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Tesco record Christmas; Primark warns of £1bn sales loss

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4.30pm: Biden bids up market

The FTSE 100 index snapped its losing streak to close up 56.44 points, or 0.8%, at 6,801.96 as traders look ahead to the long-awaited stimulus from incoming US president Joe Biden. He will unveil his plan to revive the US economy next Thursday.

Labour market commentators say it cannot come soon enough. Data published today showed initial jobless claims rose to a five-month high.

Wall Street gave the stimulus the benefit of the doubt. The DJIA was up 0.4%, the S&P 500 index 0.1%, and the Nasdaq Composite 0.4%.

In London, airlines IAG and easyJet were among the top risers as Norwegian Airlines, one of the most aggressive on prices, cancelled long-haul routes and thereby reduced competition. EasyJet shares rallied 8.1% and Jet2 rose 4.9%, while British Airways owner IAG was top riser, up 6.4%.

Online fashion chain Boohoo was 4.9% lower despite delivering a hefty sales jumps in the final four months of 2020 and bumping up its annual revenue growth guidance.

4.10pm: Leonard quits as Labour leader

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has resigned saying speculation around his leadership has become a “distraction” to getting over the party’s message.

Full story here

Andy Murray

11am: Murray Melbourne doubt

Andy Murray’s participation in next month’s Australian Open is in doubt after the Scot tested positive for coronavirus.

Full story here

8.30am: CVAs on the rise

There was a sharp increase in company voluntary arrangements (CVAs) in consumer facing sectors across Scottish cities in the second half of 2020, with Edinburgh the third most impacted city in the UK, according to new analysis by PwC.

The retail, consumer, hospitality and leisure sectors have seen a 375% increase in CVAs.

Across Scotland, 207 sites were affected by 17 CVAs. Analysis found that 81% of these sites secured agreements with landlords to amend lease terms, while 18% ceased trading.

Edinburgh saw 59 properties affected by CVAs, with casual dining and fashion brands most impacted. In Glasgow there were 40, in Aberdeen 21. Stirling, Inverness and Kirkaldy all saw more than 10.

Carillion

Eight former eight Carillion directors face being banned from holding senior boardroom positions in the UK for up to 15 years.

Full story here

8am: London edges higher

The FTSE 100 moved 19.42 points higher on growing hopes of a US stimulus and vaccine roll-out.

7am: Primark rejects online plan

Fashion chain Primark has refused to go online despite warning that the loss of sales from store closures due to lockdowns could rise to over £1 billion, against a £650m forecast.

Primark

Sales at stores were 30% lower than last year at constant currency and 28% lower at actual exchange rates.

Owner Associated British Foods estimates the loss of sales in the periods of closure during 16 weeks to 2 January is £540m.

Consumers have called on Primark to sell online. Its preference for stores contrasts with online-only fashion retailers such as Asos and Boohoo, whose sales rose by around 40% in the last four months of 2020.

It has previously said it will not sell online because the cost of processing high volumes of returns would mean it could no longer offer low prices in its shops. Analysts have shown some sympathy for its view as the combination of shops and online would put it at a cost disadvantage.

Tesco

Tesco posts record Christmas

Tesco has reported a record Christmas across its business but warned annual coronavirus-related costs, such as increased colleague absence, are on track to hit £810m.

In a trading update for 3Q (13 weeks to 28 November; Christmas Trading: 6 weeks to 9 January) it said a strong UK sales performance showed like-for-like growth of 6.7%, accelerating to 8.1% at Christmas following improved customer metrics across all areas.  

Performance was market-leading for every week of the Christmas period, exceeded all-time records last week for both home deliveries and click & collect.

The company achieved its UK target of removing one billion pieces of plastic from products sold, including removal of shrink wrap from multipacks, covers from greeting cards and plastic gifts from Christmas crackers.

Guidance for the 2020/21 financial year is unchanged. “We remain confident that retail operating profit is likely to be at least at the same level as in 2019/20, excluding the repayment of business rates relief,” said the company.

Edinburgh-based Tesco Bank sales fell 27.7% across the 19-week period as activity across banking and money services continued to reflect the ongoing impact of COVID-19.

“We continue to expect to report a loss for Tesco Bank of between £175m and £200m for the 2020/21 financial year.”

Taylor Wimpey

The housebuilder has been buying “quality land” at “attractive margins” asit reports continued resilience in the housing market.

Pete Redfern, chief executive, said 2020 results will be in line with market expectations and said sales and production recovered strongly towards the end of the year.

“We increased new investment in land in the second half of the year as high quality land became available at attractive margins. 

“We start the year with an excellent order book and ongoing focus on strengthening the business and improving margins. This will position Taylor Wimpey well to deliver strong and reliable returns for our stakeholders over the medium term.”

Premier Inn
Premier Inn at Lomondgate

Whitbread

Premier Inn owner Whitbread said most of its hotels have stayed open through the coronavirus lockdowns, although they are less than a third full.

It is undergoing a restructure which involves 1,500 job cuts, though this is far lower than the 6,000 it had projected in September. 

The latest UK lockdown that started last week, which only permits essential business and key worker accommodation, has resulted in around two-thirds of the group’s Premier Inn hotels remaining open, though all restaurants are closed.

Total UK accommodation sales fell 66.4% year-on-year in the five weeks to 31 December, with occupancy at 31.1%.

For the previous 13 weeks of the third quarter to 26 November most hotels were open, but accommodation sales were down 55.2% with occupancy at 49.3%.

Halfords

The bicycles and car repair chain said it is carrying out over half a million services and repair jobs on cars and bikes each month.

It reported a strong trading performance across the quarter with Group LFL sales growth up 11.7%, comprising Retail LFL up 9.8% and Autocentres LFL up 21.1%.

Wood

Revenue will be down around 20% on 2019, said the energy services company in a trading update ahead of final results. Adjusted EBITDA on a like for like basis will be down around 22%.

Robin Watson, chief executive, said:  “We see significant opportunities from the accelerating pace of energy transition and will optimise our operating model to unlock stronger medium term growth”.

Markets

The FTSE 100 is expected to build on last nights’ closing price of 6,745.52, down 8.59 points in a calmer session.

“Volatility in the markets was low across the board yesterday. There was no change to the macroeconomic outlook, hence why trading ranges were relatively small,” said David Madden, analyst at CMC Markets.

“The health crisis is still bubbling away in the background, which means that governments are expected to maintain their current lockdowns. To an extent, that is being counteracted by the distribution of vaccines but realistically speaking that process will be drawn out.”

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones closed in negative territory dipping 8 points or 0.02%. The S&P 500 was 0.23% higher and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.43%.

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei has advanced 0.85% to trade whilst Hong Kong’s Hang Seng moved up 0.59%. The Shanghai Composite was down 0.8%.



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