Europe

This time last year Sergio Ermotti was riding high. The UBS chief executive was basking in a double-digit jump in quarterly profit and boasting of the bank’s “excellent” prospects. His decision six years earlier to refocus on wealth management and slim down the investment bank looked to be paying off — the model he pioneered was copied by Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley.  A year on and the narrative is very different, the Financial Times reported.

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The share price of Casino’s parent company closed at an all-time low on Wednesday, on the back of heightened concerns about the sustainability of the chain of heavily indebted companies that control the French retailer, the Financial Times reported. Casino’s chief executive Jean-Charles Naouri — a stalwart of the French establishment — controls the group through three publicly listed investment holding companies. These entities each have their own debts, putting pressure on them to keep paying dividends up the chain.

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Bidding farewell to the company he led for more than a decade, Daimler AG Chief Executive Officer Dieter Zetsche urged sweeping cost cuts to prepare the carmaker for unprecedented industry upheaval, Bloomberg News reported. “Everything is under scrutiny,” Zetsche said Wednesday at the annual shareholder meeting in Berlin, citing costs, investments and the Mercedes-Benz maker’s product range.

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It’s not often that an entire economy is thrown off course by a single corporate event. But that’s what appears to have happened in Iceland. The recent bankruptcy of budget airline Wow Air has delivered such a blow to the Icelandic tourist industry, and the wider economy, that the central bank on Wednesday cut its main interest rate by half a point to 4%, Bloomberg News reported. It also said that the economy is now set to contract 0.4%, compared with a previous estimate for growth of 1.8%.

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British retail tycoon Philip Green’s Arcadia Group said on Wednesday it planned to close 23 of its 566 stores in the UK and Ireland in a major restructuring of the fashion business that could also see its Topshop/Topman stores close in the U.S.. Arcadia, which also runs fashion retailers Wallis, Miss Selfridge, Dorothy Perkins, Evans, Burton and Outfit, said it had instigated seven Company Voluntary Arrangements (CVAs), mechanisms that allow the business to avoid insolvency, Reuters reported.

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A stand-off between Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman and Ana Botin has ended with the Banco Santander SA chairman blinking first. Fridman’s hostile bid for struggling Spanish grocer Distribuidora Internacional de Alimentacion SA won shareholder approval earlier this month. But Santander, DIA’s second-biggest lender, objected to a related deal to recapitalize the company, a Bloomberg View reported. That refusenik stance threatened to trigger a default and wipe out Fridman’s equity within weeks of the takeover succeeding.

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British Steel was forced into liquidation on Wednesday though Britain’s second largest steelmaker will continue to trade and supply its customers, the official receiver said, Reuters reported. “The company in liquidation is continuing to trade and supply its customers while I consider options for the business. Staff have been paid and will continue to be employed,” the official receiver said.

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The future of one of the U.K.’s few remaining steel producers hangs in the balance as its private equity owners seek an emergency bailout from the government, Bloomberg News reported. British Steel is asking for about 30 million pounds ($38 million) from the government and has warned that it will fall into administration without the support, according to a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified. During a question and answer session in the House of Commons, the government said talks with the company are ongoing, but offered no details.

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Thomas Cook intends to push ahead with expansion plans despite growing doubt over the 178-year old UK travel group’s ability to continue trading, the Financial Times reported. The company said it would open its 13th hotel of the summer season this weekend as it sought to play down fears over its future days after it stock plummeted as an investment bank branded its equity potentially worthless. The new hotel, based in Chania, Crete, will open on Saturday and be Thomas Cook’s first family-focused own-brand property.

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Jamie Oliver’s U.K. restaurant business collapsed into insolvency, leaving more than 1,000 jobs at risk after the celebrity chef failed to turn around the performance of his eateries, Bloomberg News reported. Accounting firm KPMG has been appointed to oversee the immediate closure of 22 of the “Naked Chef” star’s Jamie’s Italian, Fifteen London and Barbecoa restaurants in the U.K. The procedures do not affect Jamie Oliver’s international business. The group operates 25 U.K. restaurants and all but three have immediately closed, resulting in 1,000 lost jobs.

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