13 Aug 2018

Stuart Taylor

13 Aug 2018

Good morning, 

The Premier League transfer window might have closed on Thursday but that didn’t stop Mike Ashley on Friday splashing out £90m on a 169-year-old star signing that has struggled for form in recent times.
For that was the princely sum the Newcastle United owner paid for House of Fraser, vowing to transform his new purchase into “the Harrods of the high street”. The acquisition means the company’s stores, brand and stock will be subsumed into Ashley’s Sport Direct chain, with the retail mogul pledging to safeguard as many of its 59 stores as possible.
The manner of the purchase, which saw the controversial billionaire buy the company only hours after it fell into the hands of administrators, has brought significant scrutiny from several parties with everyone from industry experts, the pensions watchdog, suppliers, staff and once-attracted bidders all interested in the swoop.
As a consequence of the company slipping into administration before being sold, its pension liabilities will now pass to the Pension Production Fund, leaving 5,000 pensioners with the prospect of a reduced income in retirement. And that’s not all who have an uncertain future, with suppliers and other unsecured creditors facing an anxious wait over what will happen to the millions owed to them.
Ashley this morning has been given some words of advice on how best to tackle these challenges - from the man he defeated in Friday's bidding war. Philip Day, the owner of Edinburgh Woollen Mill, has suggested that Ashley “do the right thing” and stump up the additional £70m owed to creditors.
However, if there is one thing we know about the man being dubbed the ‘new emperor of the high street’ it's that he’ll do it his way in the pursuit of his ambitions to shed his “Mr Tracksuit” image and propel one of retail’s premier teams back to the top of the league.


The UK government will today unveil a £100m plan to end rough sleeping on England's streets by 2027. The Rough Sleeping Strategy will focus on preventing people from becoming homeless by giving support for mental health and addictions, as well as funding for housing.

Delays at Heathrow airport passport control left passengers queuing for up to two and half hours last month, according to figures obtained by Virgin Atlantic. On 30 out of 31 days in July, the Border Force missed its target of a 45-minute wait. The Home Office has said its performance was worsened by a "large numbers of vulnerable adults and children arriving", alongside a number of computer errors.

An explosion at an arms depot in rebel-controlled northern Syria has killed at least 39 people. The region is expecting an onslaught by President Assad’s forces as the Syrian government prepares to consolidate the president’s total control over the country’s urban centres. (£)


Business & Economy 

Tesla is preparing for a bombardment of lawsuits from short-sellers furious at founder Elon Musk's shock plans to take the company private. Two lawsuits have already been lodged by short-sell investors – who profit when a share price falls – after they claimed Musk misled the market on Tuesday by tweeting about his proposals, which caused shares to spike by 11%.
A Tory MP has joined forces with the Fair Fuel UK campaign group to demand assurances from the Competitions and Markets Authority that they will monitor petrol prices in the event of the proposed £12 billion merger of Asda and J Sainsbury. Robert Halfon MP has raised concerns that the merger would give the retailers the largest market share of petrol in the UK and this will raise prices at the pumps. (£)
Turkey’s finance minister will today unveil a plan to reverse the freefall in the country’s currency, as investors called for drastic action to avert a deeper crisis. Berat Albayrak said in a newspaper interview yesterday that “precaution and action plans” were ready as the Turkish lira hit a record low. The Turkish central bank has already pledged “all necessary measures” to shore up the financial system, including easing reserve requirements on banks. (£)


The week ahead
Tomorrow will see copper producer Antofagasta report its first-half results. It comes only a month after the copper producer issued a second-quarter trading update which showed a 6.1% rise in copper production from last year. Also on Tuesday, UK economic data from the Office for National Statistics will be published and its likely to offer context to the recent decision by the Bank of England to raise interest rates. The bank raised rates on the basis that they expected the tight labour market and low productivity to raise costs for businesses and lead to rising inflation, taming spending growth more in line with productivity. Tuesday will offer the first test of this theory.
It’s a busy week for the ONS as they publish July’s inflation figures on Wednesday, where signs of rising domestic inflation will be closely watched. Retail sales data for last month will be announced on Thursday. It has been a summer of high-profile events including the World Cup and the royal wedding, though there have been indications that the hot weather has stifled high street sales. Walmart, the world’s largest retail chain, will report second-quarter results on Thursday.
Finally, a two-day summit of the Southern African Development Community is due to take place in Namibia against a backdrop of political upheaval and economic stagnation.


Plus500 Ltd (DI)

UniVision Engineering Ltd.
Albion Venture Capital Trust


Columns of Note 

In his latest column, Kevin Pringle argues that older doesn’t always mean wiser when it comes to the big issues of today. Writing in The Sunday Times, Pringle says that the ambitions of young people on matters such as Europe and independence are being “submerged by the opposition of their elders”.
Ahead of Friday's summit of the Southern African Development Community, the FT’s Big Read focuses on Africa and the rapid spread of technology in the continent. Although this innovation will be a key economic driver, it is recognised that Africa cannot realise its true potential if this is not complemented with good governance. (£)

Did you know?

A German sewage treatment plant plays Mozart music to break down the waste faster. The chief operator of the Treuenbrietzen plant was quoted as saying, "We think the secret is in the vibrations of the music, which penetrate everything—including the water, the sewage and the cells.”

Parliamentary highlights 

House of Commons
In recess until 4 September 2018
House of Lords
In recess until 4 September 2018
Scottish Parliament
In recess until 4 September 2018