What to watch: Asda chief executive quits, Halfords snaps up Universal Tyre, AJ Bell buys investment platform

LaToya Harding
·4 min read
An Asda worker pushes trolleys into a car park in south London May 13, 2008. Wal-Mart Stores Inc said on Tuesday its British grocer Asda had delivered a strong first quarter thanks to an increase in customer traffic driven by lower prices and discount campaigns.   REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico   (BRITAIN)
Asda boss Burnley has been at the helm since 2018 and will stay on until next year to allow a successor to be identified, the company said. Photo: Reuters/Alessia Pierdomenico

Here are some of the top business, market, and economic stories you should be watching today in the UK, Europe, and around the world.

Asda chief executive quits

Asda's boss Roger Burnley has said he will step down from the company just months after private equity firm TDR Capital, and the billionaire Issa brothers, agreed to buy the supermarket chain for £6.8bn ($9.5bn).

Burnley, who has been at the helm since 2018 will stay on until next year to allow a successor to be identified, the company said. In a statement, the move was said to be a "personal" decision.

"My decision to leave Asda is personal and something I wanted to communicate to my colleagues as soon as I could," Burnley said.

"Whilst I remain fully committed to leading this great business for the next year and delivering our strategy, it is right to plan for a managed succession process well in advance."

READ MORE: Walmart agrees sale of Asda to billionaire brothers for £6.8bn

TDR Capital took on £3.5bn of debt to fund the acquisition of the grocer last year. Walmart (WMT), which has owned Asda since 1999, has kept a minority stake in the company.

Mohsin and Zuber Issa, built their firm EG Group into one of the world’s largest petrol station operators, from a single filling station in Manchester.

Asda is one of the UK’s biggest private sector employers, with more than 146,000 employees.

Halfords snaps up Universal Tyre

Halfords (HFD.L) has acquired motoring services provider Universal Tyre and Autocentres in a deal worth £15m.

Kent-based Universal Tyre has 201 sites and 89 commercial vans operating in the South East and on the east coast of the UK.

It specialises in tyre services, including the supply and fit of tyres for a wide range of vehicles, from cars to commercial and agricultural vehicles, as well as providing general car maintenance and repairs such as brakes, servicing and MOT.

Universal is set to report revenue in excess of £31m and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of more than £1.5m for the year ended 31 December 2020.

READ MORE: Halfords to hire 1,100 temporary workers amid surge in bike demand

"This acquisition takes us closer to our stated ambition of having over 550 garages in the UK and builds our coverage of the commercial truck and van market, Halfords said.

Graham Stapleton, CEO of Halfords, said the acquisition was a step forward in helping the firm reach its goal.

“We continue to see strong demand for our autocentres, for our expanding fleet of Halfords mobile expert vans, and for our growing commercial business.

“Universal will help us to meet that demand whilst also expanding our geographic footprint in a market for which we see significant potential.”

Shares opened 3% higher in London

Shares rose on the back of the news on Friday. Chart: Yahoo Finance
Shares rose on the back of the news on Friday. Chart: Yahoo Finance

European stocks mixed

European stocks were mixed on opening on Friday as a rise in bond yields kept inflation concerns at the forefront of some traders’ minds.

In London, the FTSE 100 (^FTSE) fell 0.94% after opening with a fall in energy stocks, while France’s CAC (^FCHI) tumbled 0.69%.

Rising COVID-19 infections are weighing on stocks in France today after the country announced new regional lockdowns for some 21 million people in 16 areas, including Paris, from midnight on Friday.

However, the German DAX (^GDAXI) continued to hit fresh record highs, climbing 1.23% after the bell.

It came as the UK government borrowed £19.1bn ($26.6bn) last month, the highest February borrowing since monthly records began in 1993.

READ MORE: UK sells £1.1bn NatWest stake as government borrowing hits £19bn

Central government bodies spent £72.6bn on day-to-day activities, £14.2bn more than in February 2020, including £3.9bn on coronavirus job support schemes, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

AJ Bell buys investment platform

Investment platform AJ Bell (AJB.L) has snapped up rival company Adalpha for an undisclosed sum in an attempt to enhance its mobile technology for advisers and its clients.

It comes as Bristol-headquartered Adalpha is currently developing a mobile focused platform proposition for financial advisers.

AJ Bell said it believes the move has "the potential to complement the company’s existing adviser platform business, AJ Bell Investcentre".

Andy Bell, chief executive of AJ Bell, said: “Financial advisers need a variety of propositions to match a diverse range of client needs.

“The Adalpha team are working on a simplified, mobile focused platform service that will broaden our offering to financial advisers and help them service a wider base of clients.”

WATCH: What UK government COVID-19 support is available?