Thursday, 31 January 2008

Record profits for Shell

Royal Dutch Shell reported full-year record profits of $27.6 billion (£14 billion). This is a record for a European company, despite the lower oil and gas production and weaker refining margins.

For the year oil, and gas production fell to 3.315 million barrels a day of oil equivalent. This is down 4.5% compared with 2006. Fourth-quarter earnings on a current cost of supply basis were $6.7 billion (£3.35 billion) compared with $6 billion (£3 billion) a year ago, with fourth quarter production figures falling by 5.7% to 3.436 million boe/d in the same quarter last year.

Exploration and production segment earnings rose to $4.9 billion (£2.5 billion) from $3.5 billion (£1.75 billion) a year ago, reflecting the impact of higher oil and gas prices on revenues. Excluding a net gain to non-operating items of $963 million (£481.5 million), fourth-quarter current cost of supply net income was $5.74 billion (£2.87 billion).

Shell shares edged 0.5% higher to £17.52. (source: Financial Times)

Amazon, suffered a sharp slide in its share price yesterday despite surging sales. Profits during the fourth quarter of the year more than doubled, while revenues jumped 42% over the three month period.

In after-hours trading on Wall Street, shares in the group fell 3% even though Jeff Bezos, the chief executive, was more upbeat about the current quarter’s performance. Mr Bezos said that he “expected to produce sales of between $3.95 billion (£2 million) and $4.15 billion (£2.07 billion) for the current quarter, contributing to between $18.75 billion (£9.35 billion) and $19.75 billion (£9.87 billion) of revenues for 2008 as a whole.”

Revenues derived from Amazon’s largest business segment, which includes books, music and films, grew 33% to $3.33 billion (£1.66 billion) worldwide in the quarter. Sales of electronic goods and general merchandise such as wine glasses rose 58% to $2.21 billion (£1.1 billion).

Fourth-quarter gross margin came in at 20.6%, having fallen from 21.3% a year earlier and 23.4% in the third quarter. Net profits rose 112% to $207 million (£103.5 million) from $98 million (£49 million), a year ago. Sales rose 42%to $5.67 billion (£2.83 billion) in the quarter. (source: Timesonline)

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Thomas Cook on track for record profits

It seems like consumers are showing no sign of cutting back on major trips around the globe as holidays giant Thomas Cook today said it was in good shape for the year ahead. The company, which merged with Airtours rival MyTravel last year, said demand for both winter and summer holidays exceeded supply.

The company said that it benefited from reduced capacity on loss-making routes, particularly to long-haul destinations. "By managing the number of holidays to be sold, we believe we are in a position to benefit from higher average selling prices and are less exposed to any future change in demand." a spokesperson at Thomas Cook said.

The update on trading conditions came as Thomas Cook posted annual profits from existing operations of 375.3 million euros (£279.1 million), an increase of 26% on a year earlier.

The project by merging with MyTravel involved the closure of 144 shops in the UK, leaving an estate of 812. The company's UK headquarters have also been established in Peterborough after a number of offices were closed in a rationalisation programme.

Thomas Cook Airways is now the company's only UK airline, operating with a single flight programme with effect from this spring. The company said it was on track to achieve savings of at least 200 million euros (£148.8 million) from the merger, which is an increase of 60 million euros (£44.6 million) on its original forecast and up to a year ahead of schedule. (source: The Independent)

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

BSkyB ordered to sell ITV stake

BSkyB has been ordered by the government on Tuesday to reduce its 17.9% stake in broadcaster ITV to below 7.5%. The reason is because the purchase was anti-competitive, potentially costing the company around £250 million.

Secretary of State for Business and Enterprise John Hutton also ordered BSkyB “not to sell the shares to an ‘associated person’, nor to seek representation on the board of ITV and not to reacquire shares in the broadcaster”. He furthermore said he would not disclose the time period given to BSkyB for the sale, following a request from the company.

This ruling from Mr John Hutton could cost BSkyB around £250 million if it sold at Monday's closing share price, since the value of the shares has dropped since the purchase. ITV welcomed the ruling and said it was in the best interests of the overwhelming majority of its shareholders, while BSkyB said it would give careful consideration to the announcement and confirm any further steps in due course.

Shares in ITV initially opened up 2% before settling at 0.8% up at 72.6 pence. Shares in BSkyB were up 0.6% at 534 pence. (source: Reuters)

Restaurant giant McDonald's has seen its latest quarterly profits increase just 3%, as sluggish US sales trailed behind those in its overseas markets. In the three months to the end of December, the company's net profit rose to $1.27 billion (£640 million) from $1.24 billion (£620 million) for the same period in 2006.

McDonald's said its US sales were being hit by "softer consumer spending". McDonald's group-wide quarterly revenues rose 6% to $5.8 billion (£2.9 billion), from $5.4 billion (£2.7 billion) a year previously. Same-store global sales were up 6.7%. (source: BBC News)

Monday, 28 January 2008

Starbucks serving coffee at $1

Starbucks has confirmed reports it has started to sell a $1 (51 pence) cup of coffee in certain stores in Seattle as a trial. It is not definite that the cheap brew coffee will be added to the rest of its chains in the US or overseas.

However, its business has suffered from slowing consumer spending and competition from low-cost rivals. The news had first been reported in the Wall Street Journal, which also said the Seattle-based company was experimenting with giving free refills of some of its offerings.

"We are conducting a test in the Seattle area. However, this test is not indicative of any new business strategy," said Starbucks spokeswoman. The firm is trying to lift its sagging fortunes, which saw its shares fall by more than 40% last year.

Higher dairy and energy prices have seen the firm push up prices of its lattes and espressos. In addition, analysts warn the specialist coffee firm faces steep competition from fast-food chains, such as McDonald's, which is in the process of introducing its own line of gourmet coffee.

Starbucks sacked its chief executive, Jim Donald, at the beginning of the year and handed the reins back to its chairman and former chief executive, Howard Schultz, to steer a recovery effort. (source: BBC News)

Friday, 25 January 2008

Scottish & Newcastle approached by Heineken

Heineken is set to assume the mantle of Britain's biggest brewer after teaming up with Carlsberg to launch a recommended bid for Scottish & Newcastle (S&N) worth more than 800p a share (£10 billion).

Although a counterbid from the likes of Anheuser-Busch or SABMIller remains a possibility, analysts believe that the price being paid by the bidding consortium, which is 80p more than its first offer in October last year, is unlikely to be topped.

The shares were trading at 637p before the first approach in the autumn. In the event of a rival bid, Carlsberg and Heineken would receive a break fee of £780 million, or 1 per cent of S&N's equity value.

Under the proposed deal, Carlsberg, which is being advised by Lehman Brothers, is expected to fund about 56% of the purchase, with its Dutch partner paying 44%. Heineken, which is being advised by Credit Suisse, has secured debt finance from a consortium led by Credit Suisse, Bank of America, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Citibank, Fortis, HSBC, ING and JPMorgan Chase. (source: Timesonline)

A day before Fred Gehring, the Tommy Hilfiger chief executive, was due to begin an investor roadshow, Apax, the London-based private equity group, blamed market turmoil yesterday as it scrapped the $4billion (£2billion) float of Tommy Hilfiger, the fashion label.

Apax planned to sell a 25% stake through the listing on Euronext in Amsterdam, where Tommy Hilfiger has its headquarters. Apax would have retained a 50% share with senior management, staff and other private investors holding the balance.

The decision sparked fresh concerns that the consumer slowdown caused by the credit crunch has spread to the upmarket fashion and luxury goods market. Coach, the largest US maker of luxury handbags, reported its weakest profits growth for eight years on Wednesday, while Richemont, home to the Cartier and Montblanc brands, said demand was slowing. Burberry, the UK label, this month said it may miss profit targets after poor sales in Spain.

Apax bought the label three years ago for $1.6 billion (£800 million) but the 56-year-old founder retained a minority stake and the role of principal designer. At the time the label had seen its US profits halve in five years. (source: Timesonline)

Meg Whitman, the chief executive of auction website eBay has resigned after a decade at the helm of the firm. Ms Whitman will be replaced by John Donahow, who is currently in charge of the firm’s main auction business.

The US firm posted a market-beating 53% rise in profits for the three months to December. Ms Whitman has been lauded for turning eBay into a powerhouse in e-commerce. She will remain a director at the firm.

When Ms Whitman joined the company in 1998, eBay said it had $4 million (£2 million) in revenue and 30 employees. It has since grown into a multi-billion dollar firm with 15,000 employees and has expanded into a variety of businesses, including buying online payments service PayPal and internet telephone service provider Skype.

But growth in its core listings business has stagnated and analysts are keenly anticipating a new strategy to deal with increasing competition. eBay's guidance on earnings for the coming year fell short of expectations and it is expected that its shares will fall when trading opens in New York on Thursday. (source: BBC News)

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Apple forecasts below estimates

Apple expects to earn 94 cents a share on $6.8 billion (£3.4 billion) in sales for its second quarter. This forecast fell below analysts' consensus estimates for earnings of $1.09 (55p) a share on revenue of $6.99 billion (£3.5 billion). The outlook helped send Apple's shares down more than $17 ((£8.5) a share, or 11%, to $138.49 (£69.3) in after-hours trading.

For its fiscal first-quarter, Apple earned $1.58 billion (£790 million), or $1.76 (88p) a share, on revenue of $9.6 billion (£3.45 billion). During the same period a year ago, Apple earned $1 billion (£500 million), or $1.14 (57p) a share, on $7.12 billion (£3.56 billion) in sales.

The company attributed the quarter's performance to a strong holiday season, as Apple said that it sold 22 million iPods and 2.3 million Macintosh PCs during the quarter. Also, about 2.3 million iPhones were sold during the quarter. But even though Apple could point to items such as a 17% increase in iPod revenue and a 47% rise in its Mac sales from a year ago, some analysts felt the company should have done even better in light of recent revamps of the iMac and iPod product lines. (source: Market Watch)

It seems like the Financial Services Authority (FSA) is to examine the rules governing websites that compare insurance products. The issue is whether the act of ranking insurance products online by price constitutes giving financial advice. Some comparison websites are allowed by the financial watchdog to arrange insurance, but not to give advice. Traditional insurance brokers must meet strict regulations to give advice.

Rules covering so-called "electronic introduction" were designed before the development of comparison websites, and therefore did not provide appropriate protection for consumers. According to research commissioned by Biba, many price comparison websites use assumptions when generating quotes, something a third of consumers did not realise.

After interviewing a small sample of consumers, it said more than half of those questioned who had used price comparison websites felt the differences between insurance policies were not adequately explained. Only 6% felt sufficient policy details were given.

A spokesman for the FSA said it had looked at the question of comparison websites in the past. Richard Mason, director of comparison site, which is already fully authorised by the FSA, said he would welcome new guidance from the regulator, but accused Biba of exaggerating the scale of the problem.

Following its investigation, the FSA could take a range of actions including issuing revised guidance, enhanced supervision, or making changes to regulation. (source: BBC News)

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Best Christmas Performance by Morrisons

Morrison’s, the UK’s fourth largest Supermarket group, unveiled the best Christmas performance in the sector. Morrison’s beat forecasts with a 9.5% rise in like-for-like sales excluding fuel in the six weeks to January 6th. A new advertising campaign launched in September boosted sales at Morrison’s, which has trailed larger rivals Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury since its merger with Safeway in 2004. Chief Executive Marc Bolland said in a statement “we welcomed significantly more customers to our stores, and they were well served with attractive offers and fresh food," He said “Morrison's full-year profits also would be helped by it holding over costs of around 30 million pounds ($58 million) relating to its Optimisation business plan to next year”. "We expect the market to remain competitive and we are cautious on the outlook for consumer spending. However, we believe that our strong value credentials will serve us well in these conditions," Bolland said.

Morrison's was forecast to report like-for-like growth of 6.5% excluding fuel. Predictions ranged widely from 5% to 8%. For the Christmas period, like-for-like sales excluding fuel rose 3.1% at Tesco, 3.7% at Sainsbury and 4.1% at Waitrose. (source: Reuters)

TAM airline, the Brazilian airliners, announced yesterday that it had signed a contract to buy 46 Airbus jets, including 22 extra-wide-body A350s. The European-made A350 is a competitor to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The order is worth $6.9 billion (£3.5 billion) at list prices, although most airlines obtain deep discounts from plane makers.

The new fleet is to help TAM to expand its overseas routes. The addition of the A350s to TAM's fleet marks the first time that the plane will be used in South America, and it will allow the carrier "to continue the successful expansion we have already had" with smaller Airbus jets, said TAM chief executive David Barioni Neto.

Airbus said in a statement that the TAM agreement raises the number of orders for A350s to 314 aircraft worldwide. TAM will also add 4 Airbus A330-200 planes and 20 A320s to its fleet under the order, the companies said.The order for the A320s was new, marking a significant increase in the number of TAM orders from Airbus. Using list prices, the order for the A320s alone amounts to about $1.5 billion (£750 million). TAM said the contract does not alter its forecast for its fleet size. The airline has 109 planes, expects to have 123 by the end of this year and 136 by the end of 2013. (source: Business Week)

Monday, 21 January 2008

The Universe & Britian's 100 Most Influential People

A-list and wealthy people will be able to buy countries in The World - the cluster of islands created by Dubai's ruling al-Maktoum family that form part of what can be described as the most ambitious development in the galaxy. Nakheel, is planning to build, The Universe next to The World.

Inspired by the “wonders of the solar system”, The Universe will feature man-made islands built in the shape of the Sun and the Moon, with a string of planets in between. Nakheel's plans show a ringed island of Saturn and Jupiter, the largest planet, divided into three sections. It said that demand would determine the final size of The Universe, which is due for completion in 15 to 20 years' time. The Universe will house luxury homes, shopping centres and miles of beachfront.

Nakheel said its projects were ecologically sound. “We are building this with a lot of warning so we can manage water and energy supplies rather than just plonking something in the sea and turning on the tap,” Shawn Lenehan, its head of environment, said. (source: Timesonline)

Acquisition talks were denied by Air China which posted its sharpest-ever slide. Its state-owned parent plans to invest in rival China Eastern Airlines Corporation Ltd, the mainland's No.3 airline, in a proposal that could bring the Shanghai-based airline a cash injection of $1.9 billion (£1 billion). But China Eastern group also said on Monday that it could not respond to the proposed partnership because the proposal was incomplete and lacked legal validity. (source: Reuters)

1. Winfried Franz Wilhelm Bischoff was born in Germany in 1941. His family moved to South Africa in 1955, and he has joint British and German citizenship. After joining Schroders, he worked in Hong Kong until 1983 when he returned to England, becoming chief executive in 1986 and chairman in 1995. Since the acquisition of Schroders, Sir Win has thrived within Citibank, last year overseeing its acquisition of Egg, the consumer credit brand. He became interim chief executive of Citigroup in November last year when Charles Prince stepped down. He is nonexecutive director of the education group McGraw Hill, Akbank TAS Istanbul, one of Turkey’s biggest banks, and of the healthcare company Eli Lilly.

2 - Tony Hayward has been chief executive of BP, Britain’s largest company, since May last year. He joined BP in 1982 straight after writing a PhD in geology. He worked in France and China, before becoming explorations manager in Colombia. In 1995 Mr Hayward was promoted first to president of the operations in Venezuela, and then to director of BP exploration, which brought him back to the UK. Appointed chief operating officer for exploration and production in 2002, he later became the executive assistant – or bag carrier – for Lord Browne, his predecessor in the chief executive slot. He distinguished himself in 2006 with a candid and public reflection on an overly “top-down” style of leadership at the company, expressing concern about the company’s commitment to engineering and maintenance. Accidents in the Gulf of Mexico, and Alaska, have punctured the company’s aura. Mr Hayward’s task is to restore BP to preeminence.

3 - Damon Buffini is chairman of Permira. It may not be the biggest buyout powerhouse, but it is the one that has consistently set, and defended the private equity agenda. Mr Buffini, brought up on a council estate by a single mother, has been ridiculed by unions as an asset stripper and parasite. As the controversy over private equity reached fever pitch, representatives of the GMB union dressed as pantomime animals and paraded outside the South London church attended by the 45-year-old and his family. It is, according to the GMB, easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for Damon Buffini to mix business with belief. Others may point out that the New Testament parable teaches about the servants who were given talents by their master. It was the servant who invested wisely, and most profitably, who was rewarded with the greatest favour, and approval. Mr Buffini, a Cambridge law graduate with an MBA from Harvard, is an avid supporter of Arsenal Football Club.

4 - Sir John Bond made his way to his first Hong Kong posting with HSBC, the bank whose roots lie in East Asia, by working as a deck hand on a cargo ship. He spent 45 years working for HSBC, rising to be its chairman from 1998 to 2006. On leaving HSBC, he did not retire. He took on a similar role at Vodafone, a company whose market value is equal, and depending on stock market vagaries, sometimes larger than the bank. Sir John took the nonexecutive role at Vodafone just in time to settle investors concerned that the company had lost its way – strategically, operationally and in terms of its executive leadership. Steely calm, one of Sir John’s most attractive characteristics, returned to Vodafone. The shares, which were in the doldrums for much of the early part of this decade, rose 30 per cent in 2007. He was knighted for services to banking in 1999. Sir John, who is married with three children, enjoys golf, skiing and reading biographies.

5 - Cynthia Carroll became both the first female and first non South African head of Anglo American on her appointment as chief executive of the mining conglomerate ten months ago. The 51-year-old American is also a non-executive director of BP. When Ms Carroll was with Alcan, the aluminium giant, her expertise won her seats on the boards of the American Aluminium Association and the International Aluminium Institute. Before joining Alcan, in 1989, she spent eight years working as a geologist in oil exploration for Amoco, now part of BP, and has also been a nonexecutive director of Sara Lee. She holds a master’s degree in geology from the University of Kansas and an MBA from Harvard.

6 - Lakshmi Mittal is one of Britain’s richest men. The Sunday Times Rich List puts the family wealth of the president and chief executive of Arcelor Mittal, the world’s largest steelmaker, in excess of £19 billion. He is a prime example of how the industrial and commercial revolutions of China and, in his case, India are being felt in the established bastions of capitalism. He shows the power of development and trade, as opposed to aid. He has channelled vast sums into charities, notably tsunami relief – and the Labour Party. He has a stake in the West London football club Queens Park Rangers, joining Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore, the Italian businessman, as joint owner. In 2004 the 57-year-old set a world record for a private home when he paid £70 million for Mr Ecclestone’s house in Kensington Palace Gardens, West London. In the same year he spent £30 million on his daughter’s wedding, including hiring the Palace of Versailles.

7 - Mervyn King is Governor of the Bank of England, chairman of the Monetary Policy Committee and a self-confessed “inflation nutter”. He is an avid fan of Aston Villa and was senior vice-president of the Midlands football club from 1995-99. The son of a railway clerk, who studied at King’s College, Cambridge and Harvard, he will turn 60 in March. He is also a Fellow of the British Academy, is on the Advisory Council of the London Symphony Orchestra and is patron of Worcestershire County Cricket Club. Mr King’s reputation bears blemishes from the Northern Rock debacle, but history may offer a different view.

8 - Sir Terry Leahy is the chief executive of Tesco, the supermarket group. Sir Terry is one of the country’s most influential shopkeepers – 10p in every pound spent in a British shop is handed to Tesco. Sir Terry has also set and consistently raised the standards of mass-market retailing. Tesco is turning its attention to America, where Sir Terry is rolling out Fresh and Easy convenience stores. International sales already comprise a third of Tesco’s £50 billion revenue – Sir Terry’s target is 50 per cent by as little as five years’ time. The 51-year-old Liverpudlian joined Tesco in 1979 as a marketing executive after leaving the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology. The ardent Everton fan said moving to the South was the biggest decision of his life: “If I hadn’t, I might be running the Coop.”

9 - Stephen Green, the chairman of HSBC, has been under attack this year by Knight Vinke, the activist shareholders led by Eric Knight. But the carefully spoken and cerebral Anglican lay preacher has stuck to his guns. His promotion from chief executive to chairman drew criticism for breaching corporate governance best practice and, strategically, he was accused of turning his back on Asia and emerging markets. He began his career at the Ministry of Overseas Development, before moving to McKinsey, the consultancy, in 1971. He has been at HSBC since 1982. His interests include Russian poetry and opera.

10 - Sir Fred Goodwin. The Royal Bank of Scotland chief executive earned his Fred “the Shred” nickname as opponents in the NatWest merger tussle sought to sow seeds of doubt about his talents. Perhaps those critics ought now to concede that Sir Fred is a creator, not a shredder of value. Beside, the ardent pursuit of efficiency is no crime: Sir Fred can wear his nickname with some pride, and a wryly ironic half smile. If he makes a success of the acquisition of ABN Amro, the Dutch bank whipped from beneath the nose of Barclays by a consortium including RBS, the wry smile will turn into a broad grin. Sir Fred attended a grammar school in Paisley before studying law at Glasgow University, working as an accountant with Touche Ross, Clydesdale Bank and Yorkshire Bank. He was knighted for services to banking in 2004. Gordon Brown has taken advice from him on a number of occasions.

11 - Alistair Darling is renowned for keeping his head while those around him threaten to lose theirs. As Chancellor he has had these skills stretched to the limit as Northern Rock, data loss and capital gains tax controversies crashed in. Mr Darling has been in the Cabinet since 1997. As Transport Secretary, he made Network Rail less disastrous than Railtrack. While at the Department of Work and Pensions, he officiated over the introduction of stakeholder pensions without undue public protest and while Secretary for Trade and Industry he deflected outrage at post office closures with a protracted consultation process and he delayed making a decision on nuclear power. He studied law at Aberdeen University, where he is remembered as “remarkably normal”, and became a barrister in Scotland. He was also a local councillor. He prefers his Edinburgh home to his official residence in Downing Street.

12 - Guy Hands is the founder and chief executive of Terra Firma. While most of his private equity counterparts lurk in the shadows, Mr Hands has been strutting his stuff centre-stage. During the credit crunch investment bankers came into his cross-hairs: he branded them “whimpering dogs” as they refused to finance “mega-buyouts”. Then came a very public spat with EMI artists over profligate spending at the record label owned by Terra Firma. He failed to see the £200,000 spent every year on stocking EMI offices with fresh fruit and flowers as a necessary expense. Mr Hands, 48, founded Terra Firma in 2002, after spending his earlier career at Nomura and Goldman Sachs.

13 - Bob Diamond is president of Barclays and chief executive of Barclays Capital. The American took a gamble when he left a promising career in charge of Credit Suisse First Boston's Asian business for Barclays in 1996. BarCap has grown from employing 5,000 people to a workforce of 14,700 under his stewardship. While it has been a tough year for the Chelsea FC and Boston Red Sox fan, with Barclays failing in its bid for ABN Amro and his company caught by the credit crunch, he remains a most influential force in investment banking. One of nine children, Mr Diamond, 56, studied and later taught at the University of Connecticut.

14 - James Murdoch is chief executive of News Corporation’s European and Asian operations, with responsibilities that include running News Corporation’s London-based newspapers, which, as well as The Times, include The Sun, The Sunday Times and the News of the World. Elsewhere in Europe and Asia, News Corporation owns Sky Italia, the satellite broadcaster, and Star Television, the pan-Asian TV group. Until last month Mr Murdoch was chief executive of BSkyB, the satellite broadcaster part-owned by News Corp, and has stepped up to become the nonexecutive chairman.

15 - J P Garnier, the 60-year-old French chief executive of the drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline, has spent the past seven years at the helm of one of Britain’s biggest companies, with 100,000 staff and a market value of £70 billion. He is widely credited with helping to restore the group’s pipeline of new drugs during a difficult time for the industry. In May, he is set to step down in favour of Andrew Witty, one of his lieutenants. But Dr Garnier is not planning to disappear into the sunset. He is joining the advisory board of Dubai International Capital, the Middle East emirate’s $13 billion sovereign wealth fund, where he will help to identify investment opportunities. Born in Normandy, Dr Garnier was educated at the Université Louis Pasteur in Strasbourg and took an MBA at Stanford University in California where he was a Fulbright Scholar. He worked for US pharmaceutical giant Schering-Plough before joining SmithKline Beecham, where he was appointed chief executive in 2000. He received the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur in 1997.

16 - Clara Furse. The Canadian-born chief executive of the London Stock Exchange batted off a takeover attempt by Nasdaq, the US stock market, and steered the LSE into the FTSE 100. The 50-year-old studied at the London School of Economics, and began her career as a commodity broker at Heinold Commodities. She joined Philips and Drew, which became UBS, where she was promoted to managing director in 1995 before becoming head of the UBS Global Futures and Options business worldwide. She was deputy chairman of Liffe and was group chief executive of Credit Lyonnais Rouse. She is a member of the advisory council of the Prince’s Trust.

17 - Lambertus Johannes Hermanus Becht, more commonly known as Bart, became chief executive of Reckitt Benckiser, the world’s largest household products manufacturer, in 1999. The plain-speaking Dutchman, 51, has been with Benckiser in its various incarnations for 20 years, having joined the firm from Procter & Gamble, where he worked from 1982 until 1988. He holds an MBA from the University of Chicago as well as a degree in economics from the University of Groningen and a business degree from Erasmus University in his home country. Reckitt acquired Boots Healthcare International in October 2005. He is one of the best-remunerated chief executives in the UK, earning more than £4 million in 2006.

18 - Sir Stuart Rose, chief executive of Marks & Spencer and one of Britain’s most charismatic retailers, has won plaudits for saving what some call a national institution. While this week’s disappointing Christmas figures have dented that reputation, even critics concede that the outlook for M&S is considerably brighter than when he arrived in 2004. The 58-year-old began his career at Marks & Spencer in 1972 before embarking on a retail career taking in Burton Menswear, Iceland and Arcadia.

19 - Rachel Lomax is deputy Governor of the Bank of England. Ms Lomax has responsibility for monetary policy, including assessment and money market operations. Before becoming the first female to hold the position in 2003 she was Permanent Secretary at the Department for Transport and previously held the same post for the Department of Social Security. In the mid1990s Mrs Lomax worked in Washington for the World Bank and spent her early career at the Treasury. The Cambridge graduate is on the board of the Royal National Theatre, and is tipped as a possible successor to Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England.

20 - Michael Spencer has built Icap, the City brokerage, of which he is chief executive, into a world leader. Mr Spencer has been nonexecutive chairman of Numis since 2003 and became treasurer to the Conservative Party last February, responsible for raising party funds. He is also a keen fundraiser for charity.

21 - Sir Nigel Rudd is proof that British business is a meritocracy and that the old order, if it ever held sway, is a long way from dominating City and commercial life. Neither an Oxbridge man, nor an ex-Grenadier Guardsman, he went to Bemrose Grammar School in Derby and, after becoming one of Britain’s youngest chartered accountants at the age of 20, he bought into a small car dealership called Williams Holdings. At 40 he was leading one of the fastest-growing British companies, engaged in an acquisition programme that catapulted Williams into the FTSE 100 as an engineering and security services conglomerate. He orchestrated a demerger of Williams in 2000 and from then until 2003 he chaired Kidde, the safety products offshoot. He was chairman of Alliance Boots from 2003 until last year, overseeing the £9 billion sale of the company to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, the private equity giant, and held a similar role at Pilkington, the St Helens-based glassmaker, from 1995 until it was sold to Nippon Sheet Glass in 2006. He is nonexecutive chairman of BAA, the airports operator, which is owned by Ferrovial, of Spain.

22 - Andy Hornby, an Oxford graduate who topped his MBA class at Harvard Business School, became chief executive of HBOS in 2006 aged 39. He began his career at Blue Circle, the cement company, before moving to Asda, where he worked alongside Allan Leighton, chairman of Royal Mail, and Justin King, chief executive of J Sainsbury. He launched George, Asda’s successful clothing brand, before moving to Halifax, which merged with Bank of Scotland. He is a nonexecutive director of Home Retail Group, the retailer that owns Argos and Homebase, and St James’s Place, the financial advisory firm controlled by HBOS.

23 - Sir Martin Sorrell became chief executive of a small engineering company called Wire & Plastic Products in 1986 at the age 40. Just about everything has changed at WPP since, except the identity of the man in control. With a market value of about £7 billion, it is one of the world’s most powerful forces in marketing. His achievement is all the greater because, after a rash of acquisitions in the late 1980s, the company almost foundered in the early 1990s. In 1987, he stunned the marketing services world with a $566 million hostile takeover of J Walter Thompson, and followed that in 1989 with the hostile $864 million purchase of Ogilvy Group.

24 - Michael Sherwood is co-chief executive of Goldman Sachs International, one of the few Wall Street players to emerge from the credit crunch unbloodied – so far. He is the head of the investment bank’s European operations and has been tipped as a possible leader for the bank. The 42-year-old former bond trader, who joined Goldman straight from Manchester University in 1986, is a protégé of Lloyd Blankfein, the bank’s chairman and chief executive. He is based in London with his co-chief executive Richard Gnodde, who was brought in to temper his aggressive style.

25 - Anna Mann, the doyenne of City headhunters, prefers putting others in the spotlight to basking in it herself. It has been suggested that she has placed 60 FTSE chief executives in their jobs, yet in more than 30 years she has rarely given an interview. The website of MWM Consulting, the executive search agency that she set up after moving on from Whitehead Mann, which she also founded, bears the e-mail address of every consultant – except hers. Her most recent coup was the appointment of Bryan Sanderson as chairman of Northern Rock. A patron of the Royal Shakespeare Company, she has a doctorate in psychology.

26 - Peter Sutherland. The chairman of BP had one of the less enviable roles of 2007 – having to preside over the sudden departure of Lord Browne of Madingley when the former chief executive was mired in personal scandal. The Irishman, 61, has been chairman of the petroleum giant since 1997, is also chairman of Goldman Sachs International and a nonexecutive director of the Royal Bank of Scotland. He ran the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade before becoming the head of its successor body, the World Trade Organisation, and was a European Commissioner from 1985 to 1989. Attorney-General of his home nation from 1981 to 1984, he holds an honorary knighthood and has awards from governments as diverse as France, Brazil, Portugal, Morocco, Spain, New Zealand and Belgium.

27 - Sir Robert Wilson is chairman of BG, the resources company that grew out of British Gas, and a nonexec at GlaxoSmithKline, the pharmaceuticals concern. But this tells only a fraction of the Bob Wilson story. He is one of the best-connected British businessmen, yet spent most of his career with one company. He joined Rio Tinto Zinc, the miner, in 1970, after short spells with the Mobil oil group and Dunlop, the tyre maker. He became chief executive in 1991. When RTZ merged with CRA to form Rio Tinto in 1996, he became deputy chairman. He served as executive chairman from 1999 to 2003.

28 - John Varley is the chief executive of Barclays, the bank, and a nonexecutive director of AstraZeneca, the heir to ICI, the corporation long seen as the bellwether of British industry. Mr Varley has been tested in recent months, as Barclays’ attempt to buy the Dutch bank ABN Amro foundered and credit crunch pressures built. Mr Varley joined Barclays in 1982 and became chief executive in 2004. He is a member of the international advisory panel of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, chairman of Business Action on Homelessness, president of the Employers’ Forum on Disability and a director of Ascot racecourse.

29 - Sir Victor Blank was the youngest partner of Clifford Turner, the law firm that became the legal giant Clifford Chance, before making his name at Charterhouse Bank in the 1980s, where he masterminded a management buyout of Woolworths. His biggest present job is as chairman of Lloyds TSB, the bank. Previously he has chaired Trinity Mirror, the newspaper publisher, and GUS, formerly Great Universal Stores, which has split into Home Retail Group, Experian and Burberry. He is patron of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, chairman of the charities Wellbeing of Women and UJS Hillel, and a Fellow of St Catherine’s College, Oxford.

30 - John Buchanan is a serial nonexecutive director and holds positions at four FTSE 100 companies: Vodafone, the mobile telecoms giant; BHP Billiton, the mining company that is trying to consummate one of the largest deals the industry has seen by buying Rio Tinto, its rival; AstraZeneca, the drugs company; and is chairman of Smith & Nephew, the medical instruments maker. A New Zealander, he cut his teeth at BP, which he joined in 1970, rising through the ranks to be finance director from 1996 to 2002.

31 - Hugh Osmond has made huge personal fortunes out of two different sectors: leisure and financial services. He and Luke Johnson bought and floated PizzaExpress. When they went their own ways, Mr Osmond launched Punch Taverns in 1997 through the £564 million acquisition of Bass’s leased pubs division. Two years later, he snatched Allied Domecq’s pubs division from under the nose of Whitbread with an audacious £2.7 billion bid. Having floated Punch, he made an even more audacious move, a £7 billion-plus bid for Bass itself. In 2004 he made his first move in financial services with the £1 billion purchase of the Pearl life insurance business. At the end of last year he swallowed the even bigger Resolution in a deal worth almost £5 billion.

32 - Lord Sharman of Redlynch has enjoyed a long and distinguished career. His biggest present job is as chairman of Aviva, the insurance giant that grew from the combination of Norwich Union, General Accident and Commercial Union. He holds the same post at Aegis Group, the media services firm. He is also a nonexecutive director at the energy firm BG Group and publisher Reed Elsevier. He spent most of his early career as an accountant at KPMG, joining in 1966, rising to become chairman in 1997, a post he held for two years. He is now a spokesman in the Lords on trade and industry.

33 - Bob Wigley, the chairman of Merrill Lynch’s business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, has a client list containing many of the names featured in The Times Power 100, including Sir Philip Green and Allan Leighton. The 46-year-old, who helped to build Merrill’s presence in Europe, chairs Oxford University’s Centre for Corporate Reputation and sits on the Financial Services Authority’s Senior Practitioner Committee. He is the business ambassador for Whizz-Kidz, the disabled children’s charity. His first brush with fame was when he wrote to Margaret Thatcher, then Prime Minister, after winning a national enterprise competition.

34 - Sir Michael Rake. Industry-watchers expecting a big media name to take over from Sir Christopher Bland as chairman of BT were left somewhat deflated when Sir Michael Rake, a lifelong accountant, was appointed in February – but the 58-year-old’s extensive global experience at KPMG, where he was chairman of KPMG International for five years from 2002, is likely to prove invaluable to the phone giant as it seeks to cement itself as a global telecoms player. Sir Michael, whose hobbies include polo and skiing, joined KPMG in 1974 and was elected UK senior partner in 1998.

35 - Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, or Stelios, as he prefers to be known, is Mr Easy. Most famous for his no-frills airline easyJet, the 40-year-old Greek is rolling out his distinctive orange brand in all directions, from hotels to watches. He has been widely credited with transforming the travel industry through easyJet, the budget airline he set up in 1995, with a helping hand from his shipping tycoon father. His numerous ventures including Stelmar Shipping, which he floated on the New York Stock Exchange in 2001.

36 - Nicholas Macpherson, as Permanent Secretary to the Treasury, is Alistair Darling’s most senior civil servant and has a key influence in economic policy. A close ally of Gordon Brown, he joined the department in 1985 and worked his way up to become Principal Private Secretary to Ken Clarke, the former Conservative Chancellor, before managing Mr Brown’s takeover after Labour’s 1997 election win. Previously an economist for the CBI and Peat Marwick Mitchell, which is now KPMG, he was criticised for not consulting businesses over the controversial changes to capital gains tax announced in the latest PreBudget Report. He worked on the economic and monetary union section of the Maastricht Treaty.

37 - Baroness Hogg became the first woman to chair a FTSE 100 company when she took the helm at 3i, the venture capital investment firm, in 2002. Sarah Hogg, who is married to the former Conservative minister Douglas Hogg, was originally a financial journalist and worked for The Economist, Channel 4 News, The Independent, The Daily and Sunday Telegraph, The Sunday Times and The Times. Between 1990 and 1995 she worked for John Major, the former Prime Minister, as head of the No 10 policy unit.

38 - Arun Sarin, the Vodafone chief executive, has steered the world’s largest mobile phone company back from the slough it found itself in after the dot-com crash that prompted a 75 per cent fall in the share price. He joined Vodafone in 1999 when it acquired AirTouch, the US mobile business. After a stint as head of Vodafone in America, he became a nonexecutive director, impressing enough to be handed the top job in 2003. Mr Sarin, 53, left India in 1975 to study engineering at Berkeley but ended up at business school. After spells in consultancy and the oil industry, he joined Pacific-Telesis, the Californian phone group, whose mobile unit became AirTouch. This year he was chosen by Gordon Brown to join his council of business advisers.

39 - Lord Burns served successive chancellors at the Treasury. From 1980 he was the Treasury’s chief economic adviser and from 1991 to 1998 he was Permanent Secretary. He joined Abbey National, the former building society that has since been taken over by Santander, the Spanish banking group, as deputy chairman in 2001 and became chairman in 2002 and now serves as a nonexecutive director of Banco Santander. He joined British Land in 2000 and stayed until 2005. He joined Marks & Spencer in 2005, stepping up to be chairman in 2006.

40 - Michael Grade is the cigar-chomping, red braces-wearing executive chairman of ITV. The son of Leslie Grade, the theatrical agent, and nephew of Lew Grade, one of commercial television’s founding fathers, he joined the Daily Mirror as a sports reporter in 1960 before working at the family’s theatrical agency. He joined LWT in 1973 as deputy controller of programmes (entertainment) and became director of programmes in 1976. After a stint in television in America, he became controller of BBC One in 1984. He took risks, including clearing the schedule for Bob Geldof’s Live Aid in 1985 and showing Neighbours at the later time of 5.35pm, a move that paid off. In 1988, he joined Channel 4 as chief executive. He became chairman of Camelot in 2002 before joining the BBC as its chairman in 2004. He was appointed at ITV last year.

41 - Philip Yea, chief executive of 3i, has emerged as one of the private equity story’s most articulate exponents. Cool and calm in the face of intense questioning by trade union critics and MPs, he presents cogent and forceful arguments. He has had a busy year. 3i bought Agent Provocateur, the lingerie brand, and Inspicio, the testing company, while shelving a controversial plan to sell National Car Parks. Mr Yea became 3i chief executive in 2004 and joined Vodafone’s board as a nonexecutive director in 2005. He worked for Mars and Perkins Engines, but spent much of his career with Diageo and its predecessor Guinness. He was with Guinness from 1984 to 1988, rejoined in 1991 and was finance director of it and Diageo from 1993 to 1999. He then spent five years with Investcorp. In 1995 he joined William Baird as a nonexecutive director. In 1999 he joined Halifax as a nonexecutive director, staying on when it merged with Bank of Scotland to form HBOS, until 2004. Mr Yea, who attended Wallington High School in South London and Brasenose College, Oxford, was on Manchester United’s board from 2000 to 2004.

42 - Mervyn Davies is chairman of Standard Chartered. Strong in emerging markets, Standard has attained a market capitalisation, at £26 billion, equivalent to Lloyds TSB. Mr Davies grew up near Abersoch in North Wales in a Welsh-speaking family. He spent ten years at Citigroup between 1983 and 1993, when he joined Standard Chartered. He courted controversy when he swapped the chief executive’s role for the chairmanship in 2006, against the recommended best practice. Mr Davies has been a non-executive director of Tesco, the supermarket, since 2003 and holds a similar role at Tottenham Hotspur, the football club he supports. His interests include Welsh opera, art and antiques.

43 - Ed Richards, a former Downing Street policy adviser, was appointed the chief executive of Ofcom, the communications regulator, in October 2006. Mr Richards’ interest in politics spreads to all areas of his life. His wife is a former Welsh Assembly member and he is said to be close to James Purnell, the Culture Secretary. When Mr Purnell was a researcher for a rising shadow cabinet minister called Tony Blair, Mr Richards was next door in the office of Gordon Brown and the two advisers collaborated on Labour’s 1992 election campaign. Ofcom’s interventions this year read like a list of the industry’s biggest stories of 2007 – the Celebrity Big Brother race row, the premium-rate call-TV scandal and BSkyB’s purchase of a 17.9 per cent share in ITV. Mr Richards was controller of corporate strategy at the BBC, a consultant at London Economics and a researcher with Diverse Production, where he produced programmes for Channel 4.

44 - Nick Land. As a newly qualified accountant in the late 1960s Mr Land was a contemporary of Sir Michael Rake, the chairman of BT. Mr Land moved on to Ernst & Whinney and, when it merged with Arthur Young in 1992, was part of the merger integration team that created Ernst & Young. Mr Land led E&Y for 11 years until 2006 – while Sir Michael was his opposite number at KPMG. Like Sir Michael, he has moved into a corporate role. In 2006 Mr Land collected four non-executive directorships: at Vodafone; Royal Dutch Shell; BBA Aviation, the aircraft services firm; and Ashmore, the fund manager. He sits on the advisory board of the Judge Business School at Cambridge and is an adviser to Delta Three, one of the funds set up by the Qatari Royal Family. Mr Land is a keen supporter of the arts and is director of the National Gallery.

45 - Sir Ronald Cohen was considering a career in politics when he discovered venture capitalism. With three friends, he founded the company that became Apax Partners, which financed more than 500 start-up firms, some of which became national institutions, and invested in Waterstone’s, Yellow Pages and AOL, among others. He is often credited with taking venture capitalism from the periphery to the mainstream. He left Apax in 2006 with more than £10 billion under management. Having stood for the Liberals in elections in the 1970s, he switched to Labour in 1996, donated generously to Tony Blair and is closely linked to Gordon Brown. Having left Apax, he heads trusts that seek private-sector, commercial solutions to social deprivation in Britain and to conflict in the Middle East. He is chairman of the Social Investment Task Force and the Commission on Unclaimed Assets. His third marriage has lasted more than 20 years and he cites it as his greatest achievement.

46 - Sir James Dyson has built up a £1 billion fortune from his bagless vacuum cleaners and, in the process, has become one of Britain’s most successful entrepreneurs. Sir James settled on the Dyson design after studying more than 5,000 prototypes in an R&D operation funded by a loan from a high-street bank. He replaced Hoover as the market leader in America in 2005. Sir James studied at the Royal College of Art in the 1960s. By 28 he had created the Ballbarrow, which used a ball in place of a wheel.

47 - Jeroen van der Veer was appointed as chairman of Shell in 2004, when the Anglo-Dutch oil giant was immersed in a scandal over the misreporting of its reserves, which led to a plunging share price and the departure of several key executives, including his predecessor Sir Philip Watts. The Dutchman was the first chief executive in the company’s 100-year history after the ending of its Anglo-Dutch dual ownership structure. He has been responsible for Shell’s big push into unconventional oil sources, such as Canada’s tar sands and renewable energy. Born in 1947, Mr van der Veer studied mechanical engineering at Delft University and economics at Rotterdam University before joining Shell in 1971, working in the Netherlands, Britain, Curaçao and America before taking the top job. A nonexecutive director of Unilever since 2004, he was a supervisory board member of the Dutch Central Bank from 2000 until 2004.

48 - Michael Geoghegan has one of the biggest jobs in world banking. HSBC, his employer since 1973, is one of the world’s largest banks. Mr Geoghegan has spent most of his career outside the UK and was described as “pugnacious and impatient” when he was appointed HSBC chief executive in 2006. He is also chairman of Young Enterprise, which encourages students to run their own businesses.

49 - Sir Tom McKillop spent most of his career in pharmaceuticals, latterly as chief executive of AstraZeneca. He joined Zeneca as a chemistry research assistant in 1969 when it was the drugs arm of ICI and rose to become chief executive after the merger with Astra, of Sweden. He is now one of the most highly placed non-executive directors, combining the chairmanship of Royal Bank of Scotland with a board seat at BP. From 1999 to 2004 he was a nonexecutive at Lloyds TSB and held a similar role at Nycomed Amersham, the medical devices group, from 1992 to 2001. In 2004 he was asked to chair an industry-led Science Forum to explore cooperation between government, academia and the private sector on research and development.

50 - Hector Sants is a poacher-turned-gamekeeper. He joined the Financial Services Authority in 2004 after a 27-year career in investment banking, with Donaldson Lufkin & Jeanrette and Credit Suisse First Boston. He became the FSA’s chief executive last July. When he was appointed, the City had reasons to view him as one of their own. Mr Sants, 52, took charge of the City watchdog’s day-to-day operations as Northern Rock was teetering on the brink. He will play a key role in the reformation of the Tripartite arrangement for sharing regulation between the FSA, the Bank of England and the Treasury.

51 - George Osborne is one of the Conservative Party’s fastest-rising stars and, as Shadow Chancellor, will have a greater influence than his predecessors as business and the economy become a key battleground in Parliament. He has fought the Government hard on issues such as the Northern Rock debacle. Mr Osborne is arguably the architect of Labour’s inheritance tax and stamp duty policies. The MP for Tatton has worked in politics all his professional life, aside from a short spell as a freelance journalist, and is married to the writer Frances Osborne.

52 - Lord Hollick is a non-executive director of Diageo, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, the Nielsen Company and Honeywell International. A leading Labour peer, he was chief of United Business Media. Lord Hollick, a grammar school boy whose father was a French polisher, has served as a non-executive director of British Aerospace, Logica, National Bus Company and Hambros Bank. He was managing director of MAI, the money broker, from 1974 to 1996. He is a trustee of the Institute for Public Policy Research, the influential Left-leaning think-tank that he founded in 1986.

53 - David Mayhew. is the man behind Cazenove’s sterling reputation around the City. He joined the company in 1969 from Panmure Gordon, became the firm’s dealing partner in 1972 and headed its capital markets department from 1986 until 2001, when he was appointed chairman. He has transformed the company, issuing shares to partners, staff and institutional investors, and was planning to stage an IPO. His reputation as a trusted adviser to some of the country’s biggest companies has stood firm, even in the face of his connection with the infamous Guinness share support scheme, for which charges were later dropped.

54 - Jim Ratcliffe is the founder, chairman and chief executive of Ineos, the world’s third-largest petrochemicals group and one of Britain’s largest private companies. He is dubbed Britain’s most private billionaire. He led a management buyout of Inspec in 1992, selling it for 15 times its value in 1998. He founded Ineos in 1998 and embarked on an unprecedented acquisitions spree. In 2005 it acquired Innovene, formerly BP chemicals, in a $9 billion cash deal that quadrupled the size of Ineos. A chemical engineer by training, Mr Ratcliffe, 56, lists garden tractors among his interests.

55 - Susan Murray is a former chief executive of Littlewoods, the Liverpool-based retailing empire, and a sought-after non-executive director. She sits on the boards of five FTSE companies: Enterprise Inns, Imperial Tobacco, SSL International, Compass and William Morrison, and is a council member of the Advertising Standards Authority. She was president and chief executive of Smirnoff. From 2000 to 2002, she was also a nonexecutive director of Aberdeen Asset Management.

56 - Ian Wace is a co-founder of Marshall Wace Asset Management, one of Europe’s biggest hedge funds with about $14 billion under management. He became the youngest director of SG Warburg at 25 and was head of equities trading at Deutsche Bank, before quitting to launch Marshall Wace in 1997 with Paul Marshall. Mr Wace is one of the founders of the Absolute Return for Kids charity, which brings together the celebrity and financial worlds to raise money for children. He also uses his money to help to launch new hedge fund managers through the firm’s Eureka Strategic Partners. A supporter of the Conservatives, Mr Wace is a friend of Michael Heseltine.

57 - Nigel Boardman is a corporate partner at Slaughter and May, the City of London’s top legal firm. Best-known for high-profile mergers and acquisitions work – including defending Marks & Spencer against the hostile advances of Sir Philip Green and for steering the Astra-Zeneca merger – Mr Boardman is as comfortable advising on billion-pound bids as he is on mundane company restructurings. Aside from a year as a corporate financier at Kleinwort Benson, Mr Boardman is a Slaughter and May lifer and led the firm’s peerless corporate department for eight years during the dot-com bubble and subsequent downturn. He advises more chiefs of FTSE 100 companies than any other lawyer. The son of Lord Boardman, a Conservative cabinet minister who later chaired NatWest, Mr Boardman turned to law after reading history at Bristol. Married with five daughters and one son, he divides his spare time between his farmhouse in France and Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, which, as the club’s chief legal adviser, he helped to finance.

58 - John Connolly has spent his entire career at Deloitte. His fellow partners have consistently voted in favour of him staying in charge of the big four firm that he has revolutionised in recent years. He has insisted that the company retains its consulting arm, the only big accountancy practice to do so, and plays a significant role in advising some of the firm’s biggest clients, such as Royal Bank of Scotland, Vodafone and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts. Mr Connolly is outspoken, calling for transparency from his peers. The 57-year-old is a Manchester United season ticket-holder and a keen race-goer.

59 - David Blitzer, the managing director of Blackstone in Europe, was hand-picked to launch the European office in 2002. The 37-year-old has been tipped to succeed Stephen Schwarzman, Blackstone’s founder and chief executive. Under Mr Blitzer, Blackstone pulled off the acquisition of Scottish & Newcastle’s pub business, which merged with Spirit Group to create a £3.5 billion group, and the purchase of Southern Cross, the care home company. A graduate of University of Pennsylvania’s business school, last summer he was hauled in front of the Treasury Select Committee, with the industry’s other leading lights.

60 - Ken Hydon is a non-executive director of three large FTSE 100 companies: Tesco, Reckitt Benckiser and Pearson. He was among the cabal, which included Sir Christopher Gent and Sir Julian Horn-Smith, who transformed Vodafone into a global colossus from a small subsidiary of Racal Electronics. He joined Racal in 1977 and was finance director of Vodafone from 1985 to 2005. Mr Hydon, 63, is a nonexecutive director of the Royal Berkshire HNS Foundation Trust, the healthcare provider.

61 - Eric Knight is known as the “polite agitator”. The Dutch-born investor has made a big name for himself for someone who takes only small stakes in companies. He rose to prominence when Knight Vinke, his firm, took a stake in Royal Dutch/Shell and rallied others to help him to push for change. When Shell united its British and Dutch wings, Mr Knight was given much of the credit. More recently, he has been taking on another behemoth, this time in the financial services world at HSBC.

62 - Dominic Murphy is the 40-year-old wunderkind at the American private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts who beat the odds to see his firm acquire Alliance Boots in a £11.1 billion takeover. It was the first FTSE 100 company to be taken into private equity ownership and remains the largest leveraged buyout in Europe to date and the last big deal to squeak through before the credit markets came to a crashing halt. Mr Murphy famously told jittery MPs on the Treasury Select Committee that he would welcome more and cheaper debt with open arms and that tax-wise he was domiciled in the Irish Republic, not the UK. Why? they asked. It’s none of your business, he replied.

63 - John Fingleton The Competition Commission may have the teeth, but it is the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), whose chief executive since 2005 has been John Fingleton, that sets the agenda. Last year the banks, BAA and the supermarkets were in its sights. Mr Fingleton, an economist, was previously in charge of the Irish Competition Authority. At the OFT he has brought a tighter focus to a smaller number of high-profile issues. The watchdog does not have the resources, he says, for “fishing expeditions”.

64 - Lord Grabiner, QC, is head of One Essex Court, the country’s top commercial chambers. Reputed to charge £3,000 an hour, landmark cases include the Equitable Life saga. More recently Lord Grabiner, the son of an East End fur cutter, cemented his reputation when he told a judge that “even a moron in a hurry” could tell the difference between his client, Apple Computers, and the Beatles’ Apple corporation. He is chairman of Arcadia, one of only a handful of practising lawyers to chair a leading British company. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics, which he has served as chairman of the Court of Governors.

65 - Simon Robertson is a grandee of the City of London. He may be moulded in the old school, but, as the senior nonexecutive director of HSBC, is being tested by some of the toughest demands posed by modern capitalism. Knight Vinke, an activist shareholder, has aimed withering criticism at the management and strategy of the largest London-quoted bank. Mr Robertson joined Kleinwort Benson, the merchant bank, in 1963 and rose to become chairman in 1995. In 1997 he left to join Goldman Sachs as managing director and subsequently became president of the US bank in Europe. Mr Robertson has been chairman of Rolls-Royce since January 2005. He is also a nonexecutive director of The Economist Group, Berry Bros & Rudd, the wine merchant, and of the Royal Opera House. He chairs the trustees of the Royal Academy and is a trustee of the Eden Project.

66 - Paul Myners qualified as a teacher and worked for the Inner London Education Authority, which he describes as “a mistake for both of us”. After two years he became a business journalist and later spent 11 years at the investment bank NM Rothschild and another 16 years with Gartmore, the investment manager. He was commissioned by the Treasury to compile a number of reports, including one in 2000 to review institutional investment in the UK. After retiring from Gartmore in 2001, he took on a number of chairmanships and directorships at companies including the Guardian Media Group and Marks & Spencer. He is married with five children and lives in London and in Cornwall.

67 - Sir David Michels is Britain’s premier corporate hotelier of the past 40 years. He spent most of his early career with Grand Metropolitan and Ladbroke Group before spending much of the 1990s turning around the fortunes of Stakis, the struggling Scottish hotelier. He sold the business to Ladbroke, later renamed Hilton Group, and became group chief executive of the enlarged company in 2000. Sir David, who 40 years earlier had failed his finals at Hendon Technical College, stepped down six years later after overseeing the £3.3 billion sale of Hilton’s hotel business to Hilton Hotels Corporation of America, reuniting the Hilton brand globally for the first time since 1964. He spends much of his time as senior European strategist to Strategic Hotels & Resorts, the US hotel property investor. He has an impressive array of nonexecutive directorships, including British Land, Marks & Spencer, easyJet, RAB Capital and Jumeirah Group, the Dubai-based luxury hotelier. He is a trustee of the Anne Frank Trust.

68 - Bryan Sanderson was parachuted into Northern Rock, the stricken mortgage bank, in October when Matt Ridley vacated the chairmanship. As a former chairman of Sunderland Football Club and chair of the city’s regeneration quango, he has plenty of local knowledge. He also knows a thing or two about banking – he was chairman of Standard Chartered from 2003 to 2006. Mr Sanderson sat on the board of Six Continents, the renamed Bass brewing empire, from 2001 to 2003 and was a nonexecutive director of Corus, formerly British Steel, from 1994 to 2001. He spent much of his early career with BP, rising to head its chemicals business.

69 - Marcus Agius, chairman of Barclays, former chairman of BAA, former chairman of Lazard London, is a man of smooth, unshakeable charm. Before leaving Lazard at the end of 2006, he had owned the same house, been married to the same wife and had the same job for 33 years. But while the name of the company stayed the same, the work changed hugely. Mr Agius joined Lazard in 1972. The company was protected from being bought up in the 1980s by being majority-owned by Pearson but was eventually floated in 2005. At BAA, first as a nonexecutive director and then, from 2002, as chairman, he orchestrated the £10.3 billion offer from Ferrovial in 2006. Asked that same year whether he would be chairman of Barclays, it took him a “nanosecond” to say yes. A keen gardener, his wildflower meadow is, apparently, a sight to behold.

70 - Sir Philip Hampton is a shrewd and decisive boardroom player who earned a formidable reputation as finance director of four FTSE 100 companies. He was with British Steel from 1990 to 1996, British Gas from 1996 to 2000, British Telecom from 2000 to 2002 and Lloyds TSB from 2002 to 2004. Sir Philip trained as an auditor with Coopers & Lybrand and spent nine years at Lazard, the investment bank. He served as a nonexecutive director of RMC, the cement maker, from 2002 to 2005, but it is as chairman of J Sainsbury, the supermarket, that he has gained a high public profile. Sir Philip is a keen sailor and has competed in the ARC transatlantic yacht race.

71 - Jon Moulton is the managing partner Alchemy Partners and one of the founding fathers of the modern private equity industry. He played a part in setting up Permira, originally an arm of Schroders, in 1985, as well as setting up Alchemy in 1997 after leaving Apax. Given the success he has achieved, it is ironic that Alchemy is best known for trying to buy Rover – a deal that did not work out. Success, however, comes to dealmakers with the courage to walk away.

72 - Mary Francis has worked at the heart of government and the head of business. She has been a senior civil servant, spending four years as deputy private secretary to the Queen, and three years as the economic and domestic affairs private secretary to John Major. She was director-general of the Association of British Insurers from 1999 to 2005. She earns her place in this list as the nonexecutive director of four large quoted companies: Aviva, the insurer; Centrica, the gas supplier; Alliance & Leicester, the mortgage bank; St Modwen Properties; and the Bank of England.

73 - Lord Coe, chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games, is a double Olympic gold medal-winner and former Tory MP. The hot seat he fills is likely to get hotter as pressure on costs increases. At the last count they exceed £9 billion. Fears of ballooning costs will also sharpen scrutiny of the postGames use of the facilities and the intention to regenerate run-down areas of East London.

74 - Lady Patten worked in the corporate banking division of Citibank before joining Wells Fargo in 1981 and PA Consulting in 1985. Lady Patten of Wincanton is nonexecutive chairman of Brixton, the property company, and nonexecutive of Bradford & Bingley, the demutualised building society, and Marks & Spencer. She sits on the advisory board of Bain, the management consultant.

75 - Lord Stern’s weighty report into the economics of climate change made the former World Bank chief economist a household name. But it also confirmed him as a voice that will be heard outside the circles of policy wonks and professional economists, among whom he has long been influential and revered. Lord Stern, a former Treasury official, serves as a cross-bencher in the House of Lords, as well as continuing his research at the London School of Economics.

76 - Nat Rothschild. The 36-year-old son of Lord Jacob Rothschild has a surname that is synonymous with wealth and power. The Oxford history graduate is co-president of Atticus, a hedge fund with about £10 billion under management. Atticus flexed its muscles in dramatic fashion last year when it built up a stake in Barclays, then pursuing an ambitious plan buy ABN Amro, its Dutch rival. Mr Rothschild, worth an estimated £1.3 billion, is one of the financial world’s most eligible bachelors and has been seen out with Petrina Khashoggi, Ivanka Trump and Natalie Portman. He is a director of RIT Capital and Champps Entertainment, an American “beer, burgers and sports” chain. He is chairman of JNR, a London-based investment company, and Vivarte, a French clothes retailer.

77 - Simon Cowell’s reputation as television’s Mr Nasty betrays the business nous that he has used to build an entertainment empire on both sides of the Atlantic. Mr Cowell has positioned himself as both producer and judge on talent shows such as X-Factor, Britain’s Got Talent and Inventor. Through American Idol he has also become US television’s third-biggest earner. Last year he is estimated to have earned £22.5 million and his wealth is estimated at £100 million.

78 - Charles Dunstone. The co-founder and chief executive of Carphone Warehouse launched the business with savings of £6,000 and the help of David Ross, his school friend from Uppingham, in a gloomy warehouse in West London. Today the company – in which Mr Dunstone has a 33 per cent stake – is Europe’s biggest mobile handset retailer and the UK’s third-biggest broadband supplier. This year Carphone entered the FTSE 100. It also acquired a 3 per cent shareholder in the form of BestBuy, the American retailer. Now speculation is rife that Mr Dunstone, 43, is plotting his exit through a sale to the US giant. Mr Dunstone, a keen sailor, is also a nonexecutive director of HBOS and of Daily Mail and General Trust.

79 - Sir David Clementi is chairman of Prudential, the insurer and fund management group, and a nonexecutive director of Rio Tinto, the mining company. He is a former deputy governor of the Bank of England and served as one of the first members of the Monetary Policy Committee. Sir David, an accountant, made his name in the City with Kleinwort Benson. He rose through the ranks of the merchant bank and helped it to advise the Conservative government on a string of privatisations. Sir David became Kleinwort’s chief executive in 1994. He is an honorary fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford.

80 - Roger Carr, together with Sir Nigel Rudd and Brian McGowan, helped to create Williams Holdings, a company that started on a forecourt in Derby and quickly grew into an engineering conglomerate. By 2000 Williams refocused itself on security and split itself into Kidde and Chubb. Mr Carr was chairman of Chubb from 2000 to 2002. In 2003 he was made chairman of Mitchells & Butlers and was appointed deputy chairman of Cadbury. He was made chairman of Centrica a year later. Mr Carr is a senior adviser to KKR.

81 - Dorothy Thompson is the chief executive of Drax. She has presided over a resurgence in the company, which produces 7 per cent of the UK’s electricity from a coal-powered plant near Doncaster. Recruited in 2005, just as rising energy prices were improving Drax’s ailing prospects, she floated the company on the London Stock Exchange. Ms Thompson has invested about £100 million in more efficient technology and biomass projects. She joined Powergen’s international arm in 1993 and in 1998 she joined InterGen, where she became head of the company’s European business.

82 - Sir Adrian Montague has been dubbed Gordon Brown’s favourite City fixer for the troubleshooting role that he has played for the Government in the past ten years. The former Linklaters solicitor and Kleinwort Benson banker has advised ministers, including the John Prescott, on the Private Finance Initiative, and played critical roles in the government-sponsored rescues of Network Rail and British Energy. Sir Adrian was also brought into Crossrail as chairman. His reputation for salvaging lost causes dates back to his time as an investment banker at Kleinwort Benson, where he led the Eurotunnel debt restructuring negotiations. Described by City sources as “silky smooth and assured” with spades of political sensitivity, the 59-year-old is a Cambridge University graduate.

83 - Richard Lambert, Director-General of the CBI and a former editor of the Financial Times. He has shown that the voice of British industry need not shout in order to be heard. This year he is likely to increase pressure on Alistair Darling to abandon capital gains tax reforms. Mr Lambert, 63, was appointed by Gordon Brown to the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee, on which he served between 2003 and 2006. He joined the FT in 1966 after leaving Oxford and is married with a son and a daughter.

84 - Sir Deryck Maughan is a non-executive director of GlaxoSmithKline and Reuters and is chairman and managing director of KKR Asia. Sir Deryck is a former chief executive of Citigroup International and spent ten years at the Treasury before leaving in 1979. He was chief executive of Salomon Brothers between 1992 and 1998. He lives in New York and is married with one daughter.

85 - Sir John Parker’s biggest current role is as nonexecutive chairman of National Grid, the company that owns most of the electricity wires and gas pipelines. One of his first jobs was with Harland and Wolff, the shipbuilder based in his native Northern Ireland, and, having served as a nonexecutive director of P&O Princess Cruises, he is on the board of Carnival, its acquirer. Sir John was chairman of the sister company, Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation, before its purchase by Dubai Ports World, the Gulf-based logistics giant, and remains an adviser to the new owners.

86 - Paul Walsh, 52, shows that you do not have to hop between companies to secure a senior position in corporate life. Mr Walsh has worked for Diageo and Grand Metropolitan, its predecessor, since 1982. He became chief executive in 2000, having previously served as chief executive of Pillsbury, the food company then owned by the group. He joined Centrica as a nonexecutive director in 2003 and serves in a similar capacity in Federal Express, the mailing business, and Ceridian Corporation, the data management concern.

87 - Brendan Barber Trade unionists hold half, at most, the power that they did 30 years ago, when Brendan Barber joined the TUC, yet Mr Barber, general secretary since 2003, is a consciously modern leader of the organisation. He is an exponent of the new unionism that seeks closer cooperation between governments and companies. He favours integration with Europe and has been among the few voices seeking to extend rather than to limit the influence of Brussels. It would be a mistake to assume that he has forgotten the central purpose of his organisation, however. He is a vocal critic of the way that public sector workers are paid and has lobbied hard on behalf of those worried about the negative implications of private equity ownership.

88 - John Hutton, Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, was a keen supporter of Tony Blair who has become a key player in Gordon Brown’s Government. His appointment last June to the revamped Department of Business and Enterprise was considered part of Gordon Brown’s desire to cultivate closer links with the business community. His remit has also been to set greener standards for business, with an aim to hit lower carbon targets in future. Most recently, he has attracted controversy for his assertion that a new wave of up to 20 nuclear reactors must be built to meet power needs while reducing carbon emissions.

89 - Dame Marjorie Scardino was the first woman to become chief executive of a FTSE 100 company. She is now one of the longest-serving FTSE 100 chief executives, male or female, having guided Pearson, the educational publisher that also owns Penguin books and the Financial Times, since 1997. Dame Marjorie was president and then chief executive of the Economist Group, 50 per cent of which is owned by Pearson, between 1985 and 1997 and also served as a non-executive with AOL. She was appointed a Dame in 2002 and holds the Benjamin Franklin Medal for contribution to Anglo-American relations. She is a non-executive director of Nokia, the mobile telephone handsets manufacturer, and is a Trustee of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

90 - Sir Christopher Gent transformed Vodafone, the mobile telecoms company, from a glint in the eye of Racal Electronics, its original parent, into the largest company of its type in the world. The acrimonious and much-criticised acquisition of Mannesmann, the German rival, in 2000 marred Sir Christopher’s 18-year career at the Newbury-based company, but his record is one that has few comparators. He retired as chief executive of the company in 2003 and became nonexecutive chairman of GlaxoSmithKline, one of the world’s largest pharmaceuticals group, in 2004.

91 - Sir Philip Green. The Croydon-born wheeler-dealer leads an empire stretching from Bhs to Dorothy Perkins, taking in Topshop and Miss Selfridge along the way. Based in Monaco, Sir Philip’s jet-setting, celebrity-studded lifestyle has attracted the headlines: Kate Moss is a personal friend and last year he flew friends to the Maldives for his 55th birthday party, where they were entertained by George Michael. But a tough year awaits. “It was a bloody tough season,” he said of last year. “If you get out of a season like that alive, you’ve done good.” He has twice tried to win control of Marks & Spencer, having a hostile bid fended off by his old friend Sir Stuart Rose.

92 - Sir Richard Branson’s journey to billionairedom started with a mail-order record business in 1969. His unbounded ambition and keen eye for self-promotion have meant that there is hardly a national cause célèbre unconnected with Sir Richard. Most intriguing for this year, however, are his plans for Northern Rock. Sir Richard is vying with Luqman Arnold’s Olivant to take over the bank but there are big questions over whether either can raise the necessary finance.

93 - John Kelly Gala Coral is one of Britain’s biggest private companies and John Kelly, its chairman, is the man who created it. The company is now controlled by Candover, Cinven and Permira, and has 171 bingo clubs, 31 casinos and nearly 1,600 betting shops with total turnover last year of £1.3 billion. A flotation, tipped to value the company at up to £5 billion including debt, is likely in about two years’ time. Mr Kelly is also chairman of Trainline and serves on the board of Business in the Community.

94 - William Lawes is co-head of worldwide financial institutions practice at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, the law firm. He was thrust into the spotlight last summer when key client Northern Rock ran into difficulty and is now advising the stricken lender on its negotiations with the Bank of England, the Treasury and a host of potential bidders. It also confirms his reputation as the lawyer of choice for major financial groups.

95- Lord Stevenson For years Dennis Stevenson, now Lord Stevenson of Coddenham, was the ultimate eminence grise of British business. A trusted behind-the-scenes confidant of business leaders and ministers, his own personal profile as chairman of consultants SRU was ultra-low. That all changed when he became chairman of Halifax, later HBOS, and of Pearson Group. Lord Stevenson, now 62, remains chairman of HBOS and is also a director of The Economist.

96 - Luke Johnson styles himself an unrepentant capitalist and for years wrote a column called The Maverick. It is no surprise, then, that the Channel 4 chairman is an entrepreneur of flair who organised the acquisition of PizzaExpress before he turned 30. He founded Signature restaurants, which owned The Ivy, Le Caprice and the Belgo diners. He also started the Strada restaurant chain from scratch. Having made several fortunes with apparent ease, his task at Channel 4 is to turn a profit from a broadcaster whose commercial roots belie a strong public service tradition.

97 - Sir Mark Moody Stuart has carved himself a reputation as a champion of health-related good causes. Sir Mark spent most of his career with Shell, the oil giant, which he joined in 1966 at the age of 25. He was chairman and managing director before serving as a nonexecutive director from 2001 until 2005. He has chaired Anglo American, the miner, since 2002, has served as a nonexecutive director of HSBC since 2001, and is a non-executive director of Accenture, the management consultancy. But he is also a governor of Nuffield Hospitals; president of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, and chairman of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS.

98 - Robert Peston, business editor of the BBC, is a controversial choice, not least because there will be many who think his investigative journalism hinders rather than helps the commercial cause. But his voice, albeit characteristically hesitant, is one of the most authoritative. His success at the BBC, notably during the Northern Rock debacle, is based on his wide experience and keen intellect, some of which he appears to hide in order to convey key financial news items to his wide and largely untutored audience.

99 - Allan Leighton No one can suggest that Allan Leighton, chairman of Royal Mail, has fashioned the British postal service into a world-class business. Not yet at least. But he deserves all credit for taking on what must be one of the most difficult, yet critically important, management challenges there is. Mr Leighton is renowned for his attention to detail. At Mars, where he spent 18 of his early years, he went as far as eating the cat food produced by the group. He was one of the first self-appointed “pluralists”. He picked up a large handful of nonexecutive directorships after leaving Asda in 1999 - he has sat on the boards of Wilson Connolly, the housebuilder;; Leeds Sporting, the football club company; ScottishPower; Dyson; and BSkyB.

100 - Michael Todd, QC, is Britain’s top company law barrister. He is one of the first people to call for legal advice on complex corporate restructurings and contested takeovers. Mr Todd, of Erskine Chambers, has helped to solve some of the world’s most complicated business disputes during 30 years at the bar and is fêted for his clear and sound advice both in and out of the courtroom. Mr Todd advised Allied Domecq, the drinks group now owned by Pernod Ricard, when its retail division became the subject of a fierce takeover battle between Whitbread and Punch Taverns. He worked on the demergers of WH Smith and GUS and, after steering Hiscox, the insurer, through its trend-setting establishment of a Bermuda-based holding company, Mr Todd has developed a significant sideline advising on Bermuda and Cayman Islands structures. (source: Timesonline)

Friday, 18 January 2008

Nintendo Wii dominated Argos toys sales over Christmas

Argos yesterday reported a fall in sales of traditional toys over the Christmas period after Britain's love affair with the Nintendo Wii video game console. Argos yesterday said that gaming and technology products dominated its list of bestsellers over the festive period. It took more than £4 million-worth of telephone and internet orders for the Wii console on November 30 alone.

Mr Terry Duddy, Chief Executive of Home Retail Group (owner of Argos) said: “We could have gone on selling everything Nintendo supplied. It wasn't a great Christmas for toys but games were up 40% year on year. Parents were happy to buy a Wii and put it in the front room for their kids.” The success of the Wii has already seen Game Group emerge as one of the winners on the high street over Christmas and the console also helped HMV to report record festive sales.

Argos limited the fall in overall like-for-like sales to 0.2% during the 18 weeks to January 5. Total sales were up 2.5% to £1.9billion and margins were flat. Mr Duddy said that group profits for the year to March should be up to £15 million higher than forecast in the City. He predicted £430 million to £435 million, a rise of about 15% on the previous year. Shares in the group close down 5p at 266p despite a rise in early trading. The shares are 35% below levels seen a year ago.

Argos said the internet accounted for 23% of sales over the festive period with a growing number of customers collecting their goods from the stores. (source: Timesonline) - Velocity Interactive Group - New Investment Company (article on Nintendo Wii’s Christmas predictions)

Qantas, the Australian airline, has said it will seek compensation from Boeing for its order of 65 of the fuel-efficient aircraft, after a second delay in the delivery of the planemaker's 787 Dreamliner jet. Qantas said that the further delays to the delivery announced earlier this week would hurt its growth plans.

Production problems mean Boeing will not start deliveries of the Dreamliner until early 2009, with Japan's All Nippon Airways due to be the first recipient. Qantas said it would not get the first batch of its planes before next May, although a delivery date was yet to be confirmed.

Other Boeing customers could also seek compensation for the delays - the second time the US firm has put back its planned production schedule because of manufacturing problems. The new delay, estimated at three-months, puts it 10 months behind schedule.

All Nippon Airways, which has 50 planes on order, said it would examine the effects the delays will have on its business before making a decision about whether to claim compensation. Other customers that could be affected include British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and First Choice, as well as a number of Chinese airlines. (source: BBC News) - 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.)

Businessman of the Month – It is time that I continue with businessman of the month after I have not done this regularly as promised over the last couple of weeks. This has been due to the fact that I have been on holiday and did not have the time to regularly update the business news or concentrate on Businessman/personality of the month. With the holiday period now over, it is time to concentrate on this again. The businessman/personality of the month for February (since January is almost over) will be Mr Johann Rupert, Non-executive Chairman of the highly successful Remgro Group Ltd).

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Profits for HMV

HMV and Waterstone's bucked the trend of gloom on Britain's high street and predicted that full year pre-tax profits would be near the top end of the City's expectations after a glooming Christmas period by a bumper DVD, music and books line-up and strong growth online.

In stark contrast to the profit warnings and senior management departures that accompanied a dire Christmas a year ago, HMV said that like-for-like sales were up 9.4% in the five weeks to January 5 this year. HMV reported that it was the best growth by a long way since floating in 2002.

Chief executive Simon Fox, who has been pushing through an overhaul of the business to try to get to grips with shoppers' growing desire to buy online, said the changes had helped "deliver a highly successful Christmas. The product markets that we operate in have generally been buoyant, it was a very strong Christmas for DVD and for games. We've moved into higher growth areas like technology products."

HMV's shares jumped 14% to 115p in early trading after the company pledged that full-year pre-tax profits would "be towards the upper end of current market expectations"

Within the group, HMV UK & Ireland enjoyed like-for-like sales growth of 14.1% over Christmas. Waterstone's performance was less impressive, with sales at the bookseller up 4% on a like-for-like basis. However, the company's international business, which includes stores in Canada, Hong Kong and Singapore, saw like-for-like sales drop 0.6% over the key Christmas period. Fox said that was largely down to a Canadian rival going bust before Christmas and selling off its stock at clearance prices. (source: The Guardian)

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Even more delays for the Dreamliner

It is understood that the awaiting of Boeing's all-new 787 Dreamliner aircraft is facing additional delays. The company likely will face financial penalties for late deliveries as a result and this drove its stock price down nearly 5%.

Boeing is expected to announce up to a three-month delay, perhaps as early as Wednesday morning. The Dreamliner team is struggling with technical and manufacturing challenges, which include continuing parts shortages, preparations to ramp up production, and struggles to get the first plane ready for its inaugural flight.

Additional delays mean Boeing would be hard pressed to deliver 109 Dreamliners in 2009, as promised. As news of a potential delay began to spread, Wall Street wasted little time selling off the stock. Boeing shares fell 3.81 yesterday or 4.7%.

A Boeing spokesman on Tuesday declined to comment on reports that the Chicago-based aerospace giant was preparing to announce a further delay in the Dreamliner program. Boeing has announced orders for 817 Dreamliners from 53 airlines and leasing firms, pushing the list-price value of the program to $135 billion (£67.5 billion).

Boeing is trying to avoid copying the two-year delay that ensnared Airbus and its much larger A380 Super-Jumbo jetliner. What's more, further 787 delays could send some customers flocking to Airbus, which now has a much more credible lightweight, medium-size jetliner, the A350, to offer as an alternative. (source: Business Week) - BP fined for a record amount (Article on Dreamliner delays) (Also see Wednesday 12th December 2007 entry for more on this.)

Terra Firma, owner of EMI, plans to cut 2,000 jobs and reduce costs by £200 million. This was heard by more than 500 EMI employees who crowded into the Odeon cinema on Kensington High Street, near the embattled music company’s head office yesterday.

Two meetings of about an hour each were held for staff, who filled the cinema’s largest auditorium to hear a presentation from Guy Hands, chief executive of Terra Firma, the company’s new private equity owner.

Few of the 100 or so staff from the first meeting who emerged into the drizzle would comment, but those who did said that they were not angry at the prospect of mass redundancies, but accepted that EMI needed a new direction. Some said that the presentation by Mr Hands was “very inspiring” and that he had been given a round of applause.

Some of the 400 staff who left after the second meeting, which started at 11.30am and ended shortly before 1pm, said that they were worried about losing their jobs, but agreed that change was unavoidable.

Mr Hands slipped out of the cinema via the side door without commenting. Lord Birt, the former BBC director-general who joined Terra Firma as an adviser in 2005, also attended the event but refused to comment. (source: Timesonline)