(Alliance News) - The following is a summary of top news stories Friday.
JD Wetherspoon said it suffered severe losses in financial 2020 due to the Covid-19 lockdown, which Chair Tim Martin said was full of "ill-thought-out regulations" and not based on science. The pub owner reported a pretax loss for the year ended July 26 of GBP34.1 million, swinging from a profit of GBP102.5 million a year prior. Revenue fell 31% to GBP1.26 billion from GBP1.82 billion, with like-for-like sales down 30%. JD Wetherspoon put its poor performance down to the effects of the closure of pubs by the government in March, which lasted for around three months. The company opted to skip a final dividend, compared to last year's 12.0 pence each. This brings the year's total payout to nothing, compared to last year's total payout of 16.0p.
International Consolidated Airlines Group's unit British Airways has been fined GBP20 million over a 2018 data hack, the Information Commissioner's Office has announced. Investigators found the airline should have identified the security weaknesses which enabled the attack to take place. The carrier failed to protect the personal and financial details of more than 400,000 customers, the ICO said. It did not detect the hack for more than two months. Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said: "People entrusted their personal details to BA, and BA failed to take adequate measures to keep those details secure.
Investment manager Man Group said "robust" net inflows and positive investment performance led to a 4% rise in funds under management and the company remains "well-placed" to withstand market volatility. The FTSE 250-listed company said FuM increased to USD113.1 billion at September 30 from USD108.3 billion at June 30, driven by net inflows of USD1.7 billion primarily from the company's Alternative Strategies as redemption levels normalised following Covid-19 related rebalancing. Positive investment performance added USD1.7 billion to FuM and positive foreign exchange movements contributed USD1.4 billion, resulting from a weaker US dollar particularly against sterling and the euro.
Rio Tinto reported a reduction in production and shipment of iron ore amid maintenance at a port, but promised to "generate superior returns to shareholders" going forward. The Anglo-Australian miner said Pilbara iron ore shipments of 82.1 million tonnes in the three months to the end of September were 5% lower than in the third quarter of 2019. A recovery in planned maintenance activity in the port led to lower shipments, the company explained. Pilbara is in Western Australia, and Rio uses the Dampier and Cape Lambert ports in the state for shipments. Pilbara iron ore production of 86.4 million tonnes was 1% lower year-on-year but 4% higher quarter-on-quarter.
Europe's top aviation regulator is satisfied that changes to Boeing Co's 737 MAX have made the aircraft safe enough to return to the skies before 2020, Bloomberg reported. According to Bloomberg, the European Aviation Safety Agency is performing final document reviews ahead of a draft airworthiness directive it expects to issue next month. That will be followed by four weeks of public comment, while the development of a so-called synthetic sensor to add redundancy will take 20 to 24 months. "Our analysis is showing that this is safe, and the level of safety reached is high enough for us," EASA Director Patrick Ky said in an interview. "What we discussed with Boeing is the fact that with the third sensor, we could reach even higher safety levels."
John Lewis Partnership set out "bold" plans to save GBP300 million in annual costs and net GBP400 million in profit within five years. The retailer said it plans to make GBP200 million in yearly profit in the next two years under the measures outlined on Friday and GBP400 million by 2025. By 2022, it aims to save GBP300 million in annual costs, by making "operations and head offices simpler and more efficient". The company said it will invest in "more virtual services" and have more "affordable quality" on offer at grocery unit Waitrose and the John Lewis department store chain. The plans on Friday also come in the wake of John Lewis in September axing its bonus as it swung to a first half pretax loss of GBP635 million from a profit of GBP192 million. John Lewis lost GBP200 million in sales and had booked chunky impairments due to Covid-19 lockdowns.
London shares were higher with Rolls-Royce the best blue chip performer, up 9.7% on a Bloomberg report saying the Boeing 737 MAX was safe to fly. Wetherspoon was the worst midcap stock down 14%. The pound was up against the dollar amid a lack of negative Brexit headlines. Wall Street was pointed to a mixed open.
FTSE 100: up 0.7% at 5,870.71
FTSE 250: up 0.1% at 17,850.00
AIM ALL-SHARE: up 0.7% at 978.59
GBP: up at USD1.2940 (USD1.2894)
EUR: flat at USD1.1710 (USD1.1704)
GOLD: flat at USD1,907.11 per ounce (USD1,909.80)
OIL (Brent): down at USD42.46 a barrel (USD42.68)
(changes since previous London equities close)
ECONOMICS AND GENERAL
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to set out whether trade talks with the EU should continue after his deadline for reaching an agreement passed without a deal in place. David Frost, Johnson's Europe sherpa, said the UK was "disappointed" by the outcome of a EU summit in which the bloc signalled it was willing to continue trade negotiations but called on Britain to make the next move. The UK's chief negotiator said the prime minister would set out his response on Friday. Johnson last month proposed that both sides should walk away from the talks and prepare for a no-deal outcome if there was no agreement by the European Council meeting on October 15. But, in a text adopted by the summit of EU leaders on the day of the deadline, they "invited" Brussels' chief negotiator Michel Barnier to continue his discussions while urging the UK to "make the necessary moves to make an agreement possible".
Eurozone consumer prices fell for the second straight month on an annual basis in September, figures from Eurostat showed on Friday. Annually, the eurozone's consumer price index was down 0.3% in September, deflation accelerating from a 0.2% fall in August. The reading was in line with market forecasts but represented the steepest decline in prices since April 2016. On a monthly basis, consumer prices rose 0.1% in September, after falling by 0.4% in August. This figure is also in line with market expectations. In a separate release, Eurostat said the euro area recorded a trade surplus of EUR14.7 billion in August, narrowing from EUR29.7 billion in July. The figure missed market expectations of a EUR15.1 billion surplus.
The US Senate Judiciary Committee will vote next week on Judge Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination, Senator Lindsey Graham said. The vote on October 22 will take place as Senate Republicans push for the rapid confirmation of the 48-year-old conservative jurist before the presidential elections on November 3. The full Senate will vote on Barrett's nomination after the committee vote that day. Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate and have enough votes to confirm Barrett, who is US President Donald Trump's nominee for the country's highest court. If confirmed, Barrett would replace former justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal icon who died last month after a battle with cancer. She would give the court a 6-3 conservative majority, though the court's rulings are often not along strict ideological lines. Democratic Senators have said that the confirmation process is being rushed through and that it is inappropriate to nominate a Supreme Court Justice so close to an election.
US President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden held rival televised town halls on Thursday. When asked if his opinion on wearing masks has changed since his coronavirus diagnosis, Trump said no, adding that he supports masks but then falsely claiming that 85% of mask-wearers are infected with the virus. Biden used his event to attack the president on his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, while pitching himself as the president who will unite the country after a divisive four years under Trump. During his event broadcast on NBC, the president was then asked about his personal debt, which is a staggering USD421 million, according to a report in The New York Times. Trump dismissed the report, but then appeared to confirm the number, saying that his debt is a "small percentage" compared to his net worth.
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