based on a 15-month period of non-compliance and is considerably larger than the original €497 million (£376 million) penalty the company initially received.

Microsoft said that it would review the decision. If it decides not to appeal, a line will have been drawn under the original Commission ruling. However, Microsoft will have to update the interoperability data it makes available continuously and licensees may lodge complaints if they believe that they are being unfairly treated.

Microsoft Fines:
March 2004 Abusing its dominant position: €497 million
July 2006 Failure to comply with March decision: €280.5 million
Feb 2008 Charging rivals unreasonable fees: €899 million (source: Timesonline)

Royal Bank of Scotland unveiled profits of £10.3 billion. Underlying profits at the UK's second biggest bank were 9% higher than the previous year. This is inline with City forecasts.

Losses at Royal Bank of Scotland due to the credit crunch totalled £1.6 billion. UK business banking also lifted operating profits 11% to almost £2 billion, offsetting the decline in earnings from investment banking.

Chief executive Sir Fred Goodwin said prospects for 2008 were "difficult as ever to predict but there was good momentum behind the enlarged bank following the acquisition of ABN Amro.”

The bank added today that its capital remained within target ranges and also cheered investors with a 10% hike in the annual dividend. (source: The Independent)

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Egg dumps millionaires

Egg, the online bank, who dumped 161 000 customers last month has also dumped at least three millionaires as Egg considered them a bad credit risk. Egg purged its books of people it feared might fail to pay their bills.

AA correspondent said that one of the millionaires’ gross income last year was £1.1million and that he had worked for one of Britain's 50 largest companies for 26 years. The millionaire said “My credit rating is excellent and I even happen to have shares worth £180,000 in a Citigroup account. I find it outrageous that this bank can make these statements and get away with it.”

Egg, which was set up by Prudential, the UK insurer, was bought by Citigroup, the US banking giant, last May. Egg said that Citigroup immediately began combing through its 2.3 million customer base for bad credit risks. The bank wrote to 161,000 customers last month to tell them that their cards would be cancelled in 35 days' time because they presented a “higher than acceptable risk profile”.

A spokesman for Egg said yesterday that it did not look solely at credit histories when deciding whether to cut off customers. “Some customers may be up-to-date with payments and have a good record with the credit agencies but our models might show them to pose a higher future risk than we're comfortable with,” the spokesman said.

The spokesman denied that Egg had shed customers who paid off their card every month because they were not profitable. “Profitability is not a factor in our decision,” he said. Egg does not receive interest from these customers but it does receive a fee from every transaction.

Customers aged between 34 and 49 are most likely to have their credit limits cut or their cards cancelled, the website found, while borrowers younger than 25 who have very little credit history and no property are more likely to have their limits extended. (source: Timesonline)

Google, the internet giant, suffered a 7% decline in adverts viewed in January, compared with the month before. Google shares have fallen nearly 19% in the past three months. Analysts said yesterday that despite this fall, web searches had increased 10% in the same period.

Benjamin Schachter, a UBS analyst, cut his 12-month target on Google shares from $650 to $590, a new low among Wall Street analysts. He said that international growth, including in Britain, Google’s second-largest market, was a concern. Shares in Google tumbled as low as $446.85 (£231), down $39.59 (£20.5), or 8.1%, in early trading on Nasdaq, but recovered later to close at $464.19 (£240.5), a fall of $22.25 (£11.5), or 4.57%.

Nevertheless, 29 brokers are still advising investors to continue to buy Google shares, while only four rate it as a “hold”. (source: Timesonline)

Friday, 22 February 2008

£50 Million windfall for two co-founders

The two co-founders of Pret A Manger in 1986, Julian Metcalfe & Sinclair Beecham, are expected to pocket at least £50 million from the sale of the business to Bridgepoint Capital in a £350 million deal.

However, the two co-founders are thought to be leaving a similar amount in the company in a complex earnout deal, which, depending on performance, could boost the headline price closer to the £400 million they had hoped for.

McDonald's, is understood to be selling its entire 33% holding it bought a few years ago in Pret A Manger to Bridgepoint. The management team, led by Larry Billet, the chairman, and Clive Schlee, the chief executive, will stay with the business and with the co-founders will have a 25% stake.

Bridgepoint, which beat off competition from the rival private equity firms Advent International and Morgan Stanley Private Equity, has secured debt funding from Rabobank worth an estimated £175 million.

The acquisition of Pret by Bridgepoint, which is being advised by Goldman Sachs, bolsters a portfolio of consumer-facing brands that includes Pets at Home, Fat Face, Molton Brown and Virgin Active.

Mr Metcalfe and Mr Beecham, who were college friends, opened the first Pret outlet in 1986 to sell freshly prepared sandwiches using only natural, preservative-free ingredients. The chain has about 180 shops in Britain, 14 in New York , 10 in Hong Kong and a single outlet in Singapore. (source: Timesonline) - PRET to be sold

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Microsoft not intending to raise its stake in Yahoo!

Microsoft is not intending to raise its offer on the original $42 billion (£21.5 billion) cash-and-shares offer for Yahoo!, the software group’s chairman said yesterday. Bill Gates said that Microsoft’s bid was “full and fair” and insisted that there had been no confidential negotiations between the two sides to try to agree a deal after Yahoo! rejected his group’s original bid this month.

It is not sure what the next step would be for Mr Bill Gates as he declined to spell out what he planned to do next. The expectation is that Microsoft aims to test the opinion of Yahoo! shareholders by nominating alternative directors to challenge the Yahoo! board. The deadline for filing is March 13.

Mr Bill Gates said: “We can afford to make big investments in the engineering and marketing that needs to get done. We will do that with or without Yahoo! But we also see that we’d get there faster if the great engineering work that Yahoo! has done and the great engineers in Microsoft were part of the common effort.”

Separately, there were signs yesterday that Alibaba, Yahoo!’s Chinese partner, was trying to exert some influence in the deal. Yahoo! owns 39 per cent of Alibaba, which runs an internet marketplace. The business is controlled by Jack Ma, its founder, who wants to retain a similar level of autonomy under any new ownership.

Last night it was reported that Yahoo! plans to offer its employees enhanced severance benefits in the event of their jobs being cut after a change in control of the company. (source: Timesonline)

Alliance & Leicester's suffered a $360.4 million (£185 million) writedown on its exposure to risky assets. Britain’s seventh-biggest bank, reported a 2007 pretax profit of £399 million down from £569 million in 2006. Underlying core operating profit rose 3% from 2006 to £602 million.

Alliance & Leicester warned three weeks ago that its writedown on holdings of structured investment vehicles (SIVs) and other products tarnished by the US subprime housing crisis had more than tripled from a previous estimate to £185 million. Profit was also knocked by a £10 million loss on ineffective hedges and £8 million of redundancy costs.

Alliance & Leicester calmed worries about funding problems in November by saying it had agreed medium-term financing facilities, and said it had funding to see it through to the first quarter of 2009. (source: The Independent)

8 Reason why it is better to buy a business for your road to financial independence (by Richard Parker):

When done right, buying a business lets you achieve returns of 25% to 33% on your cash investment. Try getting that consistently in the stock market.

Unlike a job, there is no limit to how much money you can make.

There are enormous tax benefits when you own a company that you cannot take advantage of as an employee.

As you grow your business, the value of your investment will build exponentially.

Since you will be inheriting an infrastructure, you can take as much vacation as you would like. Try doing that with a job!

For every dollar of growth that you generate, you will get back three times or more when the time comes to sell the company.

You can acquire additional assets that complement your business - such as commercial real estate - and cover all the costs from the cash flow of the business.

From a tax perspective, the bulk of the business’ appreciated value can be taxed at favourable capital gains rates when you ultimately sell the business.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

British Billionaire buys 7% stake in Ladbrokes

The Bahamas-based British Billionaire ranked 16th on the Sunday Times Richlist, Joe Lewis, has bought a near 7% stake in Ladbrokes, the UK's biggest bookmaker. Mr Lewis believed that Ladbrokes shares are undervalued and he is thought to be keen to acquire more blocks if and when they become available. His holding is worth £300 million.

Speculation has swirled in recent weeks as to the identity of the buyer after Citigroup disclosed in a series of statements that it was holding shares as “contracts for difference” on behalf of one of its clients.

Mr Lewis recently paid $860 million (£440 million) for a 7% stake in Bear Stearns, the American bank, which has been hit hard by the US sub-prime mortgage meltdown. He has since increased his holding to 8%. He also owns a stake in Tottenham Hotspur Football Club and has in the past tried to acquire Victor Chandler, the betting group.

Any bid could also involve a tie-up with Apax Partners, the British private equity group, which is known to have approached Ladbrokes in 2006 when it was demerged from Hilton Group. Mr Lewis, who is involved with Betdaq, the betting exchange, has recently been linked to stake-building at Rank Group, the embattled casino and bingo club operator. Analysts believe that, in the event of a bid for Ladbrokes, he may consider turning his sights on Rank with a view to merging the two companies and creating a gambling conglomerate to rival Gala Coral. (source: Timesonline)

Anyone who splashed out £450 on a state of the art HD-DVD high definition player could soon be counting the cost. Comprehensively outsold by the Sony-developed rival Blu-ray, the Toshiba player may soon be irrelevant, amid growing expectation that its Japanese manufacturer will abandon the technology within days.

An estimated 50,000 HD-DVD players have been sold in Britain — although Toshiba will say that sales across Europe total 200,000 and almost 275 000 films. Blu-ray, though, has built up an unassailable lead, with a little over 800,000 films sold in Britain since both technologies were launched.

Toshiba insisted yesterday that “no decision had been taken,” although private briefings in Japan indicated that the cave-in would come later this week. In Tokyo, Toshiba shares increased by 6%, in the hope that it can save $450 million (£220 million) by walking away from its white elephant.

Five Hollywood studios back Blu-ray, after Warner Brothers said it would switch to the format at the beginning of the year, leaving HD-DVD owners only with films from Universal, the King Kong studio, and Paramount.

Blu-ray won because Sony built the player into the PlayStation3 games console. Although Toshiba had support from Sony’s games rival Microsoft, HD-DVD was not built into the Xbox 360, meaning that it was not a default purchase. In America, Blu-ray films are outselling HD-DVD releases by at least four to one; most weeks two thirds of players sold were Blu-ray devices. Blu-ray has built up a similar lead in Japan. (source: Timesonline)

Friday, 15 February 2008

Virgin's Bid to be blocked

Northern Rock’s leading shareholders are preparing to vote down a rescue proposal from Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group despite the looming threat that the beleaguered mortgage bank will be nationalised if a deal fails. Virgin’s offer will be opposed by RAB Capital and SRM Global, the two hedge funds that are the Rock’s largest investors, who between them hold a 19.68% stake in the bank.

Legal & General Investment Management is the third-largest owner of Rock shares, with a stake of 4.79%. Together, the three investors are within a whisker of owning the 25% required to block a Virgin-led rescue. The only way the Government could bypass a Northern Rock shareholder vote would be to force the bank into administration, but that would be a legal minefield.

A final government decision on its future could come as early as this weekend. SRM has taken legal advice that has concluded that if the Government nationalises Northern Rock, it must pay shareholders the book value of the bank, estimated to be 400p a share. This runs counter to the Government’s legal advice, which states that shareholders should receive the market value of the bank, less the value of support so far offered through emergency loans from the Bank of England.

The Bank has lent about £26 billion so far and has taken an estimated £91 billion in liabilities on to its balance sheet. (source: Timesonline)

British Airways will pay $140 million (£71 million) in compensation to passengers affected by the carrier’s fixing of ticket prices after settling a class-action lawsuit in the United States. The settlement brings British Airways’ total pay-outs for conspiring to fix fuel surcharges to £338 million.

The lawsuit was brought by a US law firm on behalf of passengers who lost out as a result of British Airways and Virgin Atlantic conspiring to set the level of fuel surcharges, a supplemental fee added to air fares to cover rising oil prices.

Virgin’s action saved it from censure but British Airways was fined £121.5 million by the Office of Fair Trading for breaching competition law. The US Department of Justice fined the airline a further $300 million (£150 million) for passenger and cargo price fixing.

Virgin is thought to be paying $60 million (£30 million), but British Airways will have to pay triple damages because it did not expose the conspiracy. The size of the British Airways settlement may force it to put aside more money to pay further penalties. The airline is under investigation by European authorities for fixing cargo rates and may face a class-action suit from haulage firms.

Fifteen airlines have admitted they are part of the EU’s investigation into cargo price fixing, which also relates to the setting of fuel surcharge rates. (source: Timesonline)

Warren Buffett, the world’s second richest man, has built up an 8.6% stake in Kraft Foods, worth $4.32 billion (£2.2 billion), making him its largest individual shareholder. These shares were bought last year. It was revealed that Mr Buffett has spent $76 million (£39.37 million) on shares in UK drugs firm GlaxoSmithKline.

His investment in Kraft is being seen as a vote of confidence in the firm, which only last month posted a 6% decline in quarterly profits after it was hit by higher raw material costs. Kraft's best-known products include its eponymous cheese, Maxwell House coffee and Oreo cookies.

Mr Buffett bought the shares through his Berkshire Hathaway investment vehicle. (source: BBC News)