Tax cut hopes lifted by borrowing data | Quiz sales slump
Market close: lower borrowing raises tax cut hopes
The government borrowed £119.1 billion between April and December, £5bn less than expected by the Office for Budget Responsibility, raising the chances of the chancellor cutting taxes in the budget on 6 March.
Despite the relatively benign borrowing figures, the FTSE 100 closed marginally down, by 2 points at 7,485.73.
Investors were looking ahead to decisions from the European Central Bank and US Federal Reserve.
Battered miners were among the biggest gainers after a pledge by Chinese authorities to help stabilise the country’s subdued stock market. It could be as much as 2 trillion yuan (£219 billion), Bloomberg reports. Rio Tinto increased 84p to £53.73 and Glencore, whose shares are down by a third over 12 months, added 6.5p to close at 404.5p.
Scottish fashion chain Quiz Clothing said group sales for December fell 11%, or £1.1m, year on year to £8.7m as a result of inflationary pressures on consumer demand.
Pricing pressures resulted in declines in traffic both in-store and online offsetting consistent year-on-year trends in key metrics such as conversion rates and average transaction values.
It said its banking facilities are due to expire in the summer.
However, the board of the Glasgow company said it remains confident in achieving current market expectations for the full year.
As announced as its interim results, the board is reviewing its strategic options and intends to report the findings from this review, led by chairman Peter Cowgill and supported by the company’s retained adviser Panmure Gordon, by the end of March.
Georgia Pettman at Panmure Gordon says: “As we enter the final phase of FY24, we consider it too soon to determine Quiz’s approach at a strategy level beyond Spring Summer 2024 as it hinges on the board’s review.
“We also note Quiz’s available bank facilities are set to expire in June 2024 and lenders have been supportive to date.
“We would therefore expect the findings from the strategic review in March 2024 to heavily factor into the process regarding the facility renewal. Until then we are encouraged to see Quiz has maintained its way through a difficult period.”
Quiz shares were unchanged at 5.75p.
Associated British Foods – Primark
Budget fashion retailer Primark had strong sales in the approach to Christmas as cash-strapped shoppers focused on cut-price clothing amid persistently high inflation.
Parent group Associated British Foods said that Primark’s sales jumped 7.9% in the first quarter and the chain reached its highest ever market share in the 12 weeks to 10 December. Sales rose 2.1% in the key Christmas period.
AB Foods is now more confident in its full-year outlook for Primark, with the adjusted operating margin expected to exceed 10% this year.
It said it does not expect supply disruptions from attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea.
An exceptional charge of £38.1 million for building safety remedial works saw rental property firm Watkin Jones post a £2.9m adjusted loss for the year to the end of September from a profit of £48.8m in the previous year. The board has decided not to recommend a final dividend.
All current development schemes are on track, supported by continuing moderation in build cost inflation.
Alex Pease, chief executive, said “Significant cost inflation and volatility in real estate funding markets meant that FY23 represented a period of unprecedented challenge for the business. However, I am pleased that against this backdrop the group demonstrated resilience and agility, taking a number of important actions operationally.
“Whilst funding conditions remain difficult, the outlook is gradually improving and the strong asset performance in PBSA and BTR sectors gives me confidence in the longer-term market recovery and return to growth.
“In the near term, we remain focused on driving improvements to the productivity and efficiency of the business, as well as looking at opportunities to extract more value from our sector expertise and end-to-end capabilities.”
Construction group Henry Boot said it performed well over the past year against the backdrop of a slowing economy, and higher interest rates, generating robust sales within its property development and strategic land businesses.
Despite activity reducing in its three key markets of Industrial & Logistics, Residential and Urban Development, its focus on high quality land and development in prime locations has meant the business has performed resiliently.
Consequently, the group expects profit before tax for the year ended 31 December 2023 to be in line with current market consensus.
Pubs revenue at brewing group Marston’s for the 16-week period to 20 January were 8.8% higher on last year. Both drink sales and food sales have been strong.
Like-for-like sale were up 8.1%, reflecting strong trading over the festive period. For the key festive days (Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve), like-for-like sales were up 9.6%.