Business View: Now it's the turn of Rose to grab M&S by the lapels

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The Independent Online

Fancy asking Philip Green - the man who grabbed Stuart Rose by his lapels and unleashed a verbal assault on the Marks & Spencer chief - to shut his mouth? Thought not.

Fancy asking Philip Green - the man who grabbed Stuart Rose by his lapels and unleashed a verbal assault on the Marks & Spencer chief - to shut his mouth? Thought not.

But this is apparently exactly what one of his closest advisers did last week, after another fractious few days for the Monaco-based billionaire.

The advice was spot-on.

In just five days, the man who wants to buy Britain's most famous high-street store managed to: slag off M&S's shareholders; invoke the wrath of the financial regulator; and enhance his bully-boy reputation by leaving bizarre voicemail messages on Mr Rose's mobile phone. More significantly, there was no sign of his wedge in the shape of an improved potential offer to M&S's board.

Mr Green and his team will meet tomorrow to discuss the next move. While he appears to be sticking to the advice given to him and keeping shtoom, there are signs are that he will increase the cash element of his £8bn bid for M&S. After his week of blunders, the City is now even more wary of accepting Mr Green's equity as part of a bid. So, if he wants to seize the initiative, Mr Green will simply have to offer cash - and lots of it.

As we enter week three of the battle for M&S, Mr Rose and his team are looking stronger than ever. The partial boardroom clearout last week will have added a few million to the price Mr Green will have to pay if he wants to buy M&S. But Mr Rose must keep up the pace of change. As we report on the front page, the M&S chief has now trained his sights on Lifestore, the failing experiment to sell homeware to the masses. An incumbent chief executive would be pilloried for backing out of such a project after just four months. But for the new boy, ditching Lifestore can only enhance his chances of shutting up Mr Green.

No more Mr Bombastic

Sir Colin Chandler appeared to be losing his voice on Friday. After a full day on the phone to shareholders, it's no wonder the vocal cords of easyJet's non-executive chairman were sounding a little tired. He'd had a lot of explaining to do and it is probably fair to say that, at the end of it, Sir Colin had earache too.

On Monday, easyJet issued its second profits warning in a month. The low-cost airline admitted that it had misjudged the deepening price war and the rise in fuel prices.

One profit warning is bad enough, but just about excusable given the volatile nature of the low-cost airline industry. But two in such close succession is unfortunate and investors have seen the value of their shares almost halve since the beginning of May.

Sir Colin admits that mistakes were made in the way easyJet communicated the bad news to the City, but he insists that things won't get any worse. His humble words may not be enough to save the bacon of some easyJet board members. As we report today, shareholders are gunning for easyJet's Aussie finance director, Chris Walton, who they say hasn't been adept at handling the City. "With a beaming smile, he likes to call a spade a fucking spade," one institutional fund manager tells me.

During the no-frills airlines' go-go growth days, this sort of bombast was par for the course. EasyJet's executives felt almost duty bound to keep up with the industry's motormouth, Michael O'Leary of Ryanair. But in today's climate it pays for the companies to be a little more, well, boring. Sir Colin says that there will be no board changes - for now. But the screams of protests from easyJet's shareholders may drown his voice out.

Vodafone presses 'mute'

Last Thursday marked the start of an important couple of months for Vodafone. Although the company is keen not to publicise the fact, it has until 9 August to decide what to do with its 44.4 per cent stake in Verizon Wireless, a US mobile operator. Through a so-called "put option" it can force the company's majority shareholder, Verizon Communications, to buy its stake for up to $10bn (£5.5bn). I understand that Vodafone has all but ruled this out. With $10bn up for grabs, shareholders may take a different view.

clayton.hirst@independent.co.uk

Jason Nissé is away

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