(Alliance News) - The following is a summary of top news stories Friday.
Phoenix Group said Chief Executive Clive Bannister will retire on March 10 next year after nine years of service. The FTSE 100-listed insurance services provider said Bannister will be succeeded by Andy Briggs, who will join the business as CEO-designate at the start of 2020 in order to "effect a smooth handover". Briggs was the chief executive officer of UK Insurance at London-headquartered Aviva until earlier this year. Prior to that he served as CEO of insurer Friends Life, which is also a part of Aviva. He also was managing director of life insurance & pensions firm Scottish Widows, a subsidiary of Lloyds Banking Group, and CEO of the Retirement Income division at Prudential.
Standard Chartered has cut the pension allowance for Chief Executive Officer Bill Winters and Chief Financial Officer Andy Halford, following discussions with shareholders after the annual general meeting in May. At the AGM, 37% of shareholders voted against the resolution to approve the Asia-focused bank's remuneration report, while all other resolutions were passed with 90% or higher votes in favour. Following discussions with dissenting shareholders, the Committee has made several changes to the remuneration of certain executive directors. This includes changing the contractual terms for Winters and Halford, reducing their pension allowance from 20% of salary from 10% of salary with effect from the start of 2020. Winters's pension allowance will be reduced by 50% to GBP237,000 from GBP474,000, while Chief Halford's pension allowance will also be cut by 50% to GBP147,000 from GBP294,000. This marks a reduction of 8% in fixed pay and will align their pension arrangement with UK employees. Both Winters and Halford have accepted the changes, the bank said. StanChart said it will continue to pay executive directors' salaries as a mixture of cash and shares, of which the share-based component is released over five years.
International Consolidated Airlines Group cut its annual earnings per share growth forecast for the three years from 2020 to 2022 due to planned lower passenger capacity growth. The Anglo-Spanish airline holding company now expects average EPS growth of 10% per annum for the three years, compared with 12% per annum estimated previously. The company attributed the EPS cut to lower capacity - which is measured in available seat per kilometre - growth, which is now predicted to be 3.4% per annum, compared with around 6% per annum estimated previously for 2019 to 2023. In addition, IAG said that October traffic, measured in revenue passenger kilometres, increased by 4.8% to 24.9 million from 23.8 million a year ago. Year-to-date traffic increased 5.6% to 241.6 million revenue passenger kilometres. October capacity, measured in available seat kilometres, increased by 2.7% year-on-year to 29.4 million from 28.6 million. IAG carried 10.4 million passengers in October versus 10.0 million a year ago. Load factor increased to 85.0% from 83.3%
Beazley posted a 12% increase in year-to-date gross premiums due to double-digit premium growth across its business, driven by organic growth and rate rises across several business lines. The company, however, warned that increased storm insurance claims will hit its 2019 combined ratio, a key profitability measure for insurers. Beazley expects a combined ratio of between 100% and 102% for 2019, assuming normalised claims levels for the remainder of the year. In 2018, the company's combined ratio was 98%. A ratio below 100% indicates that the company is making an underwriting profit, while a ratio above 100% means that it is paying out more money in claims that it is receiving from premiums. The company estimates typhoons Faxai and Hagibis in Japan and hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas to result in USD80 million of claims. For the nine months to September 30, Beazley recorded gross premiums of USD2.19 billion versus USD1.99 billion a year before. Year-to-date investment return stood at 4.0% versus 0.5%.
Stocks in the US were pointed to a broadly lower open, following the mixed close in Asia and subdued trading in Europe, with the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite both seen down 0.1%, and the Dow 30 flat, as investors cooled on prospects for global trade developments.
FTSE 100: down 0.3% at 7,386.66
FTSE 250: down 0.3% at 20,376.56
AIM ALL-SHARE: marginally lower at 893.63
GBP: lower at USD1.2809 (USD1.2823)
EUR: lower at USD1.1033 (USD1.1045)
GOLD: lower at USD1,466.30 per ounce (USD1,467.40)
OIL (Brent): lower at USD61.36 a barrel (USD62.51)
(changes since previous London equities close)
ECONOMICS AND GENERAL
Outgoing European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is confident that US President Donald Trump will not impose tariffs on the automotive industry in the coming days as threatened, according to the German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung. Trump has threatened to impose tariffs on EU automotive industry exports this month if the two sides fail to strike a trade deal. Such a move would hit Germany in particular due to its large car manufacturing sector. There is currently a 2.5% tariff on cars imported into the US from the EU. Trump has said he could raise this to 25%. "Trump will grumble a bit, but there will be no car tariffs," Juncker told the newspaper, adding: "You are speaking to a fully informed man."
German exports increased in September at a faster rate than imports, data from Destatis showed, leading to a better-than-forecast surplus. German exports increased 4.6% year-on-year in September to EUR114.2 billion, while imports grew 2.3% to EUR93.0 billion. Germany recorded a surplus of EUR21.1 billion in September. A year ago, the country posted a surplus of EUR18.2 billion. Consensus, according to FXStreet, was for a calendar and seasonally adjusted surplus of EUR18.1 billion.
UK employers are continuing to stall on hiring staff amid continued uncertainty over Brexit and the forthcoming general election, a new study suggests. Workers are also becoming increasingly "nervous" about making a career change, according to the Recruitment & Employment Confederation. Its survey among 400 recruitment agencies found there was a fall in permanent staff appointments last month, while pay continued to increase as fewer candidates were available. The rate of growth in job vacancies was the slowest since the start of 2012, with demand for workers in the public sector said to be falling.
China's foreign trade continued to fall in October compared to the same period last year, according to official data, as the trade war with the US weighs on the giant Asian economy. Exports dropped 0.9% from last October to USD212.9 billion, while imports plunged 6.4% to USD170.1 billion, according to customs data released on Friday. The declines were, however, smaller than analysts had expected.
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