John Lewis has axed the last remnants of its gold-plated pension plan in an attempt to fill a hole of nearly £200m in the scheme (The Times £). Staff at the John Lewis Partnership have backed a series of pension reforms that includes closing the group’s generous defined benefit scheme in favour of cheaper defined contribution arrangements (The Financial Times £). The John Lewis Partnership has scrapped its defined benefit pension scheme as the employee-owned retail group scrambles to save costs in the face of a tough market (The Telegraph). John Lewis is ditching any link to final salary in its pension scheme in a bid to save £80m annually (The Guardian).
The Times (£) looks at “how Walmart saw float as answer for jilted Asda chain”. It cautions that City sources said there remained uncertainty over Asda’s future, including over whether Walmart was considering a sale and whether it could launch an IPO sooner than it indicated (The Times £). Sources have said that a sale to a buyout firm - such as KKR, Advent or CVC - was not the preferred option for Asda while industry experts have said that it would be difficult for private equity firms to get comfortable with making returns within their usual five year investment period (The Telegraph). Union leaders said they had demanded an urgent meeting with Asda’s bosses to seek reassurances for staff about the future of the company (The Guardian).
The FT’s Lex column warns that Walmart may struggle to achieve a punchy valuation of Asda in a listing process. “Conditions for Asda may be improving. Market share losses have slowed and signs of better trading on own-brands have appeared. But the difference this would make to a float price would probably be marginal. US business models, like US street style, do not automatically catch on overseas.” (The Financial Times £)
The boss of Morrisons has waived more than a third of his bonus despite the Bradford-based supermarket booking its third straight year of a jump in sales and profits (The Telegraph). Morrisons boss David Potts has handed back nearly £600,000 in bonuses after saying the business could have done better (The Guardian).
UK pub and brewing company Marston’s said on Wednesday it has stockpiled £6m of Spanish lager Estrella Damm in “anticipation of a disorderly Brexit”, highlighting corporate Britain’s persistent concern over the country’s divorce from the EU (The Financial Times £). Pub group Marston’s stockpiled £6million worth of beer in a bid to protect itself from the potential fallout from a ‘disorderly’ Brexit. The Pitcher & Piano owner said it stockpiled Spanish lager Estrella Damm and a number of other brands in the run up to the original Brexit deadline of 29 March. (The Daily Mail)
Shares in one of Britain’s biggest brewers Marston’s jumped 4% yesterday after reporting a boost in half-year sales after strong Easter trading. (The Times £)
Shares in Beyond Meat spiked as much as 16% on Wednesday on news that Tim Hortons has begun testing breakfast items featuring the company’s plant-based sausage. (The Financial Times £)
Will Beyond Meat crash, asks the FT? “The question for investors isn’t so much whether the tailwinds are in Beyond Meat’s favour but more what per cent of the $1.4tn market can Beyond Meat capture?… Beyond Meat’s exuberant valuation boils down to execution: can management scale the business into the blue skies ahead of it?” (The Financial Times £)
Bayer’s acquisition of Monsanto could easily turn out to be the worst deal ever, writes Ben Marlow in The Telegraph. The deal has turned into a “costly mess”, particularly after a jury in Oakland, California, awarded $2bn in damages to Alva and Alberta Pilliod, an elderly couple whose ill health has been blamed on exposure to Monsanto’s highly controversial Roundup weedkiller. (The Telegraph)
The Co-op is launching a digital pharmacy that will let customers manage their NHS prescriptions through a smartphone. The move is part of ambitious plans to return to healthcare, which boss Steve Murrells will set out at its annual general meeting on Saturday. (The Daily Mail)
Warren Buffett’s investment company Berkshire Hathaway amassed an $861 million stake in Amazon in the first quarter, buying 483,300 shares, it has emerged from a regulatory filing. (The Times £)
The slowdown on the high street has wiped nearly £700m off the value of British Land’s portfolio in a year (The Times £). More than £1.2bn has been wiped off the value of properties which are owned by two of Britain’s biggest landlords (The Daily Mail).
In the six months since Kate Swann announced her surprise resignation as chief executive of SSP she has been linked to the top job at a host of leading retailers, including the John Lewis Partnership and Kingfisher — but is not going for either. (The Times £)
Retail sales unexpectedly fell in April as American consumers tightened their purse strings slightly, a month after they helped power the gauge to its biggest rise in 18 months. (The Financial Times £)