City Talk: Premier in swap talks

Premier Foods has come to grief in the highly complicated world of stock market derivatives, reportedly making wrong way bets on derivatives linked to the takeover of RHM, for which it paid 1.2bn.

Premier Foods owns many of the UK's best-selling brands, such as Oxo Cubes and Branston Pickle. The company is now in talks to renegotiate the terms of interest rate swaps installed in 2007, when the takeover of RHM was completed. Premier took out the swaps in order to limit its exposure to increases in interest rates when bidding for RHM early in 2007. However, since then, interest rates have fallen like a stone, due to the Bank of England maintaining a 0.5% minimum lending rate a 360-year low to keep the economy from slumping into a double-dip recession.

The latest Premier results are a loss of 54.4m for the six months to 26 June, compared with a loss of 30m for the same period in the previous year. Revenues fell to 1.18bn down from 1.25bn. But trading profits beat City forecasts, hitting 110m and boosting Premier's share price.

Further bid rumours for Sainsbury's

Bid rumours continue to swirl around Sainsbury's. The Qatar Investment Authority via which the Qatar Royal Family owns a massive 26% share stake in the retailer is seen as the favourite in any bid to take over Sainsbury's within the next 12 months. The share price does not fully reflect this possibility, while the company's trading strengths are also not reflected in Sainsbury's share price.

Plans foiled by dormice

Wm Morrison wants to develop a 12m superstore in Wadebridge, Cornwall and build a store on the local football club ground. To gain planning permission, the retailer has offered to provide a replacement ground at nearby Bodieve. But planning officers have recommended the council refuse permission, as some dormice, protected animals under the European Protected Species Act, are living in the football ground.

Greggs positive on wheat

Greggs, which has 1,400 UK shops selling pies, sausage rolls and sandwiches, has soothed market worries over the steep recent hike in wheat prices, saying the price of a sausage roll will not rise by more than 1p. Boss Ken McMeikan said wheat prices have become overheated and added that he "expects and hopes they will come down".

M&S' new cost-cutter

Marks & Spencer has appointed Alan Stewart, a former W H Smith finance director, as its new finance boss. City analysts describe Stewart as "a cost-cutting supremo". He will start work by the end of October 2010, replacing Ian Dyson, who is to become chief executive of Punch Taverns.