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Royal Mail loss | BT cuts | Aston Martin soars

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Markets

Ongoing negotiations on the federal debt ceiling remained in focus, with congressional Republicans and the White House reportedly inching closer to an agreement.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.34% and the S&P 500 gained 0.94%. Leading the day’s growth was the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite, which jumped 1.51%.

The FTSE 100 closed up 0.3% or 19.07 points at 7742.30.


Royal Mail

Royal Mail swung to a £419 million adjusted operating loss after a brutal battle with unions over pay and conditions. The loss compared with a profit of £416m last time.

Parent company International Distributions Services reported a group adjusted operating loss of 71 million pounds for the year ended 26 Marc against a profit of £758m a year earlier.

Royal Mail chief executive Simon Thompson resigned earlier this month in the wake of the long-running stand-off with the Communication Workers Union


BT

BT Group said its workforce will shrink by up to 55,000 by the end of the decade as it seeks to cut costs and those employed on infrastructure installation are no longer required.

The cut in headcount amounts 40% of employees from a current workforce of 130,000.

Chief executive Philip Jansen said that by the end of the 2020s BT will have a “much smaller workforce” and a “significantly reduced cost base”.

It expects revenue and earnings to grow in the year ahead on a pro forma basis after it reported a lower than expected pretax profit for 2023 because of increased depreciation.

The group said pretax profit for the year to 31 March was £1.73 billion compared with £1.96bn last year. Analysts expected profit of £1.92bn.

Revenue for the year declined slightly to £20.68bn from £20.85bn.

Mr Jansen said: “By continuing to build and connect like fury, digitise the way we work and simplify our structure, by the end of the 2020s BT Group will rely on a much smaller workforce and a significantly reduced cost base. New BT Group will be a leaner business with a brighter future.”

A final dividend of 5.39 pence per share brings the full year dividend to 7.7p, flat year on year.


Aston Martin

Shares in luxury car maker Aston Martin Lagonda soared 22% in early trade and were 13.24% or 30.6p up at 261.8p in later trading after Chinese carmaker Geely agreed to invest £234m in the company.

It will be made via £95m of new money and the purchase of a slice of major shareholder Yew Tree’s holding.

Already a 7.6% shareholder, Geely said its investment is designed to support Aston Martin’s growth and vision to be the “world’s most desirable ultra-luxury British performance brand”.

Yew Tree, a consortium controlled by Canadian billionaire and Aston Martin’s executive chairman Lawrence Stroll, will remain the car maker’s largest shareholder with a 21% stake, but Geely will now hold 17%.


EasyJet

EasyJet said it is expects to benefit in the second half from strong booking levels and higher ticket prices as consumers prioritise holiday spending despite incomes being squeezed by inflation.

For the six months to the end of March, the airline reported a pretax loss of £411m, compared with a forecast of between £405-425m.


Burberry

Luxury fashion brand Burberry has posted a rise in full-year revenue, up 10% on a reported basis, with store sales rising 7% for the 52 weeks to 1 April.

The retailer opened 60 stores and “reorganised its supply chain, merchandising, and digital operations” under new leaders.

The group maintains its FY24 and medium-term targets and expects an increase of £70m on revenue and £40m on adjusted operating profit in FY24.


Cable project confirmed

The Scottish Government has confirmed that a cable laying project in the Highlands announced last month by Sumitomo of Japan will involve a £200m investment and create 150 jobs.

Full story here


Petrofac

Shares in Petrofac soared 13.8% or 9.15p, to 75.4p. after the company, together with petrochemical industry specialist China Huanqiu Contracting & Engineering Corporation (HQC), secured a conditional award for a project in Algeria with a total contract value of $1.5 billion, with Petrofac’s share valued at over US$1 billion.


National Grid

National Grid has posted a jump in annual profits to almost £4.6bn amid growing concern that it is not connecting renewable energy projects fast enough to meet the UK’s climate targets.

The FTSE 100 company said its underlying operating profits climbed by 15% to £4.58bn and its pre-tax profits by 7% to £3.3bn for the financial year ending 31 March compared with the previous 12 months.

The board is recommending a final dividend of 37.60p to bring full year dividend to 55.44p, up 8.77%.


Global markets

US markets rallied on growing expectations that the US will avoid a government default after policymakers appeared to edge closer towards a deal in Washington.

President Joe Biden said he is “confident” a deal can be reached with Republican leaders.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 gained 1.2%, while the Nasdaq Composite advanced 1.3%.

Asian markets followed the US higher. In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index was up 1.7%, in China, the Shanghai Composite rose 0.6%, while the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong gained 0.9%.

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