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FB Roundup: Rogers Communications, Associated British Foods, CK Infrastructure Holdings

By James Beech

Rogers Communications won’t challenge court ruling on family boardroom battle

The Rogers family behind their eponymous $24 billion Canadian telecoms giant has been embroiled in a damaging public feud which could jeopardise a $26 billion merger with fellow family-controlled telecom company Shaw Communications.

The boardroom battle for control at Rogers Communications split the second-generation family and exposed the family’s controversial corporate ‘rule of one’ governance structure. The spat spilled out into the courtroom and social media, drawing unflattering comparisons with the television drama series Succession and Game of Thrones.

Trouble at the largest communications company in Canada appeared to have simmered since the death from heart failure of its founder and chief executive Ted Rogers at the age of 75 in 2008. The boiling point came in September.

Only son and successor Edward Rogers (pictured above), 52, is the chairman of Rogers Communications and the Rogers Control Trust, which controls 97% of voting shares of Rogers Communications. Edward Rogers allegedly tried to remove the company’s chief executive, in frustration over company performance and revenue, and other executives on its independent board, then promote the chief financial officer to the top job.

Alerted by the incumbent chief executive, directors including Edward Rogers’ mother, Loretta Rogers (pictured right), 82, and his sisters Melinda Rogers-Hixon, 50, and Martha Rogers, 47, voted to block the dismissal and depose him as chairman.

Edward Rogers exercised the company’s dual-class share structure, created by his father in his succession plan. The successor allegedly fired five of 14 board members, appointed replacements and reclaimed the chairmanship.

Amid a flurry of public condemnation, Martha Rogers tweeted, on 25 October: “I see Ed has appointed himself the Chairman. LOL. This should be taken as seriously as if he appointed himself the King of England.”

However, in early November, the Supreme Court of British Columbia ruled in favour of Edward Rogers to constitute a new board.

“I take no joy in the decision or the events of past weeks," he told CBC News after the court ruling.

“The steps I have taken in the face of constant attacks in the media were difficult for me and my family... Our family has disagreements like every other family. I am hopeful we will resolve those differences privately, as any family would. I know every member of our family wants the brightest future for Rogers Communications.”

Rogers Communications announced last week it will not seek an appeal of the ruling.

Primark-owning Weston family plans overseas expansion

The Weston family-owned Associated British Foods (ABF) plans to open more than 100 new retail stores worldwide for its fast fashion brand Primark, including the United States, against the prevailing trend to sell online.

The expansion would take its global bricks-and-mortar portfolio from 398 to 530 shops over the next five years. France, Italy and Spain were earmarked as locations with an extra effort for the US. Only six years on from opening its debut American shop in Boston, 13 Primark outlets were now operating in the States and a further 60 were planned. At least five leases were already signed in the New York area.

Paul Marchant (pictured right), non-family chief executive of Primark, told media last week the 13 shops were “trading really well” and “it feels like we’ve established a strong foundation from which to accelerate our expansion in the US market.”

The announcement of its expansion plans boosted shares in ABF almost 8% on London’s FTSE 100 by the end of the day.

ABF reported last week a 12% decline in like-for-like sales for its financial year compared to pre-pandemic levels. However, Primark’s adjusted operating profit was up 15% to $557 million.

George Weston (pictured above), 57, third-generation chief executive of ABF, put the resilience of the group’s financial performance for the year down to the “strength of our brands, the diversity of our products and markets, our geographic spread, conservative financing and an organisation design that permits fast and flexible decision-taking.”

Weston said although the possibility of further trading restrictions could not be ruled out, ABF expected Primark to deliver a much-improved margin and profit next year.

“We are now intent on expanding our new store pipeline and investing in technology and digital capabilities to continue improving the performance of the business.”

Li Ka-shing family bets on Bamford’s green hydrogen fund

The billionaire Hong Kong family of business tycoon Li Ka-shing has reportedly backed the green hydrogen private equity fund founded by JCB heir Jo Bamford.

Influential entrepreneur Li Ka-shing (pictured left), 93, made his $31.8 billion fortune from manufacturing plastics, developing property, retailing and trading assets, among other diversified interests, though his flagship companies CK Asset Holdings and CK Hutchison Holdings. Li started his first company in 1950 and retired in 2018 yet remains a senior adviser to his empire as it accelerates its exposure to renewables.

CK Infrastructure Holdings, the $15.4 billion global listed infrastructure company chaired by son and successor Victor Li, 57, has invested in the sustainable hydrogen industry fund HYCAP, Bloomberg reported.

HYCAP was founded in September by self-described “clean energy enthusiast” Bamford (pictured below), 43, son of second-generation JCB chairman Lord Bamford, and the founder and executive chairman of Ryze Hydrogen. Vedra Partners, a multi family office in London, is a partner in HYCAP. Vedra’s founding partner Max Gottschalk and chief executive James Hughes are managing partners of the fund.

HYCAP did not respond to a request for comment on the Li investment.

The global hydrogen generation market was worth $120 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow 5.7% annually in 2021-28, according to market research. Green hydrogen refers to hydrogen generated by renewable energy and has significantly lower carbon emissions.

As the climate summit COP26 dominated news media, Ryze and JCB announced this month an agreement to buy 10% of global green hydrogen produced by Fortescue Future Industries, the venture owned by Australian mining magnate Andrew Forrest. Fortescue’s green hydrogen output was expected to grow to 15 million tonnes per year by 2030, increasing to 50 million tonnes per year in the following decade.

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