Marks & Spencer boss Steve Rowe to step down after six years


Marks & Spencer boss Steve Rowe to step down from firm he joined when he was just 15 – as retailer embarks on part two of its ‘transformation’

  • Steve Rowe became chief executive of Marks & Spencer in 2016
  • The 54-year old worked his way up the ranks, having joined at just 15
  • He will be replaced by current chief operating officer Stuart Machin in May

Marks & Spencer chief executive Steve Rowe is to step down in May after six years at the helm of the retailer.

Rowe, 54, joined the firm straight out of school when he was just 15, is credited with leading M&S though a transformational period of change growth.

His tenure as boss saw the revival of the M&S food business, including the joint venture with Ocado, the return of profitable growth within its international business an overhaul of its organisational structure.

Outgoing boss Steve Rowe: ‘It has been an enormous privilege to lead the business I love have spent almost all my career working for’

Rowe, who rose to chief executive over more than three decades in different roles with the firm, also oversaw the closure of over 60 unprofitable ‘legacy’ stores.

He will stdown on 25 May at the company’s preliminary results ‘as part of a planned succession programme’, M&S said, with the top job handed to current chief operating officer Stuart Machin.

Rowe said it was ‘an enormous privilege to lead the business I love have spent almost all my career working for,’ but that it was the ‘right time to pass on the baton’.

He added: ‘A piece of my heart will always remain with the M&S family, I feel that we have done many of the hard yards to restore the business to what it should be.

‘I’m proud that I am leaving a very strong team who will lead it into the next growth phase. I wish them every success.’

Chairman of the 138-year-old retailer Archie Norman said outgoing boss Rowe ‘has been a magnificent servant of M&S’.

He added: ‘As we move into the next growth phase, he leaves a very strong team to take the business forward.’

Rowe’s replacement Machin will take on responsibility for day-to-day leadership of the business but will continue with his current duties, which include the leadership of the food unit.

He will also take on responsibility for HR corporate communications, will join the PLC Board with effect from 25 May.

Machin will be supported by co-chief executive Katie Bickerstaffe, who will also join the board

M&S said the latest changes marks the beginning of ‘the second phase of its transformation programme’.

In a statement, the firm’s board said: ‘Under the current team, the business has made remarkable progress that continuity of strategy leadership is advantageous.

‘Bringing together these three outstanding leaders will provide the stability, pace bandwidth required to accelerate the pace of change.

M&S shares were down 1.1 per cent in late afternoon trading to 156.7p. They are down 34.1 per cent since the start of 2022.

Norman said: ‘Given the very strong recent progress we have made, keeping up the pace momentum is critical.

‘We are delighted to have brought together three exceptional individuals who, with the support of the executive committee, will provide vision, energy pace for this next phase.’

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Grocery company Empire reports third quarter sales profit up from year ago


Empire Company Ltd. reported a quarterly profit of $203.4 million, up from $176.3 million a year earlier, as its sales also climbed higher.

The grocer says the profit in what was its third quarter amounted to 77 cents per diluted share, up from 66 cents per diluted share a year earlier.

Read more:

Loblaw ‘effectively managing’ through supply hurdles, higher costs, company says

Sales in the 13-week period ended Jan. 29 totalled $7.38 billion, up from $7.02 billion, helped by the acquisition of Longo’s, higher fuel sales increased food inflation as well as other initiatives.

Same-store sales excluding fuel fell 1.7 per cent compared with elevated sales last year.

Read more:

High gas prices hitting Atlantic Canada hard due to region’s reliance on heating oil

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In its outlook, Empire says it expects that same-store sales will continue to be negative for the remainder of its 2022 financial year as industry volumes fall compared with the unusually high COVID-19 driven sales levels a year ago.

It also says it is experiencing supply chain challenges primarily related to labour shortages caused by COVID-19 inflationary pressures, particularly related to cost of goods sold.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 10, 2022.

© 2022 The Canadian Press



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Savills: Loss of Russian buyers won’t hurt ‘ultra-prime’ London market


Savills boss: Absence of Russian buyers will have no serious impact on London’s ‘ultra-prime’ property market – as group posts record profits

  • Boss of Savills said buyers from Asia had a greater influence on London market
  • Savills has suspended  franchise agreement with a firm based in Moscow
  • Savills enjoyed record performance in 2021, but expects market to ‘normalise’ 

The boss of Savills claims the loss of hyper wealthy Russian buyers will have no serious impact on London’s high-end ‘ultra-prime’ property market.

Chief executive Mark Ridley said buyers from Russia only comprised a ‘tiny amount’ of the capital’s market, with just 1.4 per cent of central London Russian-owned.

 Mr Ridley said buyers from Russia had not been major players in the market for years, adding that buyers from Asia had become the driving force behind growth sales in the city’s ultra-pricey market.

 

Bumper 2021: Savills enjoyed an ‘extraordinarily strong’ trading recovery over the past year

Savills, which is understood to generate around 0.1 per cent of its revenues from Russia, has suspended a franchise agreement with an estate agency based in Moscow in the wake of the Ukraine war. The group does not have operations in Ukraine.

The London-based estate agency group enjoyed an ‘extraordinarily strong’ trading recovery over the past year, raking in bumper profits sales, its latest results show.

The group’s reported pre-tax profit surged by 120 per cent to £183.1million in the last 12 months, while revenue jumped 23 per cent to £2.15billion.  

Savills hailed strong trading in the final few months of 2021, led by the UK Asia Pacific regions. 

Both Continental Europe the Middle East North American regions recovered to reverse 2020’s losses, delivering better than expected profits for 2021.

Transactional advisory revenues swelled by 34 per cent in recovering markets, while commercial transaction revenues were 35 per cent higher, with positive growth in the UK Asia Pacific. Residential transaction revenue jumped 31 per cent. 

In the year to the end of December last year, the group’s underlying pre-tax profit increased by 107 per cent to £200.3million, while basic earnings per share rose by 114 per cent to 104.9p.

Lingering pandemic-driven lockdown restrictions across markets allowed the company to slash costs across areas like travel, events entertainment, bosses said, which helped boost the firm’s underlying profit margin to 9.3 per cent. 

Boss Mark Ridley, said: ‘Savills delivered a record performance in 2021 reflecting the significant recovery in both residential commercial transactional markets supported by growth in our less transactional investment management, property management consultancy businesses.

‘The war in Ukraine has shocked the world and, in response, Savills is providing support both through international charities via our Polish operation, focussing particularly on Ukrainian refugees.’

He added: ‘At this stage it is too early to predict the economic, including longer term inflationary, impact of the Ukrainian crisis on the world’s real estate markets. 

‘Subject to this key uncertainty, we would anticipate real estate transaction volumes discretionary spend to normalise in the year ahead, alongside the continued recovery of global markets as they emerge from pandemic-related disruptions.

‘The Group has started 2022 in line with our expectations the strength of our balance sheet supports our growth strategy to pursue further complementary acquisitions significant recruitment across our global business.’

Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said: ‘Property services outfit Savills, always a decent proxy for the wider real estate market, impressed as the market emerged from the deep freeze it endured during the pandemic.

‘Less positively the company pointed to considerable uncertainty in the coming 12 months. Even without rampant inflation, conflict an increase in discretionary costs Savills expects volumes to normalise suggesting 2022 is likely to be a fair bit trickier than 2021.’

Savills shares have jumped sharply today, were up 3.51 per cent or 40.00p to 1,180.00p just before 1pm. The group’s share price has risen over 12 per cent in the past year. 

Analysts at Numis, said: ‘At this early stage in the year we are leaving forecasts unchanged, which point to a moderation in profits as transactional markets normalise discretionary spend returns. 

‘However, even after accounting for this Savills is trading on sub 13x PE for FY22, compared to its international peer CBRE on 16x consensus earnings. We therefore move from ADD to BUY think that Savills geographic end-market diversification is not adequately reflected in the current rating.’

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Should I fix energy bills or take the price cap?


Like many people I am staring down the barrel of my energy bills soaring trying to work out what to do.

Is it better to just opt for the energy price cap, or with scary forecasts of that rising almost another 50 per cent do I try to fix?

And if I wanted to fix are there even any meaningful options, or just over-priced traps to fall into?

Double whammy: The end of his Octopus fixed rate deal will see Simon Lambert’s bills jump, then a fortnight later the energy price cap rise will send them up another 54%

I’m in the unfortunate position of facing a double whammy: my fixed energy deal ends next week then the energy price cap goes up on 1 April.

So, I’ll move to a default energy price cap rate that’s significantly more expensive than my fix for a fortnight then see the cap my bills rocket 54 per cent.

The combined effect will see my gas electricity bills double in less than a month.

I wrote about this at the start of February, but a couple of things have changed since then: we now know the new energy price cap figure Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sent forecasts for energy prices soaring even higher.

Ofgem announced the price cap for an average household will rise from £1,277 to £1,971 from 1 April to the end of September.

In early February, there was a widespread expectation that it would go up again from 1 October but some hope that energy price rises may slow or even dissipate.

The Russia-Ukraine crisis sanctions have put paid to that. Analysts at Cornwall Insight now predict another 47 per cent rise in the price cap from October. This would take the energy price cap to £2,900.

Others put even higher forecasts on what the price cap could reach, but in all reality it’s almost impossible to predict, as there is mayhem in fuel commodity markets at the moment.

A further issue is that the quoted price cap is for the average household all our bills differ.

A conversation among friends the other day put the range of monthly bills between £50 £250. Suffice it to say, most were amazed by the energy usage of those at either end of the spectrum.

My bills currently average about £150 a month on my fixed rate deal that’s about to run out.

For a fortnight they will rise to £200 then the new price cap kicks in they will hit about £300 per month, or £3,600 per year.

So, what am I going to do?

This is the best fixed rate energy deal that Octopus offered me as a loyal customer on 27 January - equating to £4,400 a year

This is the best fixed rate energy deal that Octopus offered me as a loyal customer on 27 January – equating to £4,400 a year

Octopus wrote to me in late January offering three options: a shift to its Flexible Octopus energy price cap variable rate (roughly £3,600 per year); a 12 month fixed rate estimated at £4,970 per year; or a Loyal Octopus 12 month fixed rate at about £4,400 per year.

These are based on my estimated usage, the actual cost will change depending on how much energy we actually use – I am on a smart meter so that is accurate from month to month. 

The fixes from mid-March would kick in roughly in line with the price cap rise from 1 April, but I will only get six months of price cap protection then it’s forecast to rise again.

In late January, the October price cap forecast was considerably lower than now, so fixing didn’t look attractive.

But now things have changed it’s expected to go up by much more.

Here’s how the numbers work:

Let’s say I pay £1,800 for that six months, then from 1 October the price cap goes up 47 per cent I pay £2,646 for the next six months. 

This totals £4,446 a year.

All of a sudden, the 12 month fixed rate at £4,400 a year starts to look attractive.

There’s one small problem though. Octopus didn’t say their offer was time limited, but when I checked yesterday, my 12 month fixed rate offers have lost two months rocketed in price.

Octopus now offers me a standard 10 month fixed deal at £487 per month or £5,844 per year, or a Loyal Octopus 10 month fix at £470 per month or £5,640 per year.

On clicking through from the email offering fixed deals at the end of January, I discovered they were no longer there Octopus now offered a pair of 10 month deals at higher prices

On clicking through from the email offering fixed deals at the end of January, I discovered they were no longer there Octopus now offered a pair of 10 month deals at higher prices

The best of the two 10 month deals that I am being offered now equates to £5,641 per year

The best of the two 10 month deals that I am being offered now equates to £5,641 per year

The old advice would have been to switch, but energy switching is all but pointless for most now.

This is Money’s energy comparison partner Compare the Market shows a mere nine deals I could opt for: ranging from Good Energy’s £519 per month or £6,229 per year fix until September 2023, to Sainsbury’s Energy’s 1 year Fix Reward at £762.50 per month or £9,150 per year.

(Better hope that Sainsbury’s deal comes with a seriously big reward to make up for the bills.)

So, I’m back to the point where moving onto my supplier’s energy price cap default tariff Flexible Octopus looks by far the best option.

This seems to be the case for most others too, although do your own research check all the options you supplier can give you. A few cheeky low fixed rates may slip out get snapped up, as happened with E.ON recently.

And if you don’t have smart meter, make sure you take regular meter readings, definitely get one on 31 March – ideally with photos of the meter.

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Money Dashboard investors lose out as it changes hands


Crowdfunding investors who put money into the budgeting app Money Dashboard have ended up losing a large chunk of their investment, This is Money can reveal. 

Money Dashboard dubs itself a ‘personal financial assistant’. It allows customers to connect all online current accounts, savings accounts credit cards in one place transactions are automatically grouped categorised into various tags, using Open Banking.  

It launched its first crowdfunding campaign on Crowdcube in 2017, raising £1.25million. Two years later it smashed its £1.5million target, raising £3.7million at a valuation of £21million. 

Money Dashboard raised money via crowdfunding platform Crowdcube but now investors have lost out on a large chunk of their investment 

It went back to the crowd in March 2021, raising £929,460 as part of the Future Fund’s convertible loan note scheme.

But last week, Iain Niblock, who took over as chief executive in March 2021, told investors the company had been sold to an unnamed buyer on 28 February for £8million. 

It is understood to be the first time the company had communicated with its own crowdfunding investors about the sale.

In an email he wrote: ‘I appreciate that the outcome is disappointing for shareholders, the lack of updates has caused frustration, so please let me explain.

‘The Money Dashboard business has not developed as expected over the past two years. 

‘Although there has been considerable technological development, the growth in revenue has been disappointing. That growth has not been enough to support the associated costs of running the business…

‘In short, Money Dashboard failed to reach the scale necessary to support the costs of the business.

In September Money Dashboard published its Q3 report in which it said it was ‘operating in a highly attractive space with a large number of established products now utilising Open Banking.

‘We continue to see interest from the retail sector in the data we provide, however the sales cycle in the space is taking much longer than initially envisaged. 

‘Whilst this is frustrating, we have continued to build leads, with at least 1 (major global company) of those expected to close in Q3.’

HOW MUCH WILL INVESTORS GET BACK? 

● An investor who invested £1,000 in the November 2017 Round, at a price per share of £0.05 in exchange for 20,000 Ordinary Shares, will be paid £131.60 as part of the Initial Payment £115.60 for the Deferred Payment

● Someone who invested £1,000 in the August 2019 Round, at a price per share of £0.06 in exchange for 16,667 Ordinary Shares, will be paid £109.67 as part of the Initial Payment £96.34 for the Deferred Payment. 

The deferred payments is subject to claims may be issued as shares in the proposed buyer instead, according to Crowdcube.  

 

But in its update to investors last week Niblock said the company had nine months of cash runway the board believed ‘raising additional growth equity would be challenging given the performance of the business, so it was decided to contact potential acquirers.

‘The process we initiated built on work undertaken during 2020. At that time an advisor led process to sell the Company identified a small number of interested parties, but produced no actual offers.

‘The parties who had shown an interest in acquiring Money Dashboard were contacted a headline offer of £8million was received. The Company’s board were satisfied that this offer represents the best terms achievable given the Company’s limited cash runway.’

The offer of £8million means investors – with the exception of the convertible loan note holders – will receive far less than their initial investment.

On 21 February, Crowdcube told investors in Money Dashboard that the company had served a so-called ‘drag along notice’.

It is a clause in an agreement that enables a majority shareholder to force a minority shareholder to join in the sale of a company. 

Shareholders holding over 60 per cent of existing shares accepted the offer, according to Crowdcube.

The net price payable – on a cash free, debt free basis after repayment of the company’s convertible loan note instrument – is expected to be £3,417,530 £3million as a deferred payment, which will be paid on or around 28 February 2024.

It means the price payable payable for each ordinary share is expected to be £0.0124.

It marks a significant loss for investors who paid £0.05 per share in Money Dashboard’s first Crowdcube round in 2017, those who invested £0.06 per share in its August 2019 round.

In another blow, investors who participated in the 2019 round will lose any EIS reliefs claimed because it comes earlier than three years from the share issue date.

The sale will not affect EIS relief for the 2017 round.

In a statement, Crowdcube said: ‘When the company came to us told us there was a potential exit transaction, we worked very hard to ensure investors’ interests were represented protected.

‘This was a disappointing outcome for Money Dashboard its investors. We made sure Crowdcube investors were treated fairly, had their rights respected that they got as good an outcome as any other investor in the company.

‘As we make clear to all our investors when they join Crowdcube, there is a very real risk when investing in startups growth companies. Before investing, all investors must complete pass an assessment demonstrating that they understthe risks of equity crowdfunded investments.

‘We make it clear that investors should only invest money that they can afford to lose should build a diversified portfolio to spread risk increase the chance of an overall return. We also encourage investors in crowdfunded startups to diversify within that asset class, rather than pick just one company to invest in.’

Money Dashboard did not respond to requests for comment.

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