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FTSE 100 Live 26 April: Index ends best week of 2024 at another record high, US inflation setback

FTSE 100 Live 26 April: Index ends best week of 2024 at another record high, US inflation setback

Darktrace’s three year stay on the London stock market is set to end after the cybersecurity firm backed a £4 billion takeover by a US private equity firm.

The developments came as mining giant Anglo American said it had rejected BHP’s “opportunistic” £31 billion bid approach.

The FTSE 100 index, meanwhile, traded at a fresh record as NatWest shares surged on the back of a strong first quarter update.

FTSE 100 Live Friday

  • Darktrace backs US takeover

  • Anglo American rejects “opportunistic” BHP

  • NatWest leads stronger FTSE 100

FTSE 100 closes at another record high

Friday 26 April 2024 16:37 , Daniel O'Boyle

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The FTSE 100 closed at a record high again today, finishing the week at 8,139.83.

That’s up 3.2% this week, its best weekly performance of 2024.

London’s top flight was up 0.8% for the day.

The top risers today were NatWest, after strong results, and Ashtead.

Whitbread set for profit and sales jumps despite pressure on hospitality

Friday 26 April 2024 16:17 , Daniel O'Boyle

Whitbread is set to reveal a rise in revenues and profits for the past year as investors will be keen for a positive outlook for hospitality spending.

The Premier Inn and Beefeater owner will unveil its latest annual results in an update on April 30.

Shareholders will be on the lookout for positive signals about future trading, with the company’s share price currently at its lowest levels for a year.

Read more here

FTSE 100 to smash record after huge week

Friday 26 April 2024 15:50 , Daniel O'Boyle

A little over half an hour before markets close, the FTSE 100 is up 61 points at 8,140.26.

That would easily be its highest ever close.

It peaked today at 8144.43.

PCE 'reinforces narrative of stick US inflation'

Friday 26 April 2024 15:13 , Daniel O'Boyle

Commenting on US Core PCE Price Index, Ryan Brandham, Head of Global Capital Markets, North America at Validus Risk Management, said: “US Core PCE Price Index came in slightly stronger than expected, reinforcing the recent market narrative of sticky US inflation as the market prices out cuts in 2024. After yesterday’s lower growth / higher prices GDP print, market expectations for today’s PCE number were likely elevated heading into the release.

Although the PCE results at face value are hawkish, it’s possible we see a “buy the rumour, sell the news” response in today’s market session to close out the week.”

'Fed's favourite inflation measure' comes in hot

Friday 26 April 2024 14:14 , Daniel O'Boyle

US Core PCE inflation, the Federal Reserve’s preferred measure of price rises, came in hotter than expected in March at 2.8%.

Economists had expected inflation of 2.6%.

On a month-on-month basis, core PCE inflation was 0.3%

BNP Paribas is said to plan 50 job cuts across its UK Unit

Friday 26 April 2024 13:07

BNP Paribas SA is planning to cut as many as 50 roles across its unit in the UK as Chief Executive Officer Jean-Laurent Bonnafe ramps up efforts to curb costs.

The bank has started consultations with the employees as part of a yearly review of its staffing, people familiar with the matter said.

Read more here

Pearson starts 2024 with growth as firm ‘pleased’ with AI progress

Friday 26 April 2024 12:39 , Daniel O'Boyle

Educational publisher Pearson said 2024 “started well” as sales grew on the back of strong demand for English language and work skills courses.

The company also said it has seen positive engagement for learning tools where it has integrated AI technology, with plans to grow its use of AI features over the rest of the year.

Nevertheless, shares dipped in early trading despite largely matching analyst expectations.

Read more here

GB News investor Sir Paul Marshall steps down from board

Friday 26 April 2024 12:21 , Daniel O'Boyle

Sir Paul Marshall is stepping down from the board of GB News after three years, amid reports the hedge fund manager is considering a new rival bid to buy the Daily Telegraph.

His resignation coincides with the appointment of politician and businessman Lord Theodore Agnew as the new director of its owner, All Perspectives.

Sir Paul, who was an early investor in the news channel, said: “I joined as a director for the start-up phase but now GB News is on a secure growth trajectory, I want to focus on my other business and philanthropic interests.”

Read more here

"Fantastic week" for FTSE 100

Friday 26 April 2024 11:43 , Daniel O'Boyle

Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, says it’s “party time” for the FTSE 100.

He says: “What a fantastic week for the FTSE 100. We’ve had new record highs, yet more takeover action, and everyone is talking about UK stocks in a positive way which hasn’t been seen for ages.

“There was no stopping the blue-chip index on Friday as NatWest’s results went down well and we saw gains across most of the market. The breadth of sectors moving higher suggests investor sentiment continues to improve.”

‘Crisis time’: The £100 billion exodus from the London Stock Exchange

Friday 26 April 2024 11:32 , Daniel O'Boyle

Companies worth about £100 billion are on the way out of the London Stock Exchange so far this year, either by being bought up or via moving the main home for their shares overseas, and experts fear there is much more to come.

Research by the Evening Standard and investment bank Peel Hunt shows that companies worth over £26 billion have already agreed to be sold in 2024, to other listed firms or private equity.

That comes alongside a combined value of £38 billion for firms shifting their main listing abroad. And Anglo American today rejected the biggest takeover offer so far, saying BHP’s £31 billion bid “undervalued” the firm and was “opportunistic”.

Including the current headline figure from that deal takes the total in market capital involved in the exodus to £95billion.

Read more here

NatWest says it retreated from race towards cheaper mortgage deals last year

Friday 26 April 2024 11:14 , Daniel O'Boyle

NatWest has revealed its mortgage lending nearly halved at the start of the year as it retreated from parts of the market when competition among lenders stepped up.

The banking group said new mortgage lending totalled £5.2 billion in the first three months of the year, down from £9.9 billion the previous year.

Paul Thwaite, NatWest’s chief executive, said demand for mortgages reduced throughout 2023 and there were fewer deals on offer.

Read more here

NatWest profits down but results better than expected

Friday 26 April 2024 10:35 , Daniel O'Boyle

NatWest saw shares surge today, even as its first-quarter profits slipped back from the highs last year, as markets await the Treasury’s retail sale of its shares.

Operating profit fell by 27% to £1.3 billion, which NatWest said was partly due to “dilution” of margins on mortgages, and more of its deposits being held in interest-bearing accounts. Rival lenders have also seen profits fall after hitting record levels in 2023.

Bad loan costs rose, but remained low at just £90 million.

Despite the profit decline, the results were stronger than markets expected and shares rose to 4.5% to 303p.

The strong results come after a year marked by controversy, as boss Alison Rose quit after leaking information about politician Nigel Farage’s account with NatWest-owned Coutts to a journalist.

The Government continues to own 30%, or almost £9 billion worth, of NatWest. It set out plans last year to sell the remainder of its stake in a retail sale, allowing ordinary investors a chance to take part for the first time. CEO Paul Thwaite, who replaced Rose last year, said the business was “pleased with the recent momentum” in selling the Treasury’s holding.

The Gym Group taps Savills to find new locations

Friday 26 April 2024 10:12 , Daniel O'Boyle

Low cost gym operator The Gym Group has picked Savills to advise on its site selection, as it plans about 50 new openings across the UK over the next 3 years.

The chain has 235 locations across the UK, but it claims analysis from PwC found that there was enough demand to support up to 800 low-cost gyms nationwide. It says has been taking market share from higher-end rivals, as customers opted for cheaper memberships amid the cost-of-living crisis.

Gym Group CEO Will Orr said: “We have identified the characteristics for high-performing gyms, and as we accelerate the rollout of quality sites, we are prioritising the best gym locations.”

FTSE 100 higher as Alphabet dividend boosts Pershing Square

Friday 26 April 2024 09:33 , Graeme Evans

Dividend paying Google owner Alphabet was cheered by FTSE 100 investors today after a 4% surge in the value of Pershing Square Holdings.

The London-listed fund, whose other investments include Universal Music, took a large stake in Alphabet when the tech giant’s valuation fell on AI jitters last year.

That move continues to look well timed, particularly after Alphabet last night declared its first dividend in a move that sent its shares up 12% on Wall Street.

Pershing Square rose 154p to 3992p, closing the discount to its net asset value of 5432p. Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust also benefited from the improved US mood, lifting 15.8p to 838.4p after Microsoft also posted strong figures.

The Wall Street cheer underpinned another record-breaking session in London as the FTSE 100 index peaked at 8136 before settling 38.46 points higher at 8,117.32

BP and Shell rose after Brent Crude neared $90 a barrel and the World Bank warned of a triple-digit figure if the Middle East conflict worsens.

Online coursework publisher Pearson fell 12.6p to 979p after reporting 3% underlying sales growth in line with expectations.

Loungers pubs boss says 'the UK economy is holding up well' as sales grow

Friday 26 April 2024 08:54 , Daniel O'Boyle

The boss of pub chain Loungers said “our experience suggests that the UK economy is holding up well”, as the business reported record revenue.

Sales rose by 24.7% to £353.5 million, which Loungers said was “accompanied by disciplined management of costs and a continued easing of inflationary cost pressures.” The growth was driven partly by new openings, but like-for-like sales were still up 7%.

As a result, the business is now set to beat market earnings expectations.

Read more here

Shock $5bn deal to buy Darktrace

Friday 26 April 2024 08:31 , Daniel O'Boyle

US private equity firm Thoma Bravo is to buy Darktrace in a shock $5bn deal.

Thoma Bravo will pay 620p per share of the FTSE 250 cybersecurity firm. That’s a 20% premium on Darktrace’s last closing price.

Poppy Gustafsson, the CEO of Darktrace, said: "I am immensely proud of our brilliant business and people. From our base in Cambridge, we are building a world-leading company using a unique form of artificial intelligence to address the societal challenge of cybersecurity.

“This proposed offer represents the next stage in our growth journey and I am excited by the many opportunities we have ahead of us. Our technology has never been more relevant in a world increasingly threatened by AI-powered cyberattacks. In the face of this, we are expanding our product portfolio, entering new markets, and focused on delivering for our customers, partners and colleagues."

Read more here

NatWest surges as FTSE 100 hits new record, Anglo shares steady

Friday 26 April 2024 08:12 , Graeme Evans

The FTSE 100 today opened at a record of 8134, with NatWest shares among the strong performers after its well-received first quarter results.

The lender rose 4% or 10.7p to 300.5p after its reported lower than expected bad debts alongside a 27% fall in operating profits to £1.3 billion.

Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Matt Britzman said “Lloyds and Barclays led the way this week and NatWest certainly hasn’t disappointed with first-quarter results that are very nearly a clean sweep versus expectations.

“Impairments came in lower than expected, net interest margin ticked higher from the previous quarter and both customer loans and deposit levels grew.”

The FTSE 100 index later settled 0.6% or 48.16 points higher at 8127.02, with Anglo American’s BHP bid rejection failing to take the steam out of its shares. The miner fell 11.5p to 2548.5p, a drop of just 0.5%.

Redde Northgate to become "Zigup"

Friday 26 April 2024 07:49 , Daniel O'Boyle

Van rental and services firm Redde Northgate is to change its name to Zigup, in order to to “shift the narrative” about its “strategic direction of travel”.

It said an increasing focus on packaged services meant that it wanted a name that was not just associated with van rental.

The business said: “Our new brand and company name, Zigup are allied to a refreshed strategic framework under the new pillars of Enable, Deliver and Grow.

“The board believes that a more modern brand and name reflecting these changes will also help shift the narrative with all our stakeholders towards the strategic direction of travel we set out. This is aligned to our updated purpose, 'to keep customers moving, smarter'.”

While the parent company will become Zigup, its brands will keep their existing names.

Spring boost for consumer confidence as inflation eases

Friday 26 April 2024 07:26 , Graeme Evans

Consumer confidence is improving after the headline score on GfK’s long-running index rose two points to minus 19 in April, compared with minus 30 a year earlier.

Four sub-measures were up, including the major purchase index, and the one concerning people’s personal finance situation over the next 12 months stayed the same.

GfK’s client strategy director Joe Staton said the improvements reflect the impact on household budgets of lower inflation and the anticipation of further tax cuts.

However, he added: “We are a long way from the much firmer sentiment last seen in the period before Brexit, Covid and the conflict in Ukraine.

“There is a lot of ground to make up, and caution is needed in the face of continuing economic and fiscal challenges, and revised views on when the Bank of England might cut borrowing costs.

“But Spring has arrived and maybe consumer confidence is, at last, slowly becoming brighter and heading in the right direction.”

Anglo American rejects BHP's £31 billion bid as "opportunistic"

Friday 26 April 2024 07:21 , Michael Hunter

Anglo American has rebuffed the shock, £31 billion offer for the FTSE 100 mining multinational that was made yesterday by its Australian rival BHP.

The board of the UK company was unanimous in turning it down. It called the all-share bid “opportunistic”

Anglo added:

“The proposal significantly undervalues Anglo American and its future prospects.In addition, the proposal contemplates a structure which the board believes is highly unattractive for Anglo American's shareholders.”

And argued the offer:

“Fails to value Anglo American's prospects, while significantly diluting the relative value upside participation of Anglo American's shareholders relative to BHP's shareholders.

“The proposed structure is also highly unattractive, creating substantial uncertainty and execution risk borne almost entirely by Anglo American, its shareholders and its other stakeholders.”

FTSE 100 and US benchmarks seen higher, tech stocks rally

Friday 26 April 2024 07:12 , Graeme Evans

The FTSE 100 index is set for a fresh all-time high after US benchmarks pared their post-GDP losses towards the end of last night’s session.

IG Index expects London’s top flight to add another 0.8% or 67.4 points to 8144, having closed 0.5% higher yesterday.

London’s outperformance came on the back of the Anglo American takeover proposal and strong results by Barclays, Unilever and AstraZeneca.

Futures markets in the US are also pointing higher after results by Alphabet and Microsoft lifted their shares 11% and 4% respectively in post-bell dealings.

The S&P 500 index finished 0.5% lower at 5048 in regular trading, but had been below 5000 after first quarter growth in the US economy slowed to 1.6% on an annual basis compared with the 2.5% forecast.

In addition, inflation worries were fuelled by the 3.4% growth in the personal consumption expenditures index from the 1.8% rise the previous quarter.

Recap: Yesterday's top stories

Friday 26 April 2024 06:46 , Simon Hunt

Good morning from the Standard City desk.

Some words from one of our supermarkets about how good they are. Quality. Choice. Innovation. Value.

Which one is that? All of them really. The narrative the grocers tell us about themselves is slightly 1984-ish.

Frozen food has never been fresher! Prices are down! Chocolate rations are up!

They are all taking market share from each other, they individually claim, something which simply cannot be true.

What’s actually happening with market share, impartial industry figures suggest, is that Sainsbury’s is telling the truth about winning customers from rivals, but no one else is.

Asda and Morrisons, re-organising under private equity ownership, are having the rough time they completely deserve for having cashed out to people who want to count beans rather than sell them.

Here's the thing though. If you go into an Asda or a Morrisons store you might notice a few small things going wrong, but mostly this is an entire industry that just works.

It showed that during Covid. After a brief wobble in the early days when food shortages looked like becoming a problem, they collectively aced it when it mattered most.

It is a clear example of the free-market functioning like it is supposed to – customers and shareholders can do well at the same time.

Sainsbury’s profit margins are about 3p in the pound. Tesco makes a bit more, some of the others less. None of that could possibly be regarded as price-gouging.

~

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