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FTSE 100 Live 25 April: Index closes at record high again despite US GDP disappointment, £31bn takeover move

FTSE 100 Live 25 April: Index closes at record high again despite US GDP disappointment, £31bn takeover move

A £31 billion takeover pursuit and some robust blue-chip updates helped to boost the FTSE 100 index today.

Anglo American, whose interests include De Beers and the giant Woodsmith polyhalite project in North Yorkshire, is the target of Australia’s BHP.

Meanwhile, shares in Barclays, AstraZeneca and Unilever performed strongly after their first quarter updates. Sainsbury’s also posted annual results.

FTSE 100 Live Thursday

  • Anglo American gets £31bn bid approach

  • FTSE 100 surges on strong Q1 updates

  • Sainsbury's claims market share boost

NatWest in focus tomorrow ahead of 'tell Sid' share sale

Thursday 25 April 2024 17:41 , Daniel O'Boyle

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NatWest will be in focus tomorrow morning, in what could be the bank’s last update before the Treasury’s retail sale of its remaining share

Trading updates

NatWest, Pearson, Smurfit Kappa

US Results

Exxon, Chevron

Economics

Bank of Japan rate call

Monthly insolvency statistics

Greek energy firm Mytilineos 'highly likely' to move €5bn listing to London Stock Exchange in huge City boost

Thursday 25 April 2024 17:27 , Daniel O'Boyle

The City could get a much-needed boost as €5bn Greek energy firm Mytilineos set out plans to consider moving its stock listing from Athens to an international exchange, and the London Stock Exchange is the front runner.

Mytilineos currently sells its shares in Athens, where it is the seventh-largest listed business. But today the energy giant, which employs 6,500 people worldwide, launched a strategic review on how to “drive value” for shareholders.

The review, it said, could result in a change in where the business is listed. It singled out the London Stock Exchange as a possible new destination, and the Standard understands that it is highly likely to choose the City.

Read more here

Another record FTSE close

Thursday 25 April 2024 16:39 , Daniel O'Boyle

The FTSE 100 closed at another record today, at 8,078.86, despite taking a hit from disappointing US GDP figures.

London’s top flight has closed at a record high three times this week, and hit an intraday high in each of the last three days. Today it topped 8100 for the first time, just before weaker than expected growth numbers from the US.

Bid target Anglo American was the top risers, while Unilever and AstraZeneca were among the firms seeing results-day surges.

Almost $200bn wiped of Meta's value as markets balk at Zuckerberg's AI spending plans

Thursday 25 April 2024 14:45 , Daniel O'Boyle

Almost $200 billion was wiped off of Facebook and Instagram owner Meta’s market cap today, as the firm’s AI spending plans alarmed investors.

The social media giant reported its first quarter results last night, after US markets closed. Its results for the three-month period beat expectations, but traders looked past those strong numbers and focussed on forward spending guidance.

The business founded by Mark Zuckerberg forecast capital expenditure between $35 billion and $40 billion, with much of the spend on AI. Zuckerberg’s comments on an earnings call, where he said the length of the AI investment cycle is two years, failed to calm markets.

Read more here

LSEG CEO's £13m pay approved

Thursday 25 April 2024 14:06 , Daniel O'Boyle

LSEG shareholders backed CEO David Schwimmer’s huge pay packet at the company’s AGM today.

The boss of the firm which owns the London Stock Exchange - but makes most of its money as a data business - will see his maximum pay double to £13 million.

That will put him among the very highest-paid bosses in the City, behind AstraZeneca’s Pascal Soriot.

Proxy advisory firm Glass Lewis told shareholders to reject the plan, but the revolt ended up being quite minor. Nearly 89% of votes were cast in support of the pay deal.

London shares fall on weaker US GDP

Thursday 25 April 2024 13:57 , Daniel O'Boyle

The FTSE 100 has fallen back from record levels after the disappointing US GDP reading.

London’s top flight had been above the 8100 mark before the data, but dropped to 8065 as first-quarter figures were well off expectations.

That would still be a record close, and up 0.3% for the day.

GDP slowdown 'unlikely to shift Fed's policy outlook'

Thursday 25 April 2024 13:54 , Daniel O'Boyle

Michael Brown, Senior Research Strategist at Pepperstone, says: “The Q1 US GDP report somewhat puts a 'cat among the pigeons' in terms of the US economic outlook, with cooler than expected growth, below 2% annualised QoQ for the first time in seven quarters, and hotter than expected inflation, being something of a potent mix for the FOMC to have to contend with.

“The data, however, is unlikely to materially shift the policy outlook, with a data-dependent 'wait and see' approach still set to be taken, as policymakers continue to seek confidence that inflation is indeed returning towards the 2% target. Nevertheless, while markets have reacted in a knee-jerk hawkish manner (equity & bond downside, USD upside), context is as always key, with this data not only pointing to continued US economic outperformance vs. DM peers, but the data also likely to be revised significantly in coming months. In any case, the near-term implication is to point the balance of risks in favour of a hotter than expected March core PCE print tomorrow, likely in the region of 0.4%-0.5% MoM.”

US GDP slowdown 'may be the prequel' to Fed rate cuts

Thursday 25 April 2024 13:41 , Daniel O'Boyle

Commenting on today’s US GDP reading, Richard Flynn, Managing Director at Charles Schwab UK, said: “Today’s figures show that the economy has grown less than what was expected. Robust economic data in areas such as manufacturing and the job market have set market predictions for GDP on an upward trajectory for the past few weeks, the numbers released today indicate that spectators may have jumped the gun with these estimates.

“Looking ahead, we might expect to see these figures temper the bullish narrative that pushed the market to record highs in the first few months of this year. But for inflation, today’s report may be a more positive signal. High levels of economic activity also keep inflation elevated and to cut interest rates, the Fed is awaiting substantial evidence that inflation is trending lower. While today’s report might not be the full story that the Fed is looking for, it may be the prequel.”

US GDP disappoints

Thursday 25 April 2024 13:32 , Daniel O'Boyle

US GDP growth came in well below expectations, at 1.6% annualised for the first quarter of the year.

Economists had expected growth of 2.5%.

The surprisingly slowdown may encourage the Fed to cut rates sooner than previously thought.

US GDP imminent

Thursday 25 April 2024 13:18 , Daniel O'Boyle

US first-quarter GDP figures will be published in 10 minutes, as markets will see whether the surprising resilience of the world’s largest economy has continued.

GDP is expected to have risen by 2.5% on an annualised basis over the three months, a slowdown compared to the end of 2023, but still stronger than the UK’s expected “rebound”.

Stronger figures may push back the expected timing of the first rate cut from the Federal Reserve, while weaker figures may push it forward.

WH Smith says shift to ‘one-stop shop’ travel destination paying off

Thursday 25 April 2024 12:39 , Daniel O'Boyle

WH Smith has seen its shift to being a “one-stop shop” for travel essentials pay off, as it plots more store openings across train stations, airports and hospitals.

Chief executive Carl Cowling said the business was in its “strongest ever position as a global travel retailer”, with the UK travel business increasing its trading profit by nearly a fifth.

Total group revenues were 8% higher in the six months to the end of February, compared with the previous year.

Read more here

Mining mega-deal may add to multi-billion pound exodus from London Stock Exchange

Thursday 25 April 2024 12:07 , Daniel O'Boyle

A shock proposal for a mega-merger in the mining sector raised the prospect of one of the biggest City deals in years today, and brought with it the threat of the FTSE 100 losing one of its largest companies.

Anglo American, the metals multinational, was at the centre of a £31 billion approach from BHP of Australia, which scrapped its own London listing in 2021.

The deal would bring Anglo’s copper production in Chile and Peru under the control of the antipodean giant, already biggest miner in the world. Demand is expected to soar, as copper drives the transition away from fossil fuels via increased electrification.

Read more here

AstraZeneca's £18.7m boss Soriot bounces back as pharma giant reveals 18% sales growth

Thursday 25 April 2024 11:42 , Daniel O'Boyle

The top-paid boss on the FTSE 100, AstraZeneca’s Pascal Soriot, bounced back today from the row over his salary, as the pharma giant revealed sales grew by a fifth in the first three months of the year.

Soriot came under fire this month for his £18.7 million pay packet, with more than a third of votes at Astra’s AGM opposing the bumper salary. The High Pay Centre called his compensation “excessive”.

But the strong growth announced today may put questions over the eight-figure salary to rest.

Read more here

Wizz Air says prices "trending higher" this summer

Thursday 25 April 2024 10:36 , Daniel O'Boyle

Low-cost airline Wizz Air said today prices for Summer getaways are “trending higher” and its flights are set to be closer to full capacity, as travel demand continues to grow.

Profit for the year to 31 March 2024 is set to be between €350 million and €370 million (£300 million - £317 million), and the higher prices and load factors should mean more growth in the year ahead.

Boss József Váradi said: "This year we have seen a continuation of the surge in passenger demand for air travel that began immediately after the pandemic.”

Wizz resumed flights to Israel last month, but it says it “is following the security situation there closely”.

The shares gained 110p to 2224p this morning.

FTSE 100 hits new record as Anglo American and Barclays surge

Thursday 25 April 2024 10:24 , Graeme Evans

The FTSE 100 index today hit a new intraday record of 8102, fuelled by the mining takeover talk and positive reception to blue-chip results.

The top flight later settled 0.7% or 57.51 points higher at 8097.89, considerably better than the performance of the FTSE 250 and benchmarks in Europe.

Anglo American shares rose 13% after it disclosed a takeover proposal by BHP, while AstraZeneca, Unilever and Barclays are up by more than 4%.

Barclays jumped 9.8p to a two-year high of 200.9p as the bank’s UK retail operation reported first quarter profits 12% ahead of City forecasts.

The group-wide figure dropped 12% to £2.3 billion but this was 4% above expectations, despite pressure in investment banking.

Chief executive C. S. Venkatakrishnan used February’s annual results to set out new three-year targets under a strategy to make Barclays “simpler, better and more balanced.”

Investors have warmed to his plan so far, particularly with interest rates likely to stay elevated for longer this year. Shares are up more than 30% in the past three months, with broker Peel Hunt among those seeing further upside.

The FTSE 250 index was barely changed at 19,270.84 but Wizz Air and Travis Perkins rallied 3% after trading updates.

WPP says 50,000 staff now work with AI - revenue dips again

Thursday 25 April 2024 10:24 , Daniel O'Boyle

Marketing behemoth WPP hopes a partnership between humans and robots will lead to a turnaround in its fortunes, as it said 50,000 of its staff now use AI-powered tools.

The business has struggled in the past year as American tech clients have pulled back on spend. Revenue was down another 5% to £2.7 billion in the first three months of 2024.

WPP revealed plans last year to cut hundreds of millions in costs and up its focus on AI, but today’s update suggests it sees the technology supporting, not replacing, staff.

The shares lost another 9.6p to 794p. They’re down 16% in the last year.

Battle for Hipgnosis hots up

Thursday 25 April 2024 09:44 , Simon Hunt

The battle to take control of Hipgnosis Songs Fund went up a gear today after the firm said it had reached an agreement to be acquired by US-based royalties investor Concord at an increased offer of $1.25 per share, valuing it at $1.5 billion.

The new offer edged ahead of a proposal made by Blackstone over the weekend to buy the music rights group for $1.24 per share, which was itself an attempt to frustrate an earlier offer by Concord.

But Blackstone today indicated it was not yet ready to give up on its bid. Responding to the fresh announcement, the firm said it “strongly advises Hipgnosis shareholders to take no action and is considering its options.”

Persimmon order book up in housing market rebound

Thursday 25 April 2024 08:30 , Daniel O'Boyle

Housebuilder Persimmon’s order book grew to £1.75 billion in the three months to 31 March, with average prices up 6%, in a sign of a housing market rebound.

The business said its average private selling price grew to £283,000.

CEO Dean Finch said: "Persimmon has had a good start to the year and is on track to deliver growth in completions to between 10,000-10,500 for the full year. Our first quarter performance was in line with expectations, and we saw an improvement in sales rates alongside firm pricing. Trading over recent weeks has been encouraging with robust visitor numbers and enquiries, giving us confidence for the remainder of the year.

“Overall, our private forward order book is up 18% on the prior year with the embedded private average selling price ahead of the position at the start of the year.

“We are making good progress in expanding our outlet network and we will continue to position the business for success, maintaining our focus on quality and customer service, and converting our land holdings into active developments.”

Unilever targets higher margins as transformation continues

Thursday 25 April 2024 08:16 , Daniel O'Boyle

Unilever is targeting higher margins as boss Hein Schumacher continues to try to transform the business, as sales grew by 4.4% in the first quarter.

The growth was driven by the consumer goods giant’s “power brands”, like Dove and Knorr, which grew by 6.1%.

The growth was split evenly between price increases and higher volumes.

Schumacher announced plans to cut 7500 jobs and spin-off ice cream business earlier this year.

Today he said: “We are implementing the Growth Action Plan at speed, focused on three clear priorities: delivering higher-quality growth, creating a simpler and more productive business, and embedding a strong performance focus. This is underpinned by our commitment to do fewer things, better and with greater impact.”

Looking ahead, the business said it expects gross margins to continue to improve.

The shares are up 4.1% to 4023p.

Anglo American shares jump 12%, FTSE 100 higher on strong updates

Thursday 25 April 2024 08:10 , Graeme Evans

The potential mining industry consolidation has boosted the FTSE 100 index, which has outperformed hopes with a rise of 0.6% or 49.80 points to 8090.18.

Anglo American shares opened 12% or 269.5p higher to 2474.5p, which compares with the 2508p proposed by BHP.

First quarter updates also helped the mood as Barclays rose 4.9p to 196p, AstraZeneca surged 5% or 592p to 11,944p and Unilever lifted by 4% or 150.11p to 4013.1p.

Sainsbury’s fell 4p to 264p after its annual results.

Sainsbury says it is grabbing market share from Aldi and Lidl

Thursday 25 April 2024 08:02 , Simon English

Sainsbury hailed its focus on food under CEO Simon Roberts and said it is taking market share from rivals including Aldi and Lidl at the cheaper end of the market and Waitrose at the top. Profit for the year to March are up 1.6% to £701 million

In a swipe at the German discount giants, it dubbed them “limited choice grocers” and said it was winning back customers from both Aldi and Lidl thanks to price matching promises.

CEO Simon Roberts: “We said we’d put food back at the heart of Sainsbury’s and that’s what we’ve done. Our food business is firing on all cylinders.”

The City thinks his next task is to get the general merchandise arm – clothes and homewares – growing as well as the food business.

Overall sales for the year grew 3.4% to £36.3 billion. The dividend is held at 13.1p.

The bank arm slumped somewhat, with profits down from £46 million to £29 million. It said this was down to the “impact of higher funding costs from increased interest rates not being fully passed on to customers”.

Roberts added: “The business has real momentum and we’re excited by our goal of making good food joyful, accessible and affordable for everyone, every day.”

He added: “We have the best combination of value and quality in the market and that’s winning us customers from all our key competitors, driving consistent volume market share growth as more customers choose us for their weekly shop and all their special occasions.

“We’ve done that by relentlessly investing in price; £780 million over the past three years.

Sainsbury shares open today at 268p. They are down more than 4% this year.

BHP says offer for Anglo American values it at £31.1 billion

Thursday 25 April 2024 07:56 , Michael Hunter

BHP, the world’s biggest mining company, said its bid for Anglo American values the London-listed firm at £31.1 billion.

A such mega merger would be the largest transaction in the sector in years.

BHP said the total valuation of the deal prices Anglo’s shares at 2508p. The stock closed at 2205p yesterday, leaving its market valuation at around £29 billion.

Anglo said today it was”reviewing” the proposal, calling it “unsolicited, non-binding and highly conditional”.

Anglo American confirms BHP bid interest

Thursday 25 April 2024 07:39 , Graeme Evans

Anglo American confirmed last night that it is considering an all-share offer by BHP but did not disclose the price on the table from its Sydney-based rival.

It did reveal, however, that the proposal is first dependent on it completing separate demergers of its South Africa-listed platinum and iron ore operations to Anglo shareholders.

The deadline for BHP to confirm its takeover intentions is 22 May.

Anglo shares hit a three-year low of below 1700p in December amid disappointment over its near-term guidance in a strategy presentation to City investors. They opened today at 2205p.

Hargreaves Lansdown head of money and markets Susannah Streeter said: “Anglo American’s share price is down around 10% compared to a year ago, which is likely to have helped spark the offer.

“The premium offered by overseas buyers swooping on London-listed firms is seen as evidence that UK assets are still cheap, having been languishing as a result of the Brexit-effect and the sluggish performance of the UK economy.”

Meta shares slide on spending guidance

Thursday 25 April 2024 07:27 , Graeme Evans

Shares in Facebook owner Meta Platforms fell 15% in after-hours trading yesterday, despite first quarter earnings slightly ahead of expectations.

The sell-off was driven by disappointing guidance for the current quarter, as well as the company’s increased spending expectations for the year after it forecast capital expenditure between $35 billion and $40 billion.

Deutsche Bank said: “All this led to what was in many ways a mirror image of the reaction to Tesla’s results the day before, with Meta’s outlook disappointing relative to lofty expectations that had seen its shares rise 39.4% year-to-date.”

FTSE 100 set to hold firm, Anglo American in focus after BHP bid interest

Thursday 25 April 2024 07:13 , Graeme Evans

Anglo American shares are likely to surge after the London-listed mining giant confirmed it was reviewing a takeover proposal from Australia’s BHP.

Anglo’s interests include copper, platinum group metals, De Beers diamonds and the Woodsmith polyhalite fertiliser mine project in North Yorkshire.

It is valued at about £30 billion, having risen 13% in the past month.

The FTSE 100, meanwhile, is forecast to open broadly flat in line with the subdued performance for Wall Street benchmarks last night.

The lacklustre trading patterns reflected caution ahead of this afternoon’s US GDP reading and after Facebook owner Meta Platforms disappointed with its cost guidance in results after last night’s closing bell.

Meta’s shares slumped 15% in extended hours trading.

Recap: Yesterday's top stories

Thursday 25 April 2024 06:50 , Simon Hunt

Good morning from the Standard City desk.

Experts have long predicted a flood of bankers and other City professionals out of London to rival centres such as Frankfurt and Geneva. Funnily enough it never happens.

Sure, a handful will make the move to the plains of central Germany, or be drawn by the delights of life beside Lac Léman. But not many. Meanwhile, the number of people working in the City just grows and grows.

And the results of a survey published yesterday go a long way towards explaining why.

Among the global workforce — the people running big businesses and financial institutions — London remains top dog.The study, conducted by Boston Consulting Group,

The Network, and The Stepstone Group, surveyed more than 150,000 respondents from 188 countries who were asked to rank their top 10 most desirable cities for work.

London came out number one, as it has ever since the first survey 10 years ago, ahead of Amsterdam, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and New York. Poor old Paris did not make the top 10 and the next best placed British city is Edinburgh on 53rd.

Such a consistent performance in a large-scale survey suggests that London, for all its faults, has something profoundly attractive to offer. It’s not the weather.

Here’s a summary of our top stories from yesterday: