News in Brief: oil price crash, leadership, HSBC glitch, shares slump, Sainsbury’s bid

News in Brief

Oil price falls to 11-year low

The oil price has dropped to its lowest for more than 11 years, Brent crude fell 2% to $35.74 a barrel​, after conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran stifled hopes of oil producing countries working together.

The Independent reported conflicts in the Middle East have historically boosted oil prices.

The price of Brent crude rose briefly after Saudi Arabia's execution of a Shi'ite cleric sparked protests in Iran on Monday.

But the conflict has only pushed the price of Brent crude lower in the aftermath as onlookers fear the damage to relations will squash hopes of an agreement to cut production and stop prices sliding further.

Lack of executive sponsorship is chief roadblock to leadership

A lack of executive sponsorship is the biggest barrier to organisations successfully developing leaders, according to a comprehensive global study by Korn Ferry, the global leadership consultancy.

The “Real World Leadership” study of more than 7,500 executives from 107 countries found that there is not only a general lack of active sponsorship, buy-in, and support from the top, but also disappointment amongst respondents in the standard of leadership development programmes in their organisations.

Over half (55%) of respondents ranked the benefits derived from these programmes as only “fair” to “very poor”.

Executives responding to the study also said that filling gaps in their leadership pipeline is a top leadership development priority.

The study also highlights a need for top leaders to take part in their own development. A common mistake is to assume that executive development should be pared down as executives move to higher levels in their organisation.

HSBC says online banking services now stable

HSBC says its online banking services are now stable following two days of disruption, reported the BBC.

The personal banking site was not allowing customers to log on, while business accounts were running slowly.

HSBC said some customers might still be experiencing "intermittent issues" while trying to get online. Nevertheless, it said "final fixes" were being put in place.

It blamed the problem on a complex technical issue within its banking and mobile systems.

Next blames warm weather for 'disappointing' sales

Retailer Next has blamed the warm weather for a "disappointing" trading performance in the run-up to Christmas.

The company also said trading at its Next Directory online and catalogue operation had been difficult, due in part to poor stock availability, reported the BBC.

Next, whose shares closed down 4.6%, lowered its full-year profit estimate.

The company, which has more than 500 stores, says it now expects annual pre-tax profits to be about £817m. This is at the lower end of its previous guidance issued in October, when it predicted profits of between £810m and £845m.

Sainsbury's £1bn bid for Home Retail Group rejected

Supermarket considers next step after Argos and Homebase owner blocks approach as some analysts question logic of the deal.

Sainsbury’s has made a £1bn move to buy Home Retail Group, the owner of Argos and Homebase, as it seeks to strengthen its business against the rise of the discounters and Amazon, as reported by The Guardian.

The supermarket group said it had made an approach to Home Retail in November, but its proposal was rejected.

Sainsbury’s, which has Argos outlets in a handful of its stores, said it was now considering its position. Under takeover rules, the retailer has until 5pm on 2 February to either announce a firm intention to bid or to withdraw.

Shares in Home Retail Group soared 41% to 139.3p after the supermarket put out a statement, valuing the group at £1.1bn. However, shares in Sainsbury’s fell by almost 5%, to 242p, as investors feared the supermarket would be distracted in the midst of tough grocery market conditions.