(Alliance News) - The following is a summary of top news stories Tuesday.
Marks & Spencer announced it plans to cut around 7,000 jobs as part of a "streamlining" process as the food and clothing retailer said it performed ahead of its possible Covid-19 scenario in the year-to-date. In 13 weeks to August 8, Food sales increased 2.5% while like-for-like sales, excluding the impact of the closure of hospitality and travel franchise units, were up 11%. M&S added that its agreement with Ocado Retail, part of Ocado Group, is on track for September, and it is making good progress in its Vangarde supply chain effectiveness programme. In Clothing & Home, sales were down 39% in the 13-week period. The cuts will include departures in its central support centre, regional management and UK stores, "reflecting the fact that the change has been felt throughout the business".
The UK grocery market is easing from the "heady heights" of the lockdown period, data from research agency Kantar showed. Grocery sales growth was 14% year-on-year in the 12 weeks to August 9, with grocery spend of GBP9.7 billion over the past four weeks making it the lowest since February. However, this still remains well above pre-pandemic levels. Online shopping hit another record market share in the latest four weeks, with nearly 14% of all grocery sales now via the internet. Ocado has been a "major beneficiary of this", said Kantar, registering a market share of 1.8% over the past 12 weeks - versus 1.4% a year ago - and surpassing peers to post sales growth of 46% in Kantar's latest report. Tesco's market share was 26.6% in the 12-week period, down slightly on 27.0% a year ago, and it recorded sales growth of 13%. J Sainsbury took a market share of 14.9% in the recent period, again down from 15.4% a year prior, while its sales grew 11%. Wm Morrison Supermarkets saw its market share strengthen slightly to 10.2% from 10.1% as sales surged 16% - the fastest growth of the Big Four.
BHP Group said for the year to the end of June pretax profit dropped by 10% to USD13.51 billion from USD15.05 billion the year before, as revenue declined by 4.3% to USD42.39 billion from USD44.29 billion. BHP's revenue performance came in short of company-compiled expectations, which stood at USD43.07 billion. Profit from operations decreased by 11% to USD14.42 billion from USD16.11 billion the prior year, while underlying earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation slipped by 5% to USD22.07 billion from USD23.16 billion. BHP said its performance was hurt by lower prices, particularly in coal, copper and petroleum, lower volumes including a decline in copper grades and petroleum fields, and a rise in the closure and rehabilitation provisions for closed mines. BHP declared an annual dividend of 120 US cents, down 10% from 130 cents the year before, as net debt as at June 30 was USD12.04 billion, up 28% year-on-year from USD9.45 billion.
Persimmon said for the six months to the end of June, pretax profit dropped by 43% year-on-year to GBP292.4 million, as revenue declined by 32% to GBP1.19 billion. This was due to completions falling by 35% year-on-year to 4,900 homes, even as the average selling price increased to GBP225,066 from GBP216,942. The housebuilder said its owned and consented land bank as at June 30 fell to 89,232 plots from 95,086 plots the prior year, however its forward sales position increased to GBP2.48 billion from GBP2.05 billion. Persimmon declared a "modest" interim dividend of 40 pence per share, down 80% from 235p the prior year. In addition, the group said its short-term outlook is robust, and expects to deliver 45% of its anticipated new home legal completions for the second half.
Compass Group said it has appointed Ian Meakins as non-executive chair. Meakins was previously chief executive of plumbing and heating products firm Ferguson - formerly Wolseley - Finablr's Travelex and Alliance Unichem. He was senior independent director at Centrica and a non-executive director at O2. Meakins will joint the Compass board on September 1 and take over as chair at the start of December when Paul Walsh steps down. It was announced in January that Walsh would step down as chair and a director and would not seek re-election at the 2021 annual general meeting.
Oracle has entered into talks to buy video sharing app TikTok, the Financial Times reported, citing people briefed on the matter. Business software firm Oracle has held preliminary talks with ByteDance - TikTok's China-based parent company - and is considering buying the app's operations in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the FT said. Microsoft has been the lead contender to buy TikTok since announcing talks in early August. Twitter also has held early stage talks, but there are concerns about its ability to finance such a deal, the newspaper said.
Sajid Javid has accepted a role with US bank JP Morgan Chase, PA reports. The member of Parliament, who quit as UK chancellor of the exchequer earlier this year, has been appointed senior adviser on the bank's advisory council for Europe, the Middle East & Africa. The bank would not disclose Javid's salary but confirmed it would be a paid position. Javid dramatically exited the Cabinet in February this year following a power struggle with the prime minister's chief adviser Dominic Cummings. He refused to fire his closest aides and install candidates chosen by Number 10, and was swiftly replaced by his former protege Rishi Sunak. The role with JP Morgan marks a return to Javid's roots â€“ he worked for the bank throughout the 1990s before joining Deutsche Bank.
London shares were higher with housebuilders among the blue-chip risers following optimistic signals from Persimmon. The FTSE 100 stock was up 4.6%. In the FTSE 250, M&S was down 3.8%. Gold was back above the USD2,000 mark amid dollar weakness. US stock market futures were pointed to a higher open.
FTSE 100: up 0.2% at 6,137.46
FTSE 250: up 0.3% at 17,817.68
AIM ALL-SHARE: up 0.2% at 964.20
GBP: up at USD1.3171 (USD1.3096)
EUR: up at USD1.1906 (USD1.1867)
GOLD: up at USD2,007.07 per ounce (USD1,984.00)
OIL (Brent): up at USD45.31 a barrel (USD45.04)
(changes since previous London equities close)
ECONOMICS AND GENERAL
The UK government has handed out more than GBP52 billion in coronavirus support to firms impacted by the pandemic, PA reports. The majority of this financial support has been paid out through the Bounce Back Loan scheme, which can provide small companies with 100% state-backed loans worth up to GBP50,000. It said that GBP35.47 billion was approved to be paid to 1,174,854 small UK companies, in the Treasury's latest weekly update. More than 60,000 slightly larger firms also have now had loans approved by the state.
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