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FTSE Live: Shell reports £16bn loss, Bank holds interest rates at 0.1%

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FTSE Live: Shell, Unilever, BT update City as BoE sets rates
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Strike set to cause little or no chaos

Workers at Heathrow Airport will launch a fresh wave of industrial action on Friday in a dispute over pay and conditions.

Members of Unite, including firefighters, engineers and security staff, will walk out for 24 hours, followed by further strikes on February 9, 13, 16 and 18.

It is expected that further industrial action will be announced if the row is not resolved.

The union has accused the airport of a “fire and rehire” policy, which it said will lead to pay cuts.

Analysis of data from flightradar24.com suggests that around 100 plans are landing at and taking off from Heathrow every weekday, down from around 1,200 a day in January 2020.

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Ben & Jerry’s owner in ‘good shape’

Ben & Jerry’s and Hellmann’s mayonnaise owner Unilever said it has started 2021 in “good shape” after it missed market expectations for the past year.

Shares in the consumer goods giant dipped after it delivered a 5.8% decline in underlying operating profits to 9.3 billion euros (£8.2 billion) for the year to December as it was impacted by currency fluctuations.

Traders were left cold despite the company, which also makes Dove soap, laying out its plans to return to robust sales growth.

The group revealed that turnover fell by 2.4% to 50.7 billion euros (£44.7 billion) despite improvements in the fourth quarter.

Unilever said it plans to accelerate its expansion in the US, India and China as part of its long-term growth strategy.

It added that it plans to focus its portfolio in high-growth categories, using acquisitions and sales to shift towards areas with the strongest future prospects.

As such, the company said it is pushing forward with plans to separate its tea business, which has UK brands including PG Tips, following a strategic review.

Unilever said it also plans to grow its e-commerce offering amid strong growth in direct-to-consumer sales.

In 2020, underlying sales grew by 1.9% on the back of 3.5% growth in the fourth quarter following the recovery of trade in China and India.

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Bank of England holds rates at 0.1%

The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee today held interest rates unchanged at 0.10% as it met for the first time in 2021.

The Bank also kept its quantitative easing programme to boost the economy unchanged at £895 billion.

The decisions had been expected, with analysts and investors instead on alert to detect any change in sentiment that could indicate a future shift into negative territory for interest rates as the UK battles to rebuild its battered balance sheet.

The rapid rollout of the UK’s vaccine program has lifted expectations for recovery. More than 10 million people have now received their jabs , almost a fifth of the adult population.

The committee said the UK economy is “projected to recover rapidly towards pre-COVID levels over 2021, as the vaccination programme is assumed to lead to an easing of COVID-related restrictions and people’s health concerns.”

James Smith, an economist at ING, said: “With the vaccine rollout going well, and cases now falling rapidly, there is a good chance that the economy will record a rapid bounce in activity through the middle of the year. That in turn reduces the pressure to inject additional stimulus.”

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Barratt building up sales

Barratt Developments today boosted hopes that the housing market will cope once the Chancellor’s stamp duty holiday finishes at the end of March. The housebuilder revealed that 11,588 homes had been secured for completion beyond that date, part of a “strong” forward sales position worth £3.42 billion.

Barratt underlined its optimism in half-year results by reinstating its dividend at 7.5p a share and revealing it spent £320 million on land amid a greater range of buying opportunities.

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Shell posts £16bn loss after ‘extraordinary year’

The colossal struggle faced by energy giants to adapt to a green future amid the turmoil of the pandemic were laid bare today as Royal Dutch Shell posted its first ever headline loss – one of the biggest ever recorded by a UK-listed company.

The Anglo-Dutch supermajor – whose dividends underpin much of the UK’s pensions – made a $21.7billion (£16billion) underlying loss in 2020.

In 2019 it earned $15.8billion (£11.6bn).

It follows a crash in the crude oil price, multi-billion dollar write-downs in the future value of oil-fields and growing costs associated with accelerating the transition to a low-carbon model.

Net income adjusted for cost of supply – Shell’s preferred profit measure which strips out many of these impairments – was down 71% per cent to $4.8bn, versus $16.5bn in 2019.

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It’s good to chat

BT boss Philip Jansen today praised the “sterling work” his staff have done working from home – but insisted they will be back in the office before long.

The telecoms giant saw revenues slide 7% to £16 billion in the quarter to December as virus restrictions hit sales.

The closure of pubs in particular hit revenues, as did a lack of travel which hurt mobile phone returns, though BT has been a vital part of the WFH boom.

Jansen and his BT colleagues insist they are committed to central London, with plans to move into new offices near St Paul’s.

He told the Standard: “People have done an amazing job of delivering in the circumstances. But everyone can see that it is a rather rectangular existence. As soon as the government deems it possible, we will be back in the office.”

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Bands for brands

I Predict a Ribena? A deal signed today by Aim-listed advertising technology group Mirriad will see it put corporate brands into music videos using its digital special effects. 

Mirriad has teamed up with B-Unique Records, the label behind the Kaiser Chiefs and Primal Scream and Red Light, the management company of Lionel Ritchie and Alabama Shakes, for the project. With Covid hitting live music, the deal is seen as a way for artists to bring in some much-needed revenue while raising  brands’ profile.

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Lockdown gives construction a knock

The UK’s construction sector broke a seven-month streak of growth last month as a third national lockdown and worries about the future economic outlook bit.

New figures from the IHS Markit/CIPS construction purchasing managers’ index (PMI), which is closely tracked by experts, showed a reading of 49.2 in January, down from 54.6 in December. A reading above 50 signals growth.

It is the index’s weakest score since June, but only signals a small contraction.

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Becks’ cannabis firm to float

A cannabis skincare company backed by David Beckham-backed is to float on the London Stock Exchange.

Cellular Goods has sold a stake to Beckham’s investment vehicle DB Ventures and wants to become the first pure-play cannabinoid firm to trade on the stock market, with a £20 million valuation.

It intends to raise around £8 million through a retail share offering to support the launch a range of “premium-quality consumer products”.

Alexis Abraham, chief executive of Cellular Goods, said: “The past few years have seen massive growth and awareness of the importance of wellness and self-care and we believe cannabinoids will prove to be the king of wellness ingredients.

“A London stock market listing will provide us with the profile, credibility and access to global capital to drive our growth.”

David Gardner, who oversees Beckham’s commercial businesses and investments as managing director of DB Ventures, has joined the board of Cellular Goods as a non-executive director.

It comes months after Beckham-backed e-sports company Guild Esports secured a £20 million listing on the stock exchange.

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JD Sports beefs up its warchest

JD Sports Fashion was today limbering up for more global expansion after boosting its acquisitions war chest in a £464 million City fundraising.

Last night’s placing of new shares by brokers Investec and Peel Hunt was struck at 795p, a 2% discount to Wednesday’s closing price.

The move comes as the fast-growing sportswear retailer mulls a number of potential acquisition opportunities in a market rocked by Covid-19 disruption.

Its recent American deal-making spree continued earlier this week with the $495 million purchase of Baltimore-based shoe chain DTLR Villa. It followed on from the acquisitions of Shoe Palace in December and The Finish Line in June 2018.

Peel Hunt analyst Jonathan Pritchard thinks the Manchester-based company may look to target new overseas markets, as well as bolster existing positions.

He added: “The balance sheet is strong anyway but some deals need acquirers to move quickly and the bigger the war chest the better.”

Pritchard has a price target of 1,000p on the FTSE 100-listed stock.

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Gordon Ramsay’s cafe group recruits ex-Leon heavyweight as new CFO as chef pursues expansion

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Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant group recruits ex-Leon heavyweight as new CFO as chef pursues growth
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ordon Ramsay’s eponymous cafe group unveiled on Monday that it has hired previous Leon finance main, Antony Perring, as its CFO.

Perring, who was fiscal director at Wagamama among 2006 and 2014 ahead of being poached by Leon in 2015, oversaw the nutritious quickly meals chain’s enlargement all-around the United kingdom.

The finance heavyweight joins the Gordon Ramsay Restaurant group as it pursues an “formidable international enlargement”.

The team, which lately introduced five new sites, promises a more 10 venue openings in the Uk by summer time.

Ramsay introduced his ‘street concept’ venues close to London this 12 months, as effectively as an upmarket burger joint, Gordon Ramsay Burger, inside Harrods.

The new dining establishments, Street Burger and Road Pizza, are dotted about the money from Borough Marketplace to Kensington and Camden. Both of those introduced with £15 opening meal provides.

Earning the announcement on the day hospitality reopened for indoor assistance for the 1st time in months, the chef, 54, mentioned: “Despite all of the pandemic connected issues, we have to be optimistic and ahead pondering and devote back into our remarkable sector.

“We have an unbelievably formidable world wide expansion strategy, and I’m delighted to have Antony on the staff to aid push our long term expansion programs.”

Perring claimed: “I am incredibly psyched to be joining the Gordon Ramsay Eating places staff as the sector emerges from lockdown. 

“Our planned new restaurant openings will permit the enterprise to speed up its advancement, boosting employment in the sector and advancing existing and new landlord associations.”

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