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We examine some of the key announcements and the market reaction to them
Thursday 13 Dec 2018 Author: Tom Sieber

Outsourcer Interserve’s (IRV) deleveraging proposal (10 Dec) saw more than 70% wiped off its market value at one stage.

Plans to launch a debt-for-equity swap are likely to leave little on the table for existing shareholders. The company hopes to get its debt-to-earnings ratio down to a more manageable 1.5-times from somewhere around five-times.

There was more bad news for the high street as Associated British Foods (ABF) reported (7 Dec) that its Primark budget clothing chain had endured a ‘challenging’ November. A struggling Primark with its value-led proposition raises big questions over how higher-priced retailers are faring.

Against this backdrop British fashion brand Ted Baker (TED) faces unwelcome distractions from a probe into the conduct of founder and chief executive Ray Kelvin, who is taking a leave of absence. It also reported lower third quarter revenue in a 6 December trading update.

Advertising giant WPP (WPP) is an example of what can happen when a powerful founder leaves a business in acrimonious circumstances as its shares have fallen nearly 30% since Martin Sorrell resigned in April.

His successor Mark Read, who formally took over as CEO in September, outlined his plans for the business on 11 December. The company is spending £300m to achieve annualised cost savings of £275m from 2021 onwards and has pledged to maintain full year dividends at 60p per share.

Housebuilder Berkeley (BKG) provided reassurance on its dividend alongside first half results (7 Dec) with £280m a year to be returned to shareholders out to 2025. This is underpinned by a strengthening balance sheet as Berkeley reins in spending. On the flip side the company confirmed that profit will tail off in
the coming years.

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