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Flybe’s future hangs in the balance

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Flybe’s future is hanging in the balance. The airline dodged insolvency a year ago, but finds itself once more on the brink. To save it, the government could cut air passenger duty across a whole swath of the UK airline industry because of rules that make it difficult to give the carrier special treatment.

There is always the lingering question of why the government should help save a subscale airline, particularly when Thomas Cook was allowed to fail last year. But the two are very different businesses. Flybe is hugely important to regional airports, such as Southampton and Newquay. In its complaints about air passenger duty, which the airline has previously called “highly damaging”, the airline echoes another struggling industry, however: high street retailers and their hatred of business rates.

Boohoo once again bested the high street with revenue growth of 44 per cent over the final four months of the year. Sales for the year to February are now expected to be up between 40 and 42 per cent rather than 33 to 38 per cent. The fast-fashion retailer has sourced lots of its growth in recent periods from its younger PrettyLittleThing and Nasty Gal brands. NastyGal doubled revenues, but the flagship Boohoo brand had a stronger sales showing than NastyGal during peak trading. Margins suffered slightly, slipping 70 basis points to 53.5 per cent, but full-year margins on earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation should be a shade above previous guidance at 10.2 per cent rather than 10 per cent.

Games Workshop is another retailer dodging the high street gloom. The Warhammer-maker reported half-year sales up 19 per cent year-on-year to £148m. Pre-tax profits climbed an astonishing 44 cent at the hobby group. It has had an astounding share price run over the past three years; shares roughly doubled last year and it reached an all-time high of more than £65 last week.

Other updates out on Tuesday are from the recruiter PageGroup and housebuilder Taylor Wimpey. PageGroup’s profits have slipped as the global economy falters, with revenues down 2.6 per cent in the final quarter of the year. At Taylor Wimpey, meanwhile, the housebuilder said its last quarter had gone as expected, with cost pressures easing. 2020 results will be second-half weighted, Taylor Wimpey said.

Job moves

KPMG UK’s most senior female partner and deputy chair has quit the Big Four accounting firm. Melanie Richards will leave KPMG in September after two decades with the firm, during which she spent three years as KPMG’s deputy chair and seven as a member of its board. She wants to explore roles as a non-executive director at a number of companies, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Refinitiv has hired Andrea Remyn Stone as its “chief customer proposition officer”. She was chief strategy officer at Dealogic and before that spent five years at Bloomberg. Ms Stone will report to CEO David Craig, working on the development of Refinitiv’s data platform.

Beyond the Square Mile

Visa has agreed to acquire Plaid, a financial software company, for $5.3bn. It’s the latest large tech-focused deal by Visa, which bought a minority stake in Swedish payments provider Klarna, Europe’s most valuable fintech company, in 2017. Plaid is backed by high profile tech investors including Mary Meeker and Andreessen Horowitz and is based in San Francisco. Its clients include the financial planning apps Mint and Acorns and the money transfer app Venmo.

The man appointed to lead Boeing out of the biggest crisis in its history has told staff his priority is to return the 737 Max to service. In an email to Boeing’s roughly 150,000 employees, David Calhoun said: “I see greatness in this company, but I also see opportunities to be better. Much better.” Mr Calhoun said Boeing needed to rebuild trust with airlines, regulators and the flying public.

FC Barcelona has become the world’s richest football club for the first time, thanks to recent changes to the Catalan team’s merchandising business that has provided a financial edge over its peers. According to Deloitte’s annual “money league” rankings of the sport’s highest-earning clubs it has overtaken domestic rival Real Madrid, with Manchester United in third place.

Closing quote — essential comment before you go

Brooke Masters Sceptics of responsible capitalism often warn that diluting the focus on profits leads to weaker companies and slower growth. That is not the case at Greggs.

Andrew Hill You can coach rather than command in any business, based on the core skill of “active listening”.

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