Waitrose and John Lewis

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The departing bosses of Direct Line and travel retail giant SSP are vying to succeed Sir Charlie Mayfield as chairman of the John Lewis Partnership as it considers appointing an external candidate for the first time.

The Sunday Times reports that Paul Geddes and Kate Swann are two of the leading candidates for the high profile role.

The most-likely internal candidate is reported to be current finance chief, Patrick Lewis, whose great-grandfather founded the business in 1864.

Lewis joined the family business 25 years ago after a spell working in the health and cosmetics business of Procter & Gamble. However, it is reported that sources close to the process expect an outsider to be appointed for the first time.

Headhunter Egon Zehnder in understood to have interviewed Geddes, Swann and former Co-Operative Group boss Richard Pennycook, who is said to have ruled himself out, according to the report.

Geddes, who is stepping down this year as the chief executive of Direct Line, led the business’s demerger from Royal Bank of Scotland and floated the insurer on the stock exchange.

Swann is widely credited for driving a turnaround in profitability during her ten years leading WH Smith until 2013, and has similarly grown SSP, which has seen shares jump to 676p from a 210p IPO in 2014.

The search for a new boss comes amid concerns from staff that they will miss out on an annual bonus for the first time in 66 years.

John Lewis and Waitrose staff will discover if they will receive any bonus when the retailer reports its results on Thursday, which are expected to highlight a slump in profits over the year.

Both retailers have come under pressure in the wake of the worst Christmas trading period since the financial crash.

Mayfield, who is due to retire in 2020, said in the January that it was possible the bonus could be completely scrapped and said profits would be “substantially lower” this year. It paid out a 5% bonus last year.

Pre-tax profits collapsed by 98.8% to £1.2m in the six months to last July, although total sales rose by 1.6% to £5.5bn. Last year’s profits were £289.2m.

Morning Update

British American Tobacco (BATS) is “extremely disappointed” a class action lawsuit over its Canadian subsidiary Imperial Tobacco Canada has not been overturned, it said in a Stock Exchange announcement.

The cigarette maker said it considered the Quebec Court of Appeal’s decision to be wrong and agrued that consumers and government have known concerns regarding smoking for decades.

The ruling was made in relation to a class-action lawsuit against Imperial Tobacco Canada and two other companies, Rothmans Benson & Hedges Inc. and JTI-Macdonald Corp, for around $11.7 bn.

The judgment follows an almost 20-year-long legal dispute involve two groups of plaintiffs, who suffered from lung, throat and laryngeal cancer or emphysema.

“We are extremely disappointed that the Quebec Court of Appeal did not overturn the trial court’s judgment against our Canadian subsidiary, Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd,” commented a spokesperson.

“We are still of the view that this decision is wrong - ignoring the reality that both adult consumers and government have known about the risk associated with smoking for decades. As a result, we believe it should be overturned.”

AIM-listed sport nutrition supplier Science in Sport (SIS) has announced the launch of a new range of products targeted at professional footballers.

The new range has been developed in collaboration with nutritionists at a number of football clubs including Manchester United and Celtic, it told investors this morning.

“Science in Sport is all about unlocking and maximising footballers’ potential through the power of nutrition,” commented CEO Stephen Moon.

“Now our innovative football range will help amateur football players up and down the country appreciate the difference that nutrition can make, to help them win that first header, make that first tackle, and have enough energy all the way through 90 minutes.”

The FTSE 100 has jumped 0.3% to 7,131pts this morning after strong pre-weekend performances on Wall Street.

Early risers this morning include Devro (DVO), up 3.3% to 184p, Hotel Chocolat Group (HOTC), up 1.8% to 335p, and Majestic Wine (WINE), up 1.5% to 297.2p.

The early fallers include PayPoint (PAY), down 3.1% to 848p, Premier Foods (PFD), down 2.4% to 38.5p, and Treatt (TET), down 1.9% to 420p.

This week in the City

As we come towards the end of the full-year sales figures, it is a slightly quieter week in the City, where plenty of focus is likely to be on Brexit.

Tomorrow, Swiss chocolate giant Lindt Sprungli will update investors on its full-year sales, including the important Christmas period.

On Wednesday, food delivery operator Just Eat (JE.) will reveal its full-year results, amid pressure from activist investor Cat Rock to create more value for its shareholders after being impacted by the growth of Deliveroo and Uber Eats.

Thursday will see Greggs (GRG), one of the year’s strong performers so far, reveal its profitability over 2018, while C&C Group will release a pre-close trading update.

The high street bakery chain has already revealed strong growth on the back of its vegan sausage roll launch, pushing up its shares in 2019.

In the US, Thursday will also see Ocado partner Kroger announce its full-year sales for 2018, while wholesaler Costco will provide an interim sales update for the start of 2019.fin