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LONDON BRIEFING: "Record" Tui quarter; Ultimate Products eyes payouts

Tue, 13th Feb 2024 07:45

(Alliance News) - London's FTSE 100 is to open ever-so-slightly lower on Tuesday, with trade set to be nervy ahead of the afternoon's US inflation data.

London's large-cap benchmark has struggled to find its feet so far in 2024, so a favourable US inflation reading could offer it some relief and cement May as the month that the Federal Reserve begins cutting interest rates.

"A softer-than-expected set of data will likely boost the May rate cut expectation," Swissquote analyst Ipek Ozkardeskaya commented.

"An unwanted upward surprise, however, should further hammer the May cut expectations and shift focus to June."

The pound, meanwhile, got a slight boost after hotter-than-expected UK labour market data. The unemployment rate was lower than expected, though growth in earnings was hotter than forecast.

In early UK corporate news, Tui hailed a record first-quarter, ahead of a vote on its future as a London listing. Homeware products provider and owner of the Salter brand Ultimate Products set out a new shareholder returns policy.

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 0.1% at 7,566.79

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Nikkei 225: up 2.9% at 37,963.97

S&P/ASX 200: down 0.2% at 7,603.60

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DJIA: closed up 125.69 points, 0.3% at 38,797.38

S&P 500: closed down 0.1% at 5,021.84

Nasdaq Composite: closed down 0.3% at 15,942.54

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EUR: flat at USD1.0771 (USD1.0769)

GBP: up at USD1.2654 (USD1.2621)

USD: up at JPY149.55 (JPY149.44)

GOLD: up at USD2,024.27 per ounce (USD2,013.55)

OIL (Brent): up at USD82.17 a barrel (USD81.69)

(changes since previous London equities close)

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ECONOMICS

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Tuesday's key economic events still to come:

10:00 GMT eurozone ZEW economic sentiment

10:00 GMT Germany ZEW economic sentiment

13:30 GMT US CPI

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The UK unemployment rate was lower than expected in the last three months of 2023, and growth in earnings was more robust than forecast, data showed. According to the Office for National Statistics, the jobless rate faded to 3.8% in the three months to the end of December from 4.2% in the period from September to November. Unemployment had been expected to ease slightly less, to 4.0%, according to FXStreet-cited market consensus. Annual growth in regular earnings, so excluding bonuses, amounted to 6.2% in the three months to December. Including bonuses, earnings rose 5.8% on-year. Pay growth was hotter than expected by both measures. Earnings including bonuses had been expected to rise by 5.6%, according to FXStreet, while excluding bonuses, a rise of 6.0% was forecast.

Annual earnings, both including and excluding bonuses, had risen 6.7% on-year in the three months to November, so growth in pay slowed in the three months to the end of last year.

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The governor of the Bank of England has said that UK banks have emerged from a volatile few years in "sound health", but said the stagnating share prices of major lenders remained a "puzzle". Andrew Bailey, speaking in a lecture at Loughborough University, said there had been major macroeconomic disruptions over the last four years, since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. "UK banks have come through the turbulence of the last four years in sound health, and that has enabled them to contribute to maintaining financial stability and to support the economy and their customers during these difficult times," he said. "That was not always the case in the past," he added, referring to the 2008 global financial crisis which led to wide-reaching reforms in the banking sector.

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BROKER RATING CHANGES

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Citigroup raises GSK to 'buy' (neutral) - price target 2,100 (1,700) pence

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RBC starts Breedon with 'outperform' - price target 575 pence

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Goldman Sachs cuts Unilever price target to 4,505 (4,580) pence - 'neutral'

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COMPANIES - FTSE 250

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Holiday firm Tui reported a "record" performance in its financial first quarter, including its first-ever underlying profit in the traditionally slow period for travel operators. Its pretax loss narrowed to EUR103.1 million in the three months that ended December 31 from EUR272.6 million a year before, as revenue rose by 15% to a "record" EUR4.30 billion from EUR3.75 billion. Underlying earnings before interest and tax were EUR6.0 million, swung from a EUR153.0 million Ebit loss a year before. The Hannover, Germany-based company is holding its annual general meeting on Tuesday, at which shareholders will be asked to approve its plan to delist from the London Stock Exchange, while upgrading to a 'Prime Standard' listing in Frankfurt with inclusion on the MDAX index of German mid-cap stocks. The plan, announced early last month, is to achieve "centralisation of liquidity" for Tui shares.

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OTHER COMPANIES

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Homeware brands seller Ultimate Products said its half-year revenue declined, "held back" by reduced supermarket orders due to overstocking. Its half-year to January 31 also lapped a tricky comparative, which was boosted by "exceptionally strong demand for energy efficient air fryers". Ultimate Products said revenue in the half-year fell 4.1% annually to GBP84.0 million from GBP87.6 million. UP said: "Combined with lower freight rates in the period, this increased productivity has led to the group achieving improved operating margins. As the group moves into H2 2024, shipping schedules are expected to settle, and peak air-fryer sales will move out of the prior year comparatives. More importantly, supermarket overstocking issues are continuing to subside and following the peak Christmas trading period more retail customers are reporting normalised stock positions, allowing an improving order trend for 2024." Ultimate Products said it expects full-year profit in line with current market expectations, which stand at GBP21.6 million for adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation. In addition, the firm set out a new capital allocation policy, as acquisition debt from its Salter deal has now largely been repaid. "It is the board's intention to continue to invest in the business enabling it to grow, whilst returning around 50% of post-tax profits to shareholders through dividends," it said, adding that it may also supplement this with share buybacks.

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Gresham Technologies said it has won a USD1.5 million deal with an existing user of its Clareti financial services-focused software offering. "In the initial phase of the project the firm will partner with Gresham to automate the end-to-end control and reconciliation of cash processing activities and improve the efficiency of exceptions management," Gresham Technologies said. The initial contract has a minimum five-year term. "A further phase of the US project is expected to enable the straight through processing of payments to multiple bank partners, for which incremental subscription fees are expected," it added.

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MediaZest said it has won a "large" new deal with a UK-based customer. The audiovisual solutions provider said the customer is a "FTSE listed client". The deal is worth GBP200,000 and will see MediaZest "provide digital signage solutions for multiple workspace locations" over a two-year period.

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By Eric Cunha, Alliance News news editor

Comments and questions to newsroom@alliancenews.com

Copyright 2024 Alliance News Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

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