FT Opening Quote – Capita suspends dividend, warns on profits


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What’s the most frustrating job in corporate Britain today? Apart from middle manager at Carillion asking why on earth did the directors keep bidding for contracts? And keep overlooking the pension deficit? And keep reassuring the so-called auditors?

Arguably, it’s middle manager at at any other UK outsourcer, trying to address similar questions, writes Matthew Vincent.

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FT Opening Quote – Zoopla’s right moves on the home market


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If the wider public likes to joke about estate agents in order to feel a bit superior, do property portals do the same? ZPG, owner of the Zoopla portal, does not – but some analysts almost think it should, writes Matthew Vincent.

In a trading update this morning, ahead of its annual general meeting, ZPG simply said that in the three months to December 31 it “signed multiple new long-term portal listing and data services agreements with some of the UK’s largest estate agents”.

Continue reading: FT Opening Quote – Zoopla’s right moves on the home market

FT Opening Quote – Pension and audit probes at Carillion


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If Carillion’s former directors, pension trustees, auditors or even pension regulators were hoping the news agenda might have moved on by now, Opening Quote has news for them. And it’s not good news, writes Matthew Vincent.

This week, the Work and Pensions Select Committee is turning its attention to the collapsed construction group’s pension scheme funding – and the committee chairman has already accused the management of spending ten years trying to “wriggle out” of its pension obligations.

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FT Opening Quote – Asos fashions 28% sales rise


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When does the alternative become mainstream? To dedicated followers of music, it never can and it never should – as those mourning the death of Mark E Smith of The Fall have been noting this morning (even his acclaimed 1985 album This Nation’s Saving Grace was described as “just on the edge of the mainstream” by The Guardian).

To dedicated followers of fashion, though, it’s not a life-long distinction, writes Matthew Vincent. Especially not with online fashion pioneer Asos still trading on the Alternative Investment Market – but commanding the market value of a blue-chip FTSE 100 company.

Continue reading: FT Opening Quote – Asos fashions 28% sales rise

FT Opening Quote – Crest margins slip as London sales slow


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Crest Nicholson shareholders: big-time winners, or small time-losers?

It depends on whether you look at the housebuilder’s absolute or relative return, writes Matthew Vincent. Crest’s share price rose by 20 per cent in calendar year 2017, which is an extraordinary 12-month performance… until you realise that its rivals shares rose by an average of 43 per cent.

Continue reading: FT Opening Quote – Crest margins slip as London sales slow

FT Opening Quote – CMA says Fox/Sky deal ‘not in public interest’


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Good morning. Here is the news. Which could very likely soon not be news. But there is a chance that it might not be non-news. So, for now, it is very big news, writes Matthew Vincent.

This morning the Competition and Markets Authority has sensationally ruled that the takeover of Sky by the Murdoch family’s 21st Century Fox is not in the public interest because of its likely effect on media plurality in the UK.

Continue reading: FT Opening Quote – CMA says Fox/Sky deal ‘not in public interest’

FT Opening Quote – Dixons Carphone lowers profit guidance


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How was your Sunday? Church in the morning… roast lunch… walk to the pub… sudden desire to recalculate the value of your order book, phone your PRs and have them issue a press release…? No?

That last activity was probably not top of the list for many of you, writes Matthew Vincent. But you’re not all head of GKN’s automotive division and facing a hostile takeover bid from Melrose, are you? Spare a thought, then for Phil Swash, who seems to have foregone the sermonising, the horseradish and a few swift halves in favour of a spreadsheet.

Continue reading: FT Opening Quote – Dixons Carphone lowers profit guidance

FT Opening Quote – Carillion questions over exec bonuses


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Carillion’s collapse and liquidation are set to have more repercussions today – and provoke more recriminations.

Among the more astonishing facts to emerge yesterday was that not a single direct employee had been dismissed from the construction group. “Everyone is still on the payroll,” said the Official Receiver on Monday – including, it would seem, former boss Richard Howson, who stepped down last July but will keep receiving his £660,000 salary and £28,000 of benefits until October.

Continue reading: FT Opening Quote – Carillion questions over exec bonuses

FT Opening Quote – Liquidators called in at Carillion


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Carillion’s journey from reporting “an encouraging start to the year”, “new orders” and “increased revenue visibility”, to a writing down of its construction contracts by £845m, to struggling with debt and unpaid suppliers, to entering compulsory liquidation has taken… just 258 days.

Continue reading: FT Opening Quote – Liquidators called in at Carillion

FT Opening Quote – Bovis builds better balance sheet but fewer homes


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Bovis Homes this morning became the latest housebuilder to update on its 2017 performance, emphasising its quality over quantity as it reported 3,645 completions, down from 3,977 in 2016.

“There has been a step change in the quality of our homes delivered on completion and I’m pleased to see this reflected in our level of customer satisfaction which continues to improve,” said Greg Fitzgerald, chief executive.

Overall average selling prices increased 7 per cent to £272,000 (2016: £254,900k). There are total forward sales of 2,656 units with a value of £518m. Profits before tax, exceptional and one-off items are said to be in-line with management expectation. Bovis reports “excellent progress with balance sheet restructuring resulting in a £145m year end net cash balance”.

Continue reading: FT Opening Quote – Bovis builds better balance sheet but fewer homes

FT Opening Quote – M&S sales fall, Tesco’s festive rise


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Marks and Spencer’s latest innovations in clothing and food show it is still trying to be all things to all people, writes Matthew Vincent. This week, it launched an eclectic plus-size women’s fashion range called ‘Curve’, while at the same time proposing customers lunched on an ascetic vegetarian dish, called ‘Cauliflower Steaks’ (yes, basically two slices of the low-calorie vegetable in a lemon drizzle, costing £2.50).

This morning’s third quarter trading update suggests M&S needs the curvature to sell more than the cauliflower.

Continue reading: FT Opening Quote – M&S sales fall, Tesco’s festive rise

FT Opening Quote – Persimmon tops out 2017 with 9% sales rise


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Finding it hard to get back to work, after the festive break? Then just imagine how Jeff Fairburn, Persimmon’s chief executive, feels.

On New Year’s Eve, he received the first £50m chunk of his controversial £110m bonus. Another 150 executives were due to share some £400m. It’s not likely to make any of them feel a need to leap out of bed this freezing January morning, is it? Or, as Numis prefers to express it, it could lead to problems with senior management retention.

Continue reading: FT Opening Quote – Persimmon tops out 2017 with 9% sales rise

FT Opening Quote – Debenhams sales decline, Fat Cat Thursday


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Still got the back-to-work blues? What’s wrong with you? It might only be January 4, but the City’s finest have already successfully implemented – or partly waived – 1.7m paragraphs of new Mifid II regulations, and earned as much as the average employee does all year, writes Matthew Vincent. And it’s almost the weekend again!

Continue reading: FT Opening Quote – Debenhams sales decline, Fat Cat Thursday

FT Opening Quote – Christmas chill warms Next sales


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Next always seems to go first in reporting what’s happening to retail sales, writes Matthew Vincent. This is perhaps nominally appropriate – and moderately helpful to rivals. In early January 2017, the clothing chain was first to forewarn that rising inflation would hit consumer spending – knocking £948m off its own market capitalisation, but making it easier for Marks & Spencer and others to break their own bad news later on. In 2018, however, it may be easier to be Next than next.

Continue reading: FT Opening Quote – Christmas chill warms Next sales

FT Opening Quote – Cousins gave City its compass


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Cousins

Compass Group will not be the only company to feel the loss of Richard Cousins, its chief executive who died on Sunday, writes Matthew Vincent. When, last September, Cousins announced his intention to step down as chief executive of the FTSE 100 caterer after 11 years, the FT Lombard column was not alone in suggesting others could have benefited from his food for thought. Not least Tesco, from which he had earlier resigned over an objection to its proposed Booker acquisition.

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FT Opening Quote – Let the star content wars begin


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Thursday December 14 will go down in history as the day that the Walt Disney Company wrote a new chapter in the history of a once feared empire, and settled the destiny of one who was taught to wield mysterious power by a wise and wizened old master. But enough of Star Wars, Luke Skywalker and his mentor Yoda, writes Matthew Vincent. In other news, Disney is buying the entertainment assets of the 21st Century Fox empire, and deciding the destiny of James Murdoch, who had run the business for his father: the legendary media mogul Rupert.

Continue reading: FT Opening Quote – Let the star content wars begin

FT Opening Quote – Dixons Carphone profits fall 60%


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Customers are used to be being put on hold by retailers. Retailers are less used to being put on hold by customers, writes Matthew Vincent. But that is exactly what has happened to Dixons Carphonethis year: customers decided to put their mobile phone upgrades on hold, refusing to choose expensive new models, and forced the electricals retailer to ring up a profit warning.

Continue reading: FT Opening Quote – Dixons Carphone profits fall 60%