FTSE 100 Live: London shares highest since SVB collapse after robust Wall Street trading

 (Evening Standard)

(Evening Standard)

London traders have returned from the long weekend in an upbeat mood, with the FTSE 100 index in positive territory.

The improvement followed yesterday’s robust session on Wall Street as US markets got the first chance to react to Friday’s stronger-than-expected US labour market report.

Attention now turns to tomorrow’s US inflation reading and the opening batch of first quarter results, with US banks Citigroup and JP Morgan reporting on Friday.

CBI sacks Director General Tony Danker, appoints Rain Newton-Smith

09:19 , Simon Hunt

The CBI has sacked director general Tony Danker with immediate effect following accusations of misconduct considered to be sexual harassment by a female employee.

He will be replaced by Rain Newton-Smith, former CBI Chief Economist and currently Managing Director, Strategy and Policy, Sustainability and ESG for Barclays.

It follows a string of complaints of misconduct reported at the CBI including an alleged rape and attempted sexual assault, according to reports in the Guardian.

The CBI said in a statement: “The allegations that have been made over recent weeks about the CBI have been devastating.

“While investigations continue into a number of these, it is already clear to all of us that there have been serious failings in how we have acted as an organisation. We must do better, and we must be better.”

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March administrations highest since pandemic first hit

09:05 , Daniel O’Boyle

The number of companies entering administration in March hit 130, the highest figure since the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

New figures from advisory firm Kroll showed that the rise in administrations continued into March, hitting the highest level since March of 2020 when lockdowns made trading impossible for many firms.

In Q1 of 2023, meanwhile, the number of administrations hit 288, up 34% year-on-year.

Construction and manufacturing were the sectors with the most administrations in Q1.

Cineworld court fillings warn it may not be able to stay afloat through restructuring period

08:31 , Daniel O’Boyle

New Cineworld bankruptcy documents reveal that it may not remain in business long enough to make it out of Chapter 11.

Cineworld filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last year, and looked set to exit after agreeing a deal with its creditors, allowing them to take full control of the business with shareholders getting wiped out.

This set a path for the cinema chain to exit bankruptcy proceedings, which it hopes to do in the first half of this year.

Documents filed today in a Texas bankruptcy court, though, revealed that Cineworld could not guarantee that it could stay alive until the plan is complete and it can exit Chapter 11.

The documents said that if Cineworld’s cash flow remains at the current depressed levels, then it may not be sufficient to fund its operations until it can emerge from bankruptcy protection.

The company – which also owns Picturehouse – could not provide assurance that further funding would be available to keep the company alive if that happens.

Cineworld still expects to be able to exit Chapter 11 in the first half of this year though, and said that it is working “to confirm the plan on an expeditious timeline”.

Strong start to week for UK shares, M&S up 3%

08:14 , Graeme Evans

The FTSE 100 index is 0.7% or 54.90 points higher at 7796.48, with UK-focused stocks at the forefront of the strong session.

Leading risers include housebuilder Persimmon after a 3% or 31.5p gain to 1264.5p, while supermarket Tesco is up 2.75p to 266.85p and Lloyds Banking Group has improved 0.7p to 49.7p.

The domestic-led FTSE 250 index added 0.65% or 124 points to 18,921.96, with Marks & Spencer among those doing well after a rise of 3% or 4.2p to 166.8p.

MJ Hudson warns its shares will soon have little value as it sells remaining business

08:09 , Daniel O’Boyle

Troubled consultancy MJ Hudson has agreed to sell “substantially all” of its remaining business after a dispute with auditors led to a collapse in its share price in recent months, and warned its shares woould soon have little to no vallue.

The group – which employed 300 people and had 18 FTSE 100 clients as of last year – will sell its data and analytics and business outsourcing divisions to the Apex Group for £40 million on a debt-free basis. It  noted that the group had around £33.7 million in debt and that further funding will be required to pay its creditors.

“While there are a number of potential outcomes, given the level of creditors of the business expected at the point of final completion of the business outsourcing sale, it should be noted that it is highly unlikely that there will be a substantial, or any, amount available to shareholders following payment of all creditors and costs,” it said.

Emerging markets investment firm plans £100 million IPO

07:54 , Simon Hunt

Ashoka WhiteOak Emerging Markets Trust is planning to raise £100 million in a London IPO, the company announced today.

The UK-based investment business said it would enter into an investment management agreement with Acorn Asset Management Ltd to act as an adviser.

Ashoka say emerging market valuations are at multi-year lows relative to developed markets, with generally lower inflation, lower debt levels, and higher growth rates, while emerging markets are benefitting from several secular tailwinds versus developed markets, including increased infrastructure spending and rapid digitalisation.

Acord founder Prashant Khemka said: “We are excited by the prospect of listing AWEM on the London Stock Exchange.

“This easily accessible vehicle will provide investors exposure to Emerging Markets and the opportunity to generate significant alpha through exposure to a portfolio of great companies at relatively attractive valuations.”

Heathrow flies over 6 million people in March into a strike-hit Easter

07:49 , Michael Hunter

The Easter getaway at London’s biggest airport included one of its busiest days since before Covid, as over 6 million people flew from Heathrow in March, even as security staff went out on strike into the long weekend.

March 31 was the first day of action from 1,400 staff at the hub, but it said that over 221,000 travellers used the west London hub that day. It claimed today that “service levels were excellent” and that “strong contingency plans kept the airport running smoothly throughout the strike period” which ran until Easter Sunday. It was one of the busiest days since 2019.

The strike involved security staff at Terminal 5 and workers checking cargo across the entire airport campus. Unite says that Heathrow staff are “on poverty wages while the chief executive and senior managers enjoy huge salaries.”

There were reports of long queues at the airport and British Airways cancelled hundreds of short-haul flights. But Heathrow’s CEO, John Holland-Kaye, said today that “passengers got away smoothly on their Easter holidays”, adding: “Our security team has done a brilliant job, supported by our entire management team who have been ‘here to help’ in the terminals.”

Heathrow also said today that it was offering striking workers “a  materially different proposal, adding: “We have listened to colleagues on the pay offer and have proposed changes they have asked for.” It called on Unite to put the new offer to its members.

FTSE 100 rallies, focus on US inflation

07:28 , Graeme Evans

Worries over the US economy eased a little on Friday after it emerged that non-farm payrolls rose by 236,000 in March, a bigger-than-expected figure that contributed to the unemployment rate falling back to 3.5%.

The reading also increased the chances that the US Federal Reserve will hike interest rates by another 0.25% at its policy meeting in three weeks’ time. Tomorrow’s inflation print will be another big factor in determining the central bank’s next move.

Economists are looking for the rate to fall from 6% to 5.2% in March as last year’s surge in energy prices after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine drops out of annual comparisons.

The S&P 500 index recovered from a weak start to close marginally higher last night, with IG Index forecasting that the FTSE 100 index will add around 50 points at 7800 this morning.

Hollywood Bowl rolls into 2023 with record sales

07:22 , Simon Hunt

Hollywood Bowl has rolled into 2023 with another record set of results as the UK’s largest ten-pin bowling operator saw a jump in demand.

Sales in the six months to end March climbed 10.9% to £111 million, as the firm opened two new centres with a further two set to be under construction later in the year.

CEO Stephen Burns said: “We are delighted with our record performance in the first half of the year.

“Our highly cash generative business model and insulation from cost of goods and energy inflationary pressures, leaves us well-placed to continue to expand and invest in our portfolio, both in the UK and Canada.

“We were thrilled to see so many families enjoying themselves at our centres during February half term and were pleased to welcome many more over the Easter break.”

 (Hollywood Bowl) (Hollywood Bowl)

(Hollywood Bowl)