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LONDON BRIEFING: L&G agrees GBP4.8b buy-in for Boots Pension Scheme

Fri, 24th Nov 2023 07:50

(Alliance News) - Stocks in London are expected to open in the red on Friday, with trading volumes likely to be lighter given the Thanksgiving holiday period in the US.

Financial markets in the US were closed on Thursday, and will reopen for a shortened session on Friday.

In some positive news for retailers amid the key Black Friday weekend and the run-up to Christmas, UK consumer confidence has bounced back in November according to GfK. This comes despite ongoing cost-of-living concerns, as consumers look set to "loosen their purse strings" and enjoy the festive season.

In Asia, market sentiment was being led by Japanese data in the absence of drivers from the US. The yen strengthened slightly after figures showed that inflation quickened slightly in October. Meanwhile, business activity in the country's private sector stagnated, according to flash PMIs.

Here is what you need to know at the London market open:

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MARKETS

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FTSE 100: called down 26.9 points, 0.4%, at 7,456.68

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Hang Seng: down 1.8% at 17,585.51

Nikkei 225: closed up 0.5% at 33,625.53

S&P/ASX 200: closed up 0.2% at 7,045.20

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DJIA: closed for Thanksgiving

S&P 500: closed for Thanksgiving

Nasdaq Composite: closed for Thanksgiving

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EUR: flat at USD1.0907 (USD1.0909)

GBP: flat at USD1.2540 (USD1.2542)

USD: down at JPY149.37 (JPY149.49)

Gold: up slightly at USD1,993.83 per ounce (USD1,992.02)

Oil (Brent): up at USD81.34 a barrel (USD80.65)

(changes since previous London equities close)

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ECONOMICS

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Friday's key economic events still to come:

08:00 CET Germany GDP

10:00 CET Germany Ifo business climate index

11:00 GMT Ireland WPI

08:30 EST US weekly export sales

09:45 EST US flash manufacturing PMI

09:45 EST US flash services PMI

13:00 EST US Thanksgiving Day: financial markets close early

16:30 EST US foreign central bank holdings

16:30 EST US federal discount window borrowings

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UK consumer confidence has bounced back despite the ongoing cost-of-living concerns as consumers look set to "loosen their purse strings" and enjoy the festive season. GfK's long-running Consumer Confidence Index rose by six points in November, although it still languishes firmly at minus 24. Confidence in the general economy over the next 12 months also increased by six points to minus 26 – 32 points higher than a year ago. The forecast for personal finances over the coming year increased five points to minus three, which is 26 points higher than last November.

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BROKER RATING CHANGES

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JPMorgan reinitiates Bridgepoint with 'neutral' - price target 237 pence

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COMPANIES - FTSE 100

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Legal & General said it has agreed a GBP4.8 billion full buy-in for the Boots Pension Scheme. "[The transaction] secures the benefits of all 53,000 retirees and deferred members of the scheme, making it the UK's largest single transaction of its kind by premium size and, for L&G, the largest single transaction by number of members," the firm explains. It said the deal builds on an over 20-year relationship with the beauty retailer and pharmacy chain. L&G said in the business year to date, it has written GBP13.4 billion of global pension risk transfer, with the market especially strong in the UK which is seeing "unprecedented demand" due to rising pension funding ratios. As of November 17, net of this transaction, L&G had a solvency ratio of around 224%. "The board continues to weigh investment carefully against the relative attractiveness of returning additional capital to shareholders," it added.

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Glencore will relocate testing for its battery recycling centre project away from its site in Italy, the Swiss commodities firm told AFP. However, it is still studying the possibility of creating a large centre in Italy, it added. Glencore, which is particularly active in metals trading, announced in May that it was teaming up with the Canadian recycling company Li-Cycle to launch a feasibility study into building a European lithium battery recycling centre at Portovesme, on the Italian island of Sardinia, where the group already has existing operations. "Glencore has taken the decision to relocate the testing and demonstration phase to an alternative location outside Italy, that would allow for faster commissioning of such a demonstration project," it told AFP.

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COMPANIES - FTSE 250

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BBGI Global Infrastructure said its co-CEO Frank Schramm has decided to retire after 12 years "for personal reasons" at the end of January. The Senningerberg, Luxembourg-based infrastructure investment company said Duncan Ball will continue his role as sole CEO. The firm's current finance chief, Michael Denny, will take on the role of chief operating officer in addition to his CFO duties.

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Leading cruise ship operator Carnival UK has been accused of threatening more than 900 crew with being fired and rehired if they do not accept reduced terms and conditions. The Nautilus union said Carnival UK has notified authorities in the UK and Bermuda of its intention to change employment terms and conditions for 919 crew across 10 vessels. Crew on the affected fleets includes those working on P&O Cruises and Cunard, on ships such as the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary 2, the union said. Nautilus has written to the company calling for it to withdraw the threat of fire and rehire and engage in meaningful negotiations. P&O Cruises is an entirely separate company to P&O Ferries, which was embroiled in a dispute over the sacking of hundreds of workers by its owner DP World in March 2022.

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OTHER COMPANIES

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Fabrication company Harland & Wolff confirmed it made a preliminary approach to Isles of Scilly Steamship Co regarding a possible cash offer. Late Thursday, Isles of Scilly said it had unequivocally rejected an approach from the AIM-listed company. Isles of Scilly operates the principal shipping service from Penzance in Cornwall to the isles of Scilly. Harland & Wolff noted it had previously announced it was considering the opportunity to build and/or operate ferries to service this route, which it maintains is "significantly underserved" by its current operation. "The company believes there is a clear strategic, operational and financial rationale for the proposed acquisition in pursuit of this and is disappointed that the board of ISSCL unequivocally rejected this proposal. The board of Harland & Wolff continue to consider their options," the company added.

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Indie video game and educational app developer Team17 said it believes it is "well positioned with strong traction across its new release and back catalogue titles" ahead of the Black Friday and Christmas trading periods. It now expects revenue in 2023 to be "modestly ahead" of current market expectations. However, Team17 warned of some titles underperforming and project overspends. It now expects full-year adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of at least GBP28.5 million, including non-cash title impairments of up to GBP11.5 million. In 2022, it achieved an adjusted Ebitda of GBP48.8 million.

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UK Amazon workers will go on strike on Black Friday – one of the busiest shopping days of the year – in a long-running dispute over pay. Members of the GMB union at the online giant's site in Coventry will walk out, mounting a picket line outside the centre. Amazon said Friday's industrial action will not affect customers. Strikes and demonstrations are also being held in other European countries and the US, which unions say will be the biggest day of action in Amazon's history. The GMB said more than 1,000 workers at the Coventry site will strike, making it the 28th day of action in the dispute. A protest will also be held outside Amazon's UK head office in London.

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By Elizabeth Winter, Alliance News deputy news editor

Comments and questions to newsroom@alliancenews.com

Copyright 2023 Alliance News Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

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