Monday Update

DB Live: Wetherspoon in VAT blast; Henry Boot dividend

4.45pm: Vaccine report and BT drive FTSE 100 higher

The FTSE 100 began the week on a strong footing after President Trump was reportedly looking to fast-track the approval of a drug that has the potential to be a vaccine.

AstraZeneca saw its shares 2.06% higher, while BT was the top riser, up 7.07% on a report that it was preparing its defence in the event of a bid.

The blue chip index closed up 102.84 points, or 1.7%, at 6,104.73.

Wall Street was also surging ahead. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained over 280 points, the S&P 500 added over 22 and the tech heavy Nasdaq exchange was up over 33 points.

11am: Tesco jobs boost

Supermarket chain Tesco is creating 16,000 permanent roles to support the “exceptional growth” of its online business.

The firm said the posts will be in addition to the 4,000 already created since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

8.15am: London higher

The FTSE 100 rose 1.5% gain at the open following a report that the US government is considering fast-tracking an experimental Covid-19 vaccine.

The index tracked Asian markets higher with a 91 point rise in the first minutes of the session to trade at 6,092.78. The blue-chip index has gained about 23% from its March lows.

7am: Wetherspoon

JD Wetherspoon

Wetherspoon has criticised the advantage given to supermarkets which pay lower VAT than pubs and restaurants.

Supermarkets appear to have used their VAT advantage in respect of food to subsidise lower beer prices, in particular, and have taken approximately half of pub beer sales in that period, said the company.

“As well as benefitting high streets and the public, tax equality would make general economic sense – it is an important principle of taxation that taxes should be fair and equitable.

“It makes no sense for supermarkets, often operating outside town centres, to have a tax advantage. The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has recently closed the VAT gap between the on and off-trade, by temporarily reducing VAT on food sales in the on-trade to 5%.

“If this major step towards tax equality is maintained in the long term, it will result in a significant increase in investment and employment in the on-trade.”

The company said LFL bar and food sales are down 16.9% for the 44 days to 16 August.

Sales have gradually improved, with a rapid acceleration recently, largely due to subsidised food, coffee and soft drinks in the early part of the week.

Sales have also been helped by the addition of extra outside seating.

Frasers in DW deal

Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group, which includes Sports Direct and Jenners, has acquired the gym and fitness assets of Dave Whelan Sports from the administrators of DW for an initial sum of £37 million.

Full story here

Henry Boot

The construction firm said it will pay an interim dividend of 2.2p (30 June 2019: 3.7p), which reflects its current financial position and confidence in its long-term markets./

Profit before tax came in sharply lower at £7.2m, against £24.1m last time, which is slightly ahead of revised expectations and supported by land promotion business.

Revenue also fell, down to £108.7m from £189m as all operations were impacted by CV-19 and H1 2019 benefited from the final stage of the TECA project, Aberdeen.

Ithaca appoints CEO

Ithaca Energy has appointed Bill Dunnett as chief executive, succeeding Les Thomas. 

Mr Dunnett is a chartered engineer with over 35 years experience in the oil and gas industry, For the last five years he has been CEO of Repsol-Sinopec Resources UK.

Prior to this, he worked in various positions at Petrofac, Halliburton, Mobil North Sea and Shell. 

Mr Dunnett has served as chairman of the MER UK Technology Leadership Board and been a Board Member of both OGUK and The Oil and Gas Technology Centre.

6am: Markets

Asian shares advanced for a second straight session on Monday, underpinned by coronavirus hopes after the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) authorised the use of blood plasma from recovered patients as a treatment option.

The announcement came on the eve of the Republican National Convention, where Donald Trump will be nominated to lead his party for four more years.

Japan’s Nikkei reversed early losses to rise by 0.4%. China’s CSI 300 index added 0.8%. 

The pound fell 0.9% on Friday on lack of progress in post-Brexit trade talks with the European Union. It was last at $1.3092.

Today’s agenda

* Lockdown: Restrictions are lifted on organised outdoor contact sports, bingo halls, amusement arcades, casinos, funfairs and snooker halls. Live events such as concerts and comedy will be permitted outdoors, with physical distancing, enhanced hygiene and restricted audience numbers. Driving lessons can also resume.

Today’s top Daily Business headlines

Zumo nears target ahead of crowdfund launch

Live events freeze sees 500 jobs axed at SEC

Campaign group ramps up fight against independence

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