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LONDON MARKET PRE-OPEN: Imperial Brands, Gulf Keystone Launch Buybacks

Mon, 8th Jul 2019 07:42

(Alliance News) - Stock prices in London are seen opening in the red on Monday, tracking Asian equity markets sharply lower, after a strong US jobs report on Friday dented hopes the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates later this month.Market attention now shifts to Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, who will testify before US Congress regarding monetary policy on Wednesday and Thursday this week.In company news, Imperial Brands and Gulf Keystone Petroleum launched share buyback programmes and airline operator IAG said it was considering appealing against a hefty fine on British Airways. IG futures indicate the FTSE 100 index is to open down 14.84 points at 7,538.30. The blue chip index closed down 50.44 points, or 0.7%, at 7,553.14 on Friday.The Japanese Nikkei 225 index closed down 1.0% on Monday. In China, the Shanghai Composite is down 2.6%, while the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong is down 1.9%.Tobacco firm Imperial Brands announced a revised capital allocation and shareholder distributions policy to "support continued growth and optimised returns for shareholders". The company reaffirmed its current 10% dividend growth policy in respect of the final dividend for the current financial year ending September 30. Going forward, Imperial said the revised dividend policy will be progressive, growing annually from the current level, taking into account underlying business performance.Imperial said the revised policy recognises its continued strong cash generation and the importance of growing dividends for shareholders, while providing greater flexibility in capital allocation."A progressive dividend policy with any surplus cash flows to be returned to shareholders via share buybacks, enhanced ordinary dividends or special dividends, depending on market conditions," Imperial said.In light of this new capital allocation framework, Imperial announced a share buyback programme, which will return up to GBP200 million to shareholders before the end of the current calendar year.Iraqi producer Gulf Keystone Petroleum said it is to buyback USD25 million in shares using existing cash resources. The company said the first stage of the programme is being initiated immediately to purchase an initial amount of USD15 million.Gold miner Acacia Mining reported a 51% increase in production in the second quarter of 2019 compared to the first quarter 2019, following successful implementation of its revised mining plan at North Mara site in Tanzania. Acacia, which last month rejected a takeover offer from major shareholder Barrick Gold, said gold production came in at 158,774 ounces for the second quarter.Acacia said it remains confident of achieving annual production within prior guidance of 500,000 to 550,000 ounces for the year.International Consolidated Airlines Group said it was disappointed that UK regulators had slapped a GBP183.4 million fine on British Airways following a data breach, with the FTSE 100 firm eyeing a potential appeal.In late 2018, IAG reported that 244,000 British Airways customers had been affected by the data breach which saw data including name, billing address, email address and card details stolen.On Monday, IAG said the UK Information Commissioner's Office had informed the airline group - which also owns Aer Lingus in Ireland and Iberia and Vueling in Spain - it intends to issue British Airways with a GBP183.4 million fine. This is equivalent to 1.5% of the 2017 turnover at BA.Willie Walsh, International Airlines Group chief executive said: "British Airways will be making representations to the ICO in relation to the proposed fine. We intend to take all appropriate steps to defend the airline's position vigorously, including making any necessary appeals."Elsewhere in the travel sector, Franco-Dutch airline group Air France-KLM said its passenger numbers and load factor both improved in June helped by shorter flights from its Dutch KLM arm.In June, total passengers carried rose 3.4% to 9.7 million from 9.3 million the year prior. The load factor - the number of passengers as a proportion of seats available - improved to 90.7% in June from 89.3% the year before.The pound was quoted at USD1.2530 early Monday, up from USD1.2496 late Friday.In political news, Boris Johnson has pledged to get the UK "match fit for no deal" to ensure it can leave the EU on October 31 "come what may".The Tory leadership frontrunner said there would be "no second chances" as he stressed that Halloween was a real deadline, "not a fake one" - a comment aimed at his rival Jeremy Hunt.Johnson's commitment to stick to the deadline comes after he was warned that more than 30 Tories could rebel to block a no-deal Brexit if he tried to force it through Parliament.Writing on the BrexitCentral website, Johnson took aim at Hunt, who referred to October 31 as a "fake deadline" - before later admitting he should have described his rival's commitment to leave on that date as a "fake promise".

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