BUSINESS LIVE: AstraZeneca eyes $80bn in sales; Credit card market probe; Kingfisher ‘big ticket’ squeeze

The FTSE 100 is down 0.4 per cent in afternoon trading. Among the companies with reports and trading updates today are AstraZeneca, Kingfisher, SSP Group, Pennon, CVS Group and Naked Wines. Read the Tuesday 21 May Business Live blog below.

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Annual phone and broadband price rises cost typical household £277

Broadband and mobile phone customers now pay almost £300 a year more for the exact same services due to swingeing price rises.

The average broadband deal increased in price by £182.40 a year in April, while the airtime part of mobile phone contracts is up by £94.80, according to comparison firm Uswitch.

Jailed Libor rigger Hayes refused appeal permission

Tom Hayes, the first trader jailed worldwide for interest rate rigging, has been refused permission to appeal against his conviction at the Supreme Court.

But Hayes, a former Citigroup and UBS trader, was still given a potential route to clear his name.

Hayes was convicted in 2015 of conspiracy to defraud by manipulating Libor, a benchmark rate once used to price trillions of financial products globally.

The Court of Appeal in London dismissed his appeals in March, ruling that it was illegal to take commercial interests into account when setting Libor or Euribor rates.

The same court said on Tuesday that his case raised a ‘point of law of general public importance’ which could be considered by the Supreme Court.

Hayes and Palombo were refused permission to appeal, however, meaning it will be for the Supreme Court to decide whether to hear their appeals.

Visa and Mastercard could face transparency crackdown as costs spiral

The UK payments regulator has proposed new rules that could force Visa and Mastercard to be more transparent with users and consult on price hikes.

Britain’s Payment Systems Regulator said there is little evidence that huge fee hikes imposed by the pair on retailers had led to a major improvement in service, flagging concerns competition was not working.

Extra 300k British workers to be recruited after immigration clampdown

Businesses will today be told they need to recruit an extra 300,000 British workers a year following a clampdown on immigration.

Work and pensions secretary Mel Stride will today unveil plans for a new push to train up the unemployed to take jobs in sectors that currently recruit heavily abroad, including hospitality, construction and care.

CVS sells Dutch and Irish vet businesses for just €2

CVS Group is in the process of selling its Dutch and Irish businesses for a nominal value of just €2 (£1.71) as it refocuses efforts on its profitable UK and Australia operations.

The veterinary services provider, which runs 500 practices across its four territories, told investors on Tuesday that it would divest from the Dutch and Irish businesses due to their ‘sub-scale nature’ and ‘particular challenges’ within each market.

AstraZeneca targets $80bn in yearly revenues by 2030

AstraZeneca is targeting $80billion in annual revenues by 2030, supported by the launch of 20 new medicines.

Britain’s largest pharmaceutical business achieved $45.8billion in turnover last year, in line with a goal set ten years ago, largely thanks to rising demand for its oncology and diabetes treatments.

It now wants to boost annual turnover by an additional 75 per cent by the start of the next decade through continued growth in sales of its oncology, biopharmaceuticals and rare disease portfolio.

Stamp duty on shares must be axed, says London Stock Exchange boss

The boss of the London Stock Exchange yesterday joined calls for Britain’s ‘pernicious’ stamp duty on share trading to be scrapped amid growing frustration the tax is holding back investment.

Julia Hoggett attacked the levy, which forces investors to pay a 0.5 per cent tax when buying British shares even though they pay nothing if they put money into foreign firms.

City slickers smarten up again: Briefcases and ties make a comeback

Put away the tatty nylon backpack. The leather briefcase is back as men embrace more formal dressing for the workplace.

This new preference for a more structured accessory comes as Marks & Spencer plans to seize more of the £935million tailoring market, in response to a pick-up in demand spurred by the return to the office and more extravagant weddings.

Kingfisher: ‘Retail spending on big ticket items is suffering’

Victoria Scholar, head of investment at Interactive Investor:

‘B&Q’s parent company Kingfisher reported a 0.9% drop in first-quarter underlying sales but kept its full-year guidance unchanged. It continues to forecast adjusted pretax profit for the year of between £490 and £550 million, a year-on-year decline of around 8.5%.

‘Kingfisher enjoyed strong e-commerce sales at B&Q in the UK. However, its performance was dragged down by weakness in France at Castorama and Brico Depot because of the sluggish consumer backdrop.

‘Retail spending on big ticket items is suffering because of a reluctance from consumers to fork out for expensive products amid cost-of-living pressures from higher prices and higher interest rates. Kingfisher has also been dealing with unfavourable weather conditions, especially in April in the UK and France.

‘Shares in Kingfisher are up almost 10% so far this year but are in the red today. The analyst community has a mixed assessment on the stock with 4 sell recommendations, 7 holds and 4 buys.’

Market open: FTSE 100 down 0.4%; FTSE 250 off 0.4%

London-listed stocks are trading lower this morning, tracking weakness in Asian markets as US Federal Reserve officials maintain a cautious stance on inflation, while gains in AstraZeneca capped declines.

Investor optimism wanes as Fed officials hesitated to declare that inflation is on track to meet the central bank’s target on Monday. This reticence also nudged commodity prices lower.

Traders also hold back from placing big bets as they awaited insights from Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey, due later in the day, and domestic consumer prices (CPI) due on Wednesday.

Focus this week will also be on Nvidia’s quarterly results as it is expected to influence the broader markets given the euphoria around artificial intelligence.

AstraZeneca has gained 1.2 per cent after the pharmaceuticals giant said it expects to deliver $80 billion in total revenue by 2030.

Dowlais Group is down 5.1 per cent and was the top loser on the mid-cap index after the GKN automotive owner warned of lower revenue in 2024.

Grocery price inflation falls to lowest level since October 2021

UK grocery inflation fell for the 15th month in a row in May to hit its lowest level since October 2021, fresh data from market researcher Kantar shows.

Annual grocery price inflation was 2.4 per cent in the four weeks to 12 May, down from 3.2 per cent in the previous four week period.

But Kantar noted that prices were still rising quickly for products such as chilled fruit juices and drinks, sugar confectionery and chocolate confectionery.

Consumer price inflation fell to 3.2 per cent in March, driven by a slowdown in food inflation to 4 per cent. Inflation data for April is due to be published on Wednesday.

Liz Truss wants to blame the establishment for sinking her plans

On a wet and windy night in Washington DC in October 2022, the then Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng came across as a man without a care in the world when he arrived at the temporary residence of Britain’s ambassador to Washington Dame Karen Pierce.

His colourfully attired, extrovert hostess appeared equally relaxed as the English sparkling wine flowed.

No more delays on rate cuts: Bank Of England must stop the groupthink, says MAGGIE PAGANO

It’s looking like a racing certainty that interest rates will be cut this summer, and hopefully, in time to celebrate next month’s Midsummer’s Day.

That’s the clear signal from yesterday’s speech by Ben Broadbent, the outgoing deputy governor of the Bank of England, who said that if the economy evolves as expected, then rates will be cut this summer. Some of us would say: ‘About time too!’

The intervention of Broadbent is both timely and significant because he’s never been outvoted before by colleagues on the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC).

Kingfisher ‘big ticket’ squeeze

B&Q-owner Kingfisher saw underlying sales slip by 0.9 per cent in first-quarter, with resilience in demand for core categories offset by weakness in ‘big-ticket’ sales.

The FTSE-100-listed group, which also owns Screwfix in Britain and Castorama and Brico Depot in France and other markets, said it still expected an adjusted pretax profit for 2024/25 of £490million to £550million, down from the £568million made in 2023/24.

It said its second quarter had started in line with the underlying trends of the first quarter, with group like-for-like sales down 2.5 per cent in the three weeks to 18 May.

‘On the overall market outlook for 2024, we remain cautious due to the lag between housing demand and home improvement demand,’ it added.

UK payments watchdog weighs credit card competition

There is little evidence that big hikes in fees by Visa and Mastercard on retailers who use their cards have also led to major improvement in service, Britain’s Payment Systems Regulator has said, flagging concerns competition was not working.

Visa and Mastercard have long dominated the market for payment cards, triggering calls from UK lawmakers for closer scrutiny from the PSR, which launched an investigation.

‘The PSR found that over the past five years, and after taking account of volume changes, Mastercard and Visa have increased their scheme and processing fees by more than 30 per cent in real terms. There is little evidence that the quality of service has improved at the same rate,’ the PSR said in a statement.

Top investor throws weight behind Anglo American break-up plan

A major shareholder in Anglo American has backed the miner’s plan to break itself up as the deadline for a fresh BHP bid looms.

Last week, Anglo unveiled a restructuring as it fights off a takeover by its Australian rival.

Legal and General Investment Management (LGIM), which has just under 2 per cent of shares, yesterday said it approved of the proposals, which include a plan to sell the firm’s diamond unit De Beers.

AstraZeneca eyes $80bn in sales

AstraZeneca expects to deliver $80billion in total revenue by 2030, boosted by the expected launch of 20 new medicines and through growth in its existing oncology, biopharmaceuticals and rare disease portfolio, the drugmaker told investors on Tuesday.

The drugmaker said in a statement it would continue to invest in new technologies and platforms that will ‘shape the future of medicine’ beyond 2030.

Pascal Soriot, chief executive of AstraZeneca said: ‘Today AstraZeneca announces a new era of growth.

‘In 2023 we delivered the ambitious $45 billion revenue goal set a decade ago. With the exciting growth of our innovative pipeline, which has the potential to transform millions of lives, we are now aiming for $80 billion by 2030.’

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