Has the City fallen out of love with Standard Chartered PLC ?

Glass skyscraper buildingAnyone looking for financial company news on the FT website this morning (Wednesday 23/7) might be forgiven for thinking that emerging markets bank Standard Chartered PLC (LON:STAN) was about to go bust.

What other explanation could their be for the financial paper’s deluge of negative coverage?

No fewer than three articles were on offer, all taking a downbeat view of the bank’s near-term prospects, and citing anonymous insiders apparently briefing against their own employer.

I’m only guessing, but I don’t think this level of coverage was a coincidence, especially as it’s two weeks to the day before the bank is due to unveil its first-half results.

In a new article for the Motley Fool, I explain what might lie behind today’s news coverage, take a closer look at the issues facing the bank, and stick my head into the lion’s mouth with a ‘back of the envelope’ earnings forecast for Standard Chartered. To read the full article, click here.

Updates 24/07/2014: As if by magic, the next day a new StanChart story appeared in the FT – “StanChart urged to start work on Sands succession plan“, along with another Sands-bashing piece, “Bricks come loose from StanChart tower“, which is a detailed hatchet job on current top management.

BUT WAIT… it’s 7am, and the RNS floodgates have opened. Amongst the day’s announcements is a statement from StanChart, noting ‘rumours in some media outlets on succession planning’.

The bank wants to reiterate its united support for Peter Sands and Chairman Sir John Peace and confirms that while ‘robust and considered succession plans’  are in place for all senior leaders, ‘no succession planning is taking place as a result of recent investor pressure’.

Sounds like backs are against the wall — the reference to investor pressure suggests to me that the FT articles are merely the public arm of a multi-pronged attack.

Disclaimer: This article is provided for information only and is not intended as investment advice. The author may own shares in the companies mentioned in the article. Do your own research or seek qualified professional advice before making any purchase decisions.

Smart move? Tesco PLC hires Unilever lifer as next CEO

Tesco Tiverton store

“Tiverton, Tesco – geograph.org.uk – 85534″ by Martin Bodman – From geograph.org.uk. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tiverton,_Tesco_-_geograph.org.uk_-_85534.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Tiverton,_Tesco_-_geograph.org.uk_-_85534.jpg

Tesco PLC (LON:TSCO) made waves this week with the appointment of Unilever personal care products supremo Dave Lewis as its new CEO.

The vultures had been circling around Tesco lifer Philip Clarke for some time now, and this week’s profit warning was one too many for the firm’s board.

Unfortunately for Mr Clarke, his departure was announced one day before a planned party to celebrate his forty years working for the company.

However, Mr Clarke’s departure will be sweetened by a multi-million pound severance package, so he should be able to retire a rich man, if he chooses to.

Of more interest to investors is Mr Lewis. What can this lifetime Unilever employee bring to the UK’s largest supermarket? Dave Lewis has never worked in retail, but has a reputation of being a turnaround specialist, and has been credited with some notable marketing successes at Unilever.

Personally, I think it’s a smart appointment – I reckon that a dose of Unilever values and an outsider’s perspective might be just what Tesco needs at this time.

In an article for the Motley Fool earlier this week, I explained exactly how I believe Mr Lewis may be able to rejuvenate Tesco’s flagging fortunes — to read the full article, click here.

Disclaimer: This article is provided for information only and is not intended as investment advice. The author may own shares in the companies mentioned in the article. Do your own research or seek qualified professional advice before making any purchase decisions.

Questions for the Gulf Keystone Petroleum Limited AGM (if you can make it)

Onshore oil installationGulf Keystone Petroleum Limited (LON:GKP) has deservedly caught some flack for its corporate governance and investor relations over the last few years.

It seems as though the message hasn’t fully gone home yet, as although this year’s AGM is closer than Bermuda, where last year’s meeting took place, it’s still overseas for the majority of the firm’s shareholders, in Paris (France, not Texas!).

That aside, the firm’s turbulent year and the recent mass exodus of directors, including the FD and CEO, deserves some questions, in my view.

I’ve put together a list of three questions I’d like to hear Chairman Simon Murray address at the meeting in a new article for the Motley Fool. To read the full article, click here.

Disclaimer: This article is provided for information only and is not intended as investment advice. The author may own shares in the companies mentioned in the article. Do your own research or seek qualified professional advice before making any purchase decisions.

Would A Martian Buy Gulf Keystone Petroleum Limited?

Onshore oil installationFind me a more opinionated bunch of investors than Gulf Keystone Petroleum Limited (LON:GKP) shareholders (and their oppos in the ‘bargepole’ camp), and I’ll be amazed.

The company regularly tops the list of most active forums on the ADVFN website, and is also often one of the monthly most traded stocks at retail brokers like TD Direct.

The bull story is simple, if a little more protracted than usual: GKP has a whopper of an oil field, and sooner or later (preferably sooner) a big oil company will come along and write out a fat cheque, making all the GKP shareholders rich.

The problem is that there’s far too much historical framing and loss aversion going on, in my view. How many of today’s GKP shareholders would invest in the firm today, at today’s price?

Come to that, what would be a reasonable price?

In a new article for the Motley Fool, I’ve taken an initial stab at valuing GKP’s business using industry-standard metrics that enable comparisons to other comparable businesses.

I hope the results won’t surprise you too much, but they might – click here to read the full article.

Disclaimer: This article is provided for information only and is not intended as investment advice. The author may own shares in the companies mentioned in the article. Do your own research or seek qualified professional advice before making any purchase decisions.

Shire PLC vs. AbbVie Inc: this could get messy

Pills or drugs in a bottleLast week, I penned an article for the Motley Fool suggesting that shareholders should heed the lessons of the AstraZenecaPfizer takeover battle, and should sell their Shire PLC (LON:SHP) shares while the going was good — at AbbVie‘s offer price, except in cash, rather than cash plus US shares.

My view was that it was greedy and highly speculative to wait for a higher offer from AbbVie, and that Shire’s share price was likely to fall heavily if AbbVie’s efforts eventually failed (the deadline for a firm offer is July 18).

Today saw AbbVie increase their offer to 11%, but to my not-especially-great surprise, Shire’s share price actually fell, ending the day nearly 3% lower.

Why was this? In a new opinion piece for the Motley Fool, I explain why — and reiterate my view that after such a strong performance, with a bid premium on top, Shire shares are a strong sell.

Disclaimer: This article is provided for information only and is not intended as investment advice. The author may own shares in the companies mentioned in the article. Do your own research or seek qualified professional advice before making any purchase decisions.