Patisserie Valerie

Patisserie Valerie is on the brink of collapse after the café chain’s parent company said it would be unable to keep trading without an immediate injection of capital (Financial Times). Underlining the seriousness of the situation, a person familiar with events said on Thursday that PwC, the professional services firm, was “in there and gearing up for an administration, which could come on Friday”. Luke Johnson, Patisserie Valerie’s executive chairman and largest shareholder, is reportedly teeing up a multimillion-pound rescue package (Telegraph). The company – valued at £450m when trading was halted – was unable to say if it would be able to pay staff wages this week.

The Guardian’s Nils Pratley wrote: “For executive chairman Luke Johnson personally, the “material shortfall” between the reported financial status and the actual one could be about £165m – the difference between the supposed value of his 37% stake on Monday and zero.”

“In short, Patisserie is all but bust,” writes Alistair Osborne in the Times. “Not bad for a business chaired by one of Britain’s top entrepreneurs that ostensibly was worth £446 million when the shares were suspended at 429½p.”

A series of winding-up petitions had been issued against Patisserie Holdings long before the company revealed its financial crisis this week (The Times). The subsidiaries Patisserie Valerie Holdings and Stonebeach have faced three other winding-up petitions in the High Court, as well as the one filed by HM Revenue & Customs last month, according to court filings.

Shares in WH Smith lost more than a tenth of their value on Thursday after the group revealed hefty restructuring costs associated with shop closures and a reorganisation of its business, following another year of weak performance at its high street stores (Financial Times). The retailer has boosted its dividend payout and will buy back £50m of its own shares, thanks to strong trading at its airports and train station outlets, which now provide two-thirds of its profits (The Guardian, The Times, Daily Mail). The review comes after a challenging year in its traditional stores, which reported a 3pc fall in trading profits to £60m and a 3pc slide in like-for-like sales in the year ending August 31 (Telegraph).

Pizzas must shrink or lose their toppings under Government plans to cap the calories in thousands of meals sold in restaurants and supermarkets. Pies, ready meals and sandwiches will also be subject to the new proposed calorie limits, in a desperate bid to tackle Britain’s obesity crisis (Telegraph). Health officials want chefs to limit their pies to 695 calories and have stipulated that pizzas should not contain more than 928 calories — a limit which would be breached by all but four of the classic pizzas on the menu at Pizza Express (The Times).

More than a million people in the UK live in “food deserts” – neighbourhoods where poverty, poor public transport and a dearth of big supermarkets severely limit access to affordable fresh fruit and vegetables, a study has claimed (The Guardian). Nearly one in 10 of the country’s most economically deprived areas are food deserts, it says – typically large out-of-town housing estates and deprived inner-city wards served by a handful of small, relatively expensive corner shops.

Belarus grocery chain Eurotorg is embarking on the country’s first overseas float with a $300m (£227m) London listing (Telegraph). The company has announced plans for an initial public offering, raising around $200m through its initial sale to help pay down debt.

Falling beauty sales in Britain have been blamed by the owner of Boots for its disappointing international performance (The Times £). Comparable sales at the retail pharmacy international division of Walgreens Boots Alliance, which includes Boots UK, fell by 3.4 per cent in the fourth quarter compared with the year before as revenue dipped 1.9 per cent to $2.9 billion.

M&S has started selling hijabs for schoolgirls as young as nine after hundreds of schools requested that it supply uniforms for Muslims (Telegraph). The garments, bought by parents who want their daughters to cover their hair while at school, were made available for the first time at M&S this summer due to popular demand.

Five UK families own or control over a quarter of the country’s fishing quota, a concentration that is driving smaller-scale, local fishermen out of business, Greenpeace has claimed (Financial Times).

The British fashion retailer Karen Millen has agreed to buy parts of Coast womenswear out of administration for an undisclosed sum (Financial Times).