ITV profits fall on streaming costs | Taylor Wimpey dips
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4.30pm: London closes higher
London’s equity market picked up after Bank of England chief economist Huw Pill said Britain’s economy is showing slightly more momentum than expected, and pay growth is proving a bit faster than the central bank forecast last month.
The FTSE 100 closed 29.11 points higher at 7,944.04.
11am: Eurozone inflation tests ECB
Inflation across the eurozone fell to 8.5% last month, easing for a fourth consecutive month, but the decline was less than expected as food costs soared and energy prices remained persistently high.
Prices for food, alcohol and tobacco rose 15%, uip on 14.1% in January, according to the EU’s statistics agency.
Energy prices grew 13.7% from a year ago but were lower than the 18.9% boost in January.
Core inflation — excluding energy, food, alcohol and tobacco — kept rising, to a record 5.6% in February from 5.3% in January, posing a fresh challenge to the European Central Bank’s efforts to bring inflation back to the 2 percent target.
ITV posted 13% lower annual profits amid tight economic conditions and the investment made in its ITVX streaming service.
The group said underlying pre-tax profits came in at £672m for 2022 (2021: £774m) as total advertising revenues fell 1%.
The broadcaster warned of a “challenging” outlook, saying ad sales could plunge by about 11% year-on-year in the first quarter.
On the upside, its ITV Studios arm, which makes hit shows like I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! the drama Unforgotten (pictured) and long-running soap Coronation Street, increased revenues by 19% to £2.1bn.
It said it plans to cut £15m of costs this year, part of a previously announced target of £50m in cost savings by 2026.
“While in the short term the advertising outlook is challenging, we expect linear advertising revenues to remain resilient and continue to be highly cash generative,” said the company.
“This underpins our continued growth investment in ITVX and Studios, which power ITV.”
Chief executive Dame Carolyn McCall added: “The short-term outlook is challenging, with total advertising revenue (TAR) expected to be down around 11pc in the first quarter but we remain very focused on successfully executing the strategy and enter 2023 with strong momentum.”
7am: Taylor Wimpey
Taylor Wimpey became the latest housebuilder to warn of weaker sales and a lower order book this year, reflecting the impact of higher mortgage fees.
The order book stood at £2.15 billion as of 26 February, down from £2.90bn at this time last year.
Even so, trading has shown some signs of improvement from last quarter, said chief executive Jennie Daly, who described 2022 as “a year marked by two distinct halves”.
Profit before tax for the year ended 31 December grew 21.8% to £827.9m while operating profit rose by 11.4% to £923.4m.
The board is recommending a final ordinary dividend of 4.78 pence per share, making a total of 9.4p, a rise of 9.6%.
7am: National Express
Bus company National Express reinstated its dividend as it reported a surge in annual profits, driven by a rise in passengers using its services as a result of UK rail strikes.
The company posted underlying pre-tax profit of £146m, from £39.7m last night. Group revenue rose by a third to £2.8bn.
Shareholders will receive a 5p share dividend.
7am: Flutter cuts loss
Paddy Power and FanDuel owner Flutter cut its pre-tax loss last year after the winter World Cup helped it reach a record number of customers in the last few months of 2022.
The gambling giant – which also owns betting exchange Betfair – said posted a pre-tax loss of £275m in 2022, down from £288m.
7am: Metro Bank
Metro Bank narrowed its full-year loss after keeping a tight rein on costs and benefiting from a rise in interest rates.
The bank posted an underlying pre-tax loss of £50.6 million for the 12 months to 31 December, compared with a loss of £171.3m last time.
Stronger-than-expected data on the Chinese economy boosted sentiment, with the nation’s National Bureau of Statistics revealing that its manufacturing PMI rose to 52.6 last month.
However, weak mortgage and factory output data from the US prompted a mixed response from Wall Street.
At the close, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.02% while the S&P 500 slipped 0.47% and the Nasdaq Composite saw out the session 0.66% weaker.