Just Eat Takeaway’s Alpine junket raises shareholders’ hackles

Just Eat Takeaway: taking the piste

Unperturbed by a recent share price that resembles a ski slope, Just Eat Takeaway staff decamped this week to Arosa in Switzerland. Hundreds of employees from the food delivery group’s two-dozen international markets were delivered to the Alpine resort for Snow Fest, an all-expenses-paid skiing and team-building junket.

Snow Fest (or Snow Event, as it was once known) is an annual tradition for Takeaway, the Netherlands-based company that took control of UK-listed Just Eat in February 2020 and was ejected from FTSE’s indices in September 2021 for being too Dutch. With Covid-19 restrictions having hindered the enlarged group’s outings since the merger completed, JET went large this time around.

Staff had suites at the four-star Excelsior hotel with leadership levels, including founder Jitse Groen, said to be checked into the Tschuggen Grand, a five-star-superior that has a multilevel spa and a private mountain railway. Everything that might be custom-made in JET’s corporate orange had been, from the complimentary ski jackets and hats to the deckchairs and beanbag sofas that littered its expansive festival site. Slopes novices were offered free lessons. Drinks vouchers were provided to encourage après-ski. Organisers of the four-day blowout had everything covered, from free transport between party venues to lip balm in the goody bags. Their requests to keep any evening excesses off Instagram and Snapchat were not universally respected.

Watching on from a distance were JET shareholders. The company has an unusually active ownership register that includes hedge funds Tiger Global and Baupost, as well as Cat Rock Capital, which since late 2021 has been publicly lobbying Groen to sell or spin off its Grubhub division in the US.

All three are thought to be deep underwater on their investments, JET shares having collapsed since October 2020 by more than 70 per cent, and patience may be wearing thin. An analyst at one of JET’s biggest shareholders spent much of the week poring over livestreams from Arosa’s public webcams and counting the number of orange jackets visible, presumably on the lookout for any shareholder-unfriendly levels of extravagance.

BlackRock: asset shaking

Worrying rumblings at BlackRock. Literally. Tremors through the group’s European headquarters on Drapers Gardens in the City of London have been causing anxiety among employees at the world’s largest asset manager, City Insider hears. A memo to all staff placed the blame on an electricity generator in the building next door.

Nicola Horlick: peer pressure

Ping! A press release arrives concerning the latest undertaking of celebrity fund manager Nicola Horlick. The self-styled City superwoman’s investment shop Bramdean Asset Management is raising $30mn on behalf of Brother’s Bond Distilling Company, a US bourbon start-up co-founded by actors Ian Somerhalder and Paul Wesley, whose best-known roles are as bloodsucking brothers in The Vampire Diaries. Issuance is scheduled for April.

Horlick has kept a relatively low profile since failing in the 2019 general election to take the Chelsea and Fulham constituency for the Liberal Democrats. Her focus has been working to drum up interest in Money & Co, a business peer-to-peer lender she set up in 2013. After volumes across the industry dropped off in 2020 as smaller companies chose government-backed Covid-19 support loans over crowdfunding, the plan now is a pivot into niche cash Isas. Litigation finance, music royalties and agricultural loans are target areas, with something to do with crypto also possible, but to fit together it requires regulatory approval to become a deposit taker.

Winning a full UK banking licence means raising about £50mn in fresh capital, Horlick told Financial News in February. It is a big ask for a company that has spent part of its life relying on bridging loans from shareholders.

Money & Co’s parent company has never delivered an annual profit and has only been required to file abridged accounts at Companies House. The most recent update, for the year ended March 2021, shows a cumulative loss since inception of nearly £9.9mn and its biggest single fundraising round so far was for £3.5mn. Nonetheless, as with bourbon, perspectives can change quickly using only small measures.

This article has been amended to make clear that Money & Co has published abridged accounts, which have no gross income threshold, not abbreviated accounts as originally stated. Abbreviated accounts have a gross income threshold of £250,000.