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. 


Swiss bank giant UBS posts best Q3 in a decade despite pandemic

Updated 20 October 2020

Swiss bank giant UBS posts best Q3 in a decade despite pandemic

  • The world’s largest wealth manager saw net profit jump 99 percent year-on-year to $2.5 billion

ZURICH: Swiss banking giant UBS said Tuesday it nearly doubled its net profit in its best third quarter in a decade, the latest in a string of global lenders to report better-than-expected results despite the coronavirus pandemic.
The world’s largest wealth manager saw net profit jump 99 percent year-on-year to $2.5 billion, it said in a statement, handily beating analyst expectations for $1.5 billion.
The rise comes after net profit dropped by 11 percent in the second quarter to June as the firm stepped up provisions for bad loans with the global economy in a tailspin due to the pandemic.
UBS’ profits received a one-off, third-quarter boost from the $631 million sale of a majority stake in its fund platform Fondcenter to Clearstream, a subsidiary of the Deutsche Borse group.
Its operating profit increased 26 percent to $8.9 billion, also surpassing analyst expectations.
CEO Sergio Ermotti said he was proud of the third quarter results, his last at the helm, with ex-ING group chief Ralph Hamers taking over as chief executive officer on November 1.
“UBS has all the options open to write another successful chapter of its history under Ralph’s leadership,” Ermotti said in the statement.
But UBS did not give any estimate of its outlook, due to a “high level of uncertainty.”
“Going forward, the pandemic and political uncertainties may lead to periods of higher market volatility and could affect client activity positively or negatively,” it said in the statement.
Other global banking giants to report surging profits this earnings season include Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup.