Frasers bonus plan, G4S takeover bid, Tesco plans

The board of Frasers Group, which owns Sports Direct, has urged shareholders to back a £100m company bonus scheme. Photo: Toby Melville/Reuters
The board of Frasers Group, which owns Sports Direct, has urged shareholders to back a £100m company bonus scheme. Photo: Toby Melville/Reuters

Here are the top business, market, and economic stories you should be watching today in the UK, Europe, and around the world:

Frasers Group board back £100m staff bonus plan

The board of Frasers Group, majority-owned by Mike Ashley, has urged shareholders to back a £100m ($128.9m) company bonus scheme that “could be worth in excess of £100m” for staff.

The company, which owns Sports Direct, Flannels, Evans Cycles, USC, Jack Wills and GAME, said in a statement the “vast majority” of workers could receive cash or stock bonuses if its share price reaches a target level.

“Eligible and qualifying” workers could receive cash bonuses for up to four weeks’ salary, while 1,000 outstanding staff could receive shares worth between £50,000 and around £1m.

The scheme would run for four years, and bonuses would be paid out if the company’s share price rises and stays above £10 for 30 trading days in a row.

Sports Direct has previously come under fire over workers’ rights and working conditions.

G4S hits back in takeover battle

The security giant G4S has hit back at criticism from its rival GardaWorld, which has offered to buy the business at 190p per share.

G4S said in a statement the offer “significantly undervalues G4S and its prospects,” and called documents released by GardaWorld “misleading.”

“GardaWorld’s focus on legacy issues, which are now substantially resolved, and its misleading statements are designed to provide support for its opportunistic and clearly inadequate offer,” it said.

It also claimed GardaWorld’s record is “one of a loss-making company,” and claimed its Canadian rival “lacks the geographic coverage to be a truly global company.”

WATCH: Tesco sales and profits rise despite COVID-19 costs

New Tesco (TSCO.L) chief executive Ken Murphy has parked his tanks on the lawn of Aldi and Lidl, promising to go toe-to-toe with the German discounters on low prices.

In his first media call with journalists since taking the top job, Murphy vowed to keep Tesco’s prices competitive with rivals as the UK faces a historic recession and the threat of a possible no-deal Brexit.

“We are committed to providing value regardless of the circumstances,” Murphy said on Wednesday. “Particularly if we head into a recession — if times get tough — we will be even more focused on value.”

The comments came as Murphy presided over his first set of results in charge of the business. Tesco’s half-year sales rose 6.6% to £26.7bn ($34.4bn) and pre-tax profit jumped 28.7% to £551m.

Property prices leapt 7.3% year-on-year last month as Britain’s housing market boom continues, with lender Halifax reporting mortgage applications at a 12-year high.

Figures from the bank show the average residential home sold for £249,870 ($322,877) in September, with the highest annual rise since 2016.

Russell Galley, managing director of Halifax, noted political uncertainty had weighed on prices last September, but said the market had still been “extremely strong” since the first national lockdown eased.

Prices were up 1.6% on the previous month in a third month in a row of gains. Growth has lost less steam than expected by analysts, who had predicted monthly growth of 0.6%.

But Galley warned of “significant downward pressure” on house prices in the months to come as the economic downturn eventually dampens the market.

European and Asian stocks were mixed on Wednesday, after a Wall Street sell-off the previous day as US president Donald Trump called off talks with Democrats over a stimulus package.

“There are hopes that the stimulus plans could be revived in the period between the election and January’s inauguration which are probably helping investors keep the news in perspective for now,” wrote AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould.

Leading indices in Europe all opened higher before losing steam, and were mostly trading near-flat at around 9.30am in Britain. The pan-European STOXX 600 (^STOXX) and France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) were trading 0.1% higher, the FTSE 100 (^FTSE) and Germany’s DAX (^GDAXI) were down 0.1%.

The Australian government’s budget statement helped limit the spillover to Asian stocks too. The country’s S&P/ASX 200 index (^AXJO) rose 1.3%. Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) shed only 0.1%, China’s Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) lost 0.2%, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng (^HSI) was up 0.9%.

What to expect in the US

S&P 500 futures (ES=F) Dow Jones futures (YM=F), and Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) were all trading 0.5% higher as trading began in Europe on Wednesday.

WATCH: UK construction data shows rebound with housing boom

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