Billionaire George Soros has taken a 7.85% stake in Manchester United, betting on the UK football team to score in the financial markets as well as on the pitch. News of the investment, made via Soros Fund Management, was released in an SEC filing after the closing bell rang on Wall Street today. The 82-year-old now owns 3,114,588 shares in the team but carries almost no voting power and will receive no dividend, thanks to the structure of the club’s flotation. Manchester United floated 16.7m shares in New York at $14 each on August 10, giving it a total valuation of $2.3bn and making it the most valuable team in the world. Its main contender for the title, Real Madrid, is worth just $1.88bn, The Telegraph says.
The Daily Telegraph reports today that it can confirm reports in Der Spiegel that European Central Bank (ECB) technicians are examining plans to cap Spanish and Italian bond yields, among other options. This may prove to be the “game changer” that critics around the world have been demanding for two years, the newspaper adds. The ECB’s director-general of market operations, Ulrich Bindseil, is spearheading the plans in talks with experts from the ECB’s family of national central banks. Market, monetary policy and risk management committees are working to put together a draft. “They don’t take sides. They just lay out the pros and cons and leave it to the governing council to decide,” said one EU diplomat who was cited.
A multimillion-pound deal to create Britain’s biggest chain of casinos was hanging by a thread last night after the Office of Fair Trading unexpectedly referred the merger to the Competition Commission. The regulator said that it was concerned that the proposed acquisition by Rank Group of Gala Casinos would “substantially reduce competition in the casino sector” and could “result in a worse deal for consumers”. Rank, which had announced the deal in May, said that it was “considering the implications of this decision”, adding: “A further announcement will be made in due course.” Carl Leaver, the chief executive of Gala Coral Group, which also owns betting shops and bingo clubs, said that he was “surprised” by the decision. “Once we get the full report, we will sit down with our legal advisors and decide on the next step,” he said, according to The Times.
Apple yesterday became the most valuable public company in history. The share price of the technology firm rocketed to £423.33 in frenzied trading, taking the total value of its shares to £395bn. Apple was already the No.1 on companies’ current value, a position it has held since dethroning oil giant Exxon Mobil last August. But a doubling of its market capitalisation value in just 17 months means it has now knocked its rival technology firm Microsoft from the all-time top spot. The surge in share price has been driven by the impending arrival of Apple’s latest gadget, the fifth-generation iPhone, which is expected to go on sale in the UK in October. Previous generations of the smartphone have been a major success for the firm. Speculation that Apple is gearing up to launch a cut-price iPad tablet computer has also boosted the share price. Until yesterday Bill Gates’s Microsoft had held the title of the all-time most valuable publicly traded company since December 1999, the peak of the ‘dotcom bubble’, when its market capitalisation flirted with the £394bn mark, the Daily Mail writes.
Online spending grew at its fastest rate this year in July, even as the high street endured a tough month. Strong sales of fashion accessories and electronic goods helped to lift internet sales by 17% to £6.5bn, according to the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index. Sales made over mobile devices rose more than four-fold against last year. The weakest categories were lingerie, with sales down 2% year-on-year, and beer, wines and spirits, which were flat compared with last year and 11 per cent down on June. Chris Webster, of Capgemini, said: “The excitement and build up to the Olympic Games certainly contributed to July’s strong performance.” Online-only players outperformed the online operations of traditional retailers for the seventh month in a row, with growth of 19.5% and 15% respectively. Travel sales rose by 12%, with the average purchase value rising 24% to £1,050, The Times reports.
Barnes & Noble, the world’s largest books chain, will take on Amazon and Apple with the launch of its digital book device in Britain. The American retail giant said yesterday that it will release the Nook e-reader in Britain in mid-October, with 2.5m titles available to buy. The library is larger than Amazon’s Kindle store, which has “more than a million” titles for download. The move is likely to create a fierce battle in the market for e-books in this country, which is dominated by Amazon. Devices such as the Sony Reader and WH Smith’s Kobo have failed to take off. The Nook, which is the second-bestselling digital books device in the US, is likely to provide tougher competition than previous challengers. Microsoft recently bought a $605m stake in the Nook business, giving Barnes & Noble the financial firepower to expand, according to The Times.
Everything Everywhere is in advanced discussions to sell part of its crucial spectrum holdings capable of carrying next generation 4G mobile services to Three, the rival network owned by Hutchison Whampoa. The mobile phone operator formed by the merger of Orange and T-Mobile two years ago has been forced to sell the spectrum by European competition authorities. The deal would give Three guaranteed ownership of rare spectrum that can carry superfast 4G mobile broadband, and potentially at a lower price than bidding against its three rivals in the much delayed auction of lower frequency 4G spectrum pencilled for the end of the year by Ofcom, the telecoms regulator. Morgan Stanley is advising on the sale, which has also interested Vodafone and O2. All parties declined to comment, The Financial Times says.
The grocery giant Tesco is facing a hefty fine after a dawn raid by the UK Border Agency found it had been employing foreign students illegally. Immigration officials have arrested 20 people at the supermarket’s dotcom warehouse in south London for working substantially longer than they were allowed. In full co-operation with Tesco, UKBA officers conducted the raid at 3am on 21 July at the grocer’s facility in Croydon, which delivers online orders from Tesco.com. The investigation follows a renewed effort by the Government to clamp down on “visa abuse”, which has seen more than 2,000 offenders removed since the beginning of May, The Independent reports.