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What to watch: Topps Tiles sales leap, TUI losses, GVC online gambling boom

RAYLEIGH, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 03: A general view of a Topps Tiles signage on September 3, 2019 in Rayleigh, England. (Photo by John Keebls/Getty Images)
Topps Tiles shares soared as it reported rising sales. Photo: John Keebls/Getty Images

Here are the top business, market, and economic stories you should be watching today in the UK, Europe, and around the world:

Topps Tiles shares soar as sales jump

Topps Tiles (TPT.L) shares soared to their highest since early March on Thursday, with the easing of coronavirus lockdown rules fuelling a DIY boom that boosted sales.

The UK’s biggest tile specialist saw sales jump 13.1% year-on-year in the six weeks to 8 August, with all its stores open and staff back at work.

The company said the sales and strong orders meant its board now expects a “modest” adjusted pre-tax profit for its full year to 26 September.

“Home improvement demand has been strong across the period, with DIY activity increasing sharply and trade customer activity recovering steadily from April lows,” it said in a trading update.

The company’s shares were up 16.2% in early trading on Thursday.

Topps Tiles shares hit their highest since early March on strong recent sales. Chart: Yahoo Finance UK
Topps Tiles shares hit their highest since early March on strong recent sales. Chart: Yahoo Finance UK

TUI swings to £1.3bn losses

TUI (TUI.L) said on Thursday it swung to a pre-tax loss of more than €1.4bn (£1.3bn, $1.6bn) in its third quarter, as the coronavirus pandemic forced the world’s largest tour operator to enter “crisis mode.”

Group revenue fell by 98% to just €71.8m in the three months to the end of June, reflecting what the company called “business standstill” for most of the quarter.

TUI said that it partially resumed operations from mid-May, but the travel operator said that volumes remained significantly lower than usual summer levels.

The London-listed German travel firm said that it made an underlying loss before interest and taxes — its preferred profit metric — of €1.1bn, due to impairment charges related to the pandemic and a surge in costs from ineffective hedging contracts.

Ladbrokes owner GVC hit by store closures

Months of lockdown hit revenue and profits at Ladbrokes and Coral-owner GVC Holdings (GVC.L), as a surge in online gambling failed to offset the loss of business from its closed bookmaking stores.

GVC said on Thursday that revenue in the first half of the year fell 11% to £1.5bn ($1.96bn) and gross profit dropped 13% to £1bn.

The closure of betting shops from March onwards in the UK led to a 50% slump in retail revenue. European betting shops made 48% less than they did in the first half of 2019.

However, GVC saw surging online revenues as people stuck at home turned to gambling. Online revenue jumped 21%, driven by a 31% rise in gambling. GVC owns online gambling brands such as CasinoClub, Foxy Bingo, partypoker and PartyCasino.

Online earnings before interest and other costs jumped 53% to £368.6m, even as overall earnings fell.

UK house prices continue to rise

Demand for homes in the UK rebounded for the second consecutive month in July as the government’s stamp duty holiday prompted new buyers to flood the market, according to a closely watched survey.

A survey by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) showed that surveyors expect the drawn-out economic recovery and rising unemployment to dent the positive momentum in the housing market, however.

The survey’s headline net balance came in at +75% in July, indicating that a large proportion of respondents saw an increase in demand during the month — the second consecutive report in which it has “firmly” rebounded.

July was also the first month since March in which respondents reported a growth in average prices, which fell in the wake of widespread government coronavirus restrictions.

Prices rose in all regions in England and Wales except for London, where more respondents cited a decline.

Coronavirus: European stocks sink after four days of gains

Leading European stocks opened in the red on Thursday, after four consecutive days of gains.

The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) shed 1%, France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) lost 0.3% and Germany’s DAX (^GDAXI) was down 0.2% on the open.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 (^STOXX) dropped 0.4%, breaking a four-day winning streak.

UK stocks were dragged down as a string of firms including BP (BP.L), Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB.L), AstraZeneca (AZN.L), and Legal & General (LGEN.L) began trading ex-dividend.

But analysts also highlighted wider gloom over UK GDP numbers released on Wednesday, showing Britain’s worst recession since current records began in 1955.

Fresh corporate earnings on Thursday also weighed on European stocks. Zurich Insurance (ZURN.SW) saw its first-half operating profits slide 40%, while travel giant TUI (TUI.L) saw €1.4bn pre-tax losses in its third quarter.

Stocks also tumbled 12.2% in UK bus giant National Express (NEX.L) as it posted first-half losses.

Stocks were mixed overnight in Asia. Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) rose 1.8%, the Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) was flat and the Hong Kong Hang Seng (^HSI) shed 0.2%.

Wall Street looked set to open unchanged on Thursday. S&P 500 futures (ES=F) Dow Jones futures (YM=F) and Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) were all trading flat.

US investors were awaiting new data on weekly jobless claims.