The City wants to reinvent itself to attract small businesses back — just as one of its flagship office towers goes on the market for almost £1bn.

The City of London wants to reinvent itself. Again. As the financial services tenants that are the staple of the Square Mile rethink their office needs, the City of London Corporation, the body that governs the district, wants to attract small businesses and those in the arts sector. The Corporation has a plan to create start-up hubs and more affordable workplaces, and recommends new “flexible working” season tickets for rail travel be considered.

It isn’t turning its back on traditional tenants though: the recommendations contained in its “vision for London in 2025”, to be published this week with consultants Oliver Wyman and Arup, also include ways to make UK IPOs more attractive and ensure the capital’s competitiveness.

The City has cleared out during the pandemic. But that isn’t stopping the American owners of one of the area’s landmark office towers from seeking a pre-pandemic price for the building dubbed The Scalpel. Insurance group WR Berkley is seeking around £820m. If it achieved that price, it would be the most expensive office building sold in the capital since Citigroup paid more than £1bn for its Canary Wharf site last year.

Briefly

Disinfectant sales show few signs of returning to normal at Reckitt Benckiser, which makes products such as Dettol and Lysol. It reported like-for-like sales growth of 13.3 per cent in the third quarter of the year, led by its health and hygiene divisions. That takes like-for-like growth for the year so far to 12.3 per cent. Reckitt now expects full-year like-for-like sales to increase by the “low double digits” rather than “high single digits”.

Pre-tax profits at housebuilder Bellway fell by close to two-thirds in the year to July. In part that was due to Covid-19, which added £45m in costs. But the builder also set aside £47m for fire safety improvements needed to apartment blocks already built, as groups continue to grapple with the fallout from the Grenfell Tower fire. Business has been looking up for Bellway since the start of the new financial year in August: overall reservations are up by almost a third year-on-year.

Peter Hargreaves, founder and major shareholder of Hargreaves Lansdown, has reached an agreement with the FTSE 100 group that will give him a non-independent non-executive director on the board. No longer a director himself, he will have the right to nominate someone so long as he holds at least a 10 per cent stake. He is nominating fund management grandee Adrian Collins.

Also out on Tuesday is a quarterly update from miner BHP and results from tech group Softcat.

Job moves 

The chief executive of Trainline, one of the more successful recent IPOs, is stepping down. Claire Gilmartin said that after seven years in the driving seat at the transport booking app she wanted to spend more time with her family. Chief operating officer Jody Ford will take the top job at the end of February.

The Co-operative Bank has found a new boss already. It began its search for its sixth chief executive in nine years only two weeks ago. But it has identified the man for the job within its own ranks: CFO Nick Slape.

Beyond the Square Mile 

© Reuters

UBS said it would set aside $2.5bn to return to shareholders next year as surging third-quarter revenues confounded expectations that the pandemic would disrupt global lending. Attributable profits for shareholders covering the three months to September 30 rose 99 per cent at the Swiss bank — the world’s largest wealth manager — to $2.1bn. Revenue for the quarter was $8.9bn, up 25 per cent from $7.1bn in the third quarter of 2019, driven by a strong rise in trading revenues in investment banking and strong underlying performance in its core wealth management division. 

Banks in Hong Kong have been advised to report any transactions suspected of violating a controversial national security law to police, according to a document released online by the city’s regulator. The advice, published by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, suggested banks report breaches of the law as they would any violation of money-laundering or terrorist financing regulations. The guidance applies to both local and international lenders in the city.

Two shale producers are in talks about a possible takeover in a deal that would create one of the largest players in the Permian Basin, the world’s most prolific oilfield. Pioneer Natural Resources and Parsley Energy are negotiating an all-stock deal that would help them better weather the headwinds faced by producers due to low prices of crude. The talks follow confirmation on Monday that ConocoPhillips was buying rival Concho in a deal valued at $13.3bn including debt.

Essential comment before you go

Boohoo’s shares fell almost 20 per cent on Monday © Bloomberg

Lombard PwC’s decision to quit auditing Boohoo’s accounts was not grandstanding but a rational look at the fees it is earning from the fast-fashion retailer versus the risks of continuing to work with a business under the spotlight. But it is in everyone’s interests to make sure Boohoo appoints a credible successor. 

Sarah O’Connor When economists and politicians talk about inequality, they are usually comparing people’s incomes or wealth. But inequality of security is important, too, as working conditions in Britain’s food factories highlight.

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