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Sharma demands Arcadia answers; Bonmarche collapses

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4.30pm: Santa rally builds

The FTSE 100 continued the nascent Santa rally, building on yesterday’s 188 point rise to add a further 78.66 points (1.23%) to close at 6,463.39.

4pm: Lady Green brings forward pension payments

Sir Philip Green’s wife Lady Christina Green, owner of Arcadia group, said she will bring forward the outstanding £50m payment she pledged last year to put into the collapsed retailer’s pension scheme – but there is no additional money to tackle the £350m pension deficit.

The payment had been due next September but will be made in the next seven to ten days, according to a statement.

This will complete the £100m she committed to pay as part of the deficit reduction plan agreed in 2019.

1pm: Sharma demands Arcadia answers

UK Business Secretary Alok Sharma has asked the Insolvency Service to look into the conduct of the directors of Arcadia, owner of brands such as TopShop, Burton’s and Miss Selfridge which collapsed into administration on Monday night.

TopShop Edinburgh

Mr Sharma wants the IS to “rigorously and expeditiously” review the report on the conduct of Arcadia’s directors, which the administrators must produce within three months.

He has asked that if the IS launches an investigation, it should examine whether Arcadia’s directors caused damage to creditors or to its pension scheme which has a £350m deficit.

12.30pm: Nucleus in takeover talks

Nucleus, the Scotland-based financial wrap platform, has confirmed it is in takeover talks with a number of potential buyers.

Full story here

11.45am: Brewers bid for Tesco money

Brewers and pubs are calling on the Chancellor to give them a share of the £585m business rates relief that Tesco is handing back to the Treasury.

The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) says the repayment would be worth £14,000 to each of the UK’s 40,000 pubs and 2,000 breweries and could offset losses during the restrictions.

They say it would an improvement on the £1,000 grant offered to so-called wet pubs which has been described as “derisory”. 

10.30am: Green energy park plan

Plans have been unveiled for a China-backed £800 million renewable energy park in the north east of Scotland with the capacity to power tens of thousands of homes.

Full story here

10.15am: Bonmarche collapses

Womenswear retailer Bonmarche has fallen into administration for the second time in just over a year.

The chain was previously bought in a rescue deal by private equity firm Sun European Partners in 2012. It was later floated on the London stock exchange before Edinburgh Woollen Mill tycoon Philip Day acquired a majority stake earlier this year.

8.30am: London flat

The FTSE 100 dipped at the open, but was back on an even keel after the first half hour of trading up just 3.23 points at 6,387.96.

Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said many people will be surprised at the “muted reaction” from the stock market to the UK becoming the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for widespread use.

“The FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 indices have both shrugged their shoulders to the news, almost as if they are saying ‘so what?’.

Pfizer

“This is the stock market functioning in the way it has always done. Share prices move as investors anticipate what they think will happen in the future, so you could argue that the vaccine news has already been priced in.

“So far in November we’ve seen a near-15% jump the FTSE All-Share, which is a widely used benchmark for the UK stock market, as investors have bought companies which were previously hurt by the pandemic and could benefit from the reopening of society thanks to a vaccine.

“That’s clear evidence that a lot of good news was expected by the market and plays to the adage ‘it’s better to travel than arrive’ when it comes to buying shares for an expected news event.

“Now the vaccine has become reality, investors’ attention will naturally shift on to the next thing which could be the aftermath of Brexit, whether Joe Biden can push through his policies as the new US President, when the next giant wave of stimulus will come from the US, and so on.

“There is also the issue of the vaccine distribution to consider – how quickly can it be done and will those who haven’t had it remain fearful of mixing with others in public? There are still many hurdles to clear and many things for the market to digest.

“Fundamentally the vaccine approval is positive and while markets haven’t moved today, it does set a brighter tone for 2021 in terms of achieving economic recovery.”

Tesco

7am: Tesco repays rates relief

Tesco has decided to repay to the UK Government and the devolved administrations the £585m of business rates relief received in respect of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is likely to mean a £50m repayment to the Scottish government.

Full story here

Countrywide rejects offer

Countrywide has abandoned plans for a refinancing that included a £90m cash injection into the estate agency chain from private equity group Alchemy Partners.

Rival agency Connells made an indicative takeover approach worth 250p per share in cash subsequent to that deal and in a statement today Countrywide said there was insufficient support for the Alchemy proposal.

The estate agency added that it is still talking to the private equity group about other options including an amendment to the terms of financing while also considering raising new equity from other shareholders or a deal with Connells.

Markets

The FTSE 100 is expected to 21 points lower according to spread better IG after ending Tuesday’s session 118 points higher at 6,384.

Predictions of a slower start in London followed a positive performance in the US overnight, which saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average close up 0.63% while the Nasdaq rose 1.28% to a record close and the S&P 500 climbed 1.13% to also end at a record high.

The surge was attributed in part to renewed efforts in Washington to restart economic stimulus talks after negotiations stalled ahead of November’s general election.

President-elect Joe Biden yesterday called on Congress to quickly approve a “robust” aid plan to address the Covid-19 economic crisis.



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