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Unite extends student discount; STV posts player record

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4.30pm: London slips

The FTSE 100 opened higher but slipped back throughout the session to close 8.83 points lower at 6,507.82.

11am: KPMG profits fall

KPMG said it has started its current financial year strongly after a decline in revenue and profit caused by the pandemic.

Full story here

10.30am: Services fall for third month

Commenting on the latest PMI services figures, Howard Archer, chief economic adviser to the EY ITEM Club, said: “Services activity contracted at the fastest rate for eight months in January, as well as for a third successive month.

“The sector was particularly affected by the restrictions on the hospitality, leisure and travel sectors. There were also reports that some businesses had delayed new projects.

“The services PMI fell to 39.5 in January – revised up from the earlier ‘flash’ reading of 38.8 – after improving to 49.4 in December from a five-month low of 47.6 in November when the second English lockdown was in place.”

9.30am: STV lifted by lockdown viewing

Lockdown TV viewers helped lift streaming numbers at STV (see below) and pushed its shares 4% higher to 345p. The platform delivered 12.5 million streams in January, an increase of 115% on the same month last year.

However, the positive mood for the FTSE 100 index quickly evaporated to shed 2.15 points at 6,514.50.

8.30am: London opens higher

The FTSE 100 rose 56 points in early trade before falling back to 6,536.61, 19.96 points higher.

8am: Scots jobs at payment platform

TranSwap, a cross-border payment platform based in Singapore, has opened an office Edinburgh, creating 54 jobs. It is the company’s fifth market after also extending to Hong Kong, Indonesia and Malaysia.  

The UK office and global R&D centre will recruit digital roles such as machine learning engineers, full-stack developers and product owners over three years.

Full story here

Unite student accommodation

7am: Unite extends discount

Unite Students, the owner, manager and developer of student accommodation, has announced an extension to its 50% rent discount for students, originally announced on 11 January.

This takes the total discount period to seven weeks to 8 March following the UK Government’s continuation of the lockdown restrictions in England.

All eligible students who applied for the four-week 50% rent discount will now receive the additional three-week 50% discount automatically.

In addition, eligible students will be given a 4-week complimentary extension of their tenancy agreement at the end of the academic year to extend their stay into the summer.

The rental discount and tenancy extension will be available to all students checked-in but not living in their accommodation between 18 January and 7 March. Approximately half of checked-in students have now returned to its buildings.

The loss of rental income associated with the additional three-week rental discount is up to £6 million, equivalent to 1.5 pence of EPRA EPS for the 2021 financial year. This further three-week extension results in a total cost for the seven-week rental discount and tenancy extension of up to £15m or 4p.

Unite said it has collected 91% of rent due to date for the 2020/21 academic year. This reflects term one rent collection of 96% and a positive start to term two rent collection at 84% to date. To be eligible for the seven-week rent discount, students are required to be up to date with their rental payments as of 14 February.

The strong cash collection to date for term two means Unite retains headroom against all of its debt covenants, even after allowing for the maximum potential take-up of the seven-week rental discount.

Richard Smith, chief executive, said: “Supporting students has been our priority throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, and we will continue to play our part during these exceptional circumstances.

“All our properties remain open for the tens of thousands of students who are still living in their accommodation, with our staff on hand to help. Our focus is on keeping all our students and our staff safe across all our properties.

“We also continue to work closely with our University partners and will review any material changes in the Government’s guidance on Universities remaining open.”

STV player record

STV Player, the free streaming service run by broadcaster STV, has kicked off 2021 with a record-breaking performance. 

The platform delivered 12.5 million streams in January, an increase of 115% on the same month last year. Online viewing was also up 100% year-on-year, with a total of 6 million hours spent consuming content on the STV Player throughout the month. The number of monthly active users on the service grew by 20% in January alone. 

STV’s streaming service grew faster than any other broadcaster VOD platform in 2020 – up 68% – thanks in large part to the growing popularity of its Player-exclusive content, which now makes up around one third of all digital viewing.

The Player’s addressable audience increased considerably after being added to Sky Q across the UK in December, following UK-wide launches on Freeview Play and Virgin Media earlier in the year. It is now pre-installed in over 17 million UK broadband-enabled homes – around 70% of the total.

The dropping of network drama box sets was also a key driver for the growth in traffic in January, with The Bay being streamed 1.7 million times, and the new series of Marcella attracting 700,000 streams in just six days after being added to the platform on 26 January. Comedy drama Finding Alice was streamed 1 million times, as was word-of-mouth hit The Bridge, an STV Player-exclusive series.

Markets

The FTSE 100, which closed 50 points higher at 6,516, was expected to open higher as markets settle down after last week’s volatility.

Wall Street was in positive mood on the back of encouraging news on the pace of vaccinations in the US as well as the prospect of new stimulus measures and a decline of volatility caused by last week’s retail trading frenzy. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 1.57% while the S&P 500 climbed 1.39% and the Nasdaq rose 1.56%.

Newsletter

After-hours also saw big news from tech giants Amazon and Google parent Alphabet with both firms reporting better than expected sales in quarterly earnings while Amazon also unveiled that its founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos will step down from his role in the third quarter of this year.

The picture was more mixed in Asia this morning despite the rally on Wall Street, with Japan’s Nikkei 225 up 1% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was down 0.04%.

Sterling was down 0.09% at $1.365 ahead of services PMI data from both the UK and the US today.



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