Royal Mail staff to strike over Black Friday and in run-up to Christmas after ‘final’ pay offer rejected – business live


Royal Mail workers to strike on Black Friday after ‘final’ pay offer rejected

Royal Mail workers are set to strike over the next couple of days – the busy Black Friday shopping period – after talks between the company and the Communication Workers Union (CWU) ended without agreement.

Royal Mail said its “best and final” offer, a pay increase of up to 9% over 18 months, had been rejected, and that the 48-hour strike by 1150,000 postal workers would go ahead. It had previously offered a 7% pay rise over two years.

As part of its offer, the company said it would make Sunday working optional and offer “more generous” voluntary redundancy terms than initially proposed. It also pledged it would not make any compulsory job cuts until the end of March.

There have been months of wrangling over pay and working conditions between Royal Mail and the union. CWU has carried out several strikes in the past few months and has announced plans for a further 10 days of strikes between 24 November and 24 December.

Simon Thompson, Royal Mail’s chief executive, said:

Talks have lasted for seven months and we have made numerous improvements and two pay offers, which would now see up to a 9% pay increase over 18 months alongside a host of other enhancements. This is our best and final offer.

Negotiations involve give and take, but it appears that the CWU’s approach is to just take.

The strikes have already added £100m to Royal Mail’s losses so far this year. In a materially loss making company, with every additional day of strike action we are facing the difficult choice of about whether we spend our money on pay and protecting jobs, or on the cost of strikes.

Royal Mail vans. Photograph: Rui Vieira/PA

Key events

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CWU asks for improved pay deal and guarantee of no compulsory redundancies

CWU has issued its statement, saying postal workers are warning the public of the “end of Royal Mail as we know it,” as 115,000 employees will strike over the next two days.

The union rejected the company’s “best and final offer,” and accused it of turning the business into a “gig economy-style parcel courier, reliant on casual labour”. It said the proposals entailed thousands of compulsory redundancies, cuts to sick pay, later start and finishing times, no job security commitments and a “wholly inadequate, non-backdated 3.5% pay increase”.

In response, the union is arguing for the following proposals to help resolve the dispute:

  • An improved 18 month pay deal including back pay for all workers;

  • A guarantee of no compulsory redundancies;

  • The restoration of previously agreed processes for voluntary redundancies;

  • A joint review of all agreements and the relationship between the CWU and Royal Mail Group;

  • Re-establishing the right of CWU reps to be fully involved and able to negotiate on local revisions;

  • An alternative business strategy that would see Royal Mail Group use its competitive advantage to grow as a company, instead of becoming a gig economy parcel employer.

CWU general secretary Dave Ward said:

We are disappointed that instead of reaching a compromise to avoid major disruption, Royal Mail have chosen to pursue such an aggressive strategy.

We will not accept that 115,000 Royal Mail workers – the people who kept us connected during the pandemic, and made millions in profit for bosses and shareholders – take such a devastating blow to their livelihoods.

These proposals spell the end of Royal Mail as we know it, and its degradation from a national institution into an unreliable, Uber-style gig economy company.

Make no mistake about it: British postal workers are facing an Armageddon moment.

We urge every member of the public to stand with their postie, and back them like never before.

Royal Mail workers to strike on Black Friday after ‘final’ pay offer rejected

Royal Mail workers are set to strike over the next couple of days – the busy Black Friday shopping period – after talks between the company and the Communication Workers Union (CWU) ended without agreement.

Royal Mail said its “best and final” offer, a pay increase of up to 9% over 18 months, had been rejected, and that the 48-hour strike by 1150,000 postal workers would go ahead. It had previously offered a 7% pay rise over two years.

As part of its offer, the company said it would make Sunday working optional and offer “more generous” voluntary redundancy terms than initially proposed. It also pledged it would not make any compulsory job cuts until the end of March.

There have been months of wrangling over pay and working conditions between Royal Mail and the union. CWU has carried out several strikes in the past few months and has announced plans for a further 10 days of strikes between 24 November and 24 December.

Simon Thompson, Royal Mail’s chief executive, said:

Talks have lasted for seven months and we have made numerous improvements and two pay offers, which would now see up to a 9% pay increase over 18 months alongside a host of other enhancements. This is our best and final offer.

Negotiations involve give and take, but it appears that the CWU’s approach is to just take.

The strikes have already added £100m to Royal Mail’s losses so far this year. In a materially loss making company, with every additional day of strike action we are facing the difficult choice of about whether we spend our money on pay and protecting jobs, or on the cost of strikes.

Royal Mail vans.
Royal Mail vans. Photograph: Rui Vieira/PA

Alex Dixon, partner at law firm Travers Smith, has looked at whether private equity might be interested in buying Manchester United after the Glazer family put it up for sale.

FSG’s acquisition of and investment in Liverpool remains the benchmark for how long-term, pragmatic investment can lead to rapid growth for heritage sporting assets. Any private equity investment in Manchester United would be predicated on growth over the coming years and that will be a key focus for sponsors. Developing the club in line with fan expectations has been a key factor in recent successful investments in Premier League Clubs.

The Chelsea auction demonstrated how attractive the best football clubs are for PE investors. It remains to be seen whether the price for Manchester United would exceed that of Chelsea by such a degree that it would need a consortium of sponsors, perhaps alongside other forms of capital, to win an auction.

Manchester United have been hugely successful over the past 15 years at leveraging commercial opportunities and so investors will need to carefully assess the ability to further grow those commercial revenues. The Super League situation showed that there are limits on the ability of top clubs to fundamentally change sporting competitions to drive further revenue growth. While a revamp of Old Trafford is certainly a possibility, the amount of revenue that can be earned from a state of the art stadium will only be part of the value proposition for an incoming PE investor.

Scotsman owner says it won’t bid for Mirror and Express owner

Mark Sweney

Mark Sweney

The owner of the Scotsman and Yorkshire Post has said it will not make a bid for much larger rival Reach, the parent company of the Mirror and Express titles and hundreds of regional newspapers, despite saying it had secured the financial backing for a £350m-plus takeover.

National World, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange with a market value of £51m, said that it had decided not to make a formal offer after deciding that “circumstances are not aligned”. Earlier this month it emerged that National World, which is run by the former boss of Mirror newspaper group David Montgomery, was in the early stages of exploring a possible offer for Reach.

Montgomery, who has long coveted a takeover of his former employer, had not approached the board of Reach, which is valued at £350m. National World said:

Following further work with its advisers, National World has concluded that while there are considerable industrial and financial advantages to combining the newspaper portfolios of the two companies the circumstances are not aligned to proceed any further with the possible offer.

This is despite National World having received in principle financial support from within the investment community to fund a potential deal.

Shares in Reach, which have slumped by more than 60% this year, fell almost 6% on Wednesday as investors reacted to the news that a takeover offer would not be forthcoming.

A combination of National World and Reach, which is already the UK’s biggest regional newspaper publisher owning brands including the Liverpool Echo and Manchester Evening News, would likely have faced an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority. Montgomery said:

A combination with Reach could unlock very significant operational value for both companies, but not all the elements required to ensure a successful transaction were present. Rather than create unwanted management distractions for both companies and our respective shareholders, we have decided not to proceed with any discussions at this stage.

Manchester United Supporters Trust urges Glazers to sell quickly

The Glazer family has been urged by Manchester United fans to sell quickly and to make sure they leave the club in the right hands rather than chasing the biggest bid.

In an open letter, the Manchester United Supporters Trust also warns the Glazers that any sort of uncertainty could be “disastrous” and tells them “It’s time for a change”. It comes after reports the Americans want at least £6bn for a club they purchased in 2005.

“The last 17 years has been characterised by debt and decline – on-the-field and off it,” the letter from Must states. “The vast majority of United fans will agree with the conclusion you appear to have also reached – it’s time for change.

We would like to speak to Manchester United fans around the world about their views on the developments at the club. How do you feel about the team’s future? Would you welcome new ownership of the club?

Aletha Adu

Aletha Adu

Here’s our full story on the ongoing rail dispute.

The transport secretary, Mark Harper, will meet the union leader Mick Lynch for the first time for urgent talks to try to call off rail strikes over the festive period.

The RMT general secretary defended the industrial action against critical newspaper reports painting him as “the Grinch who stole Christmas”. “I’m not the Grinch. I’m a trade union official, and I’m determined to get a deal,” Lynch said.

His assistant general secretary, John Leach, said he hoped Harper “puts his shoulder behind the wheel and gets a deal moving”, but warned that if a settlement isn’t reached on Thursday then passengers will face “more and more disruption”.

Meanwhile, the work and pensions secretary, Mel Stride, told Sky News on Wednesday that legislation could be pushed forward “in due course” to ensure a minimum service for passengers and condemned striking workers for putting festive family reunions at risk.

Jedidajah Otte

Jedidajah Otte

With UK households braced for the biggest fall in living standards since records began, as food prices continue to soar and many struggle to pay their energy direct debits this winter, four people share why they are taking on a second job.

‘I’m no better off than when I was on £7,000 a year’

Jo Thompson, a single mother of two from Lincolnshire, usually works a 45-hour week as an NHS senior analyst and team leader by day, earning a salary of £41,000.

By night, she is a pizza delivery driver, a job she took on at the end of August.

“I now work around 60 hours per week,” the 44-year-old says.

The British manufacturing firm Johnson Matthey plans to cut up to 15% of senior management jobs, in an effort to slash costs as it faces soaring inflation and energy prices.

Chief executive Liam Condon said the cuts formed part of plans to simplify the organisation and achieve £150m in annual savings, the Financial Times reported.

We had an overengineered administrative layer. We need to make sure we have enough [staff] to do the work and we are not top heavy on [managers].

Condon is pushing ahead with a major revamp of the group, which took a hit from a costly exit from its business manufacturing chemicals for electric car batteries this year.

RMT: rail passengers face more and more disruption unless deal is reached

Rail passengers will face more and more disruption unless a settlement is reached in the long running dispute over jobs, pay and conditions, a senior union chief has warned.

More than 40,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union across Network Rail and 14 train operating companies are due to strike on December 13-14, 16 -17 and on January 3-4 and 6-7.

There will also be an overtime ban across the railways from December 18 until January 2, meaning RMT members be taking industrial action for four weeks.

RMT assistant general secretary John Leach said members are “desperate” and have been left with no option but to take industrial action. He said he hopes UK Transport Secretary Mark Harper “puts his shoulder behind the wheel and gets a deal moving” when he meets with RMT general secretary Mick Lynch on Thursday.

Leach told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme:

Let’s hope that the third secretary of state down in England in less than six months has got something better to say than Grant Shapps and Anne-Marie Trevelyan before him and actually puts his shoulder behind the wheel and gets a deal moving.

There’s a deal that can be done here, we’re professional negotiators, our members just want a pay rise, they haven’t had one for two or three years and this will be nearly the fourth coming up.

They’ve just got to commit themselves to fairness for our members, but if they don’t then we’re going to see more and more disruption like this and we are determined to see this through for our members.

Asked how long strikes could go on for, he said:

We will do what we need to do and take this forward.

The new transport secretary @Mark_J_Harper was due in Manchester this morning to deliver a speech at the Great Northern Conference but has opted to prerecord it instead. Presume he didn’t fancy the £369 peak avanti fare and/or the lottery that is uk train travel right now.

— Helen Pidd (@helenpidd) November 23, 2022

‘Built on the blood of slaves’: British football fans boycotting World Cup

Emma Russell

Thousands of migrant worker deaths and Qatar’s stance on women’s and LGBTQ+ rights have prompted some British football fans to boycott this year’s World Cup.

Alex Murphy has found a community through football. His weekends are spent cheering on Ipswich Town, where he holds a season ticket, the Arsenal women’s team near his north London address, or playing five-a-side with his teams: Saka Potatoes and Olympique Mayonnaise. He has watched every World Cup since 2002 and enjoys the inclusivity of the event, which even his mum, who doesn’t really care about football, gets into. But this year, he won’t be tuning in.

He made the decision in January, when he became aware that more than 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka had died after Qatar embarked on an unprecedented building programme, largely in preparation for the tournament.

Murphy was already disappointed that the country, which has a problematic track record with women and LGBTQ+ rights, had won the bid and been given the opportunity to sportswash its image. “I think by not participating in it, you’re partly defining what it is about the game you love,” he says.

RMT boss: ‘I’m not the Grinch’ ahead of fresh rail strikes

The boss of a rail workers union has said he is “not the Grinch” ahead of planned fresh strikes in the run-up to Christmas and in the New Year.

Mick Lynch, general secretary of the RMT Union, said the latest walkouts would “show how important our members are to the running of this country”.

Strikes are planned across four 48-hour periods on 13-14 and 16-17 December, and 3-4 and 6-7 January.

Around 40,000 workers will walk out and there is likely to be further disruption in the days before and after the strikes due to trains not being in the right places.

Lynch said the latest strikes would “send a clear message that we want a good deal on job security, pay and conditions”. Referring to the children’s book character who tries to cancel Christmas, he said:

I’m not the Grinch. I’m a trade union official and I’m determined to get a deal.

The movie How the Grinch Stole Christmas
The movie How the Grinch Stole Christmas Photograph: Universal Pictures/Allstar

IMF urges China to boost Covid vaccinations

The International Monetary Fund has urged China to ‘recalibrate’ its Covid-19 strategy, including boosting vaccination rates, and to shore up its troubled property sector to restore confidence.

In a statement following virtual meetings for its annual review of China’s economic policies, the Washington-based fund said it was maintaining GDP growth forecasts issued in October.

It is forecasting growth of 3.2% this year and 4.4% next year, assuming a gradual lifting of China’s strict zero-Covid policy in the second half of next year.

The IMF’s first deputy managing editor Gita Gopinath said:

Although the zero-Covid strategy has become nimbler over time, the combination of more contagious Covid variants and persistent gaps in vaccinations have led to the need for more frequent lockdowns, weighing on consumption and private investment, including in housing.

Going forward, a further recalibration of the Covid strategy should be well prepared and include boosting the pace of vaccinations and maintaining it at a high level to ensure that protection is preserved.

Chinese authorities are seeking to contain a fresh spike in Covid infections that has dimmed hopes for a quick reopening of the economy, the world’s second-largest.

The fund welcomed authorities’ recent initiatives for China’s slumping property industry, including a loan programme to help complete unfinished homes and allowing forbearance on troubled property loans. Gopinath said:

Building on these efforts, additional robust and well-funded mechanisms are needed for completing troubled unfinished projects and protecting new presale buyers from the risk of non-completion, while forbearance measures should be phased out.

These measures will help restore homebuyer confidence and facilitate market-based restructuring.

She stressed the need for structural reforms in the sector and new savings models.

UK economy in worst non-Covid downturn since financial crisis – PMI

UK private sector firms recorded another reduction in business activity in November, the fourth month of decline, while new orders fell at the fastest pace for almost two years, according to a business survey. This points to a deepening recession, and is the worst downturn (excluding Covid lockdown months) since 2009.

Chris Williamson, chief business economist at S&P Global Market Intelligence, which compiled the survey, said:

A further steep fall in business activity in November adds to growing signs that the UK is in recession, with GDP likely to fall for a second consecutive quarter in the closing months of 2022. If pandemic lockdown months are excluded, the PMI for the fourth quarter so far is signalling the steepest economic contraction since the height of the global financial crisis in the first quarter of 2009, consistent with the economy contracting at a quarterly rate of 0.4%. Forward-looking indicators, notably an increasingly steep drop in demand for goods and services, suggest the downturn will deepen as we head into the new year.

While the recent change of government has resulted in improved business confidence, the business mood remains among the gloomiest seen over the past quarter century amid the numerous headwinds, which include the cost of living crisis, the Ukraine war, steepening export losses (often linked to Brexit), higher borrowing costs, fiscal tightening and heightened political uncertainty.

Price pressures meanwhile remain elevated but show further signs of cooling, often linked to weakened demand, which – combined with the growing recession signals – suggest that the Bank of England may start to make less aggressive interest rate hikes in the coming months.

The headline seasonally adjusted S&P Global / CIPS flash UK composite output index ticked up to 48.3 in November, from 48.2 in October and signalling a further modest fall in private sector business activity. The index has been below the crucial 50 no-change mark for four months.

New orders fell at the fastest pace since January 2021, as squeezed client budgets weighed on demand in both the manufacturing and service sectors.

On a more positive note, business expectations for the year ahead rebounded from the 30-month low in October. Many firms mentioned recession worries and increasingly challenging economic conditions, but there were fewer comments citing domestic political uncertainty.

Pets at Home hammered by freight, energy costs

Pets at Home, Britain’s largest pet supplies chain, is also struggling amid rising costs, and its shares fell 4.8% after it posted lower first-half profits.

The company has been hammered by a surge in freight and energy costs. Underlying profit before tax fell 9.3% to £59.2m in the six months to 13 October. People are buying fewer toys and other accessories for their dogs amid the cost of living squeeze but are still spending on essentials like food and litter, and on Christmas ranges.

Chief executive Lyssa McGowan said:

We are conscious of the macro-economic backdrop and continue to manage the business proactively. The inflationary environment creates pressures for both our customers and the business. We are conscious of the challenges faced by many consumers, and continue to prioritise making pet care as convenient and affordable as possible. We will never let price be a reason not to shop with us.

More people bought pets during the pandemic when they spent more time at home and the pet boom has continued despite the cost of living crisis, although demand for more expensive accessories appears to be fading.

Analysts at RBC said:

Pets is starting to see some evidence of consumers trading down, with new customers buying more of the lower price point, grocery products and more own-brand product.

Pets at Home stuck to full-year guidance of an underlying profit of around £131m. It has 457 stores, many of which also have vet practices and grooming salons.

A pet groomer tends to a dog at The Groom Room, at Pets at Home in Milton Keynes.
A pet groomer tends to a dog at The Groom Room, at Pets at Home in Milton Keynes. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Reuters

Halfords targets retirees in recruitment drive for 1,000 roles

Joe Middleton

Halfords has launched a drive to fill 1,000 technician roles over the next 12 months by targeting more retired and female recruits, as the UK’s tight labour market pushes employers to think up new hiring strategies.

Announcing a halving of interim profits as customers cut discretionary spending amid the cost of living crisis, the motoring and cycling retailer warned that its full-year results will be at the lower end of expectations. Its shares fell more than 6% on the news.

However, it said inflationary pressures had also driven membership of its motoring loyalty club from drivers keen to cover the soaring cost of running a car. Its chief executive, Graham Stapleton, said: “To help meet that demand, we are today launching a recruitment drive to fill 1,000 new automotive technician roles over the next 12 months. In particular, we are hoping to attract retirees back into the workforce, as well as increasing the number of women in technician roles.”

Market summary

The FTSE 100 index has advanced 41 points, or 0.56%, to 7,494, while other major European indices are in the red. Germany’s Dax has lost 0.2%, France’s CAC is flat and Italy’s FTSE MiB has edged 0.2% lower.

The pound is little changed against the dollar and the euro, trading at $1.1888 and €1.1528.

Crude oil prices have risen almost 1% with Brent, the global benchmark, at $89.19 a barrel.

Eurozone downturn eases as inflation cools

Business activity declined across the eurozone for a fifth month running in November but at a slower pace, according to flash PMI data from S&P Global.

The headline index rose to 47.8 from 47.3 in October, inching closer to the 50 mark that separates contraction from expansion.

Although the rate of decline remained the second strongest since 2013, excluding Covid-19 lockdown months, the intensity of the downturn moderated in response to a reduced rate of loss of new business, fewer supply constraints and a pick-up in business confidence about the year ahead.

Business sentiment nevertheless remained gloomy by historical standards, and demand continued to fall at a steep rate, leading to a pull-back in employment growth during the month.

One upside of the weaker demand picture and alleviation of supply constraints was a cooling of price pressures, most notably in the manufacturing sector. Firms’ costs rose at the slowest rate for 14 months, in turn allowing selling price inflation to moderate, albeit with rates of inflation remaining elevated.

Credit Suisse forecasts another loss as it embarks on overhaul

Credit Suisse has forecast a pre-tax loss of up to Sfr1.5bn (£1.3bn) in the fourth quarter, citing a “substantial” slowdown across the industry.

A month ago, the embattled lender unveiled sweeping plans to cut 9,000 jobs and to raise billions of pounds from investors in a Saudi-led funding round, following a series of scandals and a £3.5bn loss in the third quarter. Its new boss, Ulrich Körner, has been tasked with scaling back the investment bank and slashing costs, with plans to spin it off to focus on wealth management.

The Swiss bank said its wealth management division and investment bank were likely to make a loss between October and December. Overall outflows were 6% of assets under management at the end of the third quarter. The Zurich-based bank said:

Credit Suisse began experiencing deposit and net asset outflows in the first two weeks of October 2022 at levels that substantially exceeded the rates incurred in the third quarter of 2022.

In wealth management, these outflows have reduced substantially from the elevated levels of the first two weeks of October although they have not yet reversed.

And returning to the potential sale of Manchester United, which has been welcomed by fans, the US-listed shares have risen about 10% in pre-market trading.

They closed more than 14% higher last night after Sky News was first to report that the Glazer family were considering selling the club, but that left the share price only slightly above its 2012 flotation price of $14. The club’s market value peaked at $4.3bn in 2018.

Victoria Scholar, head of investment at interactive investor, says:

Manchester United is trading higher by almost 10% this morning after the Glazer family announced plans to potentially sell the club a day after Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure, which would bring their 17-year ownership to an end.

Investors are cheering the news amid hopes that this could be the beginning of a new era for the club after a disappointing performance over the last few years. The expectation is that there could be a number of potential deep pocketed bidders including Sir Jim Ratcliffe who expressed an interest in buying Man U in August. Although the club was recently valued at £3.75bn, the club has the potential to sell for much more than that.

The shares are trading higher by more than 26% so far this year.

Shadow home secretary calls on government to ‘get its act together’ on rail dispute

More on the rail strikes.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said people have a right to campaign for a fair pay deal but that ultimately a deal is needed. She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

We recognise people have got a right to do everything they can to campaign for a fair pay deal, and they will continue to do so.

And people have a right to withdraw their labour and to strike as part of that, and we’ll always support people’s right to be able to do that, but ultimately we need a deal in place, and that is what we’ve been calling for.

She said she wants the government to “get its act together on this”.

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper .
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper . Photograph: House of Commons/PA

French business activity declines for first time since early 2021

Business activity in the French private sector shrank for the first time since February 2021, the PMIs showed. The headline flash France PMI composite output index fell below the 50.0 threshold in November to 48.8, from 50.2 in October.

Manufacturing production volumes continued to fall during November, for the sixth month in a row, although a fresh drop in service sector activity was the main factor behind the overall contraction.

German private sector contraction eases in November

Germany’s private sector activity continued to decline in November, but there were signs of improvement, the latest flash PMIs from S&P Global indicated.

However, the rate of decline in business activity eased and firms were less pessimistic about the year-ahead outlook. Demand continued to come under pressure from strong inflation, though even on the price front there were some encouraging signs as firms reported the slowest increase in costs for 1 1/2 years and a weaker rise in prices charged for goods and services. Despite falling workplace activity, labour market conditions remained relatively robust.

Rail strikes latest: Ministers to hold talks with union chiefs this week

Ministers will hold talks with rail union chiefs this week to urge them to call off strikes aimed at causing “maximum disruption” over Christmas.

The RMT union announced on Tuesday that thousands of its members working for Network Rail and 14 train operating companies will strike on 13-14 and 16-17 December, causing disruption over six consecutive days in the run-up to Christmas. There will be a further two strikes on 3-4 and 6-7 January.

Work and pensions secretary Mel Stride said on TalkTV this morning:

What we need is we need more talking from the unions with the employers and less announcements of strikes.

He said the consequences of the strikes announced by the RMT union in December and January would be “quite serious”, disrupting “medical appointments, for example, as well as “family reunions” over the festive period.

The timing of these strikes are designed to create maximum disruption across the Christmas period.

The Secretary of State is actually meeting the rail union leaders later this week, so there is that dialogue occurring.

The essential discussions have to occur between the rail operating companies, Network Rail and the unions, and they really should be engaging more on that and working things out between them more vigorously, in my view, than simply rushing off and going into strike action.

Announcing the strikes on Tuesday, the RMT’s general secretary, Mick Lynch, said:

This latest round of strikes will show how important our members are to the running of this country and will send a clear message that we want a good deal on job security, pay and conditions for our people.

We have been reasonable, but it is impossible to find a negotiated settlement when the dead hand of government is presiding over these talks.

Introduction: Manchester United shares jump after Glazers put club up for sale

Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of business, the financial markets and the world economy.

The Glazer family are looking to sell Manchester United after owning it for 17 years, triggering a 27% jump in the share price to $16.6 in after hours trading on Nasdaq.

The Glazers announced last night that they were “commencing a process to explore strategic alternatives” for the Premier League club, on the same day it was confirmed that Cristiano Ronaldo had left Old Trafford by mutual agreement.

A statement from United revealed plans to identify new investment that could lead to a potential sale. The club said the process led by their American owners will consider a number of options “including new investment into the club, a sale, or other transactions involving the company”. The Raine Group, which oversaw the sale of Chelsea earlier this year, has been appointed as the exclusive financial adviser.

In August, Jim Ratcliffe, the UK’s richest person, expressed an interest in buying United. “If the club is for sale, Jim is definitely a potential buyer,” a spokesperson for him said. Last month, though, Ratcliffe claimed he had met the Glazers and they did not wish to sell.

The club was valued at nearly $2.5bn (£2bn) on the New York stock exchange yesterday, but is expected to fetch at least twice as much if sold. The Glazers took control of United in a £790m deal in 2005, loading the club with £500m of debt, and later listed a minority stake, in 2012, but retained control through a dual-class share structure which gives them almost all voting rights.

The announcement that they were considering selling comes after years of protest from the fans, chanting “Love United, Hate Glazers”. United has not won the Premier League since 2013 and the fans want to see more investment in the club.

David Cogan, a media executive who negotiated the sale of the Premier League’s TV rights, has been talking about this on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

The owners have said we’ve done our 17 years, we’ve taken out as much as we can, we’re under constant pressure from fans and therefore what we need to do is try to find a buyer at a time when the Premier League looks like it might make more money because lots of people are buying rights and we’ve got the asset value to where we could get it.

And what’s really driven that is the differences in value. A year ago Newcastle sold for £305m. Chelsea sold for £2.5bn plus an additional £1.75bn for reinvestment in the club, nearly £5bn. When you’re Manchester United or you’re Liverpool and you’re the owner of those clubs, you look at those numbers and say we can easily get that, and that’s a huge return on our initial investment.

He said large American hedge funds may be interested in buying the club, noting that they have been buying media rights of sports assets, for example in rugby.

It may well be that all these American hedge funds are looking at football assets believing they are undervalued even at £4bn or £5bn because the Premier League will continue to grow…

Most fans are quite happy if the money is coming in.

Roman Abramovich sold Chelsea for £4.25bn to a consortium led by the American businessman Todd Boehly in May. Newcastle United was sold by Mike Ashley for £305m last October to a consortium led by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

Otherwise, the focus today is on the latest flash PMIs for November, closely-watched business surveys, as well as the minutes from the US Federal Reserve’s last meeting when it hiked interest rates as expected by 75 basis points.

Most Asian stock markets have gained while oil and the dollar slipped, as rising Covid-19 cases in China triggered fears of fresh lockdowns that could hold back the reopening of the world’s second-biggest economy.

European stocks are expected to rise at the open, after they reversed their Monday losses and closed at three-month highs on Tuesday.

The Agenda

  • 8.15am GMT: France S&P Global PMIs flash for November

  • 8.30am GMT: Germany PMIs flash for November

  • 9am GMT: Eurozone PMIs flash for November

  • 9.30am GMT: UK S&P Global/CIPS PMIs flash for November

  • 1.30pm GMT: US Durable goods orders for October (forecast: 0.4%)

  • 2.45pm GMT: US S&P Global PMIs flash for November

  • 3pm GMT: US Michigan Consumer sentiment final for November (forecast: 55)

  • 3pm GMT: Treasury committee to quiz UK chancellor Jeremy Hunt on autumn statement

  • 7pm GMT: Bank of England chief economist Huw Pill speech on returning inflation to target

  • 7pm GMT: US Federal Reserve minutes





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