News Column

UK MIDDAY BRIEFING: Ashley Foregoes Hard-Fought Share Bonus

July 16, 2014



LONDON (Alliance News) - Sports Direct International PLC Executive Deputy Chairman Mike Ashley, has withdrawn from the company's 2015 Bonus Share Scheme, just weeks after shareholders finally voted in favour of Ashley getting his first share bonus since the company listed in 2007.



In an about-turn following extensive discussions with the board and shareholders over revised bonus scheme proposals - the company's shareholders have voted against paying Ashley any pay or bonus on three separate occasions - Sports Direct's founder and biggest shareholder said he does not wish to be awarded any shares under the 2015 Bonus Share Scheme approved at the start of the month.



Ashley already holds 57.71% of Sports Direct shares.



The new shares represent about 4.2% of the company, and are worth GBP177.7 million in total at current prices, as the retailer has seen a dip in its stock since the proposal was approved.



"Following recent unhelpful speculation surrounding his potential allocation, he is determined to ensure that there is the maximum number of shares available for the eligible employees," said Non-Executive Chairman Keith Hellawell.



Ashley's decision means around 3,000 full-time employees at the UK's biggest sporting goods retailer by revenue will get a bigger share of the 25 million share handout if all the retailer's performance targets are met.



The Aerospace & Defence sector is leading UK stocks higher, boosted by Meggitt PLC, which trades higher as rumours circulate of a potential takeover offer from US-based United Technologies Corp. According to speculation heard at the annual Farnborough Air Show, Meggitt could be about the receive a GBP5 billion, or 625 pence per share takeover offer, the Daily Mail. At its current price, Meggitt has a market capitalisation of GBP4.27 billion.



A spokesperson for Meggitt declined to comment on the report.

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MARKETS: UK stocks are pushing higher Wednesday, supported by a number of positive company updates and a broader boost to market sentiment from some better-than-expected Chinese economic data released overnight that showed the world's second biggest economy reached its growth target in the second quarter.



FTSE 100: up 1.0% at 6,779.47

FTSE 250: up 0.9% at 15,577.62

AIM ALL-SHARE: up 0.2% at 775.03

GBP-USD: down at 1.7124

EUR-USD: down at 1.3533

GOLD: up at USD1,297.79 an ounce

OIL (Brent): up at USD107.49 a barrel

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Other Top UK Corporate News

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Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto reported that global iron ore production for the second quarter grew 11% from last year, reflecting productivity improvements and the completion of ramp up of mining operations in the Pilbara region. The company also maintained its full-year 2014 production guidance, while raising copper production guidance. Rio Tinto, the world's second largest iron-ore producer, said global iron ore production for the second quarter increased 11% on a 100% basis from last year to 73.1 million tonnes, with Rio Tinto's share also growing 11% from last year to 57.5 million tonnes. Iron ore sale accounts for roughly 90% of the profit of Rio Tinto.

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Fresnillo said total silver production for its second quarter compared to the previous year was flat as increased Silverstream production offset lower production elsewhere, while its gold production rates continued to be low as a result of explosion permit problems and stoppages earlier in the year. The precious metals miner, operating in Mexico, said its total silver production was flat at 10.9 million ounces for the three months ended June 30, as a 13% increase in its Silverstream production to 1.1 million ounces offset a 1.3% fall in its other silver operations to 9.8 million ounces.

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Hochschild Mining said it has achieved its USD200 million cash-optimisation programme and is on track to achieve its 2014 silver equivalent production target as first half attributable silver production increased due to higher grades and recoveries. The precious metals producer, with operations in South and Central America, said its attributable silver equivalent production rate increased 3.4% to 11.9 million ounces for the six months ended June 30 from 11.5 million ounces the previous year, as falls in gold production were significantly offset by a 10% increase in silver production.

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London Stock ExchangeGroup PLC has launched a search for the successor to Chairman Chris Gibson-Smith, who has spent more than 11 years in the role. In a statement read at the company's annual general meeting, Gibson-Smith said that the board has asked Robert Webb, as its senior independent director, to chair the nominations committee through the process of finding his successor. Gibson-Smith said that the group's intention is for him to remain in the role until the end of December 2015, by which point it wants to have concluded its search and handover process.

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The LSE also said its total first-quarter income increased by 16% to GBP323.9 million, driven by strong growth in its capital markets division and its LCH.Clearnet clearing house. In a statement, the London Stock Exchange reported a 20% increase in revenue in the three months ended June 30, as compared with the corresponding period last year. Capital markets revenues rose by 16%, boosted by growth in primary markets, as the number of new issues more than doubled, and by improved fixed income and Italian cash equity volumes in the secondary markets.

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ICAP said first-quarter revenue fell by 19%, hit by currency movements and tough trading conditions. The interdealer broker has been struggling due to a range of challenges, such as banks' efforts to deleverage, regulatory changes, and low volatility. In a statement, ICAP said that its performance between April 1 and July 15 was hurt by a 10% fall, to USD707.0 billion, in average daily electronic volumes for its BrokerTec and EBS platforms. In addition, ICAP's global broking division, which now contributes less than 30% of group profits as the interdealer broker intensifies its focus on its post trade businesses, saw a 25% fall in its reported revenues. These weaknesses were partly offset by double-digit revenue growth in ICAP's post trade risk and information division, and growth in EBS Direct volumes, which averaged USD11.0 billion a day in June.

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Royal Mail said it has received notice from AutoritÉ de la Concurrence, the French competition authority, that one of its subsidiaries, GLS France, is involved in an investigation which alleges breaches of antitrust laws. Royal Mail said the notice alleges breaches of antitrust laws by its GLS France business in connection with a broader investigation into "alleged activities within the industry in France." In a statement Wednesday the FTSE 100-listed company said: "We are currently considering the notice received from the French regulator. Given the early stage of this matter, we cannot yet determine the amount or range of potential loss; however, it is possible that it could be material."

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Severn Trent said trading across the group has been in line with expectations since April 1, with its forecast bad debt level maintained at around 2.2% of revenue for the full-year to March 2015. In an interim management statement for the period April 1 to date, Severn Trent said operating expenditure continues to be in line with internal expectations, while operating costs are expected to rise year-on-year due to the impact of inflation and power costs.

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Balfour Beatty said its Hong Kong joint venture Gammon Construction has won two building contracts worth a combined GBP300 million. Gammon Construction is a 50:50 joint venture with Jardine Matheson Holdings Ltd. The venture has been awarded a GBP216 million contract by the Hong Kong Housing Authority for a public rental housing development in Tuen Mun in the New Territories, which will provide around 4,600 flats in 33 to 38 storey towers and other communities. Balfour said the second contract, worth GBP84 million, follows Gammon's previous work for Hong Kong Science Park Phases 3a and 3b. The new Phase 3c involves constructing two research and development offices and laboratory-enabled buildings.

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GlaxoSmithKline and US biotechnology company Theravance said that it has commenced the global phase III study, IMPACT, into the efficacy and safety of a combination of treatments for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The companies said that IMPACT will evaluate the efficacy and safety of a once-daily 'closed' triple combination of fluticasone furoate, an inhaled corticosteroid, umeclidinium, a long-acting muscarinic antagonist, and vilanterol, a long-acting beta2-adrenergic agonist, known as FF/UMEC/VI, in patients with the disease. The study on approximately 10,000 patients will assess whether a combination of the treatments, delivered through Glaxo's Ellipta inhaler, can reduce the annual rate of moderate and severe exacerbations.

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Evraz said its crude steel production rates in the second quarter were down when compared to the previous year but saw increases compared to its previous quarter, mainly due to improvements at its Russian and South African operations. The Russian steel maker said its crude steel production fell 4.2% to 3.9 million tonnes for the three months ended June 30 compared to the previous year but increased 1.1% on the previous quarter. The company said its crude steel production saw improvements at its Russian operations due to lower downtime for maintenance works at blast furnaces and converters at Russian steel mills. It added that crude steel production increased at its South African operations following a major repair of a furnace.

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Healthcare company BTG said its trading has been in line with guidance since April 1 across all of its business segments, but said the US Department of Justice has opened an investigation into its interventional medicine LC Bead. The company said its full-year revenues are expected to be in the GBP330 million to GBP345 million range, in line with previous guidance, despite the recent weakening of the dollar versus sterling. BTG said its controlled launch of the varicose veins treatment Varithena continues on track and first commercial patient treatments are expected to start in the third quarter.

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Self-storage business Big Yellow Group said it had a strong trading performance in its first quarter, with increased revenues driven mainly by growth in both occupancy and rental yield. The company, which operates mainly in London and the South East, said its wholly owned stores grew in occupancy during the three months ended June 30 by 125,000 square feet, while move-ins in its like-for-like wholly owned stores were up 6% on the previous year. Big Yellow Group said its total store revenues for its 55 stores open at June 30 was GBP18.6 million for the quarter, which represents a 5% increase on the previous quarter and an 11% increase on the previous year.

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AIM MOVERS

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Tri-Star Resources shares have risen after the company said it has made a new discovery and sees significant upside potential at its Bald Hill antimony deposit in New Brunswick, Canada, following an exploration programme. TyraTech is also up; the company said it has conditionally raised GBP3.5 million before expenses in a oversubscribed placing and subscription of new shares, funds it said it will use to launch its Vamousse head lice product line with UK and US retailers. At the other end of the market, Access Intelligence is trading lower; the company posted a pretax loss of GBP68,000, widened from GBP30,000 in the previous year, as revenue declined slightly to GBP4.1 million from GBP4.2 million. Octagonal shares have also dropped after the investment company said it has appointed Jason Berry, a former director of Circle Opportunities PLC, as an executive director.

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Top Economics And General

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The UK unemployment rate continued to decline in three months to May, the Office for National Statistics reported. The jobless rate came in at 6.5% of workforce, as expected, for March to May, the lowest since October to December 2008. During March to May, there were 2.12 million unemployed, 121,000 fewer than for December to February. The claimant count fell to 3.1% in June, the lowest since September 2008, from 3.2% in May. Pay including bonuses for employees for March to May was 0.3% higher than a year earlier. It was slower than the 0.5% rise forecast by economists. Likewise, earnings excluding bonuses were up by 0.7%.

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British police have arrested 660 suspected paedophiles including doctors, teachers, care workers, scout leaders and former police officers, said the country's National Crime Agency. The arrests were the result of an "unprecedented" six-month operation, the NCA said, and involved police forces across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. More than 400 children had been protected as a result, the agency said. Almost 40 of those arrested had already been convicted of sex offences, but the rest had not been previously known to police.

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Chinese economic growth edged up in the second quarter to reach 7.5% year on year, official figures showed Wednesday. The figure matched the Chinese government's current target for annual GDP growth, and beat analysts' expectations by 0.1%. Growth in the previous quarter was 7.4% compared to the same period the previous year. The National Statistics bureau said the economy had expanded by 7.4% overall in the first half of the year compared to last year, Xinhua news agency reported.

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A gradual increase in short-term interest rates will serve the US economy well, Esther George, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, said Wednesday. The economy has been steadily improving post the crisis in the past five years, however, the rate of recovery still remains weak, she said. Though the labor market is optimistic and new job creations are increasing, the more than expected inflation rates, particularly inflation in food prices and rents, puts a strain on the low-income households in the face of nominal wages.

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Efforts to restart talks aimed at resolving the conflict in Ukraine have foundered because of a lack of will by pro-Russian separatists, according to Russia, Ukraine and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. A video conference with the separatists scheduled for Tuesday did not materialize despite being agreed upon at the highest international level, the three members of the so-called Trilateral Contact Group said. "In the opinion of the contact group, this indicates a lack of willingness on the side of the separatists to engage in substantive talks on a mutually agreed ceasefire," the statement said.

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Israel warned residents of the northern Gaza Strip to leave their houses as a Palestinian official said the number of people killed in the coastal enclave from Israeli airstrikes had topped 200. People living in the northern Gaza Strip should leave "for their own safety", Israel's military said, a day after the failure of Egyptian attempts to forge a ceasefire following more than a week of Israeli airstrikes and rocket attacks by Palestinian militants into Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced an expansion of Israel's offensive for. The operation has so far caused the deaths of 203 Gazans and 1,520 injuries, Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qedra said. At least half the casualties have been civilians, Palestinian emergency services said.

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Afternoon Watchlist (all times British Summer Time)

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13:30 US Producer Price Index

14:00 US Total Net TIC Flows

14:15 US Industrial Production and Capacity Utilization

15:00 US Fed's Yellen testifies

15:00 US NAHB Housing Market Index

15:30 US EIA Crude Oil Stocks

19:00 US Fed's Beige Book

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Thursday's Key UK Corporate Events

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Sports Direct International Full Year Results

Breedon Aggregates Half Year Results

London Mining Q2 Production Report

Land Securities Interim Management Statement

Computacenter Trading Statement

Anglo American Interim Management Statement

Hilton Food Group Trading statement

McKay Securities Interim Management Statement

Mothercare Trading statement

SSE Interim Management Statement

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Thursday's Key Economic Events (all times British Summer Time)

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n/a Russia Unemployment Rate

n/a UK 30-y Bond Auction

00:50 Japan foreign bond investment

10:00 EU Construction Output

10:00 EU Consumer Price Index

13:30 US Housing Starts and Building Permits

13:30 US Jobless Claims

15:00 US Philadelphia Fed Manufacturing Survey

15:30 US EIA Natural Gas Storage

18:35 US Fed's Bullard speech

20:00 US American Petroleum Institute Monthly Report

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Contact: +44 203 668 7440; newsroom@alliancenews.com; @AllNewsTeam






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