FTSE 100 Live January 20: Nasdaq in correction territory, China lowers its lending rate, shares of Unilever and AB Foods in the spotlight

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Shell boss slams Dutch emissions decision as ‘tough blow’

Shell CEO Ben van Beurden described a court ruling in The Hague ordering faster and deeper cuts in the company’s carbon emissions as a “crushing blow”.

In remarks likely to spark controversy among environmental activists, he said: “I was listening at home while the judge delivered her verdict. It was like a body shot.

“I found it deeply disturbing that Shell, as a single company, should be held accountable for how the world produces and uses energy.”

Read the full story.

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Unilever/Glaxo: a “near-death experience”

Unilever shares are on the mend after CEO Alan Jope’s £50billion bid for GlaxoSmithKline’s toothpaste and painkiller piece disappeared.

Fund manager Fundsmith, who holds the 13th stake (certainly bringing bad luck to one of them), is relieved.

In an ‘autopsy’ to investors, Terry Smith writes: “It now appears that Unilever’s attempt to buy the GSK Consumer business is now thankfully dead rather than the value of our investment in Unilever. “

There’s plenty more where this came from, and as always, well worth reading.

Unilever is hovering around the 3670p level today, up sharply from earlier this week, but still well off the 4000p mark where it has lingered for the six months up to this episode.

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Well, no surprises

A broadly flat update from Ladbrokes and Coral owner Entain was met with a general shrug from investors.

The gaming giant’s shares are drifting just below the 1,714p opening price as a 60% rebound in trading at its empire of 2,700 UK betting shops was offset by a 9% drop in revenue in line in the fourth quarter.

The decline follows 23 straight quarters of double-digit online growth, putting it against strong comparisons from 2021, when bored punters shoved their way through the winter lockdown.

Entain increased its full-year underlying profit to £875-885m from a previous forecast of £850-900m.

The bookmaker, run by Jette Nygaard-Andersen after Shay Segev’s surprise departure to sports streamer DAZN in June, had two takeover approaches last year.

Its US joint venture partner MGM saw an £8bn move pushed back, before US betting giant DraftKings backed out of an £16bn approach in October.

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Retail and hospitality executives were today pinning their hopes on the return of office workers to boost trade after the government scrapped work-from-home councils.

CEOs and industry groups cheered the end of Plan B restrictions, but many said companies were still on edge.

Clive Watson, chairman of the City Pub Group, told The Standard: “Getting Britain back to work, so to speak, is absolutely vital for hospitality. Many companies, including ours, rely on people returning to their offices and coming to London. It’s really a key factor moving forward.

It came as trade figures underlined the setback suffered by businesses after Plan B restrictions were introduced.

City Pub Group, which has branches in London and the South East, said working from home saw December sales fall to 85% of pre-pandemic levels.

Revolution Bars said Plan B restrictions meant Christmas sales were down 23% from pre-pandemic levels. CEO Rob Pitcher attacked the government’s “confusing” message, but said the end of the restrictions was “very welcome for our business and will actively help restore consumer confidence”.

Read the full story.

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Premier Foods has updated its full-year profit forecast after its Mr Kipling cake brand had its “best Christmas ever”.

Sales rose 7% in the third quarter, or 7.3% from pre-pandemic levels. International sales in the 13 weeks to January 1 are up 33% from two years ago.

CEO Alex Whitehouse said: ‘It was Mr Kipling’s biggest Christmas as our Sweet Treats brands outperformed the market, growing 6.3% year over year and 11.6% compared to two years ago, helped by an increased number of family gatherings during the holiday season. .”

Read the full story.

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PensionBee double in size

PensionBee doubled in size after its first year on the stock exchange.

The leading online pensions provider said its revenue rose 103% last year to £13million. Assets under management increased by 91% to £2.6 billion.

PensionBee said it has expanded its customer base “over the broadest demographic of 18-80” and has a customer retention rate of over 95%.

PensionBee recently launched a ‘fossil fuel free’ pension scheme aimed at appealing to millennials and CEO Romi Savova said it was ‘particularly popular with this demographic because your pension can do wonders for the environment’ .

Savova said the company had “about doubled in size every year” since its inception in 2014. The company went public nearly a year ago in April 2021, with shares offered at 165p.

Following today’s earnings announcement, PensionBee’s share price jumped 8.20p, or 6.45%, to 135.30p

Read more.

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Christmas cheer eases share price pain at Deliveroo

Deliveroo had a strong end to 2021 as the momentum of its tie-up with Amazon continued.

The takeaway app said today that the total value of orders on its platform rose 33% to £1.7 billion in the last quarter of 2021. Performance was driven by particularly strong growth in the UK. The strength of the final months of 2021 saw gross deal value for the full year increase by 70% to £6.6bn.

CEO and founder Will Shu told Standard that the fourth quarter “capped off a very good year”, adding: “We performed very well during the pandemic.”

Deliveroo said it was on track to meet previous profit margin guidance of between 7.5% and 7.75%. The shares, which have more than halved since listing last year, rose 5p, or 2.6%, to 175p. The shares were sold at 390p in last March’s IPO, with around 70,000 retail investors buying into the float.

Read the full story.

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Jobs will disappear at Primark, but UK confidence set to soar, bosses say

AROUND 400 store management positions are up for grabs at Primark as the company moves to “simplify” its operations.

The parent company ABF is in consultation with the personnel concerned – it employs 29,000 people in total.

The news came as Primark reported sales up 36% in the quarter ending January, compared to a year ago. Sales are however down 11% on a like-for-like basis compared to two years ago.

Retail analyst Nick Bubb said: “Primark was again hurt by the return to online spending during the Omicron surge, but its stores are still popular shopping spots.”

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