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Monday's Business and Politics round-up

11 Jun 2018

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Good morning!

The IoD has joined forces with Education Secretary Damien Hinds and written to thousands of company directors to encourage senior staff to become governors or trustees of schools.

In a joint letter, Hinds and IoD Director General Stephen Martin urge bosses to “play their part in helping the next generation reach their potential” by supporting staff to take on governor or trustee roles. Read the full letter here.

Hinds is expected to give a speech to the National Governance Association today arguing governors need support from their employers to take on the challenging role. The education system has a shortfall of 3,000 governors.

James Jarvis, the IoD’s Corporate Governance Analyst, was also quoted over the weekend, telling the FT that new legislation on publishing executive-to-staff pay ratios “will generate plenty of heat but not necessarily much light”.


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Bailey-ing out

The Financial Conduct Authority’s chief executive Andrew Bailey has defended the watchdog’s decision to change listing rules, in a move that could allow giant oil producer Saudi Aramco to list in London.

Starting from July, the City regulator hopes to create a new category of firms which are subject to less stringent rules than the “premium” rules that typically apply to majority state-backed companies, such as Saudi Aramco.

Bailey says the plans will enhance standards and strengthen the City. “We would want companies in the premium listing because the standards are higher […] Companies want to be in it because it conveys a strong message, which is right.”

However, the IoD’s Stephen Martin said the FCA has not justified exactly why a new listing category for sovereign-owned firms is necessary. “If anything, we believe that listing rules should be strengthened for this category of issuer given its distinctive governance challenges and risks.” Read the full comment here.

Bailey has acknowledged there are “quite strong views on both sides”. As a result of the controversy, the FCA made the consultation process six months longer than originally planned.

Saudi Aramco hopes to gain an substantial $2 trillion valuation.

Vote of no confidence 

The Prime Minister is expected to appeal for unity from her backbenchers as MPs gather on Tuesday and Wednesday for key votes on the EU Withdrawal Bill.

She is expected to tell the backbench 1922 Committee that the British people “want us to deliver on Brexit and build a brighter future for Britain as we take back control of our money, our laws and our borders."

The news follows an article by Amber Rudd and Iain Duncan Smith – Remain and Leave-supporters, respectively – in the Sunday Telegraph which called for unity in the Conservative Party. Rebellion, they said, would only boost Labour’s standing in the opinion polls.

Theresa May wishes to overturn a series of amendments made by the House of Lords but could face defeats if the substantial Remain-backing faction of her party support them. Some MPs have warned they have enough numbers to threaten the Government.

Two controversial amendments are creating the most concern for the Government: one which instructs the Prime Minister to negotiate a customs union with the EU and another which gives Parliament a meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal.

Meanwhile, shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, Sir Keir Starmer, said the votes mean Conservative rebels have a “real chance to change the course of the Brexit negotiations”.

What Rolls around comes around

Rolls-Royce is expected to announce thousands of job losses when it updates investors later this week on its programme to boost profitability and cash flow.

It is thought that on Friday the engineering firm will outline fresh plans to simplify processes, including back office and middle-management job cuts throughout the company. Analysts are of the view that 4,000 jobs could be lost.

The firm is also expected to reaffirm its commitment to generate £1 billion in cash flow by 2020.

Back in March, chief executive Warren East had announced plans to slim the company down from five divisions to three, creating three divisions – civil aerospace, defence and power. However, he did not disclose details pending a review at the time by change management specialists.

East has admitted in the past that Rolls-Royce has never made a profit on the sale of its engines, instead relying on long-term maintenance contracts. Current restructuring plans are intended to bring down the costs of engine production and servicing by eliminating unnecessary bureaucracy. 

In 2015, East announced a plan to reduce the company’s 2,000 management roles by a quarter. However, some critics argue these positions have simply re-emerged in different guises.

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