The US is planning on imposing new sanctions on Russia as a punishment for assisting the Syrian regime and so companies with exposure to Russia are feeling the pinch.
Evraz, the steel maker, has lost ground today, and so has BP, on account of exposure via Rosneft.
Meanwhile, shares in Whitbread – the owner of Costa Coffee and Premier Inn – rose 7 per cent today after Elliott Advisors revealed they now own a 6 per cent stake in the company.
The activist investor is pushing for a break-up of Whitbread, as it believes the demerger of Costa Coffee and Premier Inn would add value. Sachem Head, a US hedge fund, already own a 3.4 per cent stake in Whitbread, and is also pushing for a demerger.
David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets UK said: ‘The board of directors will now be feeling the heat from shareholders to add value, as the investment companies will be pushing their agenda. The stock hit an eleven-month high today, and if the upward move continues, it could target 4,400p.’
He added: ‘The global political situation continues to look bleak, and traders are taking cash out of equities. The recovery in global equity markets in recent weeks remains fragile.’
Dramatic developments in Rupert Murdoch’s long-running battle to seize control of Sky have put shareholders in pole position, says Crispin Odey.
The activist investor, who owns a £180 million stake in Sky and is a former son-in-law of Rupert Murdoch, has been critical of the family’s attempts to buy the 61 per cent of Sky they do not already own, claiming they undervalue the company.
A complicated ruling by the Takeover Panel last Thursday means Disney may have to buy Sky for £10.75 a share if other buyers fall away, valuing the pay-TV company at £18.5 billion.
However, Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox and US media giant Comcast are also bidding.
Odey, the boss of hedge fund Odey Asset Management, said the development is ‘very good news for shareholders’ because it has brought to light how many firms could be interested in Sky.
Here is the full story from today’s announcement that JD Wetherspoon is closing down its social media accounts for all its 900 pubs and head office with immediate effect because its boss says ‘people spend too much time’ on social media.
Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin said: ‘We are going against conventional wisdom that these platforms are a vital component of a successful business.
‘I don’t believe that closing these accounts will affect our business whatsoever, and this is the overwhelming view of our pub managers.
Tim Martin, chairman and founder of pubs group Wetherspoon
‘The way most companies run social media is a total waste of time and money,’ according to Evgeny Chereshnev, CEO and founder of Biolink Tech.
‘They post content that has zero value to the readers, produced by the teams who do not care about hitting the right MBOs. But, don’t get me wrong, social meda can be a very productive activity for business.
‘The social media ecosystem is actually a very complex thing to set up and maintain, and there is literally only a handful of people who can lead global social media teams effectively. That’s why most of the SM activities are compensated with paid ads.
‘Content quality is irrelevant; when you pay Facebook, you’ll get your views, but are those views good for business? In most cases the value is close to zero.’
‘The Dow Jones jumped 180 points as the bell rang on Wall Street, the index boosted by both the relief that the military action in Syria has so far been limited, and a decent set of US retail sales from March. That increase left the Dow knocking on the door of 24550, its best price in around 3 and a half weeks,’ Connor Campbell of Spread Ex said this afternoon.
He added: ‘As for the FTSE, an already tough, oil sector-hit day was made all the worse as sterling built up a head of steam. This left the UK index down 60 points and threatening to fall below 7200, sending the FTSE to a near one week nadir.
‘The index’s relationship to the newly confident currency will be under scrutiny for the rest of the week, as the latest jobs, inflation and retail sales figures put the pound in the spotlight.’
The US economy could be picking up with official figures showing retail sales bounced back in March after a period of consistent declines.
Sales rose 0.6% last month according to the US Commerce Department, a stronger-than-expected performance.
Cars and big-ticket items helped push up the figure.
Overall sales were 4.5% higher on an annual basis than in March 2017.
The ‘core’ retail sales measure, which excludes sales of cars, gasoline, building materials and food services, rose 0.4% in March.
The glory days of tin mining may be about to return to Cornwall in an unexpected revival of the historic industry which provided the backdrop to the Poldark novels and BBC TV drama.
The county’s tin mining industry disappeared in 1998 when Camborne’s South Crofty followed other mines in closing due to a collapse in the metal’s value.
But now the bosses of an international mineral exploration firm, who include the son of a former South Crofty worker, are determined to put Cornwall back on the tin map by reopening the mine.
Strongbow Exploration plans to list on the London Stock Exchange by June this year and to get South Crofty back up and running by 2021.
It also has ambitions for the mine, which traces its history back more than 400 years, to compete with rivals in China and Indonesia.
BBC series Poldark centred on Cornwall and its tin mining history
QUIZ, a fast-fashion brand has announced plans to launch a new line of menswear called QUIZMAN and a new standalone website QUIZMAN.com.
It says it will provide an ‘array’ of smart casual outfits and launch ‘shortly’.
Sheraz Ramzan, chief commercial officer at QUIZ said: ‘The QUIZ brand is increasingly recognised as a leading omni-channel destination for the latest looks at fantastic value prices.
‘As the brand grows in awareness, we are exploring extending our offer to fashion forward men with the exciting launch of this capsule collection aimed at men who want a tailored look for any occasion, whether that’s an important work meeting, a day at the races, a party or a night out.
‘We look forward to seeing the reaction to this exciting trial of our new product category.’
House sellers across the UK get about £10,000 less than their final asking price, new figures show, with a third having already had their original listing price cut.
The difference between final listed asking prices and agreed sale figures has increased from 2.8 per cent to 3.3 per cent over the past two years, with sellers currently achieving 96.7 per cent of the final asking price, according to Rightmove.
Despite this, new listing asking prices hit another record high of £305,732 in the month to mid-April, Rightmove said.
Profits dipped at Timpson last year due to the takeover of dry cleaning groups Johnsons and Jeeves – but sales continued to grow.
The company expanded in all divisions including dry-cleaning, photos, watch and shoe repairs and key cutting.
The family-owned business, founded in 1865, grew to 1,906 branches last year and recorded a turnover of £260 million in the year to September 30, 2017, up from £205 million the previous year.
Profits fell from £20.2 million to £12.6 million, but chairman John Timpson said the extra sales would be converted into profits this year and that the number of shops would shoot past the 2,000 mark.
A £6.9 million dividend was paid out, compared to £12.1 million the previous year.
Ruthless US hedge fund Elliott Advisors looks set to push for a spin-off of Costa Coffee after becoming the largest shareholder of its owner Whitbread.
Elliott has built up a 6 per cent shareholding in FTSE 100 listed Whitbread, giving it a stake worth about £430million in the £7.2billion group which also owns Premier Inn.
The news has sent Whitbread’s share price 7% higher this morning, read the full story here.
The pound has been stronger today, rising to $.1425 against the US dollar.
It is €1.15 against the euro, the pound’s best price since mid-2017.
Markets seem to be in ‘relief’ at the smaller scale of the Syrian airstrikes issued by the UK, US and France over the weekend according to Connor Campbell, a financial analyst at Spread Ex.
He said: ‘Without anything particularly economically-specific for European investors to get their hands on, the main driver of movement continued to be the situation in Syria.
‘While those actually in the country may disagree, the market-consensus seemed to be one of relief, namely that the limited military engagement over the weekend was nowhere near the bellicose rhetoric used by Trump last week.
‘Although it hasn’t resulted in any major gains for the European indices, it has broadly allowed them to keep at their recent highs.‘
Unilever is facing a shareholder revolt over plans to move its HQ to the Netherlands that could see it delisted from the FTSE 100.
A growing number of investors in the dual listed Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant, whose products include Marmite and Dove soap, are understood to have voiced their opposition to the board.
It raises questions as to whether the firm will be able to secure the 75 per cent of votes needed to pass the proposal.
Unilever’s decision last month to choose Rotterdam over London for its headquarters came as a blow to the UK Government as it tries to uphold Britain’s status as a post-Brexit centre for business.
Samantha Seaton, CEO of Moneyhub, reacts to news that consumer spending in the first three months of the year was the weakest in five years.
She said: ‘It’s a tricky time for household finances, and despite an increase in the national minimum wage providing some respite for consumers, high inflation and low wage growth still have a tight grip on purse strings.
‘With interest rates set to rise in May, it’s unlikely spending will truly pick up for a while.
‘For businesses, this tough economic climate is affecting growth, as consumers are wary of spending their hard earned cash. We’re gradually becoming accustomed to seeing reports of reduced spending across most sectors, from leisure to transport, and retail to household goods. It is therefore vital that businesses are able to keep customers loyal and engaged.’
Agriculture and engineering firm Carr’s Group has seen its share jump 11% this morning after revealing a 28.4% increase in operating profit in the first six months of its financial year.
CEO Tim Davies said: ‘We are very pleased with the performance of the group during the first half of the year, which slightly exceeded the board’s expectations for the period. This strong performance demonstrates the excellent recovery made in our engineering division and builds upon the strategic progress made during the last year.’
He added: ‘Trading in the second half has started well and the board now anticipates that trading for the full year will be slightly ahead of its previous expectations.’
Its shares are trading at 151p this morning.
Mark Antipof, chief commercial officer at Visa, said: ‘The negative impact that the ‘Beast from the East’ had on UK economic activity last month has been widely reported, but this doesn’t entirely explain March’s lacklustre consumer spending.
‘We are in the midst of a dip in consumer confidence and this – coupled with other economic factors – is causing shoppers to continue to restrain themselves.
‘High street sales suffered once again, however it is also noteworthy that e-commerce spend fell for the first time in 10 months, and by its fastest rate since 2012. That said, it is too early to read a great deal into this year-on-year decline, which should be viewed in the context of high growth rates in early 2017.’
Household spending dropped in March as the bad weather took its toll on businesses and shoppers.
The pace of the decline accelerated from a fall of 1% in February to a fall of 2.1% in March – the steepest fall since October according to the Visa UK Consumer Spending Index.
On average, spending fell by 1.4% year-on-year over the first three months of the year, making it the worst three-month performance since the end of 2012, the Visa report said.
Biotechnology firm Shire has sold its oncology business to Servier S.A.S in a $2.4billion deal, it announced today.
Flemming Ornskov, Shire CEO, said: ‘This transaction is a key milestone for Shire, demonstrating the clear value embedded in our portfolio.
‘While the Oncology business has delivered high growth and profitability, we have concluded that it is not core to Shire’s longer-term strategy. We will continue to evaluate our portfolio for opportunities to unlock further value and sharpen our focus on rare disease leadership with selective disposals of non-strategic assets.’
Shire shares are trading 2% higher at 3,678p this morning.
‘Whilst the prolonged period of bad weather has had an impact on shoppers visiting the high street, we are seeing a longer term trend of reduced footfall which highlights that shoppers face more choice in terms of how, where and when they shop,’ Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said.
‘The retail environment is changing and retailers are investing in innovation and technology adaptations in response to this. Policy-makers must also play their part with a vision for a modern business taxation system which reflects this new environment.’
There was a ‘significant annual decline’ in retail footfall in March, with 6% fewer shoppers on the street than a year earlier.
While bad weather accounted for a sharp 17% week-on-week fall, the British Retail Consortium and Springboard said there was a clear fall in retail confidence in 2018.
Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboardm one of the partners behind the survey, said: ‘This is undoubtedly a function of low consumer confidence arising from ongoing economic constraints attached to current price inflation and concern for the future, exacerbated by the underlying structural shift in consumer habits away from purely transaction based activity towards activity with a leisure focus.’
The pub group has announced it will stop all social media activity from today, giving up its Twitter and Facebook pages.
It said it was a move supported by the majority of its pub landlords.
The Costa Coffee and Beefeater brands’ share price has shot up on news a big buyer has upped its shares.
Elliott Management is an activist investor with rumours swirling it could encourage the break-up of the business.
Whitbread shares are trading at 4,195p this morning.
The FTSE 100 has opened at 7,255 – a marginal 0.12% fall since trading last Friday.
The departure of Sir Martin was sure to hit shares today, having been at the helm for 33 years shareholders could be wary of what the future holds.
It is trading at 1,145p this morning.
Sir Martin said in a statement he was ‘obviously’ sad to leave the firm after 33 years at the helm.
He added: ‘It has been a passion, focus and source of energy for so long. However, I believe it is in the best interests of the business if I step down now.
‘I leave the company in very good hands, as the board knows. Mark and Andrew and the management team at all levels have the knowledge and abilities to take WPP to even greater heights and capitalise on the geographic and functional opportunities.
‘I will particularly miss the daily interactions with everyone across the world and want to thank them and their families for all they have done, and will do, for WPP.’
Long-standing WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell has stepped down as chief executive officer of the firm with immediate effect.
He will be allowed to keep hold of his shares in the company and ‘will be treated as having retired’, the company said in a statement.
Chairman Roberto Quarta will take over as executive chairman until the appointment of a new CEO.
Mark Read, chief executive officer of Wunderman and WPP Digital, and Andrew Scott, WPP corporate development director and chief operating officer, Europe, have been appointed as joint chief operating officers of WPP.