Sunday newspaper round-up: HMV, Tata Sons, Premier Oil, Debenhams, Iran, Labour leadership
HMV has warned of possible job losses as it fights to keep open stores across the country in the face of high rents and business rates.
Three HMV stores are closing this month, the music retailer confirmed, while a further 10 stores could be axed if new deals with landlords are not secured. The nationwide closures would also result in job losses, HMV said.
Closing down signs have been put up in many of the stores, which are also holding “everything must go” sales. - The Guardian
The chairman of Tata Sons has issued an ultimatum to its struggling Port Talbot steelworks, warning that heavy losses will no longer be tolerated.
The move raises pressure on what’s left of the UK’s steel industry, which has lurched from crisis to crisis amid weak demand, cut-throat overseas competition and high costs. The last two big integrated steelworks, at Port Talbot in south Wales and Scunthorpe in Lincolnshire, both face an uncertain future. - The Times
Premier Oil has hired investment bankers from Rothschild as a battle with lenders owed more than $2.4bn (£1.8bn) escalates.
The Telegraph understands that Barclays, one of the North Sea oil company’s key relationship banks, has offloaded $90m of debts in recent weeks to a group of hedge funds including Asia Research and Capital Management (ARCM).
The Hong Kong-based fund has mounted an assault on the FTSE 250 company as Premier races to refinance a mountain of legacy loans in the coming weeks. - The Telegraph
HSBC suffered the biggest plunge in investment banking fees in the City last year following a turbulent 12 months for Europe’s biggest lender.
The bank, which is finalising plans to assemble a new mergers and acquisitions team focused on mid-market transactions, saw its deal advisory fees drop by nearly half last year, according to data commissioned by The Telegraph from data provider Refinitiv.
HSBC received income of more than $212m (£162m) for work on M&A deals last year, down from $377m the previous year. The nosedive represented the biggest decline for a major investment bank across the City, reducing HSBC’s share of the overall UK total from 6% in 2018 to just under 4% last year. - The Telegraph
Debenhams will begin a make-or-break year with 19 store closures this month that will result in 660 job losses on the UK’s fragile high streets.
The struggling department store chain will close the sites in the space of a fortnight as it presses ahead with a rescue plan announced last year. The closures starting on 11 January are spread across the country, from Kirkcaldy in Scotland to Eastbourne on the south coast. This is just the first wave of shutdowns, as the retailer intends to pull down the shutters on a total of 50 of its worst-performing stores.
Debenhams was taken over by a group of financial investors last year and is using an insolvency process known as a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) to cull unprofitable sites and cut the rent on many of its remaining 163 shops. - The Guardian
Savers are being lured into high-risk schemes online despite a crackdown on such products at the start of this year, when City regulator the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) banned the marketing of so-called mini-bonds to ordinary savers. The FCA made the move amid growing concern that people are losing the money they invest in these schemes, having failed to appreciate the risks. - The Times
The former boss of Marks & Spencer was forced to extend the deadline of his turnaround strategy again and again. Marc Bolland’s efforts did not bear fruit. His successor, Steve Rowe, followed suit in October, three years into his tenure. He admitted that clothing and home, the thorn in the retailer’s side for years, was once again months behind. - The Telegraph
Almost 3 million workers in Britain are to receive a pay rise of more than four times the rate of inflation from April, after the government said it would increase the official minimum wage.
In an announcement designed to woo low-paid workers in the immediate aftermath of Boris Johnson’s election victory earlier this month, the government said the “national living wage” for over-25s would increase from £8.21 an hour to £8.72 from the start of April.
Johnson said the increase was the “biggest ever cash boost” to the legal pay floor. “Hard work should always pay, but for too long people haven’t seen the pay rises they deserve,” he said. - The Guardian
Donald Trump has warned that the US will hit Iran “very fast and very hard” if it takes retaliatory action after the assassination of the terror chief Qassem Soleimani.
The US president said that the military has identified 52 Iranian targets, including some “very high level” cultural sites, which he said the will be hit if Iran launches attacks against the US. Iran said that targeting cultural sites would represent a “war crime”.
The intensifying rhetoric came amid mounting concern about the threat of war as Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, warned that Islamic State could “exploit the vacuum” if the US is expelled from Iraq. - The Times
The eurozone has suffered the weakest post-crisis recovery after a lost decade for swathes of the ailing region, with analysts predicting the economic malaise will extend into the 2020s.
The currency bloc has lagged every other major developed economy since the global recovery started in 2009 as a chasm between the performance of northern and southern eurozone countries emerged. - The Telegraph
Labour leadership contender Jess Phillips says she would fight to reverse Brexit if it proves to be damaging, arguing the party must not be afraid of the debate.
The outsider made the pledge as Keir Starmer, the race favourite, joined another candidate, Clive Lewis, in arguing the battle over EU membership is over following Boris Johnson’s big election win. - The Independent
Hundreds of thousands of Iranians turned out to pay their respects to General Qassim Soleimani on Sunday as Iraq's parliament voted to expel US forces from the country over his assassination in Baghdad.
Iraqi MPs voted in favour of a resolution calling for an end the presence of foreign forces in the country, paving the way to remove about 5000 US troops deployed there and dealing a potentially serious blow to American influence in the region.
The vote came after Adil Abdul-Mahdi, the acting prime minister, told an extraordinary session of parliament he had a meeting scheduled with Gen Soleimani on the day he was killed and called the assassination "unacceptable." - The Telegraph