Published: 25 February 2021
UK housebuilder stocks soared on Wednesday amid reports that chancellor Rishi Sunak may extend the stamp duty holiday until the end of June to give the property market a boost. At the moment, the holiday is meant to end on 31 March but The Times reported that Sunak will use his budget on March 3 "to move the stamp to the end of June, bringing it into line with the easing of lockdown restrictions."
EasyJet Plc saw big demand for its first bond sale since 2019, raising €1.2 billion from the sale of seven-year notes, yesterday, a sale that was four times subscribed, and which helped the company to reduce the yield on offer to 2%, from around 2.375% when the sale first started. Proceeds from the bond sale will be used for general corporate purposes and for refinancing debt, according to an investor announcement. EasyJet has a €500 million bond maturing in February 2023.
Metro bank has announced a pre-tax loss of £311.4m, more than double the £130m loss made in 2019. Deposits grew by 11% last year but revenue fell by 15% to £340m. Chief executive Daniel Frumkin is trying to pilot a turnaround but the pandemic knocked plans off track. The bank took a £100m charge to cover expected losses linked to COVID-19 and Metro Bank said the pandemic overall cost it an estimated £124m.
Lloyds Banking Group is to reduce its office space by 20% over the next two years, after 77% of Lloyds’ 68,000 employees said they wanted to work from home for three or more days a week in the future. Lloyds is not alone: HSBC is reducing its office footprint by nearly 40% as part of cost cuts designed to capitalise on the success of remote working. Metro Bank also confirmed it was in the process of cutting its office space by roughly a third and planned to place staff in some of its branches.
The organisers of the Reading and Leeds Festival have said they are "very confident" the events will go ahead this summer, after plans to ease lockdown were announced. The twin-site festival is due to take place from 27 to 29 August.
Efforts to secure the future of Vauxhall's Ellesmere Port plant are continuing after no firm decision was taken yesterday at a board meeting of Vauxhall's parent company, Stellantis. Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has met the management of Stellantis three times in the last six months. Over 1,000 people work at the plant, with many more in the supply chain. An announcement is now expected within 48 hours.
Mark Wilson, the former Aviva chief executive, is staging a return to the British insurance sector by spearheading a new venture to target a share of the £16bn motor insurance market. Sky News has learnt that Mr Wilson has teamed up with Sun Capital Partners, a London-based private equity firm, to launch Abacai Holdings, an insurance technology - insurtech - company. The business will be created by merging Abacai with Complete Cover Group, an insurance distribution and underwriting business owned by Sun Capital.
Ikea has said total sales in the UK fell by 10.2% to £1.9bn for the financial year ending 31 August 2020. While sales were down because its many of its stores were closed for up to three months of the financial year, the Swedish company known for its flat-packed furniture saw online sales surge 31% year-on-year. They now represent 27% of its total UK sales, compared to 10% in the previous year.
ExxonMobil announced yesterday that it would sell its non-operating interest in its UK and North Sea exploration and production assets to private-equity fund HitecVision in a deal worth over $1bn. The US oil major has been looking to sell its oil and gas assets since late 2019, in a move to free up cash to focus on a handful of mega-projects.
Goldman Sachs boss David Solomon has rejected remote working as a “new normal” and has labelled it an “aberration” instead. Mr Solomon said the investment bank had operated throughout 2020 with “less than 10% of our people” in the office, but suggested it does not suit the work culture at Goldman Sachs.
Consumer group Which? Is claiming that consumers could be owed a collective £482.5m in damages from multi billion-dollar tech giant Qualcomm. Which? Believes Qualcomm breached UK competition law by taking advantage of its dominance in the patent-licensing and chipset markets, meaning inflated fees for technology licences paid by phone manufactures led to higher smartphone prices for consumers. Which? estimates up to 29 milion individual consumers could be due up to £30 and is urging Qualcomm to settle this claim without the need for litigation by offering consumers their money back.
Hermés handbags have, for the second year in a row, topped the Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index , followed by fine wine and luxury cars. Hermes bags start at about $2,000 (£1,418), and the price of its elusive Birkin bag at about $9,000. Hermés handbags’ prices were up 17% in 2020. Meanwhile Knight Frank’s Wealth Report 2021 said the number of ultra-high-net-worth individuals around the world is predicted to grow by 27% in the next five years to 2025, led by Asia, taking the total population to 663,483. Such individuals are defined as those who have $30m (£21m) or more to their name. Over the same period, the firm estimates that the number of millionaires globally is set to rise by 41%.
A budget electric vehicle selling in China for $4,500 (£3,200) is now outselling Tesla's more upmarket cars. The compact car is proving a big hit for state-owned SAIC Motor, China's top automaker. The Hong Guang Mini EV is being built as part of a joint venture with US car giant General Motors.
New research from 25 climate groups — including Urgewald, Reclaim Finance, Rainforest Action Network, and 350.org Japan — has found that almost 4,500 institutional investors world have $1.03tn invested in the thermal coal industry despite the sector's huge climate impact and commitments from many top investors to go green. The research also found that 381 banks have lent $315bn to the coal industry over the past two years, and helped the sector raise some $800bn through bond issues and share sales.
About 770,000 homeowners are vulnerable to repossession if they have suffered a loss if income as a result of covid restrictions, according to the Social Market Foundation (SMF) think-tank. The SMF analysed official data and found that of those at risk of repossession, about a quarter (26%) worked in retail or manufacturing, sectors badly hit by the pandemic. 14% said they did not have savings to cover even one mortgage payment.
The system the US central bank uses to process more than $3tn (£2.1tn) each day crashed yesterday. The Federal Reserve said the disruption was caused by an "operational error". It started restoring services within hours.
Bitcoin stabilised near $50,000 (£35,276) yesterday, after news broke that Square, the payments business run by Twitter cofounder Jack Dorsey, had invested another $170m in the cryptocurrency. The investment follows a $50m purchased disclosed last October and means Square now has 5% of its total assets invested in the world's biggest cryptocurrency. MicroStrategy also announced a purchase of just over $1bn worth of additional bitcoin yesterday. The Virginia-based enterprise software company said it paid an average price of $52,765 per bitcoin, including fees and other expenses, which amounts to around 19,452 bitcoins.
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