NOTot another unscheduled cancellation at easyJet. This time it’s the COO who gets punished, though the precise circumstances of Peter Bellew’s exit from the company have been lost in the fog of corporate talk. He resigned “to pursue other business opportunities,” the statement said, without specifying which ones.
Almost the only clear detail was that Bellew quit on Friday. Since Monday morning at 7 a.m. sharp would be the normal time to brief shareholders, the other mini-mystery is why it took easyJet until 11:30 a.m. to do so. The company’s commitment to timely communication needs to be reworked.
Bellew was hired by Ryanair to much fanfare just two and a half years ago, so you can see why the stock market has taken easyJet’s share price down another 4%. It was assumed that a veteran of the industry was exactly the type of executive capable of restoring order to operations after the recent upheaval. Instead, David Morgan, the director of flight operations, will “seamlessly step into” the role, said Johan Lundgren, the managing director.
If a change in personnel makes the network smoother this summer, no one – let alone punters – will grumble. An open question, however, is whether the change is also an admission by easyJet that all of its woes cannot be blamed on Gatwick airport, air traffic controllers, labor shortages and hassles. general administration. The operating conditions are tricky, there’s no doubt about that. But Lundgren’s boasts in May about how easyJet had been “transformed” during the pandemic and gained “renewed strength” also read as extremely premature in light of events.
The other intriguing question is the role in the background of Stephen Hester, chairman since last December. Hester – formerly of the Royal Bank of Scotland and RSA Insurance Group – is an unsentimental old-school boardroom operator. Lundgren will know that the buck ultimately stops at the CEO’s door.
The possible need to raise funds is a question that AO has not yet answered.
Yet easyJet is edged out in the premature optimism stakes by AO World, an online retailer of fridges, freezers, laptops and the like.
“I believe we’ve seen 10 years of change in 10 months,” founder and chief executive John Roberts said in January 2021 after lockdown conditions put a rocket on demand. It was a mirage. Sales reversed as Covid restrictions eased and AO said last month it would abandon its seven-year adventure in Germany and stick to the UK. Now comes a reminder of how horizons have also shrunk at home: the story of a credit insurer slashing its coverage.
The cover in question is a protection purchased by suppliers against the risk of bankruptcy of a retailer. AO confirmed, in essence, the Sunday Times report that Atradius, one of the specialist firms in the market, had reduced its exposure, but the accompanying reassuring explanation did not have the desired effect. The shares lost 18%.
Coverage was “rebased” in May, AO said, “from the increased levels that had been in place and required during the time of the pandemic.” So, was Atradius merely engaged in a regular housekeeping task? Or do providers have to pay more, per fridge so to speak, to get the same protection? It wasn’t entirely clear.
AO was more persuasive about its efforts to protect its balance sheet. The cost of Germany’s exit will be “on the lower end” of the initial estimate of zero to £15m. An £80m credit facility is in place until April 2024. Nothing has changed on the trading front since the last update in April and the rebased hedge “had no effect on the position. liquidity of AO”.
Alright, all those points are relevant. But they do not answer questions from some City analysts about whether they need to raise funds to adapt to the new trading circumstances. After the share price has fallen from 400p to 56p in 18 months, it’s a natural question to ask.
Just Eat celebrations may leave investors scratching their heads
The party continues at Just Eat Takeaway, the Dutch food delivery company that was a member of the FTSE 100 Index. dollars (£13 million). Now, via Bloomberg, comes news from the company’s German operation, Lieferando, of an “exclusive pool party” where invitations specified that “drivers and casual workers” were to be excluded.
All key to boosting corporate morale, no doubt, but investors may wonder what they’re meant to celebrate: the stock price is down 67% this year.