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Tuesday Updates

DB Live: Frasers delays FY figures; jobs data; Heathrow; Petrofac

7pm: Frasers delays results

House of Fraser Glasgow

Frasers Group, formerly Sports Direct, has delayed the release of its full-year results.

In a statement released after the market closed, the Mike Ashley-controlled company said the results, which had been due for publication on Thursday, will now be issued next week.

“Due to the undoubted scrutiny of our accounts, management and our auditors RSM will take this extra week to robustly review the final accounts and ensure that all necessary disclosures have been completed,” it said.

The company, which also owns the Jenners department store business in Edinburgh, added: “For the avoidance of doubt we can confirm there are no significant matters to address outside of normal audit completion procedures and the final accounts disclosure review.”

Last year, the company’s 2019 numbers were held back by more than a week as it blamed on uncertainty about trading at House of Fraser and the increased scrutiny of auditor Grant Thornton.

On the day they were meant to be issued, the results were delayed throughout the course of the day and eventually published more than 10 hours late, after the market had closed.

The latest figures for the year ending 26 April, will be published on 20 August.

4.45pm: Markets rally

Traders were buoyed by a collection of optimistic noises on US tax cuts, Russia’s Covid vaccine and the UK unemployment rate in the three months to June coming in unchanged from the three months to May, and below forecasts.

Markets in Europe rose firmly, with the FTSE 100 index closing up 103.75 points, or 1.71%, at 6,154.34. Germany’s DAX rose 2%, France’s CAC gained 2.3% and Italy’s FTSE MIB leapt 2.8%.

In London, betting firm GVC finished top of the pile (+9.6%), along with airline group IAG (+8.4%), and broadcaster ITV (+5.8%).

Prudential gained 2.7% after the financial services firm hailed its “resilient” first-half, despite a sharp drop in profit, and said it now plans to fully demerge its Jackson unit in the US to focus on Asia and Africa, a year after spinning off its UK business M&G which reports half-year figures tomorrow.

4pm: Swinney overturns gradings

John Swinney Budget

The Tories, Labour and Lib Dems all still support a no-confidence vote in John Swinney on Thursday despite his decision to reverse exam grades.

Full story here

Comment: Mr Swinney may find solace by getting back to business

1pm: Debenhams slashes 2,500 jobs

Department store chain Debenhams is to cut a further 2,500 jobs, dealing the latest blow to the country’s battered retail sector from the COVID-19 crisis.

12.40pm: Celtic and Aberdeen will not play this week

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Celtic and Aberdeen’s matches will be postponed because players from both clubs broke the Covid restrictions.

Full story here

10.45am: Bridge testing

Queensferry Crossing

The Queensferry Crossing will partially close overnight this weekend to allow for the final calibration of sensors on the bridge.

Full story here

10.40am: New cases of Covid in New Zealand as Russia declares vaccine safe

New Zealand has recorded four new cases of coronavirus within the same family, prompting immediate action from Prime Minister Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Meanwhile, Russia has become the first country to deem a coronavirus vaccine as safe for widespread use after less than two months of human testing.

Read more on outbreaks in New Zealand, Greece and Russia’s vaccine

8.30am: Ferry work

Work has resumed towards completing the two controversial part-built ferries in Port Glasgow.

Full story here

Fall in UK employment biggest since 2009

Around 730,000 UK workers have been removed from the payrolls of British companies since March when the coronavirus lockdown began, according to new data from the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS said that employment rates have continued to decline in the last month, as another 81,000 jobs fell off payrolls across the country.

It was the largest decline in over a decade.

The UK unemployment rate was estimated at 3.9%, largely unchanged on the year and the previous quarter.

Scotland’s unemployment rate rose to 4.5% while those in work fell to 74.3%, according to government figures.

Scottish Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills Jamie Hepburn said: “These statistics cover a full three months of lockdown measures before some businesses started to re-open, but still do not reflect the full impact of the pandemic on the labour market as the Job Retention Scheme is continuing to help support many people remain in employment.”

Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop today announced a further £10 million for a range of measures to recruit and retain apprentices, including additional funding for the Scottish Government’s Adopt an Apprentice programme.

Ms Hyslop said the funding would help modern and graduate apprentices who are facing redundancy as a result of COVID-19 get back into work.

Intercontinental hotels

InterContinental Hotels suffered a $233m (£178m) loss in the first half as occupancy at its hotels plunged during the Covid-19 crisis but reported signs of improvement.

The chain, which owns the George in Edinburgh and operates the Holiday Inn franchise, swung to an operating loss for the six months to the end of June from a profit of $442m a year earlier as revenue fell 45% to $1.25bn.

Revenue per available room dropped by 52% in the first half and by 75% in the second quarter as international travel came to a halt at the peak of the Covid-19 shutdowns.

Heathrow uplift

Heathrow

Over 860,000 passengers travelled through Heathrow in July, down 88% on the previous year. This is a slight uplift in passenger traffic, since the start of the pandemic, driven by the Government’s creation of the first ‘travel corridors’ on 4 July.

More than half of these passengers, over 480,000, ventured to European destinations quarantine free.

The vast majority of Heathrow’s route network (60%) remains grounded, requiring a 14-day quarantine on arrival

Heathrow CEO, John Holland-Kaye, repeated his call for airport testing.

“Tens of thousands of jobs are being lost because Britain remains cut off from critical markets such as the US, Canada and Singapore. The government can save jobs by introducing testing to cut quarantine from higher risk countries, while keeping the public safe from a second wave of COVID.”

Petrofac

The oil services company reported a net loss of $78 million for the half year as trading and awards “materially impacted by COVID-19 and the sharp fall in oil and gas prices”.

It said it is on track to deliver $125 million of cost savings in 2020 and up to $200 million in 2021.

Ayman Asfari, group chief executive, said: “Our first half results reflect the deterioration in market conditions triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent decline in oil prices. 

“Our longer-term strategy has transformed Petrofac into a more resilient, capital light business with a strengthened balance sheet and a clear commitment to sustainability. 

“I am confident that this strategy and our actions best position Petrofac for the recovery when it occurs.”

The board has decided to continue to suspend dividend payments and therefore not pay an interim dividend in 2020 (2019: 12.7 US cents per share) to conserve cash.

Bellway

The housebuilder said customer interest is increasing, with private reservations rising to 140 per week throughout July (July 2019 – 162 per week), with demand supported by the ongoing availability of Help-to-Buy.

Bellway has a strong forward order book, comprising 6,588 homes (2019 – 4,878 homes), with a value of £1.76bn (2019 – £1.22bn), a solid platform for the year ahead.

Jason Honeyman, CEO, said: “Whilst the economic outlook is uncertain, sales demand is encouraging, and the Group has built a strong forward sales position.  With our resilient balance sheet, we will proceed cautiously along the road to recovery, determined to return the Group to its strategy of delivering long-term and sustainable growth.”

Markets

Last night the Dow Jones industrial average hit its highest level since February, 

Today’s agenda

Education Secretary John Swinney makes a statement on school grades

Today’s top Daily Business headlines

Spending rises amid caution ahead of output data

Sturgeon on grades row: ‘we did not get this right’



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