M&S suffers fresh blow as finance chief quits

Marks & Spencer is facing growing pressure from discount chains. (Shutterstock)
Updated 22 September 2019

M&S suffers fresh blow as finance chief quits

  • The company has built up a well-regarded food business that seeks to combine convenience and indulgence

BENGALURU: Marks & Spencer Group said on Saturday its chief financial officer, Humphrey Singer, was stepping down after little more than a year, a further setback as the retailer is demoted from Britain’s leading share index.

Singer, who joined from electricals retailer Dixons Carphone in 2018, will work with CEO Steve Rowe on the succession process, the company said.

Marks & Spencer, a 135-year-old firm that is one of the biggest names in British retail, has struggled to compete on clothing with the likes of Zara and H&M, and will be relegated from London’s FTSE 100 index of leading shares with effect from Sept. 23 because of its declining market valuation.

The company has built up a well-regarded food business that seeks to combine convenience and indulgence.

This now accounts for more than half of its annual revenue, but margins have come under pressure from the march of discount chains, and M&S has reported three straight drops in annual profits.

“After 18 months of working with Steve to lead the transformation strategy and rebuild the finance function, I have decided that now is the right time to move on,” Singer was quoted as saying in a company statement.

Singer’s exact departure date has not yet been decided and he will continue with his responsibilities until it is confirmed, the retailer said.

“Humphrey has been a huge asset to the business ... I look forward to continuing to work with him as we search for his successor,” CEO Rowe said.

Singer’s abrupt departure follows the sacking of clothing, home and beauty managing director Jill McDonald in July, after which Rowe took direct control of the division.

In its latest turnaround plan, M&S has been closing weaker stores, revamping ranges and investing in online sales.

Its boldest move yet was striking a £1.5 billion joint venture with online grocer Ocado to give M&S a home delivery service for food. 


Germany mulls how to attract skilled labor from outside EU

Updated 57 min 6 sec ago

Germany mulls how to attract skilled labor from outside EU

  • The new legislation will take effect March 1
  • German official said shortage of skilled workers is currently biggest risk to business

BERLIN: Chancellor Angela Merkel is meeting top German business and union officials on Monday to discuss how to attract skilled workers from outside the European Union as the country tries to tackle a shortfall of qualified labor.
Legislation is due to take effect March 1 making it easier for non-EU nationals to get visas to work and seek jobs in Germany. Arrangements currently applied to university graduates are being expanded to immigrants with professional qualifications and German language knowledge.
“Many companies in Germany are urgently seeking skilled workers, even in times of a weaker economy,” Eric Schweitzer, the head of the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry, told the Funke newspaper group. “For more than half of companies, the shortage of skilled workers is currently the biggest risk to business.”
He called for “unbureaucratic and effective implementation” of the new legislation.
Sectors including information technology and nursing have complained of a shortage of workers.
Monday’s meeting will discuss which countries German business wants to focus on “and we will cut out the bureaucratic hurdles,” Labor Minister Hubertus Heil told RBB Inforadio. He named as examples the process of recognizing professional qualifications, language ability and visa procedures.
Like many other European countries, Germany is trying to strike a balance between the needs of its labor market, an aging native population and concern about immigration.
Heil said that the aim isn’t to undercut German wages and “our problem at the moment is rather that we are not being overrun, that we are not getting qualified workers.”