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Edison

January 27, 2020

UK Sparks: AstraZeneca Sells Hypertension drugs for $390m

AstraZeneca is selling the global commercial rights to five branded pharmaceutical products to Atnahs Pharma, a specialty pharmaceutical business majority-owned by funds advised by Triton Partners, for up to $390m. Included in the deal are beta-blockers Inderal and Tenormin, plus Tenoretic, which is used to treat high blood pressure, and hypertension drugs Zestril and Zestoretic.

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Edison

January 24, 2020

UK Sparks: Smith & Nephew Snaps Up Tusker

Healthcare technology company Smith & Nephew has acquired California’s Tusker Medical for an undisclosed cash sum. Tusker has developed the Tula System, a new way of delivering “ear tubes” to treat recurrent or persistent ear infections. The device claims to be the first system that can be used to place ear tubes in young children using local anaesthesia at a doctor’s surgery.

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Edison

January 23, 2020

UK Sparks: ASOS revenues backed by record Black Friday sales

Online fashion and cosmetic retailer ASOS has issued a trading update for the four months ended December 2019, posting group revenues at £1,106m, up 20% year-on-year. This was supported by solid performance across all regions, which reflects a record Black Friday and strong customer engagement activity throughout the period. Gross margin declined 170 bp year-on-year, affected by US duties and investment in customer acquisition as planned.

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Edison

January 22, 2020

UK Sparks: Change At The Top At Sainsbury’s

Supermarkets group J Sainsbury has announced that chief executive Mike Coupe will retire at the end of May after six years in the position and 15 years at the group. He will be succeeded by retail and operations director Simon Roberts, 48, a former executive at Walgreens Boots Alliance and Marks & Spencer. Mr Coupe led the company’s £1.4bn takeover of Argos and its unsuccessful attempt to merge with Asda last year. He says it was a “very difficult decision” to step down. Chairman Martin Scicluna says Mr Coupe is an “exceptional” chief executive” who has been “bold and ambitious”at the company.

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Edison

January 21, 2020

UK Sparks: TalkTalk Sells Fibre Broadband Unit For £200m

TalkTalk Telecom Group has agreed to sell its broadband fibre business FibreNation to CityFibre, the UK’s third national digital infrastructure platform, for £200m. Chief executive Tristia Harrison says the disposal, which includes a long-term wholesale supply agreement, will allow TalkTalk to accelerate fibre growth for residential and business customers. CityFibre, which has fibre networks in more than 60 UK cities and towns, is jointly controlled by Antin Infrastructure Partners and West Street Infrastructure Partners.

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Edison

January 20, 2020

UK Sparks: BAE To Pay $2.2bn For US Takeovers

BAE Systems has announced two cash acquisitions in the US, paying $1.93bn for Collins Aerospace’s military global positioning system business and $275m for Raytheon’s airborne tactical radios operation. Both deals are subject to the completion of the merger of Raytheon and United Technologies. BAE says the takeovers represent a “unique opportunity” to purchase “high-quality, technology-based businesses with market-leading capabilities and long histories of pioneering innovation in their field”.

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Edison

January 17, 2020

UK Sparks: American Growth Boosts Experian

Credit-checking group Experian saw revenues increase by 7% in the last three months of 2019, driven by strong growth in America. The company says in a trading update that revenues rose by 11% in North America and by 10% in Latin America. Revenues fell by 3% in the UK and Ireland and by 4% in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific. Chief executive Brian Cassin says the performance represents “another quarter of good growth”. The company says its guidance for its full-year results remains unchanged.

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Edison

January 16, 2020

UK Sparks: Pearson full-year sales affected by its performance in North America

Learning company Pearson has issued a full-year trading update, revealing unchanged revenues compared to the previous year and adjusted earnings per share at 57.5-59.0p, in line with company guidance. The Core market (UK, Australia and Italy) recorded a 5% year-on-year sales increase, driven by strong performance in the UK while the Growth segment (Brazil, China, India and South Africa) increased its sales by 4% year-on-year. This was offset by a 3% year-on-year sales decline in North America, affected by weaker performance of US Higher Education Courseware (print in particular).

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Edison

January 15, 2020

UK Sparks: Tullow To Write Off $1.5bn

Tullow Oil has warned that it plans to take full-year pre-tax impairments and exploration write-offs totalling $1.5bn. It says the charges are mainly due to it cutting its long-term accounting oil price assumption from $75 to $65 per barrel and reducing its reserves in Ghana. The group, which is looking for a new chief executive following last month’s resignation of Paul McDade, expects full-year gross profits of about $700m on revenues of about $1.7bn.

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Edison

January 14, 2020

UK Sparks: Boohoo Ups Guidance After 44% Revenues Boost

Internet fashion retailer Boohoo Group has upgraded its full-year revenues guidance after seeing sales increase by 44% to £474m in the last four months of 2019. The company, whose brands include Pretty Little Thing and Nasty Gal, says in a trading update that UK revenues rose by 42% to £256m over the period. Sales in the US increased by 57% to £111m, while European operations produced a 54% improvement to £69.6m.

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Edison

January 13, 2020

UK Sparks: William Hill To Lose Finance Chief

Ruth Prior, chief financial officer of bookmaker William Hill, is stepping down to return to the private equity sector. Ms Prior is to join Element Materials Technology as chief financial officer. Separately, William Hill issued a trading statement, saying that it anticipates full-year adjusted operating profits from continuing operations of between £143m-£148m, ahead of its previous expectations. It says the improvement has been driven by “favourable sporting results”.

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Edison

January 10, 2020

UK Sparks: Second Profits Warning At Superdry

Clothing retailer Superdry has issued a second warning on its earnings, stating that full-year underlying pre-tax profits will now be less than £10m – more than half analysts’ expectations. The group says trading was hit by “unprecedented levels” of high street promotional activity in its peak period between October 27 and January 4, with revenues 15.8% down on the prior-year period. It also saw subdued consumer demand immediately after Christmas and shortages of some better-selling products.

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Edison

January 9, 2020

UK Sparks: Marks & Spencer maintains full year guidance despite UK market challenges

Retailer Marks & Spencer has issued a third quarter trading update, posting a 0.6% year-on-year decline in its UK sales. Together with its international operations, revenues were down 0.7%. At the same time, like-for-like sales in the UK increased by 0.2% year-on-year, assisted by a 1.4% growth in the food segment at the expense of a 1.7% decline in the clothing and home segment.

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Edison

January 8, 2020

UK Sparks: Anglo American In Talks Over £386m Sirius Takeover

Anglo American is in advanced discussions with Sirius Minerals over a potential £386m takeover of the group planning a major polyhalite mine in North Yorkshire. The possible cash offer would value each Sirius share at 5.5p. Sirius has been conducting a strategic review since cancelling a planned $500m bond issue last September.

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Edison

January 7, 2020

UK Sparks: Premier Oil Splashes Out Up To $871m in North Sea

Premier Oil is spending up to $871m buying assets in the North Sea, part-funded by a $500m equity raising. The group is acquiring the Andrew area and Shearwater assets from BP for $625m and an additional 25% interest in the Tolmount area from Dana Petroleum for $191m, plus contingent payments of up to $55m. Premier expects the equity raise to include both a placing and rights issue. Chief executive Tony Durrant says the acquisitions are “materially value-accretive” and in line with the company’s strategy of acquiring cash-generative assets in the UK North Sea.

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Edison

January 6, 2020

UK Sparks: Compass Chairman To Step Down

Paul Walsh is to step down as chairman of contract catering company Compass Group in 2021 after six years in the position. Mr Walsh says he wants to focus on his other business interests and will not seek re-election at next year’s annual meeting. Senior independent director John Bason will lead the search for Mr Walsh’s successor.

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Edison

December 18, 2019

UK Sparks: Pearson Sells Penguin Random House Stake For $675m

Educational publisher Pearson is selling its remaining 25% stake in Penguin Random House to joint venture partner Bertelsmann for about $675m (£530m). The deal gives Penguin Random House an enterprise value of $3.67bn – up from $3.55bn in 2017 when Pearson sold a 22% stake. Pearson says the transaction, which is expected to close in the first half of 2020, is in line with its ‘simplification strategy’.

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Edison

December 17, 2019

UK Sparks: Unilever To Miss Sales Growth Target

Consumer goods group Unilever has warned that it will miss its target of underlying sales growth of between 3-5% this year. The Dove soap to Magnum ice cream company blames the economic slowdown in South Asia and “difficult” trading conditions in West Africa for falling “slightly” behind the range. It says earnings, margin and cash forecasts should not be affected. The group also now expects sales growth of below 3% in the first half of 2020.

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Edison

December 16, 2019

UK Sparks: Sports Direct profits rise 21%

Retailer Sports Direct International has unveiled a 21% increase in interim pre-tax profits from £74.4m to £90.2m. The profits were calculated after a £103m charge under accountancy rules, mostly to cover onerous leases. Before this calculation, reported pre-tax profits advanced by 160% to £193m. Underlying profits were 58% higher at £102m. Revenues rose by 14% from £1.79bn to £2.04bn but were 6.4% lower excluding acquisitions and currency fluctuations.

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Edison

December 13, 2019

UK Sparks: Profits rise at Hollywood Bowl Group

Ten-pin bowling operator Hollywood Bowl Group has announced a 15.3% rise in full-year pre-tax profits to £27.6m on revenues 7.8% ahead at £130m. The group credits its ‘consumer-led strategy’ for the increases and says its refurbishment and rebranding programme is delivering strong returns.

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Edison

December 12, 2019

UK Sparks: Dixons Carphone Posts Another Interim Loss

Electricals retailer Dixons Carphone has trimmed its interim pre-tax loss to £86m from £440m in the same period of last year. Adjusted pre-tax profits fell from £60m to £24m. Like-for-like electrical goods sales in the UK and Ireland were flat, but like-for-like mobile phone sales were 10% lower. Chief executive Alex Baldock says the company is “on track” to deliver its promises for the full year and to fulfil its promised “longer-term transformation”.

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Edison

December 11, 2019

UK Sparks: Stagecoach Results Reflect Reduction in Business Scale

Public transport company Stagecoach has issued its interim results, reporting a decline in revenues to £800m from £1,010m in the previous year and adjusted earnings per share at 10.0p versus 12.9p. The company highlights the results reflect a reduction in scale of the group over the last eighteen months. That said, statutory earnings per share stood at 9.8 pence versus a loss of 5.5 pence in the last year. Stagecoach confirmed its full year expectations for earnings per share and maintained an interim dividend at 3.8 pence per share.

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Edison

December 10, 2019

UK Sparks: Ted Baker Chairman And CEO Exit Amid Third Profits Warning

Retailer Ted Baker has posted its third profit warning in a year and announced the departures of executive chairman David Bernstein and chief executive Lindsay Page. The group says full-year profits will be between £5m-£10 after trading in November and over the Black Friday weekend was below expectations with lower than anticipated margins. The announcement comes a week after the company warned of an £25m accounting error.

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Edison

December 9, 2019

UK Sparks: Naspers Ups Stakes in Just Eat Takeover Battle

The takeover battle for takeaway food platform Just Eat has taken another twist with South African technology investor Naspers lifting its cash offer to £5.1bn. The 740p-a-share offer, made through Naspers’ subsidiary Prosus, compares to the 710p bid it made in October, valuing the business at £4.9bn. Naspers says the new offer represents a 25.6% premium to Just Eat’s closing price the day before its October bid and a 24.6% premium to the recommended all-share offer from Dutch food delivery group Takeaway.com.

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Edison

December 6, 2019

UK Sparks: Phoenix To Buy ReAssure For £3.2bn

Phoenix Group Holdings has unveiled a £3.2bn takeover of rival closed life assurance and pension funds consolidator ReAssure Group from Swiss Re and Japan’s MS&AD Insurance Group. The deal creates Europe’s largest life and pensions consolidator with £329bn of assets under administration and 14.1 million policies. It will see Phoenix pay £1.2bn in cash and issue shares that will give the vendors a combined 28% stake in the enlarged group.

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Edison

December 4, 2019

UK Sparks: Rio Tinto Halts KwaZulu-Natal Production

Rio Tinto has moved to “curtail operations” at its 74%-owned Richards Bay Minerals heavy minerals sands joint venture in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa after an escalation in violence in nearby communities. The company says there has been an increase in criminal activity towards employees, one of whom was shot and seriously injured.

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Edison

December 3, 2019

UK Sparks: Ferguson Profits Rise 4.8%

Plumbing and heating group Ferguson has issued first-quarter numbers showing underlying trading profits up 4.8% to $433m on revenues 5.3% higher at $5.2bn. The company says the demerger of Wolseley, its UK business, is on track to be completed next year. In the UK, trading profits fell by $3m to $15m on organic revenues down 4.2%. Group gross margins dropped slightly to 29.7% but the company says its full-year expectations remain unchanged.

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Edison

December 2, 2019

UK Sparks: Ted Baker Warns Of Inventory Overstatement

Fashion retailer Ted Baker has announced that it has discovered that the value of inventory held on its balance sheet has been overstated. Based on a preliminary analysis, the board estimates that there is an “impact on value” of between £20m-£25m. The company believes that any adjustment to inventory value will “have no cash impact and will relate to prior years”. City law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has been appointed to undertake a comprehensive review. Ted Baker says that it will also be appointing independent accountants. The group has issued three profit warnings this year and seen the departure of founder and chief executive Ray Kelvin.

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Edison

November 29, 2019

UK Sparks: Ocado Signs Partnership Deal In Japan

Ocado Group has agreed a partnership deal with Japanese retailer Aeon, which is to use the company’s technology platform to develop an online grocery business in Japan. The deal sees Aeon join retailers including Marks & Spencer, Kroger, Groupe Casino and Coles Supermarkets, who have already signed technology partnerships with the company. It envisages sales capacity of around 600bn yen by 2030, growing to about 1 trillion yen by 2035.

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Edison

November 28, 2019

UK Sparks: Virgin Money Suspends Dividend As PPI Provisions Hit Results

Financial services company Virgin Money has issued its pro-forma full year results, revealing a £539m underlying profit before tax (compared with £581 last year) and a £194m statutory loss after tax (versus a £145m loss in the previous year). The decline resulted from an additional £385m PPI provision after the ‘unprecedented’ surge in PPI information requests and complaints in August as well as restructuring and acquisition-related costs. The company suspends dividend for the financial year 2019 but highlights the Board will reconsider dividend pay outs from financial year 2020.

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