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. 


UAE dives into Lake Manzala project

Updated 21 September 2020

UAE dives into Lake Manzala project

  • Egyptian campaign aims to return the lake to its previous state and revive local fishing industry

CAIRO: The UAE National Marine Dredging Company (NMDC) has announced that it won the rights to the expansion project of Lake Manzala in Egypt, valued at 600 million UAE dirhams ($163 million).

The company’s announcement of the new project came following a disclosure published on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange website. It ensures compliance with the principle of disclosure and transparency in force in the UAE.

Lake Manzala is one of Egypt’s largest natural lakes. It is known for its potential fishing opportunities, as it has the basis for high fish stocks due to natural nutrients and a moderate climate throughout the year. It produces about half of the natural fish production in lakes.

The lake has witnessed neglect in recent years, losing much of its importance and wealth. In May 2017 Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi launched a national project to develop Egyptian lakes, with a key focus on Lake Manzala.

NMDC said in a statement that winning the project came through its partnership with the Egyptian-Emirati Challenge Company. It said that it will take about two years to implement the project.

NMDC is one of the leading companies in the field of dredging, land reclamation and civil and marine construction in the Middle East. The Lake Manzala development project aims to improve the quality of water to restore free fishing and return the lake to its previous state, which will boost the local market and export output.

President El-Sisi said that Lake Manzala will contribute to enhancing Egypt’s fishing industry, and export operations will be activated after its full development. He directed the border governorates, in coordination with the Ministry of Interior and the Armed Forces, to remove all encroachments and criminal outposts on the lake.

Several days ago, Dakahlia governorate completed a difficult operation to remove encroachments on the lake. A large campaign that used Armed Forces Engineering Authority equipment removed 301 houses in the Abdo El-Salhy area in El-Matareya city, known as the “fishermen’s land,” which was built on areas that were filled in from the lake. The operation occurred after local fishermen were persuaded to obtain compensation for vacating their houses.

Magdy Zaher, executive director of Manzala Lake, said that the engineering authority used 320 excavators and 20 imported suction dredgers to work in the lake.

The authority dredged the upper islands isolated from the water with the help of an Emirati bulldozing company to increase the efficiency and purification of Lake Manzala.

Zaher said the lake project will require several steps.

The most important is the removal of encroachments on the water surface and doubling its area to 250,000 feddans, he said. Dredging and deepening the lake, opening the gates and extending the radial channels to allow Mediterranean waters to enter the lake will follow, he added.

A safety belt will come in the form of a road 80 km long and 30 meters wide, which will surround the lake and prevent future encroachments. It will also divert the course of the Bahr El-Baqar water treatment plant, which pours 12 million cubic meters of sanitary, industrial and agricultural drainage into the lake, Zaher said.