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Dixons Carphone ‘a better business’; inflation falls; Petrofac

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4.30pm: London closes higher

London stocks finished in positive territory, with sentiment underpinned by Brexit hopes and US stimulus progress.

The FTSE 100 ended the session up 0.88% at 6,570.91, and the FTSE 250 advanced 1.23% to 20,096.56.

Sterling also rose, up 0.29% on the dollar to $1.3499, and advanced 0.03% against the euro to €1.1081.

10.30am: Economy picks up

The Scottish economy grew by 16% over the period July to September.

However, compared to the third quarter of 2019, the economy has shrunk by 9.5%.

During the third quarter output in the construction sector grew by 52%, output in production contracted by 18.6%, and output in the services sector contracted by 13.8%.

10am: Heathrow third runway

The Supreme Court has ruled that Heathrow’s controversial third runway expansion plans can go ahead.

Full story here

8am: London higher

The FTSE 100 opened at 6,549.47 +36.15 (0.56%)

7am: Dixons Carphone ‘a better business’

Dixons Carphone

Electricals retailer Dixons Carphone said online sales in the UK and Ireland soared by 145% to £1.3 billion in the half year to the end of October as CEO Alex Baldock hailed the company’s new retail methods.

The revenue growth helped see a sharp improvement in profitability, with group adjusted profit before tax of £89m (1H 2019/20: £2m).

Overall group revenue (like for like) came in 16% higher, while it reported a statutory profit before tax of £45m against a £86m loss for the same period a year ago.

Mr Baldock said: “We’ve come through an exceptionally challenging time and emerged a better business.

“Our UK stores were closed for months, but our colleagues adapted fast, continuing to help millions of people enjoy the technology that’s playing an ever-more vital role in their lives, and doing so safely.

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“We’ve grown sales and profits, preserving our market leadership while accelerating our transformation in the UK, and continuing to power ahead internationally.

“We’re winning online, and have triple-digit growth and rapid market share gains to show for it.

“Most customers prefer to buy technology through a mix of online and in store, and we’ve innovated fast to bring the best of both digital and physical shopping to every customer.

“In particular, ShopLive 24/7 live video shopping points to a retail future where every customer online can get face-to-face advice from an expert store colleague.

“Meanwhile, we’ve continued to build lasting and valuable customer relationships. Our Customer Club grew spectacularly, and now has a third of Nordics households signed up.”

Airlines face competition investigation

The Competition and Markets Authority is investigate whether airlines have breached consumers’ legal rights by failing to offer cash refunds for flights they could not lawfully take.

The CMA said it is aware that, in some cases where flights were not cancelled, customers were not offered refunds even though they could not lawfully travel. Instead, many were offered the option to rebook or to receive a voucher.

The CMA recognises that the airlines sector, like many others, is under strain due to the pandemic. However, it is concerned that certain airlines may have breached consumers’ legal rights by failing to offer cash refunds, leaving people unfairly out of pocket.

AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould says: “Mounting reports that some passengers didn’t get cash refunds despite travel bans preventing them from taking flights left the CMA little choice but to act.”

Inflation falls

Inflation fell from 0.7% in October to 0.3% last month, much more than expected.

Lower prices for clothing, food and non-alcoholic drinks made the biggest contribution to the fall, the Office for National Statistics said.

Petrofac to make more savings

The oil services company said further estimated gross savings of $250 million will be made in 2021, which will seek to protect the business from lower revenues and ongoing pressures on margins.

“These actions will also create a leaner, more competitive business whilst preserving our core capabilities,” it said in an update.

It expects to report lower revenue of approximately $4 billion and full-year profitability materially lower than in 2019.  The group also remains on track to reduce gross overhead and project support costs by at least $125 million in 2020.

Markets boosted by Apple

Apple’s announcement that it will increasse iPhone production by 30% in the first half of 2021 helped push Wall Street firmly higher.

The main indexes closed near record levels, helped by optimism about a potential government stimulus and bets on more signals of easy monetary policy from the Federal Reserve’s final meeting of the year.

Traders on Wall St (pic: NYSE)

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.14%, while the S&P 500 gained 1.30% and the Nasdaq Composite climbed 1.25%

Oil surged to the highest in nearly 10 months in New York alongside a broader market rally as breakthroughs on U.S. stimulus talks combined with the Covid-19 vaccine rollout stoked optimism around a demand revival.

US benchmark crude futures rose 1.3% while Brent crude ended the session at $50.76 a barrel, the highest since early March.

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