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Rates call to tackle empty shops | PwC upgrades outlook

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David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said he hopes the First Minister’s “New Deal” with business will include a rethink on business rates after new figures showed the number of empty shops remain a fifth higher than pre-Covid levels.

“These figures underline the torpid recovery in Scotland’s shop vacancy rate on the two-year anniversary of shops re-opening after the second pandemic lockdown,” said Mr Lonsdale.

“The level of unoccupied retail premises remains stuck at a fifth above pre-pandemic times and Scotland’s recovery from the pandemic has been weaker than in the ten other nations and regions in Great Britain.

“This was the fourth successive quarter in which the proportion of empty units flatlined at elevated levels, and the ninth consecutive quarter with the vacancy rate above 15%.

“We hope that as part of his proposed ‘New Deal’ with business the First Minister will make good on his promise to look again at business rates, including mirroring the rates relief offered elsewhere. This would aid smaller stores as well as our hard-pressed retail destinations.”

Key data


London ends on a high

Shares in NatWest fell 10.20p (3.75%) to 261.45p despite the bank reporting positive first-quarter results. 

Chief executive Alison Rose said arrears and impairments remain low despite the challenging economic conditions. Full report here

The FTSE 100 ended on a high, up 38.99 points at 7,870.57. Sentiment was lifted by the release of US data showing a large drop in price pressures.

Asia-focused insurer Prudential rose as it reported a jump in first-quarter sales and new business profit.


Deutsche buys Numis

Deutsche Bank is acquiring institutional stockbroker and corporate advisor Numis Corp for about £410million.

The 350p per share all-cash offer represents a premium of 72% to Numis stock’s Thursday close.


Pearson

Education publisher Pearson has told investors it expects to meet annual guidance after a strong start to the year, adding that it is on track to deliver £120 million of cost efficiencies this year.

Andy Bird, chief executive, said: “Pearson has had a strong start to the year with results ahead of our expectations. This ongoing momentum is testament to our increasingly interconnected, consumer-focused, and innovative approach alongside relentless commercial execution.”


PwC drops gloomy forecast

PwC has added to the growing body of organisations which have reversed their forecasts that Britain would suffer a tough economic slump this year.

PwC now thinks gross domestic product (GDP) will edge 0.1% higher this year, a weak performance but better than previously expected. 


Global markets

Strong sessions on Wall Street and in Asia is likely to see markets end the week on a positive note ahead of the Bank Holiday weekend.

Healthy tech earnings lifted the mood in the US, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 1.6%, the S&P 500 up 2.0%, and the Nasdaq Composite up 2.4%.

Amazon shares rose 11% in after-market trading after the tech giant posted first-quarter earnings that came in ahead of expectations.

Revenue for the quarter was $127.4bn, up 9% compared to the $116.4bn last year, while profits hit $3.17bn, higher than the $2.24bn City analysts had expected. Income from its cloud computing and advertising units both beat estimates.

In China, the Shanghai Composite and Hang Seng index in Hong Kong were both up 0.8%

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index was up 1.0% after the Bank of Japan concluded its first meeting under new governor Kazuo Ueda, deciding to leave its ultra-easy monetary policy unchanged.

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