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Big guns back GlaxoSmithKline in war with activist Elliott

Big guns back GlaxoSmithKline in war with activist Elliott
Big guns back GlaxoSmithKline in war with activist Elliott


Big guns back GlaxoSmithKline in war with US raider: BlackRock among top investors lining up to defend drugs giant in showdown with activist Elliott

  • BlackRock plus fifth largest shareholder Dodge & Cox, along with Royal London, have contacted Glaxo’s chairman to pledge support  
  • Speculation is rife that Elliott is set to push for a dramatic new plan that could see the FTSE100 firm sold off in parts or swallowed up by a foreign rival 
  • It has even been suggested that a bitter battle could lead to the end of the Glaxo name 

Three major investors have backed GlaxoSmithKline’s board amid fears that a US hedge fund is plotting to force through an audacious shake-up of the drugs giant. 

The Mail on Sunday can reveal that BlackRock – GSK’s biggest investor and the world’s largest asset manager – plus its fifth largest shareholder Dodge & Cox, along with Royal London, have all contacted the pharmaceutical firm’s chairman to pledge support ahead of a battle with Elliott Management. 

Speculation is rife that activist Elliott is set to push for a dramatic new plan that could see the FTSE100 firm sold off in parts or swallowed up by a foreign rival. It has even been suggested that a bitter battle could lead to the end of the Glaxo name.

Big guns back GlaxoSmithKline in war with activist Elliott

Plot: It has even been suggested that a bitter battle could lead to the end of the Glaxo name

City sources said shareholders in the £69billion company had urged chairman Sir Jonathan Symonds to stick to the strategy of overhauling its drugs pipeline and splitting the group in two next year. The backing of the trio of investors – particularly BlackRock, which has a gigantic £4billion stake – is a huge boost for GSK’s under-fire management. 

Chief executive Emma Walmsley’s master plan for splitting the company involves spinning off GSK’s consumer healthcare arm, which was formed in a £10billion joint venture with US giant Pfizer. It would then be floated as a separate company. 

After demerging the consumer division – with brands including Sensodyne toothpaste and Panadol paracetamol – GSK would be left as purely a pharmaceuticals and vaccines business. 

Elliott has been keeping quiet about its intentions at GSK since emerging last month as a new multibillion-pound shareholder. But several well-placed bankers and investors told The Mail on Sunday they thought the activist would push for more than simply accelerating Walmsley’s demerger plan. Walmsley has faced criticism for moving too slowly.

 Elliott, founded by Wall Street billionaire Paul Singer, has a reputation for sparking major strategic overhauls after waging successful campaigns against other corporates including yogurt giant Danone, drinks maker SABMiller and hospitality firm Whitbread. 

One top ten investor said: ‘Elliott is in it for a fast buck. That’s its modus operandi. It’s in it for shareholder returns as fast as it can get. Splitting in two more quickly isn’t going to make a difference. If you shake up management, again that will cause a hiatus. 

‘It’s plausible it could be looking to break the company up even more, or get it to merge with another company.’ But the source added: ‘Would the UK Government allow Glaxo to be sold to a foreign company? That’s very unlikely.’ 

A rival activist fund manager said: ‘Elliott has probably got a buyer to do a merger for the pharma business in the States. There will be synergies. It’ll be a mega-cap.’ Another large investor said Elliott was unlikely to want a merger with AstraZeneca, adding: ‘I can’t see the boards being willing to throw in the towel.’ 

Samuel Johar, chairman of executive search firm Buchanan Harvey, said: ‘GSK has been poorly managed for at least 15 years. Therefore, it is not a surprise that an activist like Elliott has arrived at the scene. 

‘I think it is the end of GSK and a great British icon. It is highly likely that it will be broken up and sold. It would be very tragic for the UK.’ 

Senior sources with knowledge of Elliott’s approach played down the idea that it would push for a piecemeal sale or break-up. But they questioned whether speeding up the demerger was ‘technically possible’. 

Walmsley is due to present her long-term outlook to investors on June 23. As head of the world’s largest vaccine maker, she has been criticised for failing to develop a Covid-19 vaccine and instead assisting France’s Sanofi on a jab which has not yet come to market. 

A senior City source said: ‘Glaxo’s plan is all about improving the commercial side, beefing up the drugs pipeline and breaking off the consumer business. They must not get distracted.’ 

Walmsley has been criticised for saying: ‘I’m not a scientist, I’m a business leader.’ But Symonds later defended her. 

Sir Philip Hampton, the former GSK chairman who hired Walmsley, told The Mail on Sunday: ‘She’s strategically strong, but the company is doing a surprising number of challenging deals. That isn’t her main background.’ 

GSK’s shares have fallen 19 per cent since Walmsley took charge in 2017. 

A GSK spokesman said: ‘Our shareholders are keen for us to deliver and we are making good progress.’ 

Elliott, BlackRock, Dodge & Cox and Royal London declined to comment.



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Mum slams nursery as four-year-old boy escapes building and runs down busy road

Mum slams nursery as four-year-old boy escapes building and runs down busy road
Mum slams nursery as four-year-old boy escapes building and runs down busy road


A mum has been left furious after her autistic son escaped from his nursery and was found running down a busy road by workmen.

Rachael Heslop, 28, was in shock when she watched the CCTV footage of her four-year-old son, Charlie, running down a main road after he got out of the 2nd Home Childcare centre in the Tyne and Wear town of Gateshead.

Rachael said the nursery called her on Tuesday after the incident happened and told her her son had gotten away from teachers while playing in the yard, and was found near the car park, reports ChronicleLive.

But when she told her husband what had happened, her mother-in-law said there was talk that a boy had escaped onto the main road. There were also comments on social media about the incident.



Mum slams nursery as four-year-old boy escapes building and runs down busy road
Chowdene Children’s Centre in Gateshead

When the couple took to social media to appeal for witnesses, they discovered footage of two workmen travelling in a truck when Charlie darted out of the children’s centre gate.

Rachael said: “Once their van stopped and they realised Charlie was without an adult, one of them jumped out of the van and ran to stop Charlie as he continued to run along the middle of the road towards oncoming traffic on Harlow Green Lane.

“Once he’s stopped Charlie, he’s started to walk him back along to the nursery which is when two of the children’s centre staff came out as they’d seen Charlie run out the gate.

“They then took him back to nursery staff without exchanging conversation with the guys to find out what happened, or say thank you.”

Rachael was left in tears and suffered a panic attack after watching what had happened.

She added: “Now whilst this is all bad enough, this is where it gets worse.

“After finding out how far he’d actually gotten we were told that at the time of the call at 11.45am, they didn’t have all the information yet as the priority was letting us know.

“Charlie got onto the road at 10:33am – an hour and 12 minutes before they called and they supposedly didn’t have all of the information.”

Rachael said her son was able to escape because the children were playing in an unsecured yard rather than the garden which is secured with fences and gates with locks.

She added: “Why they were playing there I’ll never understand, because even with adult supervision and protocols in place there is still open access from there to the road.

“The building the nursery is operated from is owned by Gateshead Council, so why they think it’s safe to rent to a childcare provider without installing a perimeter fence and gate is honestly beyond me.

“In my mind they’re just as much to blame for Charlie getting into the road. A member of staff broke the ‘strict protocols’ and that led to Charlie getting away from them and running into the road.”

Rachael claimed she had been lied to and given false statements since the incident and questioned if the nursery would have handled the situation in the same way if Charlie could speak.

She added: “I’m guessing not. Most children would go home and tell their parents what had happened whereas they knew Charlie can’t do that and it’s a fact that they’ve blatantly taken advantage of.



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“Letting anyone care for your child takes trust, but when they are autistic and cannot talk it’s blind faith. And that blind faith has been entirely abused.

“We were so lucky. I honestly think if it wasn’t for the guys running after Charlie, which subsequently meant Charlie changed direction to run away, that Charlie probably would have gotten to the end of the road and would have been hit by a passing car.”

A spokeswoman for the nursery said: “We are carrying out an investigation and are unable to make further comment at the moment.”





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Markets set for ‘mother of all crashes’, warns investor Michael Burry

Markets set for ‘mother of all crashes’, warns investor Michael Burry
Markets set for ‘mother of all crashes’, warns investor Michael Burry


Bitcoin craze will trigger the ‘mother of all crashes’, warns ‘Big Short’ investor Michael Burry










 Bitcoin prices tumbled as the famous investor who predicted the sub-prime mortgage crisis warned retail traders that the ‘mother of all crashes’ is on the horizon.

The crypto-currency slid 7 per cent to around $34,000 – its lowest level in two weeks – while others such as ethereum and dogecoin followed suit.

It came as Michael Burry warned that when the value of crypto-currencies and ‘meme stocks’ fall it will trigger market losses ‘the size of countries’. 

Markets set for ‘mother of all crashes’, warns investor Michael Burry

Warning: Top investor Michael Burry said that when the value of cryptocurrencies and so-called ‘meme stocks’ fall it will trigger market losses ‘the size of countries’

He was famously one of the few people to foresee the sub-prime mortgage bubble that triggered the 2008 financial crisis. The Big Short blockbuster film was about him and his hedge fund.

Digital currencies and popular stocks have exploded in value this last year – drawing in amateur retail investors who have never traded before.

But Burry, founder of private investment firm Scion Asset Management, and others, have warned this has created a bubble that will inevitably burst and harm traders who bought at the top of the market.

On Twitter, in posts that were later deleted, he said: ‘All hype/speculation is doing is drawing in retail before the mother of all crashes. 

‘When crypto falls from trillions, or meme stocks fall from tens of billions, Main Street losses will approach the size of countries. History ain’t changed.’

Last week he called crypto the ‘Greatest speculative bubble of all time in all things. By two orders of magnitude.’

Since last October bitcoin has rallied from around $10,000 to more than $63,000 in April.

It has since been in freefall after Elon Musk, the electric car tycoon, U-turned on his promise to accept bitcoin as payment for his vehicles, and China began a crackdown.

Beijing ordered banks and payment platform Alipay to stop services linked to crypto.



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Hi-tech ‘sound-healing’ bed blasts you with low-frequency sounds to make you healthier

Hi-tech ‘sound-healing’ bed blasts you with low-frequency sounds to make you healthier
Hi-tech ‘sound-healing’ bed blasts you with low-frequency sounds to make you healthier


A new premium bed that uses “SoundHealing” technology to blast sounds into your body says it will help make you healthier.

The Opus Soundbed uses spatial audio technology to help users relax and alleviate physical tension in the body.

The £1.5k bed has been called a “home gym for your heart” as it delivers vibrations throughout the body that “quickly releases you out of stress”.

The website adds: “The OPUS platform will include journeys, live experiences, guides and community to support you on your path to greater emotional fitness.”

Its creators have said the bed feels like “being immersed in a cocoon of pleasurable sensation”.



Hi-tech ‘sound-healing’ bed blasts you with low-frequency sounds to make you healthier
The bed blasts sounds throughout your body to help relieve physical tension and mental stress

The futuristic bed will come packaged with a companion app that offers the user guided meditation workshops and other activities.

The workshops can last from seven minutes to an hour and each one specifically designed to help relax and elevate different moods.

The Opus Soundbed will can be used to relieve physical tension and also assist in mental mindfulness activities.

Those wanting to get their hands on the new piece of kit will have to splash the cash as it will be retailing for $1,999 (£1.5k), making it one of the most expensive pieces of tech available in the wellness market.

Swiss creator Yves Béhar said: “We designed OPUS to be a stylish complement to any living room for the purpose of eliminating barriers to daily at-home use.

“We believe OPUS will empower users to take control of their emotional health and allow sound medicine to return to the mainstream.”

The bed will reportedly be fully portable and the website states it can fold down into a “compact conversation piece” when not in use.

People who have ordered the Opus Soundbed are not due to get their order until early 2022.

A review proudly displayed on the website states: “The most profound experience of my life to date.”

But website Boss Hunting acknowledges that the new technology could be seen as “gimmicky” by some although they comment “it genuinely does look like something which could make guided meditation and sound therapy more accessible”.





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Conspiracy theorist who said ‘great reset was on way’ beat pregnant partner with hammer

Conspiracy theorist who said ‘great reset was on way’ beat pregnant partner with hammer
Conspiracy theorist who said ‘great reset was on way’ beat pregnant partner with hammer


An ‘obsessed’ conspiracy theorist who used cannabis heavily beat his pregnant partner over the head with a hammer and tried to drown her in the bath in a murderous attack.

Anthony Beckett, 33, from Middlesbrough, was fixated on political events like the US election and believed “the Chinese” were coming for him.

Teesside Crown Court heard how he believed “the great reset” was on its way on January 20, and he had “discussed the need to kill the family”, reports TeessideLive.

Two days before the imaginary ‘reset’, on January 18, Beckett tried to murder his pregnant partner.

Prosecutor Jo Kidd told the court that Beckett entered the bathroom with the hammer whilst the victim was washing her hair in the bath.



Conspiracy theorist who said ‘great reset was on way’ beat pregnant partner with hammer
Teesside Crown Court

Ms Kidd said: “She put her hair back under the water and her head under the water to rinse it. Anthony Beckett came into the bathroom.

“He hit her head using a hammer to her skull.”

He continued with the “unrelenting attack”, hitting the victim with the hammer a total of four times.

Beckett then “put his hands around her throat and started to drown her.”

The struggling victim managed to unhook the plug to lower the water level as Beckett “repeatedly tried to get her head under the water”.

“She was terrified”, Ms Kidd said.

The woman lost consciousness but came round to find herself still in the bath being strangled.

The court heard how she screamed for help from a window before running downstairs and spilling out into the street, injured and naked.

A police search of the house unearthed a dagger, machete and homemade noose.

The victim suffered a wound and bruising to her head.

Beckett told the police he had asked his partner if she would die “before the Chinese arrived”.

He pleaded guilty to a charge of attempted murder.

Beckett, of Alnwick Court, Middlesbrough, who sobbed throughout the court case as he appeared over a prison video link, was jailed for 10 years by judge Her Honour Penelope Moreland.



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Jonathan Walker, mitigating, said the defendant had previously been “a loving and caring partner and father” but had suffered a “psychotic episode”.

He told the court: “He remembers little if anything about the incident itself, he has been obsessed in dealing with his legal representatives in conveying to (the victim) the levels of apology.”

He added that Beckett has long suffered with mental health difficulties that pre-date his use of cannabis.





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Supermarket shares soar as Morrisons war hots up

Supermarket shares soar as Morrisons war hots up
Supermarket shares soar as Morrisons war hots up


Supermarket shares soar as Morrisons war hots up: Grocer rises 30% after rejecting New York private equity firm’s shock £5.5bn bid

Shares in listed supermarkets rocketed yesterday as investors geared up for a bidding war over Morrisons.

The huge rally follows a shock £5.5billion bid for the UK’s fourth- largest grocer, from New York-based private equity firm Clayton Dubilier & Rice (CDR).

Morrisons, which rose by more than 30 per cent, rejected the 230p per share offer, saying it ‘significantly undervalues’ the company and its prospects.

Supermarket shares soar as Morrisons war hots up

On a high: Morrisons, led by boss David Potts (pictured), rejected a 230p per share offer from Clayton Dubilier & Rice (CD&R), saying it ‘significantly undervalues’ the company

And Legal & General, a top 10 shareholder, said it would not add ‘genuine value’. But CDR is said to be preparing for another go, with other suitors waiting in the wings.

Internet shopping giant Amazon could gatecrash the process, while private equity firms Lone Star and Apollo previously bid for Asda.

Amid all the fevered speculation, investors were licking their lips as shares in Morrisons closed 34.6 per cent or 61.75p higher at 240.2p.

That was above CDR’s 230p per share offer price, a sign that the race to buy Morrisons has some way to go. 

Barclays analysts said: ‘Our inclination is to think the offer is unlikely to have been pitched at the maximum it could justify paying. We think the story is unlikely to have ended with Morrisons’ rejection.’

Rivals Sainsbury’s also finished 3.8 per cent higher at 270.1p, Marks & Spencer added 2.8 per cent at 152.75p and Tesco was up 1.7 per cent, to 225.6p.

If Morrisons is snapped up by private equity, it would be the latest major British business to be taken off the public markets.

Others sold during the pandemic include Asda, the AA and even the owner of Butlin’s, triggering fears for jobs and transparency.

Morrisons bosses are ‘happy to continue as a plc’ but also believe every company is for sale at the right price. 

They have already put together a defence strategy with help from advisers at Rothschild, due to previous warnings that the supermarket’s relatively low share price left it vulnerable to takeover. 

Under UK takeover rules, potential suitors now have until July 17 to announce an intention to bid or walk away.

Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said: ‘The market value of Morrisons had weakened so much that it clearly triggered some alerts in the private equity space to say the value on offer was looking much more attractive. 

The issue now is how the big shareholders respond and whether they – and the Morrisons board – feel they can squeeze out a higher bid or feel sufficiently confident in Morrisons’ position to spurn the offer altogether.

‘The market seems confident that the suitor will have to raise its offer or someone else might step into the game and we’ll see a bidding war.’ The groceries sector is highly competitive and is not seen as a typical hunting ground for private equity firms.

But the strength of supermarkets during the pandemic, the amount of cash they generate, their tendency to own many properties and the relatively poor performance of UK stocks has sparked attention.

L&G senior fund manager Andrew Koch said he did not expect CDR to succeed unless it increased its bid. CDR is thought to have spotted an opportunity in Morrisons’ small position in convenience groceries. 

It already owns petrol station operator Motor Fuel Group, which has 900 forecourts in the UK, and analysts believe it could seek to put a Morrisons store in every one.

Former Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy is an adviser and is thought to have played a key role cooking up CDR’s plans. If CDR buys the supermarket, it is understood Leahy would be chairman. 

Predators circling uk grocers 

US private equity giants KKR, Apollo Global Management and Lone Star – as well as internet titan Amazon – have all been mentioned as rivals to Clayton Dubilier & Rice’s (CDR) bid.

Amazon has a grocery deal with Morrisons, offering customers same-day delivery. But it has previously bowed out of takeover battles – unwilling to pay too high a price. Investors’ hopes of a bidding war were tempered by fears that private equity firms could weaken Morrisons’ long-term prospects.

A buyer could look to buy Morrisons and rake in a quick return by selling its properties, leaving it vulnerable in any downturn if it struggled to pay its rent. Private equity firms are also known for loading debt onto companies to boost their profits when they sell them, usually around five years later.

Like Debenhams, which collapsed in December 2020, this can leave a business struggling to pay off debts if the economy sours. Labour MPs fear a private equity buyer could slash staff numbers to cut costs.

In the UK David Novak is the head man at CDR which has previously snapped up discount retailer B&M. Consultant Richard Hyman said CDR had helped B&M grow, adding: ‘It is a very good business.’

CDR is also set to buy Dublin-based UDG Healthcare, whose shares are already listed in London, for £2.6billion.



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Terrified mum’s ceiling fan warning as daughter, 6, almost loses eye in horror accident

Terrified mum’s ceiling fan warning as daughter, 6, almost loses eye in horror accident
Terrified mum’s ceiling fan warning as daughter, 6, almost loses eye in horror accident


A distraught mum has sent a warning to other parents after her six-year-old daughter almost lost her eye when she collided with a ceiling fan.

Savana was playing on her friend’s bunk bed when the ceiling fan slashed below her left eye before she had a chance to duck.

The laceration was more than 8cm long and 2cm deep and needed a metal plate, four screws and over 100 stiches.

Jess Pierce, Queensland mum, said: “An MRI scan showed Savana had a shattered cheekbone. Her eye was so swollen, it was impossible to tell if her vision had been compromised.



Terrified mum’s ceiling fan warning as daughter, 6, almost loses eye in horror accident
She needed a metal plate, four screws and over 100 stitches

“The following day, Savana went into theatre for plastic surgery. In a three-hour procedure, the surgeon put her cheek back together with a metal plate, four screws and 100 stitches.

“Amazingly, the fan blade had missed her eyeball by just one millimetre, skimming her lower eyelid and across to her ear.”

Jess says she warned her daughter about the ceiling fan when she spotted it in her friend’s bedroom. Her niece had recently been injured by one.



Savana has permanently lost the lower eyelashes on her left eye
Savana has permanently lost the lower eyelashes on her left eye

Savana is still recovering five months on from the incident and has permanently lost the lower eyelashes on her left eye.

Jess said: “She loved playing outside, but now has to avoid the sun to minimise scarring. It’s likely it will never completely fade.

“Instead, she’s been practising dancing and listening to music with her siblings inside.”

Six-year-old Savana has been taking part in pageants since she was four-years-old and has always loved dancing and giving speeches on stage.



The six-year-old pageant enthusiast has not been deterred from competing
The six-year-old pageant enthusiast has not been deterred from competing

She had been invited to take part in a contest in Las Vegas to represent Australia before the incident.

“My little star had also suffered nerve damage, restricting some movement in her upper face.,” Jess said.

“Incredibly, she just took it all in her stride. Discharged two days later, we still didn’t know about her eyesight.

“Back home, though, Savana suffered nightmares and was too afraid to go to school in fear of what her peers would think.

“Around 10 days after the accident, Savana could open her eye for the first time.”

Despite the traumatising injury, Savana is already practising for a pageant in July and is hoping to defend her title as Petite Miss Australia Regency International.

Jess added: “No matter the outcome though, she’s always a winner to me.”





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