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Springfield; jobs data; HSBC cuts; Facebook; Frasers

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4.30pm: London flat

Blue chips trod water most of the day, with the FTSE 100 edging up just 13.7 points to close at 6,625.94.

11.30am: SSE renewables JV

SSE Renewables has signed a joint venture with a Spanish renewables group to develop the offshore wind markets off the Iberian coast.

Full story here

8.30am: FTSE 100 rises

The FTSE 100 turned upward after a subdued start to the week and was trading 10.6 points higher at 6,622.85.

7am: Springfield first half rises

Innes Smith

House builder Springfield Properties has reported a 42.9% rise in pre-tax profits to £9m for the half-year to the end of November from £6.3m in the previous year.

The Elgin-based company has declared a 1.3p interim dividend.

Innes Smith, chief executive (pictured), said:   “This has been an excellent six months for Springfield.

“Our sales offices re-opened to significant interest, reflecting pent-up demand and the increasing desirability for the type of housing Springfield provides.

“As a result, we were able to deliver significant revenue growth and substantially reduce our net debt position, reflecting the operational gearing of the business.”

Springfield has a large, high-quality land bank across almost all the key geographies in Scotland.

Post period the company agreed a deal with Sigma Capital for its first housing for the private rental sector at its Bertha Park Village.

Mr Smith added: “With substantial visibility over our private and affordable housing revenue for the full year, we look forward to delivering significant growth for 2020/21, and expect to be slightly ahead of current market expectations.”

G4S recommends bid

The board of G4S today unanimously recommended that shareholders accept the final Allied Universal offer of 245p-per-share, valuing the business at £3.8 billion.

Full story here

Frasers to taker £100m hit

Given the length of this current lockdown, potential systemic changes to consumer behaviour, and the risk of further restrictions in future, Frasers Group said it anticipates making material accounting impairments to freehold properties and other assets and believes this non-cash impairment will be in excess of £100m.

Any such impairment would be in addition to impairments included in the half year results announced on 10 December and is expected to be included, subject to audit, with the company’s results for the financial year ending April 2021.

Aviva French sale

Aviva said its focus on it strongest businesses in the UK, Ireland and Canada has taken a major step forward with the sale of Aviva France to Aéma Groupe for €3.2bn in cash.

Phoenix brand deal

Standard Life house

Phoenix has confirmed that it is buying the Standard Life brand and reinforcing its strategic partnership with SLA in a £115m deal that commits them to a 10-year strategic asset management partnership.

The deal will enable Phoenix to control its own distribution, marketing and brands, and focus the strategic partnership on using SLA’s asset management services in support of Phoenix’s growth strategy.

Full story here

Unemployment data

Unemployment in the UK rose to 5.1% to 1.74 million in the three months to December, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Scotland’s unemployment rate estimate fell slightly over the quarter to 4.5%.

Anneliese Dodds, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, said: “These figures reveal the full scale of Rishi Sunak’s jobs crisis. We’re already in the worst economic crisis of any major economy, there are now 1.74 million people out of work, and forecasts suggest another million will lose their jobs in the coming months. 

“The Chancellor should learn from the mistakes he made last year, when his last-minute extension to the furlough scheme came too late to prevent record redundancies.”

Scottish Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills Jamie Hepburn said the figures reflect some of the challenges faced in the labour market to date “but do not reflect the full impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) or the outlook for employment.”

6.30am: HSBC focuses on Asia

HSBC is cutting costs further and focusing on its Asia business after reporting a 34% drop in annual pre-tax profits to £6.2bn.

Europe’s largest bank makes the bulk of its profits in Asia and has cut some staff and moved others from Europe and the US to assist in the Asia push.

The group has not figure on the number of job losses in its latest cost-cutting but said that back office functions would account for the bulk of the roles affected.

Last month it said a further 82 branches in the UK will close, including its only operating branch in Edinburgh.

HSBC said loan losses in Europe as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic were a key driver of the shift towards Asia. Its shares in Hong Kong rose 6% in afternoon trading.

Markets

Economic pressures mounted on markets at the start of the week, although the FTSE 100 was expected to recover from a slight loss after the Prime Minister’s statement on emerging from the coronavirus lockdown.

Michael Hewson at CMC Markets said: “European markets got the week off to a disappointing start on increasing concern about rising bond yields, and what they are telling us about the economic outlook, and the prospects for inflation.”

US stock market indices mostly fell, though the Dow Jones managed to add 27 points or 0.1%. However, the S&P 500 slid 0.8% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite tumbled 2.5%, with all but one of the top 20 largest companies all moving lower, with the biggest being an 8% decline for Tesla.

5am: Facebook re-friends Australia

Facebook said it will restore Australian news pages after negotiating changes with the government to a proposed law that forces tech giants to pay for media content displayed on their platforms.

The social network last week blocked Australian users from sharing and viewing news content on its popular social media platform, drawing criticism from publishers and the government.

But after a series of talks between Frydenberg and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, a concession deal has been struck.

Australia will offer four amendments, which include a change to the mandatory arbitration mechanism used when the tech giants cannot reach a deal with publishers over fair payment for displaying news content.



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