Saturday , March 25 2017
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Siona Jenkins

Siona Jenkins

Former Cairene; FT Middle east news editor. Views my own.

Articles by Siona Jenkins

FT Opening Quote: Sterling boost for Smiths Group

1 day ago

Sterling boost for Smiths Group, Export ban hits Acacia; Ofcom to the rescue. FT Opening Quote is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. The weak pound boosted revenues at FTSE 100 engineering conglomerate Smiths Group in the six months to January, with an 18 per cent jump in the first half of its financial year to £1.6bn.Underlying revenues were flat compared to the same period last year, but moves to improve focus across the sprawling group meant the company still recorded healthy profit growth. Pre-tax profits more than doubled to £346m on a statutory basis; the company’s preferred measure of “headline” profit, which excludes one-off items, was 31 per cent higher than the same period the previous year.The company said it expects the weakness of

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FT Opening Quote: Ted Baker is Next big thing on the high street

2 days ago

Ted Baker is Next big thing on the high street; Barclays in FCA’s sights; Cox to head Kier. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Next chief executive Lord Wolfson may not have had the ideal Christmas. But that was nothing compared with his shareholders’ New Year. Full-price sales at the high street retailer between November and Christmas Eve fell 0.4 per cent – causing the company to revise its full-year profit guidance to the lower end of expectations and warn on the outlook for 2017.But its share price reaction was far worse: falling 20 per cent in the first two months of this year, to half its peak level of late 2015. Some analysts thought it overdone – saying the shares have priced in a

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FT Opening Quote: Slowly, steadily, Bellway

4 days ago

Slowly, steadily, Bellway; Enquest’s challenge; Posh tonic, FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Is the UK property market still a one-way bet? For housebuilders not seeking to change it too much – by doing anything as rash as building loads more houses – it would seem so. Bellway, unlike overambitious rival Bovis, did not seek to overdo things in the latter half of 2016, building 4,462 homes in the six months to January 31 – a 6 per cent increase. That was more properties than Bovis but at a lower growth rate. And much slower than its 21 per cent increase in land investment.This morning, Bellway showed the benefits of slow and low supply: revenue up 6 per cent to £1,1bn and pre-tax profit

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FT Opening Quote: Phoenix rises

5 days ago

Phoenix rises, Vodafone merges and JKX losses narrow. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Judging book by its cover and putting all your eggs in one basket are – to most people – proverbial don’ts.To Phoenix Group, however, they are not so much blunders as a business model: judging which closed books of life insurance policies to buy, based on the capital needed to cover the risk, and putting them together with others to achieve economies of scale.Doing so has made Phoenix the UK’s largest specialist closed life and pension fund consolidator.And this morning, it has even been counting its chickens: reporting on how its latest books have been faring inside its basket.AXA Wealth’s book, which

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FT Opening Quote: Panmure Gordon confirms Bob Diamond’s takeover

8 days ago

Panmure Gordon confirms Bob Diamond’s takeover; Berkley signals strong profits; Amec wins US Airforce contract. FT Opening Quote is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Lossmaking stock broker and investment bank Panmure Gordon has accepted a takeover offer from Bob Diamond’s investment firm Atlas and the investment vehicle of the Qatari royal family, it confirmed today.Panmure’s directors unanimously recommended the bid of 100p per share, a 68.1 per cent premium to the company’s undisturbed share price which values it at £15.5m.Atlas Merchant Capital, which was created by the former Barclays chief executive, will control a majority stake in Panmure after the acquisition, with QInvest maintaining its current 43 per cent.The company has already

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FT Opening Quote: Stumble at Sainsbury’s

9 days ago

Stumble at Sainsbury’s, Balfour’s back and Saatchi means Saatchi. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. J Sainsbury’s chairman was left a little red faced last month, after being reprimanded for roping in staff and suppliers to renovate his East Sussex outbuildings. But the supermarket might have wished David Tyler had bought more Red Leicester and Blue Nun for the ensuing barn dance / outhouse-warming cheese and wine party. This morning’s trading update showed total retail sales grew only 0.1 per cent in the nine weeks to 11 March – and actually fell 0.5 per cent on a like-for-like basis.Sainsbury’s put this down to the later dates of Easter and Mothers’ Day this year. But the sales

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FT Opening Quote: Profits up at Robert Walters

10 days ago

Profits up at Robert Walters, Biffa updates on acquisitions, government reveals latest Lloyds holdings. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. For recruiters, it has been a tale of two cities for sometime: London, and in stark contrast, pretty much any other other city in Europe or Asia.Last week, PageGroup continued with the “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” theme: reporting strong European growth and foreign exchange gains, undercut by a 17 per cent fall in UK operating profit because of a post Brexit vote decline in accounting, financial services, sales and marketing jobs.This morning, rival Robert Walters also showed why international diversification is now so important

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FT Opening Quote: All eyes on Prudential

11 days ago

All eyes on Prudential, profits grow at TP ICAP and production up at Antofagasta. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Want to buy an annuity? Anyone? It could pay you as much as £100 a week when you’re a pensioner. Imagine that! £100 a week! Well, yes, alternatively, you could take £200,000 as a lump sum right now, if you really wanted to. But what about that lovely annuity, eh? Anyone? OK, fair enough, I suppose the £200,000 does have some attractions. But one hundred pounds every week? No? No. Thought not.For life insurers like Prudential, this is the problem they now face. Regulatory changes mean savers can take cash sums instead of having to buy their annuity contracts, and insurers have

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FT Opening Quote: Galliford Try in merger talks with Bovis

12 days ago

Galliford Try in merger talks with Bovis, HSBC appoints Mark Tucker and PIK Group delists from the LSE. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Builders aren’t allowed to work on Sundays, are they? No-one seems to have told the board of Bovis Homes, which has now clocked on for another Sunday’s worth of responding to press speculation. Press speculation that turns out to be uncannily accurate.Back in January, it was on with the hard hats and high-vis to deal with a Sunday Times story about shareholder Andy Brough of Schroders trying to set up all share merger with Berkeley Homes. Yesterday, it was time to admit that it had received merger proposals from Redrow and Galliford Try, and the latter

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FT Opening Quote: Rise in profits for JD Wetherspoon

15 days ago

Rise in profits for JD Wetherspoon, Ofcom and BT agree on Openreach and Esure exceeds growth targets. FT Opening Quote is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Tim Martin just can’t help himself from making political statements in financial reports by his pub group JD Wetherspoon.This time, the company chairman has steered clear from commentary on the EU, of which he is conspicuously not a fan.But even while reporting a near 43 per cent rise in profits in the three months ending on January 22 compared to the same spell last year, to £51.4m, he has taken a swing at this week’s Budget. After a 3.3 per cent rise in like-for-like sales for the quarter, he has also warned of slower sales in the months ahead.Chancellor Philip Hammond promised a discount

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FT Opening Quote: Aviva shrugs off impact of claims changes

16 days ago

Aviva shrugs off impact of claims changes, Morrisons reaps benefits of turnaround and Countrywide profits drop. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. It’s not been so much Compare the Market, as compare the car crash. This week, three of Britain’s biggest motor insurers have shown how badly their their profits have been dented by a change to the way personal injury claims are calculated. For Direct Line it was £217m; for Admiral £91; and, this morning, for Aviva – despite promoting its policies to “safer” drivers – it has proved to be a charge of £380m.Without that damage, operating profit increased 12 per cent to £3bn – well ahead of Panmure Gordon’s forecast of an 8 per cent increase to

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FT Opening Quote: Profits up at Legal & General

17 days ago

Profits up at Legal & General, Admiral hit by new compensation rules, profits grow at G4S. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Legal & General’s results come just two days after its rival Standard Life unveiled an £11bn merger with Aberdeen to focus on asset management – and just six days after L&G hired a new merger and acquisitions director to focus on buying up (among other things) books of annuities from rival insurers who might not want them anymore. Only last year, L&G bought a £3bn annuity book from Dutch insurer Aegon.So all eyes this morning were on the group’s comments on the outlook for the annuity market. In addition to announcing that new annuity sales were up 155 per cent at

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FT Opening Quote: Direct Line profits hit by new claims formula

18 days ago

Direct Line profits hit by new claims formula, revenues up at Paddy Power Betfair and profits jump at Just Eat. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Had an accident that wasn’t your fault? Think you deserve compensation? Need someone on your side? Motor insurance group Direct Line might be forgiven for feeling this way – and it is all because of the ambulance chasing lawyers that advertise like this. Late last month, a government decision to change the formula for calculating personal injury claims suddenly caused extra pain for insurers. Direct Line calculated that the move would wipe £215m-£230m off its pre-tax profits, and its shares fell 6 per cent.This morning, its 2016 results showed

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FT Opening Quote: Standard Life and Aberdeen agree merger

19 days ago

Standard Life and Aberdeen agree merger, Easyjet passenger numbers rise and Informa revenues up. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Having spent seven years – off and on – discussing a potential merger, Sir Gerry Grimstone of Standard Life and Martin Gilbert of Aberdeen Asset Management might have wanted a little longer to finalise the details. But they appear to have given up all of their Sunday to dot the ‘i’s and cross ‘t’s – even if they have not yet decided whether any of the former will appear in their company’s new name. Many expect a combined group to drop the “Life” and become ‘Standard Aberdeen” – symbolic of a fund management powerhouse putting 146 years of selling life insurance

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FT Opening Quote: LSE increases dividend

22 days ago

LSE increases dividend, record revenues for WPP and Euromoney deal to buy RISI. FT Opening Quote is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. The London Stock Exchange Group will offer shareholders a 20 per cent increase in their full-year dividend, further indicating the group is preparing for the expected failure of its €29bn merger with Deutsche Borse.The UK group said this week that it was unlikely the deal, more than a year in the making, was unlikely to get clearance from antitrust regulators in Brussels because the LSE was unable to meet one of the watchdog’s demands. The deal will proceed until regulators make a formal decision in a month’s time.On Friday the LSE proposed final dividend of 31.2p, making a full-year dividend increase of 20 per

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FT Opening Quote: Parker to step down from Capita

23 days ago

Parker to step down from Capita, rights issue for Cobham, profits up at MerlinFT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. When your share price falls 44 per cent in a year and you drop out of the FTSE 100, you’ve clearly got problems. When you issue a series of profit warnings and write off the value of historic outsourcing contracts, so do your shareholders. When your conduct is criticised by an organisation as managerially challenged as the BBC, it must be pretty bad. And when Sky News is practically live reporting a board meeting to discuss your future, it is usually curtains.So it was no real surprise this morning to learn that Capita chief executive Andy Parker is to step down “to pursue the

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FT Opening Quote: ITV advertising revenues beat the wider market

24 days ago

ITV advertising revenues beat the wider market. Man Group revenues down, profits slip at Carillon. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Which is worse? Watching Tom Jones spin around in a second-hand armchair to critique a near tone-deaf vocalist whose career is heading back to Tesco’s? Or watching Jamie Vardy wander around in a second-half torpor to complete a near goalless tournament in which the England team go out to Iceland?For viewers, there’s probably not much in it. But for ITV’s advertising sales team, it’s definitely the former. Because at least England’s elimination – while also “not unusual” – brings more viewers and media spend than a veteran Welsh troubadour in worryingly tight

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FT Opening Quote: Profits rise at Trinity Mirror

26 days ago

Profits rise at Trinity Mirror, Persimmon profits up, Primark warns on sterling. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Tabloid newspapers helping each other out, a housebuilder reporting slowing sales, an insurer deciding political risk is too difficult to cover… After 2016, even the unlikeliest events do not seem that surprising any more. This is not terribly helpful when trying to grab attention in an early morning email, but let’s take a closer look anyway.Newspaper publisher Trinity Mirror has said like-for-like revenue – stripping out its acquisition of Local World – fell by 8 per cent in the 53 weeks to January 1. Publishing print revenue was down 10.7 per cent, due to ongoing

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FT Opening Quote: RBS reports £7bn loss

29 days ago

RBS reports £7bn loss, Heathrow earnings up and profits jump at Standard Life. FT Opening Quote is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Royal Bank of Scotland has reported a £7bn loss after taking a huge hit from mis-selling and conduct charges, as it unveils a fresh cost-cutting plan in an attempt to return to profit in 2018.The annual loss represents the ninth in a row for RBS, up from a £2bn loss a year earlier and higher than analyst forecasts of a £6.1bn loss.The worse-than-expected results come after the Treasury last week proposed to Brussels an alternative to selling off 300 branches under the Williams & Glyn brand, in a move that will cost RBS at least £750m.RBS’s total losses since 2008 now amount to about £58bn, overshadowing the bank’s

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FT Opening Quote: Profits up at Barclays

February 23, 2017

Profits up at Barclays, earnings increase at BAE, profits rise at Centrica. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Debt? Dontcha just love it!? Barclays certainly seems to – swinging back into the black, helped by a recent rebound in fixed income trading to make a net profit of £1.6bn, after losing £394m last time.Pretax profit excluding “notable items” rose to £6.4bn, delivering a 9.4 per cent return on average allocated tangible equity. Barclays said the improved performance was driven by strong performance in fixed income revenues, which were up 44 per cent – benefitting from increased market volatility and client demand. Total conduct and litigation costs at the group were down 69 per

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FT Opening Quote: Lloyds Banking Group doubles pretax profit

February 22, 2017

Lloyds Banking Group doubles pretax profit, profits up at Hays and strong growth for Metro Bank. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Lloyds Banking Group has shown itself to be the undoubted star performer of the UK banking sector, its reputation for prudence and sound finance burnished by a more than doubling of it annual pretax profit to £4.2bn, a sum that is testimony to all the hard work and dedica…Before anyone gets too carried away, it should be remembered that it is not exactly difficult to top this class of utter duffers. It’s rather like being the novelty dog act on Britain’s Got Talent when you’re only up against a geriatric Britney Spears impersonator.Compared with Royal “Oops I

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FT Opening Quote: HSBC profits down 62 per cent

February 21, 2017

HSBC profits down 62 per cent, Anglo American swings back into profit and IHG revenues up. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Strong overseas earnings when the pound is weak? Tick. $2.5 billion stock buyback last year? Tick. Restructuring programme complete? Tick. Litigation largely sorted? Tick. Slowing economic growth and a $3.2bn impairment of goodwill in private banking? Ti… oh, heck!Just when it looked like HSBC was going to report a better 2016 than most, the bank managed to find a way to take a 62 per cent hit to pretax profit. At $7.1bn, it came in at less than half of the analyst consensus forecast of $14.4bn, according to Thomson Reuters, and was well down on the $18.9bn reported

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FT Opening Quote: Rolls-Royce posts largest ever loss

February 14, 2017

Rolls-Royce posts largest ever loss, earnings drop at EDF and Acacia doubles its dividend. FT Opening Quote is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Rolls-Royce has confirmed the largest headline loss in its history, as a weak pound which affected its hedge book and a £671m settlement for historic corruption claims drove it to a pre-tax loss of £4.6bn.However, the drop in profit did not affect the company’s dividend, and underlying profits before tax declined by much less than earlier analyst forecasts, down by 49 per cent to £813m, compared to expectations of £687m.Rolls chief executive Warren East previously softened the blow of the settlement announcement by simultaneously reporting that profits and particularly cash would be ahead of earlier

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FT Opening Quote. For Sale: The Co-Operative Bank

February 13, 2017

For Sale: the Co-Operative Bank. FT Opening Quote is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. From FastFT:The Co-Operative Bank is up for sale as part of its turnaround plan after warning last month that it would fail to meet its capital reserve targets over the next few years.The Co-Op Bank said it is “also considering other options to build capital” and meet the longer term requirements of UK watchdogs.The bank is kicking off the sale process, run by Bank of America Merrill Lynch and UBS, inviting offers for all of the issued ordinary share capital of the lender.The lender said it is also considering ways to raise equity capital from existing and new investors, and a potential liability management exercise of its outstanding public debt.Dennis Holt,

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FT Opening Quote: Thomas Cook’s sticky wicket on pay

February 10, 2017

Thomas Cook’s sticky wicket on pay. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. From the FT’s Lombard:“Cook resignation is timed to perfection”. When the headline appeared on one of Lombard’s many screens this week, it came as something of a shock.Everyone knew the travel company’s boss was under fire for his proposed pay package, but stepping down three days before the shareholder vote?Seconds later, the penny dropped. This was not about Thomas Cook chief executive Peter Fankhauser, for whom the pennies head relentlessly in the opposite direction.It was about departing England cricket captain Alastair Cook, for whom the coin always seemed to come down less favourably (he won the toss in 47 per cent

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FT Opening Quote: Ashmore reverses EM slump

February 9, 2017

Ashmore reverses EM slump, Henderson hit by outflows and revenues up at Thomas Cook. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. It’s not easy selling something that people don’t want. Ice to eskimos. Sandbags to Saharans. Economically liberal comment and analysis to populist protectionists (ah, perhaps that’s the reason…)Pity, then, poor Ashmore. It only offers emerging markets investments. And late last year, people seemed convinced that they don’t want these – given the likelihood that the new US president’s plans to cut taxes and boost infrastructure would drive up interest rates and bond yields.Ashmore suffered $700m of outflows in the last quarter of 2016 and these, combined with poor

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FT Opening Quote: Share buyback at Rio Tinto

February 8, 2017

Share buyback at Rio Tinto, revenues up at Hargreaves Lansdown and outlook unchanged at WS Atkins. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Diamonds? Who needs ’em? Yesterday, Rio Tinto gave its Bunder diamond mine to the Madhya Pradesh government in India.But it was not so much an act of generosity or romanticism as a decision based on simple pragmatism. As my Lombard column colleague Kate Burgess has explained, offloading extraneous assets that absorb time and money makes sense for a group bent on cutting costs, raising cash and slashing debt.This morning, the wider effects of such management discipline became clear. Rio’s full year results showed that net debt has been reduced to $9.6bn,

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FT Opening Quote: BP swings back to profits

February 7, 2017

BP swings back to profits, profits up at First Group, positive outlook for Bellway. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. When the greatest disaster in your corporate history is being played out on cinema screens several times a day – with the “malicious antagonists” (the FT’s reviewer’s own term) embodied by John Malkovich but the casting director’s idea of a “brawny saviour” stretching only to Mark Wahlberg – you could do with some good news.This morning, BP delivered some: its underlying replacement cost profit in the fourth quarter of 2016 more than doubled year on year – from £196m to $400m – thanks to higher oil prices and lower costs.While this was largely in line with analysts’

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FT Opening Quote: Profits down at Ryanair

February 6, 2017

Profits down at Ryanair, soaring profits at Randgold and Ithaca Energy agrees Delek takeover bid. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Ryanair shareholders have been looking to Europe. This being Ryanair, they have probably been doing so via a departures board at Stansted reading ‘Wait In Lounge’ for the past three hours (I haven’t forgotten about Christmas). But Europe looms large, if only metaphorically.At the start of the year, Merrill Lynch advised clients to sell Ryanair shares, saying the rise of protectionism in Europe could stunt its ability to win market share. Then came news that shareholders could be ordered to sell their stakes to EU nationals to meet a condition of its licence

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FT Opening Quote: Debt refinancing deal for Premier Oil

February 3, 2017

Debt refinancing deal for Premier Oil, Homeserve takes stake in Checkatrade and revenues fall at Johnston Press. FT Opening Quote is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Premier Oil has wrapped up the terms of a long-awaited refinancing deal that some had hoped for last month.The company, one of the biggest independent producers in the North Sea, was in negotiations with its lenders for over nine months to refinance its debt, which stood at $2.8bn at the end of December.The company has revised the terms on its convertible bonds and proposed new terms for its retail bonds. Crucially, it is also pushing out some debt maturities to 2021 and beyond.In return, lenders will get “enhanced economics and certain governance controls”. A new set of terms will

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