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Dec 17, 2014

Breakingviews: WPP chair should be vertical as well as horizontal

By Chris Hughes

LONDON, Dec 17 (Reuters Breakingviews) – WPP may
have found a much-needed counterweight to Martin Sorrell. The ad
group’s chief executive is getting a new chairman in the form of
industrialist Roberto Quarta. Sorrell says Quarta will help
deliver WPP’s strategy, which includes a drive for greater
“horizontality” – WPP-speak for operational seamlessness. But
the new chair needs to make it clear early on that his location
relative to Sorrell is more vertical than horizontal.

Quarta is an imaginative appointment. His background is a
long way from a media business whose services are largely
virtual. He led UK engineer BBA through a period of strong
share-price performance before stepping back to enter private
equity in 2001. He has kept a hand in UK public company life
with non-executive roles at BAE Systems, Powergen and Smith &
Nephew, which he chairs.

Dec 8, 2014
via Breakingviews

Saint-Gobain’s deal cunning could backfire

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By Chris Hughes

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. 

Saint-Gobain’s cunning deal to take over Swiss peer Sika on the cheap looks too clever by half. The French materials group is to pay 2.75 billion Swiss francs ($2.8 billion) for a minority holding which confers control over its Baar-based rival – a company recently worth 8.4 billion Swiss francs. The unhappy reaction of both groups’ shares correctly reflects the high chance that business damage will follow.

Nov 25, 2014
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Private equity shows signs of pre-crisis brio

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By Chris Hughes and Olaf Storbeck

The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.

Private equity’s hunt of large European targets has landed a rare catch. The 3.75 billion euro ($4.7 billion) leveraged buyout of Switzerland’s SIG Combibloc has demonstrated that financial sponsors can still stretch to get a sizeable transaction agreed.

Nov 21, 2014
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Pru’s lesson for investors: trust animal spirits

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By Chris Hughes

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist.  The opinions expressed are his own.

Shareholders gripe when bosses offer big premiums in takeovers. Such lack of faith in management can prove costly. Prudential’s share price surge to new highs this week worsens the toll borne by rival Aviva for its failed attempt at buying its domestic insurance peer in 2006. The combination would have created a UK national champion and countered Aviva’s strategic weaknesses. It failed largely because Aviva felt it lacked investor support to pay more than a miserly 10 percent premium.

Sep 25, 2014
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Tesco chairman should step aside

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By Chris Hughes

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Tesco’s chairman should step aside. Richard Broadbent will struggle to restore market confidence in the troubled UK supermarket group, and to convince investors the board is on top of matters. This week’s accounting scandal has compounded existing concerns about his period at the helm. The priority should be an orderly handover to the right successor as soon as possible.

Sep 22, 2014
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Tesco chairman approaches his sell-by date

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By Chris Hughes

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Tesco’s latest crisis has put Richard Broadbent in the last chance saloon. The chairman of the UK retailer is ultimately accountable for any failures in the UK grocer’s governance. That includes any that lie behind the 250 million pound hole in the accounts, revealed on Monday.

Jul 18, 2014
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UK banks have much to fear from latest probe

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By Chris Hughes

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

The latest competition review of UK banking should aim to be the last. An antitrust probe in 2000 led to limited price controls after concluding that British lenders made excess profit. There were two more big investigations after the financial crisis. Yet concerns about market inefficiencies persist. That suggests the Competition and Markets Authority should do something radical this time.

May 27, 2014
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Failed bid would leave Astra under pressure

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By Chris Hughes
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

The likely failure of U.S. drugmaker Pfizer’s $119 billion bid for AstraZeneca, which was due to lapse on May 26, would leave the frustrated buyer no worse off. But the target has much to prove. Some of its shareholders welcomed a possible takeover – and could again.

May 21, 2014
via Breakingviews

Astra-Pfizer needs a fresh start later in the year

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By Chris Hughes
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

AstraZeneca should not reengage with Pfizer in the dying days of the takeover timetable. Talks now would either be fruitless or delay a proper restart later.

May 20, 2014
via Breakingviews

Loophole offers Pfizer risky way back into AZ deal

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By Chris Hughes

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Pfizer has a risky way back into a deal with AstraZeneca. An apparent loophole in Britain’s takeover code means the U.S. pharma group could offer the 58.85 pounds-a-share demanded by Astra for a recommendation, even after declaring that the earlier 55 pounds-a-share pitch was “final.”

    • About Chris

      "Chris Hughes is EMEA Editor of Reuters Breakingviews. Chris started his career as a researcher in BBC Television’s documentaries department and then became a financial journalist. He was previously Investment Banking Correspondent and Senior Corporate Reporter at the Financial Times, Financial Editor of The Independent and a companies writer at the Investors Chronicle. Chris has also worked at communications consultancy Financial Dynamics (now FTI), as an Associate Partner."
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