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Morrisons celebrates; Saga chief leaves; Next; Foresight IPO

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4.30pm: London higher

The FTSE 100 closed 40.37 points higher at 6,612.25.

Paperchase, Union Square Aberdeen

12.30pm: Paperchase on brink

Stationery and greetings card retailer Paperchase is on the brink of administration after the Covid-19 restrictions decimated its Christmas sales.

The chain usually makes 40% of its annual revenue over November and December.

Approximately 1,500 jobs and 173 stores are at risk after the retailer appointed PwC to handle a restructuring of the business.

The company has ten days to save jobs and avoid liquidation whilst protected from its creditors.   

Noon: Nucleus bid talks

Shares in Nucleus Financial Group slipped today after another potential bidder withdrew its interest in buying the Scottish financial wrap platform.

Full story here

9.15am: Pubs and shops to get £9,000 grant

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is offering retailers, pubs, restaurants and other hospitality and leisure companies a £9,000 one-off grant under new Covid support measures.

Full details of new scheme here

8.30am: London higher

The FTSE 100 was tipped to forfeit some of yesterday’s strong gains but opened higher and was trading 34.98 points up at 6,606.86.

7am: Morrisons festive feast

Shoppers feasting on festive favourites such as champagne and salmon helped drive an 8.5% rise in sales at Morrisons over the festive period, as supermarkets are expected to be among the end of year winners.

Champagne sales soared 64% compared with the previous year, while sales of whole salmon rose 40%.

Sales in the chain’s established stores rose 7.3% in the nine weeks to 3 January, boosted by a 1.2% rise in wholesale sales via its deal with Amazon.

Foresight flotation

Foresight, the infrastructure and private equity investment manager focused on the SME and renewables sectors, has announced its intention to float on the main market of the LSE.

The Guernsey-based firm has offices in Edinburgh, London, Nottingham, Manchester, Leicester, Milton Keynes and Cambridge.

Bernard Fairman, executive chairman and co-founder, said listing the company on the London Stock Exchange is the logical next step.

“Foresight is extremely well-positioned to benefit from the accelerating global stimulus to the renewable energy and infrastructure markets and the huge boost it will provide to green energy investment.

“On the private equity side, more than three decades’ experience of managing UK SMEs through economic cycles makes us one of very few companies with the network and expertise to help drive the recapitalisation of the UK regional SME sector.”

Cheryl Agius

Saga chief steps down

Cheryl Agius is stepping down as chief executive of Saga Insurance and as an executive director of the group with immediate effect for personal reasons.

Euan Sutherland, group CEO, assumes the responsibilities of interim CEO of Saga Insurance until a suitable replacement is appointed.

The search for a successor is expected to take several months, said the company.

Mr Sutherland said: “Our Insurance business has performed resiliently under Cheryl’s leadership despite challenging market conditions and she departs with the business well placed to deliver on the opportunities we have identified as part of our new strategy. 

“I’d like to thank Cheryl for her contribution to Saga and wish her well for the future.” 

Catch up: CEO Munro exits Aviva Investors for new role

Next Straiton

Next online sales hold up

In the nine weeks to 26 December, the sales gained in the firm’s online business compensated for almost all those lost in retail stores, with total product full price sales down just -0.5%.

Full price sales in the nine weeks to 26 December were down -1.1% on last year and much better than central guidance of -8% given in the October trading statement.

Full year profit before tax is forecast to be £370m before two additional non-recurring items.

The firm said it had assumed that store sales would decline for one more year and remain flat thereafter. 

“We now believe this is overly optimistic and we are forecasting annual like-for-like sales declines for the foreseeable future.  So we are now providing for store-level losses in shops that we believe will become unprofitable at any point up to the end of their leases.

“Subject to final confirmation with our auditors, we estimate that our property provisions will increase by circa £40m compared with our October central scenario.  This will bring our total property provisions in the year to just under £100m.”

In addition to the closure of shops, the pandemic has adversely affected the flow of container traffic from the Far East. 

“At present many of our deliveries are running two to three weeks late and we expect this level of disruption to continue into the new year.”

Stock levels are currently down 10% on two years ago (January 2019). 

“We expect stock levels to steadily improve and return to more normal levels by the end of March.”

Markets

The FTSE 100 is expected to fall by 21 points at the open after Downing Street imposed a new tougher lockdown restrictions.

The index closed 111.36 point or 1.72% higher at 6,571.88 after peaking at 6662.66 as vaccine prospects outweighed concern over another lockdown.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrials Average, S&P 500 index, and Nasdaq Composite retreated from recent record highs, down 1.3%, 1.5% and 1.5% respectively.

Asian shares were mostly higher with the Shanghai composite rising 0.38% while South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.54%.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 declined 0.35% and in Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index rose 0.13%.



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