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Thu 25th Oct 2018 - Update: Patisserie Valere, Taco Bell, C&C Group
MPs and shareholders call for independent inquiry into Patisserie Valerie: MPs and shareholder groups have called for an independent inquiry into Patissere Valerie after the company admitted that share options granted to chief executive Paul May and finance director Chris Marsh went undisclosed. Liberal Democrat leader and former business secretary Sir Vince Cable said: “The whole affair smells to high heaven. It’s important for the integrity of British business that the FCA investigates carefully to establish whether there has been serious misconduct.” Mark Bentley, director of shareholder action group Sharesoc, said: “It’s very concerning indeed and this definitely needs an investigation by the FCA to find out whether they were in possession of inside information at the time they made those option exercises and sold. If they were, that’s potentially a criminal offence.” Chris Boxall, co-founder of Fundamental Asset Management, which invests in Patisserie Holdings, added: “It’s pretty staggering that it was missed. It’s got to be the subject of some sort of investigation by the FCA. How many more issues are they going to uncover?” Patisserie Holdings’ chairman Luke Johnson, 56, who owned more than a third of the business, stepped in with a rescue deal after the scandal pushed the firm to the brink of collapse. A £20 million investment secured the future of 2,800 staff and 206 sites. Boxall added: “It now seems clear that Mr Johnson needs to have more focus in his business interests and extract himself from a number of executive and non-executive roles for his own financial wellbeing and that of his fellow shareholders. We are absolutely staggered how a profitable business of this nature could have collapsed so dramatically and suddenly.” Meanwhile, The Times reported that US tax specialists Alvarez & Marshal have been called in to look at the company’ tax affairs. A source told the newspaper that a £1.14m bill owed an now paid to HMRC “could be significantly more or less”.

Taco Bell to return to London: Taco Bell has outlined plans to return to London for the first time since the Nineties, with a string of new branches. Taco Bell, owned by New York-listed Yum!, has agreed for a number of franchisees to open restaurants in Hammersmith, Fulham Broadway and Holborn before the end of the year. Liz Williams, the president of Taco Bell International, who is over from the US to look at properties here, told the London Evening Standard: “These will be the first of many for us in London. Today there is huge consumer demand for Mexican food. Today there is huge appetite for this cuisine and the Taco Bell brand.” The deals come around two decades after the burritos-maker exited sites in Earl’s Court and Leicester Square. It has gradually returned to the UK with 27 branches outside the capital. Morris Greenberg at property agent CDG Leisure, which is advising on the property search, said: “International operators, particularly from North America and Asia, are queuing to secure a foothold in London. It is a testament to the pull of the city.”

C&C Group – integration of Matthew Clark and Bibendum going well: Drinks company C&C Group has reported the integration of Matthew Clark and Bibendum is proceeding well. The company reported operating profit up 4% to 52.3m euros in its core business for the 6 months ended 31 August 2018. C&C Group chief executive Stephen Glancey said: “Trading through the first six months has been strong driven by favourable summer weather and the impact of the World Cup. Encouragingly, our key brands have all delivered market share in their key markets and year on year revenue growth. In our core business, wholesale and wine also performed well with +11% revenue growth, shipping 0.56 million cases of wine a 2% increase from last year. We are reporting revenue growth of 186% and earnings growth of 16%. This includes the recently acquired Matthew Clark and Bibendum businesses. Core earnings (excluding these acquisitions) were up 4.0% in the half. Since the acquisition of Matthew Clark and Bibendum our absolute focus has been the stabilisation of the businesses. By the end of September we settled £129m of monies owed to suppliers, paid taxes owed of £31m and collected £146m of monies due from customers. Looking ahead, we have a degree of momentum in our core business and recognise the criticality of Christmas trading for Mathew Clark and Bibendum. We’re very pleased with the way this business is responding following a very difficult trading period earlier in the year, with operational KPIs now trending satisfactorily in the circumstances. That said, it will only be once the business has proven itself through the important Christmas trading cycle that we can be confident that it has been restored to health. Both Matthew Clark and Bibendum are unique businesses with great market access and long established reputations and represent excellent acquisitions for the group. With experienced management in place we are confident that in time these businesses will materially enhance shareholder value for C&C. Looking forward there is much economic and political uncertainty and of course Brexit. We have plans in place to manage the various scenarios on Brexit that may emerge and do not anticipate material customer or financial disruption. C&C’s core business is in good health with a strong balance sheet and a focus on shareholder value. Management are confident in the medium term that Matthew Clark and Bibendum will each unlock significant value and opportunity for all shareholders.” Of its Admiral Taverns business it stated: “Admiral Taverns has traded positively through the period – its predominantly wet-led, community pubs benefitting from good weather, the World Cup and continued investment. Comparable Ebitda for the six months to August 2018 is up 0.8% at £12.6m.”

AB InBev reports strong Third Quarter in the UK: AB InBev has reported a strong Third Quarter in the UK. Jason Warner, president of North Europe, AB InBev, said: “We have seen a strong third quarter for our UK business. Year to date we have grown ahead of the market in both volume and value, helped by a summer of sport and big campaigns from our global brands. As the official beer of the FIFA World Cup, Budweiser lit up the globe’s biggest sporting event with our most ambitious campaign to date. Even post-tournament, Budweiser remained the number one contributor to volume and value growth across total trade. Bud Light also jumped in on the action, as it announced in August that it was becoming the official beer of the England men’s senior team. After the squad’s impressive World Cup run, Bud Light is the perfect partner to the team: a new player in its second year of launch and growing rapidly. Corona has also had a fantastic summer, achieving double-digit growth as it toured the country with its sunset sessions and solar-powered DJ booths in the on-trade and ran a hugely popular promotion to win a Corona-branded cooler in the off-trade. Stella Artois reinforced its place as the nation’s favourite alcohol brand by introducing a gluten free variant in July, meaning even more people can enjoy the UK’s number-one selling beer. Additionally within the wellness space, we announced in September that we were bringing Michelob ULTRA to the UK from the US, where it has been the fastest-growing beer brand in terms of volume and value share for the past three years. A crisp, clean lager with 3.5% alcohol and 79 calories, it’s a beer for those who want to balance working out with going out. It also adds to our burgeoning no-and-low alcohol portfolio as we see demand for these beers increase. In the past year alone, sales of low-alcohol beer have risen 16% to over 86 million pints, and no-alcohol beer sales are up 27% to 43 million pints. ZX Ventures, our global growth and incubator group, is also seeing success in its craft and speciality division in the UK – with Camden Town Brewery and Goose Island brands featuring in the list of the top five fastest-growing brands within the craft segment. Looking ahead, we know there are wider political and economic uncertainties facing the UK next year and have worked to innovate and insulate against risk. We have a significant local footprint with breweries in Wales, Lancashire and London and are continuing to build up a sustainable UK supply chain. For instance, we are working with farmers and agronomists to develop resilient grains as part of our SmartBarley programme, as we aim to source 100% of barley for British-brewed Budweiser from the UK by 2020. From grain to glass, we are also backing Long Live the Local, the campaign from Britain’s Beer Alliance in calling for more support and less tax burden on our nation’s iconic pubs to halt the current closure rate of three pubs a day. It’s important for us to stand with the pub and beer sector, protect jobs and keep vital community hubs open across the country.”

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