MARKET REPORT: M&C Saatchi tumbles 5.4% after boardroom exodus

The departures of co-founder Maurice Saatchi, House of Cards author Lord Dobbs and two other directors sent M&C Saatchi into reverse.

The boardroom exodus came just days after the advertising company issued its second profit warning in three months due to an accounting scandal.

The board originally wanted chief executive David Kershaw to step down. But after taking soundings, it was clear major shareholders would be keen to see him stay to fix the £11.6million black hole in its accounts.

Shares hit: The boardroom exodus at M&C Saatchi came just days after the advertising company issued its second profit warning in three months due to an accounting scandal

Shares hit: The boardroom exodus at M&C Saatchi came just days after the advertising company issued its second profit warning in three months due to an accounting scandal

On that advice, executive director Saatchi and non-executive directors Dobbs, Sir Michael Peat and Lorna Tilbian all quit, M&C Saatchi revealed on Tuesday.

The board has no non-executive directors left and has started headhunting. Shares fell 5.4 per cent, or 5.6p, to 97.4p as investors digested the latest turmoil at a firm, where shares are down 66 per cent this year.

Elsewhere, business has been booming so much at the AA that it is intending to use some of the cash it has generated to buy back some bonds – ‘imminently’.

CMC Markets chief market analyst Michael Hewson said the news ‘appears to be predicated on the basis that, having had a torrid year, the outlook appears to be stabilising’. Its shares jumped 16.2 per cent, or 7.02p, to 50.5p.

Gold miners Fresnillo (up 4.9 per cent, or 27.2p, to 581.6p) and Polymetal (up 11.7 per cent, or 19.5p, to 1190p) both climbed as gold prices rose around 0.4pc to $1471.

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Stock Watch – Sopheon 

Software provider Sopheon fell after it said several contracts it expected to ink in the fourth quarter have been pushed back to 2020.

The company, whose existing clients include Siemens and Pepsico, still has the same pipeline of work despite the ‘shift in timing’.

It is the selected bidder for some of this work already – and could pin down another £7.5million worth by the end of this year. 

The AIM-listed, Minnesota group fell 10.9 per cent, or 75p, to 615p.

But overall, the FTSE 100 was virtually flat, up 0.04 per cent, or 2.49 points, to 7216.25.

The FTSE 250, on the other hand, was down 0.65 per cent, or 133.98 points, to 20,647.11, hamstrung by jitters over the election.

Investment group Riverstone Energy was one of the biggest fallers, dropping 3.6 per cent, or 15.5p, to 412.5p, after it sold all of its assets in the Gulf of Mexico to a US company called Talos.

Revenues at London-listed law firm DWF Group rose 10 per cent to £147million in the first half, though profits fell 12 per cent to £5million as costs grew. 

DWF also announced it has expanded into Spain with the purchase of Rousaud Costas Duran for up to £42.5m in a cash-and-shares deal.

It is DWF’s biggest takeover so far and will add 40 new partners to the group.

Investors say their shares edge up 1.2 per cent, or 1.5p, to 122p.

Online trading firm IG Group edged 3.1 per cent, or 20.8p, lower to 660p, after it appointed a new chairman. 

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Robert McTighe, who also chairs BT Openreach, will take over from interim chair Jonathan Moulds on February 3.

Profit-takers sold shares in IT group Computacenter, sending it down 4.6 per cent, or 73p, to 1532p, after it rose during the previous session on a profit upgrade.

And luxury retailer Watches of Switzerland lost even more ground, despite this week reporting a 112 per cent rise in profit to £26.5million. 

It fell 5.9 per cent, or 18.8p, to 301.2p, possibly over worries about consumer spending and what will happen to the value of sterling after the election.

Among the small-caps, Big Dish, which gets subscribers discounts at restaurants, was in the red after it said it was reviewing its corporate governance standards after criticism over a fundraise earlier in the year.

It admitted it had given the impression it had enough cash several days before it raised £2.1million from a share placement, which took investors by surprise.

Its shares closed 14.5 per cent, or 0.23p, lower at 1.32p.

Over on AIM, the radiation detector maker Kromek rocketed 26.1 per cent higher, up 4.5p, to 21.75p, after first-half revenues jumped 43 per cent to £5.3million.


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