BAT heaps $47 bln of peer pressure on Reynolds

October 21, 2016

The UK tobacco giant has offered a near 20-pct premium for the 58 pct of the U.S.-based Camel-maker it doesn't own. It's opportunistic - Reynolds just named a new boss, and has disappointed investors. Still, the logic of uniting the two is as hard to resist as a Newport menthol.

British retailers have leverage over Unilever

October 13, 2016

The maker of Dove soap wants supermarkets like Tesco to pay more for its goods as the pound weakens. They can’t easily pass that cost on to shoppers. Grocers have two reasons to play tough: Unilever's 15 pct operating margin, and their access to the consumer.

GSK tries out alternative medicine with new CEO

September 20, 2016

It's a logical move to name consumer head Emma Walmsley as the drugmaker's new chief executive. Pharma companies can learn a lot from the efficient personal care sector. Critics may see a doubling down on GSK’s HIV-to-Horlicks model, without a fix to its weaker pharma business.

Sugar can’t sweeten AB Foods’ retail slowdown

September 12, 2016

Sales are slowing at Primark, the fast-fashion chain that accounts for two-thirds of operating profit at the sugar-and-retail conglomerate. The weaker pound may hit the clothing chain's profitability next year. A widening pension deficit further sours AB Foods' prospects.

Minority investors should check the returns policy

September 7, 2016

Sports Direct's shareholders are being trampled by a strong entrepreneur with a 55 pct stake. Italian luxury brand Prada has a similar issue: entrenched founders whose strategy isn’t working. Big shareholders can benefit companies, but other investors end up stuck if things sour.

Eddie Lampert is more whaling captain than hedgie

August 29, 2016

Once upon a time, the investor was hailed as the next Warren Buffett. His decade-plus obsession with Sears resembles Ahab's with Moby Dick. Extending another $300 mln loan to the flailing retailer is the latest sign that Lampert just doesn't know how to let go of the harpoon.

Post-Brexit UK consumers are oddly rational

August 18, 2016

Flagging confidence didn’t stop Britons from spending a month after their vote to leave the EU. Consumers may be blind to the recession threat. Or they may be anticipating that a slumping pound will push up the price of imported goods, and pre-empting higher inflation.

M&A activist twist suits almost everyone

August 11, 2016

Activist hedge fund Elliott won a bump in value on two agreed deals - for brewer SABMiller and UK retailer Poundland. Both results are good for shareholders in the targets, and not too bad for the bidders. It should, though, provoke a subtle shift in how deals get done.

Wal-Mart has long unicorn ride in Amazon chase

August 4, 2016

The $220 bln retail titan is reportedly in talks to buy Jet, a fledgling online-shopping site. Wal-Mart has been accelerating acquisitions of tech startups in a bid to beef up digital efforts. Amazon, however, keeps moving ahead with efforts like one-day shipping and groceries.

UK slaps capitalism in its “unacceptable” face

July 25, 2016

Lawmakers angry at retailer BHS's collapse are mulling further regulation to protect jobs and pensions. The fiasco epitomises what Prime Minister Theresa May decries as "anything goes" business. It takes UK corporate life into interesting - and potentially painful - moral areas.