Daily Business Live
Retail sales rise; Stagecoach confident; Parsley Box prices IPO
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4.30pm: Market closes higher
London stocks ended a difficult week on a high with the FTSE 100 rising 65.76 points to close at 6,740.59.
4pm: Hostel sold
Hostel operator Safestay has entered into conditional sale and purchase agreements to sell its Edinburgh Hostel to a&o Hotels and Hostels for £16m in cash on completion, representing a 22% premium to its £13.4m book value.
11.30am: New fringe chairman
Former banker Benny Higgins has been appointed chairman of the the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society.
10.40am: Brewer collapses
Covid restrictions and Brexit have been blamed for Wooha Brewing Company falling into administration.
10.30am: New harbour CEO
Aberdeen Harbour Board (AHB) has appointed a new chief executive to take over from Michelle Handforth.
10am: Asda workers claim
Asda workers have won the latest stage in an equal pay claim that could have implications across the retail sector.
8.30am: Suez oil squeeze
Oil prices reversed a sharp sell-off a day earlier to rise 1% today on mounting fears that it could take weeks to dislodge a giant container ship blocking the Suez Canal.
Brent crude moved higher by 54 cents, or 0.9%, to reach $62.49 a barrel in early trade, after dropping 3.8% yesterday.
The trapped container ship is blocking traffic in the Suez Canal, one of the world’s busiest shipping channels for oil and refined fuels, grain and other trade between Asia and Europe.
Officials stopped all ships entering the canal yesterday, and a salvage company said the vessel may take weeks to free.
The FTSE 100 was 46.45 points higher at 6,721.28.
7am: Retail ‘recovers’
Retail sales rose 2.1% in February, recovering some ground from a steep fall in January.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said sales were still down by 3.7% on a year earlier, before the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Food and department stores benefitted from essential retailers remaining open, it said, though clothing shops continued to struggle.
Online sales continued to grow and hit a record 36.1% of all UK sales.
Consultations on New Year’s Day working for retailers have begun with the Scottish Government with trade unions calling for shops to remain closed.
David Lonsdale, Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “With large swathes of the industry facing an uncertain future, it’s frankly surreal to learn that Scottish Ministers are countenancing the introduction of a legislative ban to stop shops from trading.”
Commercial sales are currently at around 46% of the 2019 level and the company says it is currently operating vehicle mileage in excess of 86% of 2019 levels. It saw commercial sales recover to around 60% of 2019 levels in autumn 2020, and is confident that as COVID-19 restrictions are eased, sales will grow.
In a trading update the group said it maintains a solid financial position with investment grade credit ratings and appropriate headroom under its debt facilities.
Chief executive Martin Griffiths said: “We remain confident that there is a strong and positive future for public transport as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Government commitments in the recently published National Bus Strategy provide a huge opportunity to fundamentally transform mobility in our communities, moving away from towns and cities built around cars to more vibrant and prosperous places well-connected by easy-to-use sustainable public transport and active travel.
“We have strong fundamentals, despite the immediate short-term uncertainties, and good ESG credentials. Looking ahead, our bus, coach and tram services have a critical role in tackling climate change, delivering economic recovery, and ensuring healthier and more connected communities.”
Parsley Box, the direct to consumer provider of ready meals launched by Scottish entrepreneurs Kevin Dorren and Chris van der Kuyl, will be valued at £83.8 million when it debuts on the stock market at the end of the month.
In the US, the Dow Jones jumped 199 points while the S&P 500 advanced 20 points.
In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 is 476 points firmer while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng is 497 points higher.
On the home front, UK retail sales data should show that volumes recovered in February.