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FTSE 100 Live: Shares close flat, private equity in £1.3bn swoop, Halifax house prices up

FTSE 100 Live (Evening Standard)
FTSE 100 Live (Evening Standard)

The UK house market continues to show signs of resilience after the lender Halifax reported average prices rose for the second month in a row, up 0.5% in November.

In corporate developments, shares in magazine publisher Future and Warhammer firm Games Workshop have fallen sharply following their updates.

Traders also focused on another private equity takeover deal after KKR revealed a £1.3 billion swoop on Glasgow-based Smart Metering Systems.

FTSE 100 Live Thursday

  • Smart Metering Systems in £1.3bn takeover

  • House prices up for second month in row

  • Games Workshop pays £2k staff bonus, shares fall

FTSE closes flat

Thursday 7 December 2023 16:36 , Daniel O'Boyle

The FTSE 100 finished the day flat at 7,513.72, despite an early fall.

The index was down for most of the morning but rallied in the afternoon.

Hotels giant IHG was the top riser, while Vodafone was the biggest faller

Admiral agrees deal to buy RSA’s More Than insurance business

Thursday 7 December 2023 16:01 , Daniel O'Boyle

Admiral has agreed to buy the More Than personal home and pet cover business from RSA Insurance in a deal worth up to £115 million.

Car insurer Admiral will buy the UK personal insurance operations and More Than brand from RSA for £82.5 million upfront and a further potential £32.5 million depending on how many policies ultimately transfer over.

Around 300 RSA staff will transfer to Admiral as part of the deal, which will see the group take on the renewal rights to about £165 million of annual premiums.

Cardiff-headquartered Admiral said it plans to only retain the More Than brand for pet insurance.

Read more here

Square Mile in record year for retrofit planning applications, with more 'green' buildings on the way

Thursday 7 December 2023 15:15 , Daniel O'Boyle

A record number of retrofit planning applications have been approved in the Square Mile in 2023, with a host of landlords looking to make building projects more environmentally-friendly.

The City of London Corporation said there were 17 major retrofit planning applications it approved in the year to date. It added that will amount to tens of thousands of tons of carbon being saved in the City’s built environment sector, which is responsible for around 40% of its total emissions.

The update came as senior officials attend COP28 to share with business and world leaders how it will reach its net-zero goals.

A retrofitting approach aims to promote material reuse and refurbishment of existing properties rather than a major redevelopment or full demolition.

Read more here

Market snapshot: FTSE 100 rallies

Thursday 7 December 2023 13:23 , Daniel O'Boyle

Take a look at our market snapshot as the FTSE 100 rebounds

New rules to help maintain cash access set out by FCA

Thursday 7 December 2023 12:26 , Daniel O'Boyle

New rules requiring banks and building societies to assess and plug gaps in local cash provision have been proposed by the City regulator.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has set out the plans to help maintain reasonable access to cash for people and businesses across the UK.

The FCA said its new powers will not prevent bank branches from closing – but the rules will have an impact where branches are a key local source of cash.

The plans follow new powers granted to the regulator by the Financial Services and Markets Act 2023.

Read more here

Long-serving FTSE 100 CEO Miles Roberts wraps up career at packaging firm DS Smith

Thursday 7 December 2023 12:11 , Daniel O'Boyle

One of the longest-serving FTSE 100 chief executives announced plans to retire today, adding to a trend for a high turnover of top executives in 2023.

Miles Roberts is wrapping up a 13-year spell in charge of the packaging giant DS Smith, which has a market value of £4.1 billion. He will leave no later than 30 November 2025 and will stay on while the company finds a successor.

The longest serving FTSE 100 CEO is Simon Wolfson at clothing retailer Next, who has been in the top job since May 2001. Other stalwarts at the top of the UK's most valuable firms include Tim Steiner at Ocado, who has led the online grocer and e-commerce platform since January 2022. George Weston has run Associated British Foods since April 2005, while Rob Perrins has been in charge at Berkeley Homes since September 2009.

But a total of 18 CEOs have handed in their notice at FTSE 100 firms this year, with almost a month still go, a high number by historic standards according to AJ Bell.

Read more here

IAG and Burberry among FTSE 100 fallers, Vertu slides on used car warning

Thursday 7 December 2023 10:30 , Graeme Evans

Shares in FTSE 250-listed Future, whose portfolio includes the comparison site GoCompare as well as Marie Claire and Country Life, have fallen 18% or 137p to their lowest level in nearly five years at 615p.

The slide came after Bath-based Future reported a 6% drop in annual operating profits to £256.4 million, fuelled by a 19% fall in revenues in the United States. It forecast a return to overall sales growth in the second half of next year.

In contrast, Harry Potter publisher Bloomsbury rose 7% or 29p to 451p after it raised full-year profit guidance on the back of “exceptionally strong trading” in its consumer division. The success has been driven by the popularity of titles by Sarah J. Maas.

The Future performance contributed to a decline of 0.6% or 115.89 points to 18,550.84 for the FTSE 250 index, whereas London’s top flight held firm at 7497.14, down 18.24 points.

The biggest blue-chip faller was British Airways owner IAG, off 5p to 156.9p after JP Morgan’s gloomy note on the sector included a big downgrade on Air France-KLM.

Other strugglers included Asia-focused Prudential and Burberry, down 10.4p to 873.6p and 18.5p to 1495.5p after China’s disappointing import figures fuelled worries about consumer demand.

Traders also steered clear of Auto Trader shares in the wake of a profit warning by AIM-listed car dealership Vertu Motors.

The company, which has 195 sales and aftersales outlets in the UK, reported a “significant reduction” in the wholesale value of used vehicles during October and November.

Vertu shares fell 17.2p to 67.6p as it cut its guidance for profits in the year to the end of February, while car retail portal Auto Trader lost 2.8p to 734.2p.

Meanwhile, AIM traders toasted the debut session of Chapel Down by sending shares in England’s largest winemaker up 1.5p from their 53p starting point.

The Kent-based company, which has been AQSE listed for two decades, hopes the move to London’s junior stock market will encourage a wider pool of investors to back its growth.

Waitrose customers turn to ‘comfort foods’ chicken Kyiv and beer-battered fish

Thursday 7 December 2023 10:18 , Daniel O'Boyle

Waitrose customers turned to chicken Kyiv and beer-battered fish as they sought out familiar comfort food during the cost-of-living crisis, the supermarket has reported.

The two dishes were the most popular in the Dine In Meal Deal over the last year as customers became “a little less adventurous”, according to the Waitrose 10th annual food and drink report.

A third of UK adults (32%) have regularly eaten classic dishes such as shepherd’s pie and macaroni cheese, a survey for the supermarket found.

Read more here

Games Workshop pays out £2,000 staff bonus, but shares tumble on sales slowdown

Thursday 7 December 2023 09:17 , Daniel O'Boyle

Warhammer maker Games Workshop is to pay all its staff a £2,000 Christmas bonus as half-year profits rose to nearly £100 million.

The payout, a combined £7.5 million, is up from £1,500 per employee last year. It comes as profit grew by 12.4% to £94 million, on sales of £235 million.

But investors, who have become used to upgrades, were not impressed. Jefferies analysts Andrew Wade and Grace Gilberg flagged “markedly slower” growth in the second quarter.

The shares tumbled by as much as 13% to 9224p. That’s 21% off their July peak, but still up more than 200% over the last five years.

The bonus is almost enough for a fan of Games Workshop’s flagship — and famously expensive — Warhammer 40,000 tabletop game to build the two-foot tall Mars Pattern Warlord Titan and equip it with a pair of power claws and a set of laser blasters.

Sold in parts, the figurine costs £1,674.50 to assemble and paint. It’s the most pricey model listed on the Warhammer website, which describes the Titan as “among the most ancient and feared of the Imperium's war machines”.

Games Workshop retreats, Bloomsbury Publishing shares jump on update

Thursday 7 December 2023 08:45 , Graeme Evans

London’s FTSE 100 index is down by about 0.4% or 29.17 points to 7486.21, with shares in Asia-focused Prudential and Burberry down by around 2%.

Sports Direct owner Frasers Group featured on a shortened risers board as half-year results helped shares to lift 8.5p to 916.5p.

The FTSE 250 index fell 182.71 points to 18,484.02 as magazine publisher Future tumbled 18% or 132p to 620p in the wake of full-year results.

Warhammer firm Games Workshop also lost 10% of its value, off 1090p to 9510p, after its trading update revealed half-year profits will be not less than £94 million compared with £83.6 million the year before.

Among the small-caps, Vertu Motors shed a fifth of its value — down 17.3p to 67.5p — after the car dealership warned that full-year profits will be short of hopes due to lower used vehicle prices in October and November.

Bloomsbury Publishing moved the other way, up 8% or 32.9p to 454.9p after upgrading profit guidance for the year to the end of February.

Long-serving DS Smith CEO Miles Roberts to retire

Thursday 7 December 2023 07:57 , Michael Hunter

One of the longest-serving FTSE 100 chief executives is stepping down.

DS Smith announced the retirement today of Miles Roberts after 13 years at the helm of the packaging maker, which has a market value of £4.1 billion. He will leave no later than 30 November 2025.

An engineer in his early career, Roberts became an accountant and was previously the CEO of McBride.

Miles Roberts said: "I have enjoyed every moment of my career with DS Smith and it has been a pleasure to work with my colleagues and the Company's customers, suppliers and other stakeholders."

The longest serving FTSE 100 CEO is Simon Wolfson at clothing retailer Next, who has been in the top job since May 2001.

Watches of Switzerland says 'challenging' UK consumer sentiment hit sales

Thursday 7 December 2023 07:50 , Daniel O'Boyle

Watches of Switzerland says that the "consumer environment in the UK continues to be more challenging" as weaker performance in Britain offset much of the impact of strong US sales.

Group revenue for the six months to 29 October was £761 million, as sales rose in the US but declined in the UK and Europe.

CEO Brian Duffy said: “The consumer environment in the UK continues to be more challenging and UK and Europe revenue was -4% in the period, impacted by the timing of product intake in Q1 FY24 and temporary showroom closures for refurbishment.

“"Looking ahead, we are well positioned for a good holiday trading period as we present our clients with our strongest ever range of luxury watches and luxury branded jewellery. We remain on track to deliver full year guidance, with our confidence for H2 underpinned by the reopening of several high revenue showrooms which were closed for upgrade in H1.”

The business aims to double its sales and profits by 2028.

Smart Metering Systems in £1.3 billion deal with private equity giant KKR

Thursday 7 December 2023 07:42 , Michael Hunter

London-listed green power firm Smart Metering Systems is being bought by legendary private equity firm KKR in a £1.3 billion deal, one of the biggest of the year.

The 955p per share, all cash offer, backed by SMS's board, is at a premium of over 40% to SMS's closing share price yesterday.

AIM-listed SMS runs a range of carbon-reduction assets from smart meters to batteries and electric vehicle charging points and is one of the UK's leading green firms.

It was set up in Scotland in 1995 and its floated on the stock exchange in 2011.

KKR has a long history of dealmaking and is best known for its leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco in the late 1980s, then the largest ever deal of its kind.

It said today: "SMS, under private ownership, will be able to accelerate its growth and continued transition from a metering provider and grid-scale battery storage operator to a fully integrated, end-to-end energy infrastructure company which owns, installs and manages carbon reduction assets."

European shares seen lower, Nikkei 225 struggles

Thursday 7 December 2023 07:22 , Graeme Evans

European markets are set to fall after a poor session on Wall Street left the Nasdaq Composite 0.6% lower and S&P 500 index down by 0.4%.

In today’s Asia trading, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 was the worst performer due to speculation the Bank of Japan could end its negative interest rate policy later this month.

The Nikkei lost 1.7%, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index declined 1% in the wake of figures showing an unexpected fall in China imports last month.

Germany’s Dax closed at a fresh record last night as speculation of European Central Bank rate cuts in the early part of 2024 helped to extend its run of gains to seven session.

CMC Markets expects the Frankfurt benchmark to open 52 points lower at 16,604 today, with the FTSE 100 index down 29 points at 7486 after yesterday’s 0.3% rise.

On commodity markets, Brent Crude remains under pressure at a five-month low of $74.60 a barrel.

Halifax: House prices rise in November

Thursday 7 December 2023 07:14 , Daniel O'Boyle

House prices across the UK rose by 0.5% in November, according to Halifax, as the property market continues to defy expectations of a crash.

The average house price across the UK is £283,615.

Kim Kinnaird, director of Halifax Mortgages, said: "UK house prices rose for the second month in a row, up by +0.5% in November or £1,394 in cash terms, with the average house price now sitting at £283,615.

"Over the last year, despite the wider economic headwinds, property prices have held up better than expected, falling by a relatively modest -1.0% on an annual basis, and still some £40,000 above pre-pandemic levels."

Nationwide also reported rising house price sin November last week.

Recap: Yesterday's top stories

Thursday 7 December 2023 06:45 , Simon Hunt

Good morning. Here's a summary of our top headlines from yesterday:

  • In departure lounge: Tui considers delisting its London shares to “provide a clearer investment profile under a single listing” - profits grow beyond €1bn in three months to 30 September, says Middle East conflict only led to “ temporary slight slowing” of bookings in region

  • But…..London remains biggest tech unicorn hotspot in Europe but other cities are catching up, new report finds. The city has become the biggest 'founder factory' with the likes of Revolut, Monzo and Wise together generating more than 100 unicorn spin-offs.

  • British American Tobacco will write down the value of its US brands like Lucky Strike by a massive £25 billion as it transitions away from cigarettes and faces “macroeconomic headwinds” in the world’s largest economy

  • Property developer confidence in central London's office market looked solid today, as new data showed speculative construction schemes are on the up and a significant deal for a West End block completed.

  • Transport giant Stagecoach full year sales up to £773.2m from £670m and profits up, helped by improved regional passenger demand. But challenges in London, from roadworks affecting services to upward wage pressure

  • And...why Rishi Sunak's immigration flip flop hurts the economy.