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Volume 7 No. 49

Finance

Even if England’s cricketers "lose all their matches during this year’s Ashes," it will be "the most profitable tour yet for the Barmy Army, the supporters’ group that follows the team," according to Murad Ahmed of the FINANCIAL TIMES. Barmy Army co-Founder Paul Burnham, a former British Airways exec, "created clothing bearing the Barmy Army name as mementos" during the '94-95 Ashes series. After selling nearly 2,000 items in 20 days, he and co-Founders David Peacock and Gareth Evans "trademarked the term." Burnham: "It probably wasn’t the most sensible name, but 20-odd years down the line, it’s got some street cred. Like anything with cricket, it’s taken its time to get established. But now it’s there, it has some infrastructure. What we’re trying to do is take it more seriously, more professionally." The Barmy Army "has expanded steadily over the years, becoming a small company" that helps organize tours for England cricket supporters. In '09, it formed a partnership with Barmy Travel, which has taken "about 1,300 clients to Australia this year." The Barmy Army "takes a small cut" from its role in organizing tours and "makes additional revenues through membership fees" -- £30 ($40) per year for its "First Class" package -- merchandising and sponsorship. Though its turnover is "too small to require a comprehensive statement to Companies House," Burnham said that revenues "are in the tens of thousands of pounds" (FT, 12/13).

BT "disconnected from a sluggish London market" on Thursday as "high hopes for the coming months" pushed the telecom higher, according to Callum Jones of the LONDON TIMES. Having slumped 39% after its January profit warning, BT was "boosted by a rare upgrade." Urging clients to buy, financial services company UBS listed "a series of potentially positive catalysts" including an agreement with pension trustees and the Premier League TV rights auction in the next year. Shares in the group rose 7p to a two-month high of 275p. Analysts at the Swiss broker insisted that they "remain cautious on the fundamentals for BT," but suggested that negative outcomes were already "priced in" before "possible slip-ups" on issues such as pensions or the Premier League. UBS said, "Newsflow over the coming quarters could turn more positive" (LONDON TIMES, 12/14).

First-half pre-tax profits "have plunged again" at Sports Direct but Founder Mike Ashley claimed that the retailer’s strategy was on track with "spectacular trading." Britain’s largest sportswear retailer said that its statutory pre-tax profits had fallen nearly 68% to £45.8M ($61.6M) in the six months to Oct. 29. The "sharp drop in profits comes hard on the heels of a very difficult performance last year," when Sports Direct’s full-year profits dropped by 60% to £113.7M. Ashley said that he was "pleased with the performance, however, as its underlying profit, which strips out the impact of currency and one-off costs," was still "healthy" at £88M ($118.3M) (LONDON TIMES, 12/14).

Signing a deal with Nike sent the shares of high-performance foam manufacturer Zotefoams "sprinting" up 14% on the main market on Wednesday. Zotefoams announced it struck an "exclusive strategic partnership" with Nike, "sending its shares up 56¾p to 458p." The company will supply Nike with material for its footwear (LONDON TIMES, 12/14).