Market report

Heathrow boss quits | BA resumes China flights


4.30pm: FTSE 100 pushes through 7800

London’s leading shares index closed 59.05 points higher at 7,820.16.

The FTSE 250 has been a major outperformer, amid easing fears of a prolonged recession in the UK. BoE projections of an eight-quarter slowdown have been replaced by a five-quarter contraction.

1.30pm: Heathrow boss stepping down

After nine years in the position, London Heathrow Airports’ (LHR) CEO, John Holland-Kaye, has announced that he will be stepping down.

A selection process for a new CEO has begun, with a successor expected to take up the position by the end of this year.

Once selected, the new CEO will work with Mr Holland-Kaye for a time, ensuring a smooth transition in leadership.

Mr Holland-Kaye, 57, joined Heathrow in 2009 as commercial officer, having previously been in housebuilding. He is stepping down at his own request, according to the airport.

Lord Deighton, the Heathrow chairman, said: “During the past nine years he has worked tirelessly and collaboratively with shareholders, ministers, airlines and other stakeholders to ensure the country can be proud of its ‘front door’.”

However, he had to withstand criticism over the readiness of Heathrow to handle the rush of passengers when pandemic restrictions were lifted and chaos ensued.

The airport found itself ill-prepared with a 20,000 shortfall in staff numbers.

His introduction of a cap on airline traffic movements to ease demand was criticised by airlines and passengers.

There were also disputes over how much Heathrow should be allowed to charge its customer airlines to use the runways and terminals.

1.30pm: BA resumes China flights

British Airways has announced that it is is resuming flights between the UK and mainland China after a two-year absence caused by the Covid pandemic.

BA first flew to China in 1980 and continued to do so until the outbreak of Covid.

Flights will operate between London Heathrow and Shanghai Pudong International Airport from April and Beijing from June.

1.15pm: Windfall tax call ‘misleading’

Oil and gas trade body Offshore Energies UK has accused politicians of misleading voters and consumers with calls for further windfall taxes.

Its comments came after energy giant Shell delivered a record $39.9 billion profit (adjusted earnings) in 2022, doubling from a year earlier and far exceeding the previous record of $31bn in 2008.

Full story here

Noon: Interest rates rise

Borrowers were hit with another increase in costs today as the Bank of England lifted the interest rate by 50 basis points from 3.5% to 4%.

Full story here

7am: BT

In the nine months to the end of June revenue came in 1% lower at £15.6bn as price increases and improved trading in Openreach and Consumer were offset by  lower strategic equipment sales in Global, migration of a MVNO customer, removal of BT Sport revenue, and legacy product declines.

Adjusted EBITDA was 3% higher at £5.9bn due to tight cost control and the removal of BT Sport costs, offset by revenue declines and inflationary cost pressures.

The group’s reported profit before tax is 15% lower at £1.3bn because of increased depreciation offsetting EBITDA growth.

Philip Jansen, chief executive, commenting on the results, said: “We’ve grown revenue and EBITDA on a pro forma, like-for-like basis, despite a challenging economic backdrop, and we’re transforming BT Group for the benefit of our customers.

“We continue to accelerate our investments in the UK’s leading next generation networks; we’re combining our Enterprise and Global operations to create BT Business, a single, strengthened B2B unit; and we’re going further on cutting costs to deliver £3 billion in annualised savings by the end of FY25.

“On full fibre, we’re building – and now connecting – like fury: 9.6 million premises reached to date, with 29% already connected, and our 5G mobile network now reaches 60% of the UK population.

“In December we awarded a cost-of-living pay rise to 85% of our UK colleagues, reaching an agreement with our union partners that we will all lean into our ongoing transformation plans. Despite extraordinary energy costs and other inflationary headwinds, we are reaffirming our outlook for the year.”

Global markets

Facebook and Instagram parent Meta has reported its third consecutive quarter of declining sales, although its shares jumped higher after it beat Wall Street expectations and announced a buyback of stock.

Revenue came in at $32.17 billion for the quarter to the end of December, down 4% from a year earlier but higher than the $31.53bn analysts expected.

Net income dropped 55% on the year, to $4.65bn, largely due to a one-time $4.2bn hit in restructuring costs associated with mass layoffs announced in November.  

Daily active users across Meta’s platforms also outpaced expectations, coming in at 2.96 billion on average for December, a 5% increase from a year ago. 

Stocks rallied on Wall Street after the US Federal Reserve stepped back its pace of interest rate hikes to 25 basis points.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended flat, the S&P 500 was up 1.0% and the Nasdaq Composite rose 2%.

In Tokyo on Thursday, the Nikkei 225 index was up 0.2%. In China, both the Shanghai Composite and the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong were flat. 

Brent oil was trading at $83.17 a barrel

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