Normal practice in the FTSE 100 is to wait for a new chairman before waving goodbye to the chief executive.
Imperial Brands decided to bypass that process by parting company with chief executive of nine years, Alison Cooper, before a replacement for departing chairman, Mark Williamson, has been installed.
Imperial may be the home of tobacco brands including Players, Winston and Gauloises, but it is a politically toxic firm, and finding a chairman has not been easy.
Imperial Brands may be the home of tobacco brands including Players, Winston and Gauloises. But it is a politically toxic firm, and finding a chairman has not been easy
The decision to ditch Cooper is largely based on shareholder worries about a share price that has halved over the last two years. Imperial has been struggling to adapt to the vaping revolution, where upstarts such as US champion Juul have been leading the charge.
Vaping is a largely unregulated market, and the US government, among others, has been making adverse decisions on the hoof – including a ban on sweet flavoured vapes.
That has made it a difficult market for big tobacco to get real traction.
There rightly will be focus on the fact that with Cooper leaving, the number of FTSE 100 women bosses will be stuck in the mire at around five, even with the installation of Alison Rose as chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland on November 1.
Cooper finds herself in good company. There have been 10 chief executive changes in the Footsie this year, with another seven announced, making it a record breaking year for severances.
Cooper has actually gone more than the distance, with almost a decade at the helm. But that may be down to the difficulty in attracting good quality replacements in an ethically challenged enterprise.
Overall, female representation on FTSE boards has improved dramatically and is up to around one third of members.
But it is poor that so few of these are executives promoted with a view to filling the top jobs. The UK has much to learn from Norway in this respect.
It is also worth noting that the top jobs in global finance are now going to women. The International Monetary Fund has chosen former World Bank chief executive Kristalina Georgieva as its managing director, and her predecessor Christine Lagarde is to take charge at the European Central Bank.
When this paper examined the share prices of female led FTSE firms against the rest, it found the women were significant outperformers.
It would be nice to think that Cooper had assembled a strong stable of potential women successors in her leadership team. But it is dominated by blokes.
Tobacco may be toxic, but she should have done better than that after a decent stint at the helm.
The departure of founder Vernon Hill from Metro Bank provided a window for the issue of a £350million bond.
The board has bought itself more time, but no one should kid themselves that this – together with a recent equity raising – secures the bank’s future.
The coupon of 9.5 per cent, at a time when interest margins are negligible, suggests desperation.
Servicing that bond alone at a cost of more than £30million a year could wipe out annual profits for a bank with high branch overheads.
The last time a UK bank paid way over the odds for a bond issue was HBOS on the eve of the financial crisis.
The idea that Metro can trade its way out of trouble in very competitive current account and mortgage markets looks to be pie in the sky.
Sources suggest that there may be private equity or vulture funds circling with an interest in the bank’s licence and guaranteed deposits.
They could then use that base to indulge in riskier sub-prime lending.
But it is hard to see the Bank of England allowing that to happen.
There may well be a place for a UK retail bank offering superior service levels. But not, as UK consumers expect, for free.
Metro is on a journey to nowhere.
It is hard to know whether it is Ray Kelvin’s departure from Ted Baker or the Ray Kelvin effect – in the shape of reputational damage – that is responsible for three profit warnings at the fashion brand.
But with the share price down another 40 per cent and the market value just £251million, Kelvin could try to revive the idea of a private equity-backed return.
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