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Thursday update

Daily Business Live: Oil output agreement; Diageo; STV

10.40pm: Oil

Maersk oil field

OPEC and allied oil producers, known as OPEC+, have agreed to cut output by a fifth or 10 million barrels per day in May and June to help prop up prices which have been battered by a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, and the coronavirus crisis.

In a statement the group said the cuts would be eased between July and December to 8 million bpd and the reductions would then be relaxed further to 6 million barrels between January 2021 to April 2022.

Full report here

10.30pm: US markets

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 1.2%, almost 300 points, while the S&P 500 rose 1.4% and the Nasdaq Composite 0.8%.

5pm: Virus update

First Secretary Dominic Raab, speaking today’s update on coronavirus, said it was too early to relax the lockdown measures and urged people to stay indoors over the Easter weekend.

“We haven’t yet see the peak of the virus. We are not done yet,” he said.

4.45pm: Markets

Despite the jobs crisis, Wall Street rose on the back of stimulus measures and hopes of a peak in virus cases. The FTSE 100 closed at 5,842.66 +164.93 (2.90%)

3.15pm Debenhams


Department store chain Debenhams has confirmed it has entered administration.

All 142 UK stores, including 14 Scottish branches, remain closed in line with government guidance and the company said it will work to “re-open and trade as many stores as possible” when restrictions are lifted.

3pm: University financial crisis

The University of Aberdeen has warned it is having to take “prudent measures to protect its financial sustainability” due the coronavirus pandemic.

Full story here

2.30pm: US jobless soars

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits in the last three weeks has surged past 15 million, with new claims topping 6.6 million. 

Despite the jobs crisis, Wall Street rose on the back of stimulus measures and hopes of a peak in virus cases. The FTSE 100 was also higher, trading at 5,834.54 +156.81 (2.76%).

2pm: Virus update

The Scottish Government announced that 81 more people had died from the coronavirus taking the national total to 447. Wales confirmed a further 41 fatalities, increasing the number of victims to 286. 

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said there would be no early relaxing of lockdown measures. “Please do follow the rules and stay at home over Easter,” she said during an online Q&A with Scottish party leaders.

NHS England announced 765 more fatalities in its hospitals among patients aged between 24 and 103, taking England’s total to 7,248.

1pm: STV


STV Group has rescheduled its annual general meeting to 28 May.

In light of current government guidance on restrictions of movement and social distancing, the board has decided that shareholders should not attend the AGM in person. 

10am: Boyle boost

Former holidays tycoon and Motherwell FC chairman John Boyle’s management software business Altia-ABM has announced significant expansion of its global operations.

Full report here

9.30am: Beer brand investment

The Glasgow-owned Gen!us beer brand has received investment from two Scottish heavyweights in the food and drink business.

The lager is brewed in Bedfordshire and is due to launch in draft.

Full story here

9am: Airbnb backs down

The SNP has welcomed the decision by Airbnb to ban booking of rentals during the coronavirus lockdown from 9am today.

Full story here

8.15am: New Town images

Daily Business has exclusive new images of the New Town North development – one of the largest regeneration projects to take place in Edinburgh for a generation.

Full story and images here

7.30am: Economy shrank

The UK economy contracted even before the coronavirus took hold. In February GDP decreased by 0.1%.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said it slipped from 0.1% growth in the previous month as the construction industry posted a significant decline.

Economists had expected the economy to grow following the decisive general election victory and greater certainty over Brexit.

GDP was up 0.1% in the three months to February compared to the three months to November.

7am: Diageo payout goes ahead

Ivan Menezes with Johnnie Walker man

The Johnnie Walker and Guinness group will go ahead with its interim dividend of 27.41p per share, but it has halted the next phase of its three-year £4.5 billion share buy back programme. Under the first phase of the programme, which ended on 31 January, it returned £1.25 billion to shareholders.

On the impact of coronavirus on trading, it said in mainland China it is beginning to see a “very slow return” of on-trade consumption, as restaurants and bars have started to gradually re-open.

In the short term the company is reducing discretionary expenditure and reallocating resources across the group, tightly managing working capital and deferring discretionary capital expenditure projects.

“We are providing an appropriate level of support to our key suppliers and customers to ensure we are strongly positioned for a recovery in consumer demand.”

The company is withdrawing guidance on group organic net sales growth and organic operating profit growth for fiscal 2020.

Ivan Menezes, chief executive (pictured), said: “I am confident in Diageo’s long-term strategy and our ability to move quickly in this difficult environment.”

Restaurant Group

Wagamama owner Restaurant Group has raised £57 million in a placing of 98.3 million shares to help it weather the coronavirus pandemic.

The company, which also owns Chiquito’s and Frankie & Benny’s, placed the shares at 58p each. This is a 3.2% discount to the closing share price of 59.9p on Wednesday.

Restaurant Group CEO Andy Hornby was chief executive of HBOS at the time of the financial crisis. He has volunteered a 40% salary cut.

Flutter Entertainment

The Paddy Power Betfair group, which also owns FanDuel, said the 2019 final dividend of 133p per ordinary share will be paid in the form of ordinary shares.


The oil group said it is materially better placed to deal with the reduced oil price than historically with a much reduced level of debt and no payments of the group’s senior credit facility due in 2020.

In addition, it is taking decisive action to further reduce operating and capital expenditure in 2020 and beyond, with a view to targeting cash flow breakeven of c.$33/Boe in 2020 and c.$27/Boe in 2021.

Enquest is now targeting operating expenditure savings of c.$190 million, which would lower operating costs by c.35% to c.$335 million, equating to unit operating expense of c.$15/Boe.

In 2021, the group is targeting unit operating expenditures of c.$12/Boe. These savings will be driven primarily by cost savings at Heather and Thistle/Deveron, but also through the removal of non-critical and discretionary operating expenditures and support costs.

Cash capital expenditure is also expected to be further reduced, now down c.$110 million to c.$120 million. 

6.30am Markets

A strong finish on Wall Street overnight is set to provide some support to the FTSE 100 on Thursday, while oil prices edged higher ahead of an OPEC+ meeting later in the day.

IG says futures indicate the FTSE 100 index of large-caps to open 42.57 points higher at 5,720.30 on Thursday. The FTSE 100 index closed down 26.72 points, or 0.5%, at 5,677.73 on Wednesday.

The higher call comes after a solid session in the US overnight. The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended up 3.4%, the S&P 500 also 3.4% higher and the Nasdaq Composite advancing 2.6%.

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