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FTSE 100 Live 04 March: Aviva enters Lloyd’s market with £242 million buy of Probitas

FTSE 100 Live (Evening Standard)
FTSE 100 Live (Evening Standard)

The property market is in focus today after Nationwide reported the first rise in prices in over a year and Rightmove posted annual results.

Other companies reporting today include coursework publisher Pearson, while ITV has sold its 50% stake in BritBox to BBC Studios for £255 million.

Meanwhile, European stock markets are higher after Wall Street trading was lifted by hopes for a summer cut in US interest rates.

Lunchtime update: Pearson profitability woos investors, Ocado reverses gains

Friday 1 March 2024 12:53 , Simon Hunt

Midway through the day’s trading session in London, Pearson is one of the biggest risers, with the education giant’s share price up almost 4% on the back of its improved profitability.


Online grocery store Ocado is the FTSE 100’s biggest loser, reversing yesterday’s gains, amid reports its low-cost rival is taking on hundreds more delivery drivers to claw market share.

Meanwhile, Bitcoin continues its strong rally, and is now on the cusp of breaking its all-time high.

Here’s a look at your key market data this afternoon.

Marks & Spencer wins High Court battle to demolish Oxford Street store

Friday 1 March 2024 12:13 , Simon Hunt

Marks & Spencer has won the right to demolish one of its flagship stores on Oxford Street after a High Court judge ruled the Government made a series of blunders while trying to block the plans.

The retail giant wants to flatten and rebuild its store at Orchard House, near Marble Arch, to make way for a new nine-storey building that would include retail space, a cafe, a gym and an office.

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove intervened to block the plans, arguing the building should be refurbished rather than demolished and that demolition would negatively impact nearby heritage assets including the Grade II* listed Selfridges store directly opposite.

However High Court judge Mrs Justice Lieven ruled on Friday in favour of Marks & Spencer, delivering a damning judgment that the Government had misunderstood planning policies and made a series of flawed or unexplained decisions.

Read more here

 (Danny Lawson/PA Wire)
(Danny Lawson/PA Wire)

Rightmove shares trade down as property site warns of drop in customer numbers

Friday 1 March 2024 10:31 , Michael Hunter

Shares in Rightmove, one of the UK’s biggest property websites, were under pressure today after it predicted a fall in customer numbers.

It said “customer numbers are likely to drop slightly” in 2024 “given the ongoing uncertainty in the macro environment”.

Traffic for 2023 fell, by almost a billion minutes spent on the site, which is often the first step taken by many buyers towards home ownership, as the 2023 housing market slowdown took hold.

“Consumers visited the Rightmove platform over 2.2 billion times during 2023 (2022: 2.3 billion) and spent over 15.4 billion minutes searching and researching properties (2022: 16.3 billion).  The reduction in both visits and time since 2022 reflects the more challenging market during 2023, however both metrics are well above pre-pandemic level.”

The company’s profit for the year rose 7% to £265 million from revenue of £363 million, up 10%.

It said it would accelerate its move into “strategic growth areas”, including “ commercial real estate, rental services and mortgage lead generation.”

Rightmove’s stock fell 17p to 549p, a drop of 3%.

Pearson at decade high as ITV shares jump in FTSE 250

Friday 1 March 2024 10:08 , Graeme Evans

ITV jumped 14% or 8p to 63.9p following this morning’s deal to offload its entire stake in streaming service BritBox International for £255 million.

The operation has about 3.2 million subscribers, having launched in North America in 2017 as a joint venture between ITV and the BBC.

ITV intends to return the proceeds to shareholders through a share buyback, which it expects to launch after next Thursday’s full year results.

The sale lifted ITV’s valuation to its highest of this year and came during a strong session for the FTSE 250 index, which added 0.6% or 110.15 points to 19,165.02.

The market mood was helped by Wall Street’s optimism of US interest rate cuts by the summer and the resilience of monthly figures from Europe’s manufacturing sector.

The FTSE 100 index barely moved in February but started the new month on the front foot after a rise of 0.7% or 56.51 points to 7686.53.

Coursework publisher Pearson led the top flight, up 51.4p to its highest level in a decade at 1012p after new boss Omar Abbosh included a fresh £200 million share buyback alongside 31% rise in operating profits to £573 million.

He said Pearson had a stable platform for continued growth “that can benefit from the inflection point we see with the development of AI”.

Pearson leads FTSE 100, ITV shares up 14% on BritBox disposal

Friday 1 March 2024 08:26 , Graeme Evans

ITV shares have jumped 14% or 7.7p to 63.7p after the broadcaster sold its entire 50% interest in digital subscription streaming service BritBox International to BBC Studios for £255 million.

Chief executive Carolyn McCall said the move will enable ITV to focus on its core strategic goals of continuing to build on ITVX's success and growing ITV Studios.

ITV intends to return the proceeds to shareholders through a share buyback, which it expects to launch after next Thursday’s full year results.

Today’s other big movers included coursework publisher Pearson, with the FTSE 100-listed stock up 3% or 32.8p to 993.4p following its annual results.

Figures by Rightmove and the engineering firm IMI sent their shares 10p lower at 556.6p and down 42p to 1691p at the bottom of the FTSE 100.

London’s top flight benefited from strong trading on Wall Street and in Asia to post a rise of 46.45 points to 7676.47. The FTSE 250 index lifted 103.02 points to 19,157.89.

Pearson shares get a boost on stronger profitability despite revenue slip

Friday 1 March 2024 08:18 , Simon Hunt

Shares in FSTE 100 education giant Pearson rose 3.6% after markets opened to 995p after the firm reported a rise in profitability.

Revenues at the firm fell to £3.67 billion from £3.84 billion, led by a drop in sales in its virtual learning division.

Pearson’s new CEO, Omar Abbosh, told reporters he would “leave no stone unturned” to seek new avenues for growth and said he was exploring licensing deals with major AI companies over its intellectual property.

He said he had yet to have conversations with shareholders about the merits of switching primary listing from London to New York but added he was open to shareholder suggestions.

FTSE 100 seen higher after US and Asia markets rally

Friday 1 March 2024 07:22 , Graeme Evans

The S&P 500 index is within sight of another milestone after reassuring PCE inflation figures helped the US benchmark to advance 0.5% to a fresh all-time high.

Another positive session today would mark 16 out of 18 positive weeks for the first time since 1971.

Magnificent Seven stocks including Nvidia and Amazon dominated yesterday’s trading after the latest US data raised Wall Street hopes of a summer cut in interest rates.

The Nasdaq Composite lifted 0.9% to set a record high, a performance in contrast to London after the FTSE 100 index closed five points ahead and unchanged for February.

According to IG Index, futures markets are pointing to a rise of 50 points to 7680 at the start of today’s session.

The Nikkei 225 led a robust performance for Asia markets, with the Tokyo benchmark up 1.9% and the Hang Seng index ahead 0.4% after China’s manufacturing sector figures beat forecasts.

House prices rise for the first time in over a year according to closely-watched survey from Nationwide

Friday 1 March 2024 07:07 , Michael Hunter

UK house prices are rising again for the first time in over a year according to an influential survey from the UK’s biggest mutually owned mortgage lender.

The Nationwide building society revealed a 1.2% year-on-year rise in house prices in February, the first increase since January 2023. The month-on-month rise was 0.7%

A slowdown in the housing market during 2023 has been one of the main talking points in the sector. It came as the Bank of England fought runaway inflation with 14 consecutive rate rises, which took interest rates to a 16-year peak of 5.25% by August.

The next move from monetary policymakers is expected to be a cut, later this year. But worries that wholesale financial markets have moved too far in factoring one in have pushed the interest rates offered on mortgages higher in the last two weeks.

February’s rebound compares with a 0.2% drop year-on-year in the previous set of data.

House prices remain around 3% under the record levels seen in the summer of 2022.

And even after the February uptick, Nationwide’s chief economist, Robert Gardner pointed out that “industry data sources point to a noticeable increase in mortgage applications at the start of the year, while surveyors also reported a rise in new buyer enquiries.”

He also said: “Industry data sources point to a noticeable increase in mortgage applications at the start of the year, while surveyors also reported a rise in new buyer enquiries.”

Nonetheless, attention remains firmly on the latest trends in mortgage rates being offered to house hunters.

“Borrowing costs remain well below the highs recorded last summer but, if the recent upward trend is sustained, it threatens to restrain the pace of any housing market recovery,” said Gardner.

Recap: Yesterday's top stories

Thursday 29 February 2024 23:34 , Simon Hunt

Good morning from the Standard City desk.

A succession of Conservative Chancellors - and there have been a few - have literally written London out of the script over recent Budgets and other set piece fiscal events.

In Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement speech last November the capital got just a single mention - a throwaway reference to a small pot of money being shared with Leeds and Cambridge to unblock planning delays.

The truth is that ever since the 2019 election win - delivered to Boris Johnson by the Brexit voting former Red Wall voters of the likes of Bolsover, Wakefield, and yes, Tony Blair’s former redoubt of Sedgefield - London has become the-city-that-must-not-be-named in the highest echelons of Government.

Politically it is easy to understand why. There is almost nothing left for the Tories, particularly in central London, where gloomy activists expect to lose almost every seat in the General Election.

Economically it makes far less sense. In a depressing era of low growth and productivity, London stands head and shoulders above the rest of the country. Output per hour is 30% higher in London than the UK average, and London’s half a trillion pound economy - more than the GDP or Belgium or Argentina - will grow at a forecast average of 1.5% over the next decade. Not good enough, but a long way ahead of any other region.

If the UK is ever to find a way out of the economic morass it is stuck in the escape will be led by London.

Here’s a summary of our top headlines from yesterday: