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Covid Freedom Day delayed; Ted Baker posts loss

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6pm: Freedom Day delayed

Boris Johnson has delayed ‘Freedom Day’ by a further four weeks after scientists warned the Indian variant of Covid-19 could be 80% more infectious.

Full story here


5pm: Top stocks close higher

The FTSE 100 closed 12.62 points higher at 7,146.68.


8.30am: Blue chips higher

Blue chips rose as forecast on the back of expectations that the pound will remain depressed (see below). The FTSE 100 was trading 31 points higher at 7,164.95.


7am: Ted Baker posts loss

Fashion chain Ted Baker posted a pre-tax loss before tax of £107.7m for the 53 weeks to the end of January.

Group revenue was down 44.2% (down 44.1% in constant currency) to £35m compared to £630.5m in the prior year, driven by the ongoing impact of COVID restrictions on trading globally.

Chief executive Rachel Osborne said:   “We are making good progress against our strategic transformation plan and Ted Baker is increasingly well placed to take advantage of the significant growth opportunities ahead of us. The Ted Baker brand has strengthened further, with the number of active customers growing to 1.2m by the end of the year.

“While the impact of COVID-19 is clear in our results and has amplified some of the legacy issues impacting the business, Ted Baker has responded proactively and is in a much stronger place than it was a year ago.

“During the period, we delivered robust cashflow generation, fixed our balance sheet, refreshed our senior leadership team and today we are upgrading our financial targets for the second time since outlining our new strategy last summer.

“Additionally, we have made good progress with our sustainability strategy, Fashioning a Better Future, including the mapping of all of our factory partners within our supply chain and significantly increasing our usage of cotton from sustainable sources to 69%.

“We are a year into Ted Baker’s transformation plan and continue to believe that we have the right strategy and team in place to set the business up for a stronger, more sustainable future.”


7am: Menzies in China expansion

John Menzies, the Edinburgh-based global aviation services business,  has expanded into the Chinese cargo market.

It has invested £3.4m to acquire a minority equity stake, by way of a joint venture, in Guangzhou JFreight Aviation Logistics Supply Chain Co.

Full story here


7am: Saga aims to resume tours

Over-50s holidays group Saga said its cruise business will resume on 27 June, subject to UK government restrictions – see below – and expects tours bookings to represent 60% of revenue targets for 2021/22.

In an update it said its motor and home policy sales were 2% lower for the four months to 31 May from last year.

But customer loyalty and demand for its tours business remained high through the lockdowns.


Markets

Concern about the rising levels of infection in the Delta or Indian variant of Covid-19 means traders will have one eye on Downing Street amid expectations the government will delay the further relaxation of pandemic restrictions, due on 21 June.

Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf has said Scotland may delay its planned move to level zero on 28 June. Boris Johnson will clarify the situation in England today, while Nicola Sturgeon will give an update on Scotland’s restrictions on Tuesday.

It has been reported that Chancellor Rishi Sunak has refused to extend the furlough scheme even though the delay to lifting of restrictions would force thousands of businesses to remain closed or operating on a limited basis.

The delays to easing restrictions could force the pound lower. It is already at a one-month low against the dollar.

Weaker sterling should push the FTSE 100 higher, as most of its constituents benefit from a lower pound. Forecasters were expecting it to open 15 points higher this morning from its 7,134.06 close at the end of last week.

The Covid restrictions and direction of sterling have taken attention away from inflation.

Traders will also be focusing on the Federal Reserve meeting that concludes on Wednesday amid talk of a reduction in the monthly bond purchase amount from the current $120bn.



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