MARKET REPORT: Future shares tumble as boss plots her departure

Shares in publishing giant Future tumbled to their lowest level in over two years following reports its long-serving boss is about to step down.

The FTSE 250 firm, which owns magazine titles such as Marie Claire and Country Life, dropped 17.56 per cent, or 291p, to 1366p after news emerged chief executive Zillah Byng-Thorne has told the group’s chairman she was planning to retire within the next 18 months.

The company insisted Byng-Thorne remained ‘committed to the business’, although it admitted she has ‘informally indicated that she would like to step down by the end of 2023’.

Future dropped 16.3% after news emerged chief exec Zillah Byng-Thorne (pictured) has told the group’s chairman she was planning to retire within the next 18 months

Byng-Thorne has led Future for nearly a decade and spearheaded an acquisition spree that saw the company snap up a litany of media brands, bucking the trend of a traditionally cautious sector.

Aside from its magazine titles, the firm also owns more e-commerce-focused brands such as price comparison service GoCompare.

But the chief executive has not escaped criticism from shareholders, some of whom have complained about the size of her pay package.

Earlier this year, investors voted against plans for a new share scheme that would have seen Byng-Thorne and other senior executives handed £95millio.

Speculation about her departure follows a sharp decline in Future’s share price, which has dropped over 60 per cent so far this year as traders fled digital and tech stocks amid fears over the global economy.

The shares are still up more than 1500 per cent since Byng-Thorne took over in 2014, however.

The FTSE 100 fell 0.61 per cent, or 44.02 points to 7192.66 while the FTSE 250 fell 1.43 per cent, or 269 points, to 18,528.14. 

Stock Watch –  Boku

Boku shares shot higher after the mobile payments firm clinched a new deal with e-commerce giant Amazon.

The agreement, which will run for an initial term of three years, will see Boku process payments for Amazon’s Prime Video subscription service from customers in parts of South East Asia and Africa.

The company will receive a percentage of revenues from Amazon based on the value of each Prime Video transaction.

The shares surged 14.94 per cent, or 11.5p, to 88.5p.

Traders were on a glum footing on the first day back after the Queen’s state funeral, although the blue-chip index found some support from banking stocks ahead of what are expected to be further interest rate hikes from the Bank of England and the Federal Reserve this week, moves that are predicted to boost their profitability.

HSBC shares were up 0.85 per cent, or 4.5p, at 534.1p while Lloyds rose 2.5 per cent, or 1.2p, to 49p. Barclays was down 0.13 per cent, or 0.22p, to 170.92p, NatWest fell 1.32 per cent, or 3.6p, to 269.3p but Standard Chartered was up 0.1 per cent, or 0.6p, at 602.8p.

Also in focus is the much-anticipated ‘mini-Budget’ from Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng which is expected to contain a raft of tax cuts as well as measures to protect households from crippling energy bills.

Despite trading higher earlier in the day, oil prices slipped into the red towards the end of the session, with Brent crude below $91 a barrel as energy traders fretted about a slowdown in fuel demand caused by higher interest rates weighing on economic growth. 

But shares in Shell managed to eke out a gain, climbing 0.26 per cent, or 6p, to 2302.5p while BP was up 0.1 per cent, or 0.45p, at 452.5p.

Moonpig slumped 7.5pc, or 15p, to 185p after the firm shifted its focus back towards greeting cards amid the cost of living squeeze, a departure from its previous strategy of trying to push more profitable items such as gifts.

Despite rising worries about consumer spending, the firm reiterated its full-year guidance, adding that it expected to make around 60 per cent of its revenues in the second half, which includes the peak festive trading period over Christmas.

Grocery delivery group Ocado tumbled 9.63 per cent, or 64.6p, to 606.4p after analysts at HSBC downgraded the stock to ‘reduce’ from ‘hold’, warning that the company’s weak growth and smaller orders from customers were likely to ‘weigh heavily’ on profits.

The investment bank also cut their target price on the stock to 575p from 1000p, adding that the cost pressures facing the firm could continue into next year.