Daily Business Live

Shell launches buyback | Record year for AJ Bell


5pm: Markets continue to wobble

US investors have shaken off yesterday’s wobble and it’s notable that Boeing is one of the stocks helping reignite the S&P 500 along with several other big travel names, perhaps some investors taking the opportunity to buy the dip, says AJ Bell financial analyst Danni Hewson.

“But the new variant is spreading, and the US looks likely to follow Germany by implementing tighter restrictions,” she says. “Market volatility seems baked in for at least the next few weeks as officials work out exactly what to do about the new variant.  

“Whilst Wall Street’s on the seesaw up, Europe’s on the downside with the FTSE 250 looking positively gloomy.

“Mixed messaging from ministers won’t help consumers in England fathom what to do with their winter plans and the hospitality sector is already feeling the effects of a lack of confidence with many bookings now run through with red ink and shares in The Restaurant Group, Mitchells and Butlers and Wetherspoons have all struggled today.”

The FTSE 100 closed 39.47 points lower at 7,129.21.

11.15am: Virgin Money office changes

Virgin Money has confirmed a rationalisation of office space but says it remains committed to moving into a new building in Glasgow.

Full story here

11am: Abrdn deal confirmed

Abrdn has confirmed the £1.5 billion takeover of Interactive Investor (II), the DIY stock-picking platform, from JC Flowers and key members of its management.

Full story here:

10am: Haymarket lettings

Oil and gas firm Cairn Energy and the legal practice Shepherd and Wedderburn are the latest big names to sign up for space at the £350m Haymarket Edinburgh development.

Full story here

10am: Markets continue to yo-yo

“As expected, the markets are continuing their up and down trajectory as traders and investors await confirmation on just how disruptive Omicron will be,” says AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould.

“The market is awaiting confirmation on the severity of the new Covid variant, the degree to which it escapes existing vaccines, and how infectious it is given this will likely dictate the global response in terms of restrictions.

“Then there is central bank uncertainty to weigh – will the Federal Reserve really go full steam ahead with tapering if the response to Omicron requires further lockdowns, and is a rate rise from the Bank of England before Christmas definitely off the cards given the dangers posed by runaway inflation?

“The usual Santa rally, with stocks enjoying a festive boom, seems unlikely to transpire against this backdrop, unless there is evidence in the near term which suggests Omicron is a less of a problem than feared.

“Later today OPEC will make a call on oil production quotas as the producers’ cartel weighs up the threat to demand posed by Omicron.

“The dramatic fall in oil prices in recent weeks means they may be tempted to make cuts but if they do so and it turns out the variant is more benign than feared, oil could then gush significantly higher, leading to demand destruction in itself.

“Just like central bankers, investors and everybody else, OPEC is performing a high wire act at present and Christmas may be upon us before we return to solid ground.”

8.15am: FTSE 100 slips

Blue chip shares slid 65 points at the open to 7,103.59 as concerns continue to linger over the impact of the Omicron variant.

7.03am: SSE reaches financial close on Dogger Bank C

SSE Renewables, together with its joint venture partner Equinor, has reached financial close on Dogger Bank C, the third phase of what will be the world’s largest offshore wind farm.

Full story here

7.30am: West Town plan for Edinburgh

Oil tycoon Sir Bill Gammell and Drum Property Group have revived plans to build one of Europe’s biggest urban development projects close to Edinburgh Airport.

Full story here

7am: Shell buyback launched


Royal Dutch Shell has launched the sale of up to $1.5 billion of share buybacks today, being the first tranche of the $7bn shareholder distributions from the sale of the company’s Permian business in the United States.

The form and timing for distributing the remaining $5.5 billion (together with any unpurchased amount of the $1.5 billion of shares under this tranche) will be announced in early 2022. 

These distributions are in addition to our shareholder distributions in the range of 20-30% of cash flow from operations.

7am: Record year for AJ Bell

Investment platform AJ Bell said it had enjoyed a record year with pre-tax profits up 13% to £55.1m for the 12 months ended 30 September 2021.

Total customers are up by more than 87,000, with net inflows of £6.4bn and assets under administration hitting £72.8bn.

It added revenue was up 15% to £145.8m compared to £126.7m last year and profit before tax was up 13% to £55.1 million compared to £48.6m in 2020.

7am: Wizz Air load factors


Wizz Air carried 2,172,000 passengers at a load factor of 76.1% in November.

It announced last month that it has signed an agreement with Airbus for the purchase of a further 102 Airbus A321 aircraft (pictured), comprising 75 Airbus A31neo and 27 Airbus A321XLR aircraft, with the bulk to be delivered between 2025 and 2027.

Under certain circumstances, Wizz Air may acquire a further 19 A321neo aircraft. Airbus has also granted Wizz Air 75 A321neo purchase rights for deliveries in 2028-29, to be converted into a firm order by the end of 2022 .

It says it continuously operates amongst the lowest CO2 emissions per passenger/km amongst all competitor airlines, with 66.2 grams per passenger/km for the rolling 12 months to 30 November.

For the month of November, emissions in grams per passenger/km were 8.4% lower compared to same month last year.

Global markets

London’s blue chip index was expected to slip back as traders search for greater clarity on the impact of the Omicron variant.

Financial spread bet firms were estimating a 78 point drop in the FTSE 100 index, reversing Wednesday’s 106 point gain.

News of the first Omicron case in the US sent Wall Street into a spin withe Dow Jones Industrial Average giving up a 400 point gain to close 1.3% down.

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