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Primark sales up; Kick ICT acquires Clyde; jobless data

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4.30pm: London falls on virus concern

The FTSE 100 closed down 140.21 points (2%) at 6,859.87 as virus worries returned.

Travel stocks tumbled as India grappled with a surge in cases and the Japanese city of Osaka asked the central government to impose a state of emergency.

British Airways owner International Consolidated Airlines slumped 8.1%, while cruise operator Carnival sank 6.4% and easyJet tumbled 5.4%.

Shares in Primark owner Associated British Foods finished down almost 6% at £23.14 despite record sales on re-opening and an unexpected restoration of its dividend (see below).

FTSE 100 today


12.30pm: IT acquisition

Kick ICT has acquired rival Glasgow-based IT company Clyde Solutions in a deal that will create a communications division.

Clyde Solutions was founded in 2003 by George Paterson who will head up the newly-named KickComms division which will take on all 12 staff.

The acquisition is Kick’s fifth in the six years since it was established. Terms were not disclosed.


11.30am: Land stake

Drum Property Group has taken an equity and management position in New Ingliston Limited which is behind plans to develop 200 acres of land close to Edinburgh airport.

Full story here


9am: FTSE 100 falls back

The FTSE 100 fell back below 7,000, down 33.29 points or 0.48% at 6966.79, partly influenced by a fall in tech stocks in the US on Monday.

Cybersecurity firm Avast was up 3.16% or 14.9p at 486.5p after a positive first quarter trading update.


7am: Primark – sales up, reinstates payout

Primark

Primark said the number of shoppers visiting its stores in England and Wales since reopening last week is now back to pre-pandemic levels.

The chain said the stores “delivered record sales” in the first week since reopening after more than three months.

More than half of the stores broke their own sales records, it added.

Unlike most high street retailers, Primark has no online operations.

“We expect the period after the reopening of stores to be very cash-generative as we sell the higher-than-normal inventory on hand,” it said in an update.

“In line with our normal practice, we have placed substantial orders for merchandise for the coming autumn/winter season.”

Despite the surge in sales Primark owner Associated British Foods reported a fall in interim profits, reflecting the closure of stores in the latest round of Covid lockdowns.

The clothing-to-foods conglomerate posted an 8% fall in half year pre-tax profits to £275m.

On an adjusted basis, pre-tax profits were down 50% to £319m as revenues declined 17% to £6.3bn. An interim dividend of 6.2 pence a share was declared, totalling £49m.

However, the company has reinstated its dividend and will pay 6.2p per share (2020: nil, 2019: 12.05 pence per share)


7am: Unemployment falls

The UK unemployment rate fell to 4.9% in the three months to February, from 5% in the three months to January.

The fall came despite most of the UK being under strict lockdown restrictions for at least some of the period.

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) said the jobs market was “broadly stable” but “remains subdued”.

Scotland’s unemployment rate from December 2020 to February 2021 remained at 4.4%.

The ONS said the employment rate, for those aged 16 to 64, over the same period was 74.6%.


Markets

Wall Street slipped lower overnight, led by tech stocks, with the Nasdaq falling 1%, the S&P 500 retreating 0.5% and the Dow Jones dipping 0.3% as banks, energy companies and various consume-facing companies also lost ground.

Asian markets are currently mixed, with Tokyo’s Nikkei down more than 2% but Hong Kong’s Hang Seng and the Shanghai Composite both in the green.



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