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STV Studios expecting ‘best year yet’; Persimmon; Hut; ASOS

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4.30pm: London continues losing streak

The FTSE 100 continued the week’s losing streak as shares in Persimmon, Just Eat Takeaway.com and oil majors closed in the red.

The index was down 8.59 points at 6,745.52, amounting to a 1.9% loss so far this week.

Biggest faller was housebuilder Persimmon, which fell 6.2% amid a note of caution over its outlook.

ASOS gained 2% on AIM as the online clothing retailer was a beneficiary of lockdown. That lifted shares in Boohoo by almost the same margin ahead of its own statement on Thursday.

2pm: Debenhams closures

Debenhams’ flagship Oxford Street store in London and five other branches will not reopen after the current coronavirus lockdown.

The department store chain, which is being wound down, said shops in Harrogate, Portsmouth, Staines, Weymouth and Worcester would also shut permanently.

It will mean 320 staff – including 140 at Oxford Street – who are currently furloughed will be made redundant.

1pm: ScotlandIS interim CEO

ScotlandIS, the digital industries trade group, has appointed Karen Meechan as interim chief executive.

Full story here

9am: Slow start for shares

The FTSE 100 made a sluggish start to trading with the political turmoil in the US expected to shape market sentiment on both sides of the Atlantic (see below).

The blue-chip index was trading at 6,766.10, up 11.99 (0.18%).

Simon Pitts

7am: STV toasts year ahead

STV is forecasting “the most successful year yet” for commissions after saying it expects operating profit for the year ended 31 December to be at least £18m, comfortably ahead of market expectations.

This is driven by a stronger than expected regional and digital performance.

In a trading update, the company said its own controlled advertising continued to outperform the wider advertising market, with regional advertising up 8% in H2 and down just 5% for the full year, delivering growth in 5 of the last 6 months of 2020.

Video on Demand advertising on the STV Player continued its strong growth, up 11% in H2 and +12% for the full year, finishing 2020 with 4 consecutive months of growth

STV’s total advertising revenue improved to broadly flat in Q4, with November -1% and December +3%. This followed a Q3 of -4% and Q2 of -38%. The decline in total advertising revenue for the full year has narrowed to -10%

Simon Pitts, chief executive, said the figures underscore the resilience of the business.

“We’ve set new viewing records on screen and online, with TV viewing up 14% and STV Player viewing up 68% in 2020,” he said.

“Despite the ongoing challenges around Covid-19, we have managed to accelerate our strategy and remain confident in our prospects for growth. We have a strong programme line-up in Q1 across STV and the STV Player, with more bingeworthy drama than ever before, while in STV Studios our slate of new commissions means that 2021 promises to be our most successful year yet.”

Lidl

Lidl GB achieved a record Christmas in 2020 with overall sales increasing 17.9% in the same 4-week period to 27 December over the previous year, meaning it was the fastest growing retailer against the big four supermarkets and main competitors.

With Christmas favourites driving customer spend, basket size increased by 24.8% YoY.

Persimmon homes

Persimmon

House builder Persimmon said total group revenue for the year is expected to down slightly at £3.33bn, (2019: £3.65bn).

The group’s average selling price increased by c. 7% to c. £230,500, resulting from the 6% higher proportion of new homes delivered to owner occupiers in its total sales for the year.

Dean Finch, chief executive, said: “The group’s strong second half completions were supported by its advanced build coming into the year, an agile and effective response to the Covid-19 pandemic and resilient customer demand.”

Hut Group

Health and beauty specialist The Hut Group, in which Sir Tom Hunter has a significant stake, saw group sales rise by 51% to £558.7 million in the three months to 31 December after it drew an additional 3.5 million active customers.

The company also saw an increase in its number of app users, which grew to 2.6 million by the period end from less than 0.1 million at the end of 2019.

The group has now raised its full year forecast for the third time since its IPO in September.

Matthew Moulding, executive chairman and chief executive, said: “Following our successful listing on the London Stock Exchange in September 2020, we have accelerated our sales growth across all areas of the group, underpinned by record new customer numbers. We have also started reinvesting capital raised at IPO, including over £360 million in M&A, principally within the US beauty sector.”

ASOS

ASOS, the online fashion retailer, has reported a surge in sales over the Christmas season amid coronavirus disruption to the high street but said Brexit ‘country of origin’ rules were likely to result in tariff costs of around £15m.

The company said the strength of its performance over the four months to 31 December meant it expected profits would be at the top of its forecasts for the year.

It reported a 23% leap in group revenue to almost £1.4bn – with UK sales up by an “exceptional” 36% at £554m.

Markets

Traders are monitoring events in the US where the US House of Representatives will vote later today on whether the charge Donald Trump with inciting an insurrection. If confirmed it will make him the only president to face impeachment twice.

Vice president Mike Pence refuse to invoke the 25th amendment of the US Constitution to remove the president.

The FTSE 100 is expected to open around 6 points higher after ending Tuesday’s session 44 points lower at 6,754.

Wall Street was in positive mood despite the ongoing political instability, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing up 0.19% while the S&P 500 climbed 0.04% and the Nasdaq rose 0.28%.

Asia, however, was more mixed with Japan’s Nikkei 225 rising 1.04% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dropped 0.17%.

On currency markets, the pound was slightly higher against the dollar, up 0.12% at US$1.368, however, US inflation data due later today could provide some catalysts for movement.



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