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TopShop empire facing collapse; new Cairn Energy chair

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4.30pm: London closes higher

London managed to close marginally higher as investors digested the economic impact of coronavirus restrictions in the run-up to Christmas and beyond. The Brexit talks resume this weekend and the outcome is in the balance.

The FTSE 100 ended the session up 0.07% at 6,367.58, and the FTSE 250 added 0.34% to 19,462.71.

J D Wetherspoon reversed earlier losses to close up 1.15%, after the pub group said half of its pubs would remain closed.

11.15am: Top Shop chain nears collapse

TopShop Edinburgh

Sir Philip Green’s retail empire is facing collapse within days, putting 15,000 jobs at risk.

Arcadia Group – which owns TopShop, Burton and Dorothy Perkins – is preparing to appoint administrators from Deloitte as soon as next week, according to Sky News.

One retail industry figure has claimed that Arcadia’s collapse is inevitable after talks with a number of lenders about an emergency £30m loan ended without success.

11am: Uncertain future for TSB

TSB could be back on the market following the collapse of merger talks between its its Spanish owner Banco Sabadell with BBVA.

Full story here

9.30am: Markets ‘grounding to a halt

On the London market’s lacklustre opening, AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould says: “Companies have been waiting eagerly for the moment when the England-wide lockdown comes to an end, yet the shift to a revamped tier system isn’t the great reopening of the economy as far as many leisure companies are concerned.

“The market reaction to Wetherspoon’s latest update would suggest investors didn’t realise the extent of the restrictions on its business. The company says the new regulations have effectively closed half of its pubs, prompting a 2% decline in its share price.

JD Wetherspoon

“One would have thought the lifting of the month-long lockdown would have given a boost to investor sentiment, yet we’re rounding off a week where markets ground to a halt.

“Investors want to see action on Covid-19 vaccines being approved and there could be a period where equities tread water until that event happens. Weighing on sentiment is the fact questions are being asked about AstraZeneca’s recent vaccine study with reports that the company will run another trial.”

9am: Equities lower on lockdown

The FTSE 100 was down by about 28 points but off its lows in early trade amid concerns over lockdown restrictions in the UK and Europe and confusion over the test results of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine.

The CAC 40 in Paris and the DAX 30 in Frankfurt were up 0.1% and 0.2% respectively.

In the FTSE 250, Capita was the best performer, up 2.7%, after the outsourcer said it was in talks with private equity firm Montagu over a possible sale of its Education Software Solutions unit, as it seeks to reduce debt.

JD Wetherspoon was down 3.5% after the pub chain’s executive chairman Tim Martin complained about the UK government’s post-lockdown tier system, which effectively forces almost half of its about 870 pubs to close.

The US will reopen for a half-day after being closed on Thursday for Thanksgiving. 

Brent crude oil was trading at $47.50 a barrel.

7am: Reach consolidates

Record and Express

Newspaper group Reach, publisher of the Daily Record, Express and numerous local titles, has announced closure of two of its print works as sales continue to fall.

Full story including results here

New Cairn Energy chairman

Cairn Energy has appointed Nicoletta Giadrossi chairman with effect from 1 January. She will succeed Ian Tyler who, after seven years on the Cairn board including six as chairman, announced in May this year that he would retire on appointment of a successor.

Ms Giadrossi is one of the company’s existing non-executive directors and joined the board in January 2017. She has extensive experience in oil and gas and other energy markets, both in executive and non-executive roles, including wide engagement on Environmental, Social and Governance issues.

Wetherspoon chairman objects to regulations

Tim Martin, executive chairman of pubs chain Wetherspoon, said: “It is very disappointing that yet another raft of regulations has been introduced which has effectively closed half our pubs. In reality, the government has extended a form of lockdown, by stealth, in large swathes of the country.

“There has been no evidence of widespread transmission of the coronavirus in pubs, as the Test and Trace system has evidenced.”

Capita in talks

Capita, the consulting, transformation and digital services business, said it notes media speculation regarding the potential sale of its Education Software Solutions business and confirms it has entered into exclusive talks with Montagu.

Services optimism falls

Optimism across the service sector tumbled in the last three months, hit by a resurgence in Covid-19 infections and fresh lockdown measures, according to the latest Quarterly Service Sector Survey from the CBI.

Sentiment about the general business situation across business and professional services firms came in at -21%. That compares to +9% in the three months to August.

Sentiment also declined among firms working in consumer services, coming in at -34% compared to -20% in the three months to August.

Markets cautious over Brexit talks

The FTSE 100 was expected to slip amid uncertainty over the Brexit trade negotiations.

EU negotiator Michel Barnier is said to be having second thoughts about visiting the UK this weekend for talks due to British intransigence.

Traders and business leaders still believe that a deal will be done but a lack of clarity as the clock ticks down to the deadline is causing some nervousness.

Adding to concern is a worry that taxes will have to rise. A growing number of economists believe VAT and income tax may be lifted to fill the hole in the public finances left by Covid-19.

The FTSE 100 was being called down by IG Index traders by 14 points to 6347.

Japan’s Nikkei stock average ended at its highest since April 1991 as it rallied for the fourth session in a row to close 0.41% higher, buoyed by hopes of economic recovery and strong corporate earnings, after progress in COVID-19 vaccine development.

Easing US political uncertainty and signs of pick-up in the Chinese economy also lifted sentiment.



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