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JD Sports defends car-park meeting

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JD Sports has hit back against weekend reports of a car-park meeting between its executive chair Peter Cowgill and the boss of Footasylum, a competitor that JD Sports bought in 2019 but has been blocked from integrating by the competition watchdog. The Sunday Times reported the meeting.

JD said it was “not unusual, or in any way suspicious or illegitimate, for them to meet from time to time”, adding that the Competition and Markets Authority had “already been fully apprised of the content of the meeting” (no word on whether the CMA was also apprised of its location).

JD “totally refuted” any suggestion of governance breaches, though it has already committed to taking a number of governance measures including dividing the roles of chair and chief executive by the time of its next annual shareholder meeting. And it hit out at the “highly irregular” surveillance of its executives’ car-park conference, after the Sunday Times posted a video of the meeting which also included the retailer’s general counsel.

Briefly

BHP is selling its stake in two Australian coal mines for up to $1.35bn, the latest step in the miner’s retreat from fossil fuels. The group is selling its 80 per cent stake in BHP Mitsui Coal to Stanmore Resources, with the remaining 20 per cent held by Mitsui of Japan. But even after the sale, BHP will remain the world’s biggest exporter of coal through an alliance with Mitsubishi Corp, our natural resources editor explains here.

Playtech said on Sunday that there could be a gatecrasher to its agreed takeover by Aristocrat Leisure, announced last month. Days after Playtech announced that deal, Playtech says Gopher Investments approached it about a possible offer. There is no certainty that Gopher will make a formal offer, Playtech said.

French authorities are investigating Sanjeev Gupta’s business empire, the latest difficulty for the man once called the “saviour of steel”. The Paris Prosecutor’s Office is probing Gupta’s French operations over allegations of “misuse of corporate assets” and “money laundering”, our correspondents report.

UK-South African banking group Investec has upgraded earnings per share guidance. Further details on the upgrade are due later this month. And also out today are updates from defence contractor BAE Systems and transport group Go-Ahead.

Beyond the Square Mile

One US hedge fund made profits of more than $400m from natural gas price volatility in October alone, our hedge funds correspondent reports. Statar Capital, which has around $2bn in assets under management and is headed by former Citadel and DE Shaw trader Ron Ozer, gained 23.5 per cent last month. That beats the $130m loss it made in the first half of September.

Ask and you shall receive. Elon Musk asked Twitter whether he should sell 10 per cent of his Tesla stake, worth more than $20bn. Twitter told him yes. That could land him with a tax bill of more than $4bn, Richard Waters reports.

Last month it was Shell, this month luxury group Richemont is being targeted by activist fund Third Point. But at Richemont Dan Loeb’s hedge fund will have to contend with powerful chair Johann Rupert, who controls 50 per cent of the voting rights through a dual-share structure.

Essential comment before you go

Oddly for Facebook, a business built on advertising, its simulations of the metaverse seemed largely free of the stuff notes Andrew Hill. But Andrew has some suggestions for companies looking to compete in the online world of the future — from the now largely forgotten Second Life, once populated by IBM Land and General Motors’ Motorati Island.

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