Recent research has show that close to 50 million pounds was paid out shareholders in the form of dividends, in many cases just a few days before the end of the tax year on April 6. Experts believe that many UK companies are employing this tactic as a means to help some of their big-income employees who are also shareholders to avoid the rise in the rate of income tax. If this is the case, it could cost the Treasury as much as £85 million pounds. Analysts estimate that the main "offenders" are directors in small to medium sized companies who want to minimise the effect of the soon to be effective 50 percent tax rate, due to their greater flexibility over returns.
A rise in UK retail sales, albeit a minor one has been reported for March by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) According to the ONS, retail sales volumes during the month grew by 0.4% from February, which is less than the 0.6% analysts had expected. Sales improved in February after a very poor January, report with retail sales being hard hit by the icy weather.
Overall, sales volumes during the first quarter of 2010 were reported to be down 1.7% from the equivalent quarter of last year.
Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has announced a series of proposals to toughen performance targets in its executive pay scheme. The announcement from RBS chairman Philip Hampton signals a key trigger point for RBS’s long-term incentive plan, which is to be revised upwards. Under the existing incentive plan bank executives gain a significant proportion of performance-linked rewards when the bank’s share price hits 50 pence. RBS shares are currently well over the fifty pence mark.
HSBC are reports to be on the look out for bankers to help them direct any industry-wide bank levy into government-sponsored venture capital agencies. The bank has toured Europe seeking support from colleagues in the industry for their plan to alter the terms of the ongoing debate about bank regulation. HSBC proposals include varying the capital buffers banks are required to hold, dependant on economic conditions. The bank’s argument is that banks need to hold higher capital in good times to absorb losses when conditions decline.
In an effort to strengthen confidence in its brand before a proposed launch onto the UK high street, the Bank of Ireland (BoI) that would have a spate and UK based board of directors. The UK move would also see BoI, which has operated in the UK in a partnership with Post Office since 2004, being regulated by the Financial Services Authority. Although the group has operated in the UK in various formats since the mid nineteen seventies, till now their operations have always been overseen by the Irish Financial Regulator, with customers protected through Ireland’s deposit guarantee scheme. In the meantime BoI have announced plans to raise £2.9 billion through a rights issue and private placing, in order to finance the expansion and meet its capital needs. The bank is in need to aid its recovery from the financial crisis due to the crash in the Eire economy which has been one of hardest hit, but has now emerged from what was one of Europe’s worst recessions. Irish lenders were particularly hit hard by the housing market crash, which saw billions of Euros-worth of home loans go bad.
UK Coal, Britain’s largest coal mining company, has announced 2009 losses of almost £130 million in what it describes as “an extremely challenging year for the group”.
Total demand fell to 7 million tonnes from 7.9 million in 2008, while the Group’s financial results revealed a pre-tax loss of £129.1 million, compared to a minor loss (£15.6 million) the previous year.
A spokesman for UK Coal commented that while the financial results for 2009 were poor, new contracts and developments to their property portfolio look set to help boost profitability in 2010, with the Group planning to disposal of land for agricultural use expected to help reduce its debt.
As the largest producer of coal in the country, last year UK Coal mined 15% of the total amount of coal burned in the UK.
For the third time in six months mobile phone retailer Carphone Warehouse have raised their full-year profit forecast.
A company spokesman has no predicted that they expect net profits for the year to the end of March to be around the £47 million mark, considerably more than the £40 million to £45 million predicted at the beginning of the year.
Strong growth due to the joint venture with US group Best Buy, cost cutting and strong sales of smart-phones were said to be the principal factors behind the profit growth.
Uncertainty regarding the Euro pushed Sterling up against the dollar while the Euro fell. The pound closed on $1.5263 and €1.580
On the FTSE, stocks plunged at the fasted rate for one day for five months after the economies of both Greece and Portugal were downgraded spurring concern that these heavily in debt European nations are moving closer to default. The index sank 150.33 to 5,603.52, its biggest drop since late November 2009.
Greece has become the first eurozone member to have its debt downgraded to junk level, while Portugal’s debt was also lowered on fears of "contagion", adding to the markets’ rout and a fall in the euro. The German government immediately came out with a statement that it would not "let Greece fall", and there were signs that an aid package could be increased.
Profits at oil giant BP have more than doubled from a year ago on the back of rising oil prices.
Profit for January to March was £3.6 billion, ($5.6 billion) compared with the around £1.45 for the first quarter of 2009 – a 135% rise.
The profit figure is also up on the profit made in the last three months of 2009.
BP has benefited from rising global oil prices, which averaged $76 a barrel in the first three months of 2010, compared to an average of $41 a barrel a year ago.
On the news of Greece’s possible default, shares on Wall Street fell sharply. The Dow Jones dropped 213.04 points to 10991, 99 while NASDAQ fell 51.48 points to 2471.47.
Car giant Ford has reported net income of $2.1 billion for the first three months of 2010, its highest quarterly profit for six years, and cancels out a a loss of $1.43 billion for the same period in 2009.
A spokesman for the company said the result was down to a recovering economy, which meant people were again beginning to buy expensive, one-off items.
Ford also predicted that it will remain in profit every quarter this year.