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German exports to UK fell 30pc in January

Tom Rees
·31-min read

German exports to the UK plunged by almost a third in the first month under post-Brexit trading arrangements, new figures have revealed.

The end of the Brexit transition period was blamed by Germany’s official statistics body for a 30pc year-on-year plunge in exports to the UK in January but economists predicted the trade slump will ease.

New customs rules for exporters exacerbated a tumble in trade already triggered by the Covid crisis amid complaints of post-Brexit arrangements causing higher costs and delays for businesses.

January’s drop compares to a 15.5pc fall in imports from Germany over 2020 but the latest slump in trade was still not as severe as the worst months of the first lockdown.

The tumble in German imports at the start of the UK’s life outside the EU was also worsened by many businesses stockpiling in December as Brexit talks went down to the wire.

“We expected very weak eurozone exports to the UK for January, in part due to teething problems at the border, but also due to the fact that hoarding had already fulfilled a lot of British demand for European goods,” said Bert Colijn, eurozone economist at ING.

“We see a very strong surge in eurozone exports ahead of Jan 1, which confirms that picture.”

He predicted a recovery from January’s nadir but warned that “expectations are that longer term trade is weaker than it would have been without Brexit”.

British businesses have complained the new trading arrangements have lifted costs and caused delays but the disruption for European exporters could worsen in the coming months when the UK enforces full checks on goods arriving.

Rod McKenzie, head of policy and public affairs at the Road Haulage Association, said UK-EU trade had improved in recent weeks but cautioned there are “still substantial underlying problems”. He said phytosanitary checks - measures to stop the entry of plant pests and diseases - being enforced from April risk being a “real stress point” as European firms are not prepared.

“Many people don't know about the April changes in Europe and those that do are very concerned about it, and maybe changing their business model accordingly.”

More detailed trade data will be released next week with cars, pharmaceutical and medical products, electronics and non-ferrous metals, such as copper and aluminium, the top imports from Germany.

Germany is the UK’s second-largest trading partner after the US but Britain imports more from Europe’s largest economy anywhere else. The UK imported £55bn of goods from Germany in 2020 and exported £32bn to the industrial powerhouse, according to the Office for National Statistics.

However, UK-German trade has been in decline in recent years and was worsened by the Covid blow. German imports of cars, medical products and non-ferrous metals into the UK have fallen by a third in the last five years.

A survey by the British Chambers of Commerce warned last month that half of UK exporters faced difficulty trading with EU businesses after the end of the Brexit transition period. It found that a quarter of UK exports either planned to reduce their EU exports or would not enter its market in the next 12 months.

The Government has set up a £20m fund to support small businesses with the changes to trade rules, allowing them to access grants of up to £2,000 for professional advice or training.

06:29 PM

Wrapping up

That is all from us today. Here are some of our top stories:

Thank you, as ever, for following along. Louis will be back with you in the morning!

06:06 PM

Instacart becomes one of the most valuable startups globally


Grocery delivery giant Instacart has announced a new funding round, lifting its valuation to $39bn to make it one of the most valuable startups in the world.

News agency Bloomberg has more:

Buoyed by a surge in demand for deliveries during the pandemic, the company raised $265m from investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Sequoia Capital and D1 Capital Partners, as well as Fidelity Management & Research and T. Rowe Price. The startup had been valued at $17.7bn during its most recent funding round, which was less than five months ago.

With its new valuation, Instacart leapfrogs Stripe to become the second-most-valuable startup in the US, according to CBInsights data. Number one is Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp.

Instacart is the largest grocery delivery company in the US, according to research from Second Measure, controlling 46pc of market share as of last summer.

With the new funding, Instacart plans to increase its corporate headcount by 50pc this year, and expand projects including advertising, the company said.

05:41 PM

Record February for global M&A deals

Global mergers and acquisitions of companies last month hit the highest ever value recorded during February, despite the economic hit of coronavirus lockdowns.

Some $405.3bn (£205bn) worth of deals were announced during the month of February this year, in a 45pc jump against the same period in 2020 to mark the highest level since records by Refinitiv began, according to new figures from the financial market data provider.

It draws the year to a stellar start, with $698bn in deals announced through the first two months, up 56pc compared to the same period in 2020. This is the third largest year-to-date amount recorded, following 2000 and 2018.

Tech deals made up almost a quarter of global M&A in value so far this year, or US$158bn, continually dominating the ranks among sectors since August 2020.

05:22 PM

Businesses concerned councils are in charge of new grants

Business leaders are “deeply concerned” that councils will be in charge of rolling out £5bn of new grants after local authorities failed to send out winter Covid support at speed.

My colleague Tom Rees reports:

Councils will be in charge of distributing the £5bn of grants for shuttered hospitality and high street firms to be announced at the Budget. However, councils have been criticised by business and the Government in recent weeks for the glacial rollout of other financial aid. Industry leaders have warned there cannot be a repeat.

Just a third of grants allocated to councils for the winter Covid wave had been paid out to businesses as of Jan 18 despite the £2.4bn of aid being announced months ago.

“This latest wave of cash grants is incredibly welcome, however we are deeply concerned about speed,” said Craig Beaumont, chief of external affairs at the Federation of Small Businesses.

“The Chancellor has made billions available, and local authorities need to get it out the door."

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said: “A minority of local authorities have dragged their heels with previous grant money earmarked for hospitality businesses and there cannot be a repeat”. She warned it is “beyond critical that the grant money is distributed swiftly”.

Budget plans – the three phases
Budget plans – the three phases

04:59 PM

FTSE reshuffle contenders

The next FTSE reshuffle is to be announced tomorrow (coinciding with the Spring Budget), based on today's closing prices.

Here are the key contenders, notes Hargreaves Lansdown's Susannah Streeter:

  • WM Morrison Supermarkets - likely to drop out of the FTSE 100

  • TUI - set to cast off pandemic woes and climb back into FTSE 100

  • Engineering firm Weir Group – also likely to re-enter FTSE 100 as its mining refocus pays off

  • South West water owner Pennon Group - likely relegation from FTSE 100

  • Dr Martens and The Bytes Group – set to enter the FTSE 250 after successful IPOs

Changes are effective after close on March 19.

NB: For the FTSE 100 reshuffle, potential joiners have to come in the top 90 to ensure a spot and existing constituents have to drop outside the top 110 to guarantee demotion

04:41 PM

SoundCloud to increase artists' royalty payments

Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift

SoundCloud plans to cut musicians a fairer deal from streaming by increasing royalty payments to artists by a quarter.

My colleague Ben Woods reports:

The platform is introducing so-called "fan-powered" royalties, where independent musicians can earn subscription and advertising income directly from their listeners.

It marks a break from the model used by Spotify, which bundles all royalties together before paying artists and record labels based on their share of the total streams. Spotify reportedly pays a songwriter an average of 0.04p per stream, meaning it would take 175,000 streams for an artist to make £70.

Soundcloud's change will come into force at the beginning of next month, with more than 100,000 artists in line for a revenue rise of up to 25pc.

It said the new model was "more equitable and transparent", helping to "level the playing field" and allowing "dedicated fans to directly support the artists they love".

Chief executive Michael Weissman said “many in the industry have wanted this for years".

It comes as platforms and record labels face intensifying pressure to overhaul their payments model amid accusations they are short changing artists.

Some of our previous reports on the issue:

04:12 PM

Full report: Renishaw bosses set for £2.6bn windfall

My colleague Alan Tovey has a full report on Renishaw’s sale plans. He writes:

Sir David, the company's chairman, and John Deer, deputy chairman, have announced they plan to sell their stakes in the FTSE 250 business which is valued at £5bn. They hold 36.2pc and 16.6pc of the shares respectively, worth around £2.6bn.

Renishaw makes precision machines used in measurement for applications including surgery, dentistry and advanced engineering applications.

It started in 1972 when Sir David was working at Rolls-Royce and came up with an invention while working on Concorde.

03:50 PM

Market moves

With under an hour until the European close, the FTSE 100 remains solidly higher, outperforming moderate gains across its European peers. Meanwhile, Wall Street is continuing to cool off from Monday’s chunky gains.

03:16 PM

Virgin Wines rises on market debut

Virgin Wines has popped higher at its debut on London’s junior market, up about 15.5pc currently on its first day of trading.

The company – which delivers wine to customers’ doorsteps – sold a total of 24.3m shares as it joined AIM this morning, 6.6m of them new, at 197p apiece.

Its price hit a high of 233.5p per share, before dipping back. The share were held for institutional investors, with retail buyers unable to participate.

Chief executive Jay Wright said:

Our successful IPO and admission to AIM represents a significant new chapter in the Group's long-term development.

The group said it had enjoyed “strong, consistent growth”, delivering more than a million cases of wine to customers last year. Revenues soared 55pc in the second half compared to 2019.

02:47 PM

Odey’s hedge fund surges record 38pc on mega short-bond trade

Crispin Odey
Crispin Odey

Crispin Odey’s flagship hedge fund has bounced back with a record gain as his highly leveraged bets against government bonds paid off.

Bloomberg has the details:

The Odey European Inc. fund surged 38.4pc in February, the best monthly return in almost three decades of trading, according to an investor update seen by Bloomberg.

The performance lifted this year’s gains to 51pc – a rare bright spot for a fund that’s suffered losses in five of the past six years.

After getting burned by betting against stocks in booming markets, Odey is now targeting long-dated government bonds amid expectations that a post-pandemic economic recovery will fan inflation.

The fund’s short exposure to bond trades totalled almost 800pc of its net asset value at the end of January, mostly thanks to a single UK government security that matures in 2050, according to a separate investor letter.

Good news has recently been in short supply for Odey, who is currently fighting sexual assault charges that have clouded his future as a money manager.

02:38 PM

Wall Street opens mixed

Wall Street 
Wall Street

US stocks open mixed after the biggest one-day equity rally in nine months on Monday.

  • S&P 500 -0.08pc

  • Dow Jones +0.14pc

  • Nasdaq -0.3pc

01:56 PM

Wall Street set to dip after Monday boom

Wall Street’s top indices are set to fall slightly at the open, after the S&P 500 posted its best one-day gain since June during yesterday’s session.

Futures trading points towards a drop of about 0.2pc on the benchmark index, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq to fall about 0.3pc.

01:52 PM

Greensill Capital seeks insolvency protection in Australia

The troubled supply chain finance firm Greensill Capital is understood to be seeking insolvency protection in Australia after Credit Suisse suspended $10bn (£7bn) of funds linked to the London-based company’s lending operations.

My colleague Matthew Field reports:

Greensill, backed by Japan's SoftBank Group, is looking to invoke a "safe harbour" protection in Australia where its parent company is registered, the Financial Times reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The finance firm, which counts former prime minister David Cameron as an adviser, declined to comment.

Grant Thornton, which the Wall Street Journal said on Monday was appointed by Greensill for advice on a possible restructuring, also declined to comment on the FT report.

On Monday Credit Suisse froze funds linked to Greensill, which provides finance to firms including steel magnate Sanjeev Gupta, citing “considerable uncertainty” about the valuations of some of the holdings.

01:21 PM

Rotork shares hit a record high

Shares in flow management equipment maker Rotork have risen to a record high today, after it posted strong full-year results.

The FTSE 250 group’s revenues remained fairly steady during 2020 despite the pandemic, falling 9.7pc to £604.5m, while profit before tax was barely changed, down 1.6pc to £122m. Its adjusted operating margins jumped a percentage point to 23.6pc.

Rotork said order intake showed “signs of recovery” in the final quarter of the wear, blaming the revenue drop on disurpted large project activity, site access issues and hold-ups elsewhere.

Chief executive Kevin Hostelter said:

Whilst the outlook for our end markets is improving, COVID-19 related uncertainty remains. Our production facilities are currently operating largely as normal, we have a solid order book and the considerable flexibility provided by our strong balance sheet.

12:50 PM

Kwarteng: Sunak will extend furlough scheme

Business minister Kwasi Kwarteng appears to have confirmed what was very widely expected from tomorrow’s Budget: Chancellor Rishi Sunak will extend the furlough scheme.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Kwarteng said:

The chancellor has already indicated that we will be extending furlough. It’s vital at this time that we provide the support that people will require.

12:35 PM

Blackstone’s Schwarzman gets $610m payday

Stephen Schwarzman -  Roger Askew/The Oxford Union/REX
Stephen Schwarzman - Roger Askew/The Oxford Union/REX

Stephen Schwarzman, the founder of private equity giant Blackstone, earned at least $610m (£440m) last year despite the hit to the global economy caused by the pandemic.

My colleague Simon Foy reports:

The 74-year-old was paid $86m along with $524m in dividends from his 19.3pc stake in Blackstone, according to US regulatory filings. His net worth is more than $22bn, according to Forbes.

Mr Schwarzman’s no 2, Jonathan Gray, took home at least $216m last year, including $123m in compensation and almost $93m in dividends, the filing showed.

“Executive compensation at Blackstone is directly tied to investor and shareholder performance,” a Blackstone spokesman said.

12:03 PM

National Grid appeals over price controls

National Grid is appealing to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) the energy regulator's ruling on how much money it can make.

My colleague Rachel Millard reports:

The FTSE 100 owner of the main gas and electricity networks said Ofgem had ignored evidence when setting the cost of equity in five-yearly price controls, while a downward adjustment was “conceptually and practically flawed.”

It is accepting the bulk of price controls but will appeal on those two points.

“A huge amount of investment is needed in the energy sector over the next several decades, and it’s really important that we get the right cost of equity that gives a fair return for the risks associated with it,” said National Grid’s boss John Pettigrew.

“Ultimately the concern would be it would discourage investors supporting the energy sector going forward.”

National Grid plans to invest about £10bn through the five-year price control across its electricity and gas networks.

11:49 AM

FCA launches consultation into pre-paid funeral plans

The City watchdog has issued a call for responses after laying out its plans to regulate the pre-paid funeral plans sector.

Funerals plans will be brought into the Financial Conduct Authority’s remit from July 2022, after consumer groups and the media raised concerns about the conduct of some providers.

The watchdog has launched a consultation on its proposals for the sector, as companies prepare for their new regulator.

The FCA said it proposals aim to ensure that:

Interested parties have been asked to reply by April 13th.

My colleague Will Kirkman reports:

In 2018 one of the country’s largest funeral plan providers, Co-op Funeral Services, described the market as a “ticking time bomb” that could reach “breaking point” by 2025 if regulation was not enforced.It warned at the time that many funeral plans were poorly invested, meaning buyers were unable to get an accurate indication of the financial stability of the firm that held their policy.

The FCA’s Sheldon Mills said:

Pre-paid funeral plans can help people and their families to manage the costs of a funeral. It is vital that consumers have confidence that their plan will deliver the funeral they expect at a fair value.

The measures proposed today will help ensure that the industry serves consumers well.

It’s imperative the industry prepares now, ahead of its upcoming entry into financial services regulation.

Shares in funeral provider Dignity have dipped slightly today in the wake of the announcement:

11:37 AM

Market moves

After a few hours of trading, European markets have found their footing and are slowly extending gains, with the FTSE 100 leading risers as the pound edges down.

11:17 AM

Fresnillo profits soar on higher precious metal prices

Profits at Mexican miner Fresnillo tripled last year as a rise in gold and silver prices offset a drop in production.

The FTSE 100 group posted a profit before tax of $551.3m, up from $178.8m for the same period last year. That was despite a 2.9pc drop in silver production and 12.1pc gold production drop.

As well as disruption linked to social distancing measures, problems at some of the group’s mining sites also slowed production during 2020.

Fresnillo announced a final dividend of 23.5 cents per share, equivalent to $173.2m in total.

Chief executive Octavio Alvídrez said:

Looking ahead, silver volumes will rise by steadily increasing production at Juanicipio, and the multiple ongoing operational improvement programmes to increase production at Fresnillo…

We remain optimistic for the outlook for precious metals prices, though we are firmly committed to our continuing efficiency, productivity and cost reduction initiatives. Given the ongoing pandemic there is a relatively high degree of unpredictability about the year ahead, so we are cautious. However, we have proven our ability to adapt to changing circumstances and longer-term, I am confident in our future and excited about the opportunities.

11:01 AM

Lookers will not face punishment from FCA

Lookers - Peter Byrne/PA Wire
Lookers - Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Troubled car dealer Lookers will not face punishment by the financial watchdog after a lengthy investigation following allegations of mis-selling.

My colleague Alan Tovey reports:

The company said the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) had advised it that it was closing the probe which was launched two years ago, and triggered a series of high-profile resignations and boardroom departures.

Although the regulator said it would not be using its powers to sanction the car dealer, Lookers said the FCA had “made its concerns clear relating to the historic culture, systems and controls” at the business.

A £10.4m provision which was made to cover potential liabilities resulting from the investigation has now been released.

Mark Raban, chief executive , said: “It is an important time for Lookers as we emerge from a difficult period dealing with both the challenges of our legacy issues and Covid. We are pleased that the FCA has decided to close its investigation and we can now look forward and continue to build our business for the benefit of our customers and other stakeholders.”

Lookers shares were suspended in July because of the investigation and the company’s failure to file accounts as auditors probed its finances. They resumed trading last month as it revealed a £36m first half-loss.

10:42 AM

German exports to UK fell 30pc in January

Exports from Germany to the UK plunged around 30pc year-on-year in January as Brexit took effect, according to a preliminary estimate published by the country’s federal Statistics Office.

Bloomberg has more details:

That was nearly double the 15.5pc decline in 2020, which was the biggest annual drop since the financial crisis in 2009, according to the agency. German exports to the UK amounted to €67bn last year and have been dwindling since the 2016 Brexit referendum – totaling €89bn in the year before the vote.

10:34 AM

Haldane questioned by MPs

Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane is currently speaking to MPs on the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy select committee on the topic over post-pandemic growth. He’s speaking in his capacity as a member of the Industrial Strategy Council.

  • You can follow live here

10:28 AM

Full report: Flutter keeps eyes on US

My colleague Oliver Gill has a full report on this morning’s results from Flutter Entertainment. He writes:

The boss of Flutter Entertainment has admitted that the gambling group behind Sky Bet, Paddy Power and Betfair could be worth billions more if it was listed in America.

Peter Jackson said that the fact that US investors using Robinhood – the online broker at the centre of the recent GameStop controversy – were unable to buy shares in Flutter was a contributing to a “mismatch” in the valuation of operators on either side of the Atlantic.

The liberalisation of betting on sports in America is set to create the world’s biggest regulated market with Flutter emerging as an early victor.

10:10 AM

Unexpected rise in German joblessness

There was an unexpected rise in German joblessness last month, with the number of people registering as unemployed climbing by 9,000 against expectations for a drop of 10,000.

Although that marks the first rise in eight months, it’s not a massive shift within the total unemployment figure of 2.75m.

The rise, which comes as Europe’s biggest economy remains in a tight lockdown, was not enough to shift the overall unemployment rate at 6pc.

09:54 AM

Ashstead slips as quarterly sales fall

Ashtead is leading fallers on the FTSE 100 today, with analysts warning its valuation looks maxed out at present following a drop in quarterly sales.

The equipment rental group posted a £210m profit before tax for the three months to the end of January, a 4pc decline on the same period a year before. For the first nine months of its financial years, profits are down 17pc with statutory revenues have fallen 2pc.

Ashtead said its nine-month performance had been “dominated” by the impact of Covid-19, with a varied impact across its various operating locations amid varying levels of infections and restrictions.

It warned uncertainty would remain high in the coming months, but that the vaccine rollout should help mitigate pressures.

Chief executive Brandon Horgan said:

We expect capital expenditure for the full year to be at the upper end of our previous guidance (c. £700m). Looking forward to 2021/22, we expect to return to growth and anticipate gross capital expenditure of £1.3 – 1.5bn, which should enable mid-single digit revenue growth in the US.

Royal Bank of Canada’s Karl Green said Ashtead was already trading at the multiple it “deserves”.

09:35 AM

Volvo will go all-electric by 2030


Volvo Cars will sell only all-electric vehicles by 2030 and cut out dealerships as it moves to online selling.

My colleague Alan Tovey reports:

All models using traditional petrol and diesel engines - even in hybrid electric drivetrains - will be phased out by that date, the Swedish car business said, saying such vehicles had “no future”.

Ending sales of vehicles with internal combustion engines comes as the industry faces up to a future driven by less polluting forms of power.

From 2030, sales of cars solely powered by petrol or diesel engines will be banned and other countries are expected to follow suit.

09:34 AM

Money round-up

Here are some of the day’s top stories from the Telegraph Money team:

09:06 AM

Supermarket sales grow at fastest rate since June

Supermarket sales rose 15.1pc in the month to February 21st, marking the fastest pace of gains since June last year.

Online grocery sales reached a new record at 15.4pc of the total spend, having soared from 8.7pc last year.

Kantar’s Fraser KcKevitt said:

Nearly a quarter of households bought groceries online during the past month, making the most of home deliveries especially to get hold of bulkier goods like canned foods, breakfast cereals and soft drinks.

It’s been an extraordinary twelve months for online and three million tonnes of food alone have been delivered to people’s homes over the past year. It’s a habit that seems to be sticking among British consumers and internet orders now make up an average of 65% of grocery spending each month for people who do shop online.

Ocado once again saw the biggest gains, with sales up more than a third over the latest three-month period. Tesco also grew its market share by 0.2pc – the first time the giant supermarket has gained share since December 2016.

Kantar - Kantar
Kantar - Kantar

Mr McKevitt continued:

In terms of the grocery market itself, we’ll start to see year-on-year decline following the anniversary of the first national lockdown next month. Sales will be measured against last year’s record spending and comparisons will be tough against the heights of 2020.

Demand for groceries is also likely to subside as the hospitality sector re-opens. The more typical sales patterns of 2019 will come to the fore as the most important metric to gauge retailer performance as we emerge from lockdown over the coming months.

08:30 AM

Be right back

Our systems are briefly going down for maintenance, so there may be a short delay between posts – stay tuned!

08:29 AM

Renishaw launches sale process as founders seek exit

Shares in engineering group Renishaw have popped higher this morning, after the FTSE 250 group said it would begin a formal sales process as its founders seek to shed their stakes.

Sir David McMurtry and John Deer, executive chairman and non-executive deputy chairman, together own approximately 53pc of the company’s issued share capital, which they have indicated an intention to sell.

The company said:

The board has considered various options with its advisers. In considering these options the board, including the founders, has had regard to the interests of all the company’s stakeholders. The board has unanimously concluded that it would be appropriate to investigate the sale of the Company and is therefore launching a formal sale process for the company.

The board intends to seek a buyer who will respect the unique heritage and culture of the business, its commitment to the local communities in which its operations are based, and who will enable the company to continue to prosper in the long-term.

Renishaw said neither the company nor its founders are currently in discussions with any other parties over a potential offer.

08:19 AM

FTSE flat

After dipping ever so slightly at the open, the FTSE 100 has quickly flattened out, trading basically unchanged currently.

Bloomberg TV - Bloomberg TV
Bloomberg TV - Bloomberg TV

08:09 AM

Boohoo shares dive after report on possible US import ban

Shares in online fashion retailer Boohoo have plunged sharply at the open after Sky News reported the group may face a US import ban after allegations about the working conditions at its Leicester suppliers.

The broadcaster says:

US Customs and Border Protection has seen sufficient evidence to launch an investigation after petitions from a campaigning British lawyer.

Duncan Jepson who runs Liberty Shared, a campaign group against modern-day slavery, claims Boohoo is not doing enough to stop forced labour in the Leicester factories which make many of its clothes.

Mr Jepson said: "The evidence of Boohoo and forced labour is quite compelling. I think it will be a wake-up call for British institutions about how they’re handling modern slavery enforced labour, particularly in a community like Leicester East.”

08:05 AM

Taylor Wimpey to pay £125m for cladding upgrades

Taylor Wimpey - REUTERS/Eddie Keogh/File Photo
Taylor Wimpey - REUTERS/Eddie Keogh/File Photo

Taylor Wimpey will pay out an additional £125m for cladding improvements as it reported a sharp decline in pre-tax profits and announced the return of its dividend.

My colleague Simon Foy reports:

The housebuilder said it had identified 232 apartment buildings that may require fire safety works after the Government updated its guidance last month in the wake of the Grenfell tower fire.

The £125m provision will fund fire safety improvement works for leaseholders in its apartment buildings constructed over the last 20 years, the company said. Where Taylor Wimpey no longer owns the buildings in question, it will "contribute funding to bring those buildings up to the standards required" with the intention of making them “safe and mortgageable”.

It comes on top of the £40m set aside for removing and replacing ACM cladding on 19 of its apartment buildings.

Meanwhile the housebuilder reported a significant fall profits and revenues in 2020. Pre-tax profits plunged more than two-thirds to £264.4m, while revenues declined by more than a third to £2.79bn. Home completions decreased by 39pc to 9,609 largely due to the impact of the first lockdown last spring.

07:58 AM

Pound continues to dip against dollar as markets show bearish signals

The pound’s strong early 2021 gains have continued to unravel today, with the currency dipping below $1.39.

Bloomberg warns sterling may face a test of resistance around this point – if it closes below $1.39 and bearish views continue to win out, it will likely continue its fall to $1.37.

07:53 AM

House prices rebound to record high – Nationwide

UK house prices shrugged off a slight dip in January to rebound to a record high, according to the latest data from Nationwide.

The average price of a house was £231,069 last month, the building society said, a climb of 0.7pc month-on-month that easily erased January’s dip.

Nationwide’s chief economist Robert Gardner said:

This increase is a surprise. It seemed more likely that annual price growth would soften further ahead of the end of the stamp duty holiday, which prompted many people considering a house move to bring forward their purchase…

It may be that the stamp duty holiday is still providing some forward momentum, especially given the paucity of properties on the market at present.

07:48 AM

Flutter losing £9m a month from closed shops

PaddyPower-owner Flutter Entertainment warned it is burning through £9m a month as many of its stores remain closed due to Covid-19.

But revenues at the bookmaker soared during 2020, more than doubling from £2.14bn to £4.4bn following its merger with The Stars Group.

Flutter said it had been a “transformational” year, despite its profits being nearly totally wiped out: falling from £136m to just £1m.

It said recreational players across its portfolio rose by 19pc over the period, with many people turning to only gambling amid the pandemic.

Chief executive Peter Jackson said:

We delivered a very strong financial performance in 2020, benefiting from our scale and diversification. We continue to grow our recreational player base across all key regions, in Q4 alone the Group had over 7.6m monthly online players.

Nowhere has our growth been more evident than in the US where we have consolidated our #1 position in this crucial market, with customer economics that continue to exceed our expectations, finishing the year as the first US online operator to reach over $1.1bn in gross gaming revenue .

07:06 AM

Agenda: FTSE to fall

Good morning. The FTSE 100 is set to lose some of Monday's gains at the open after Chinese officials issued a warning about asset bubbles.

China is "very worried" about bubbles in overseas financial markets, China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission Chairman Guo Shuqing said at a briefing.

5 things to start your day

1) Virgin Experience Days swoops on US rival Cloud 9 Living: Exclusive: Inflexion Capital has bankrolled Virgin's takeover of Cloud 9 Living, a US competitor offering more than 2,000 gift experiences.

2) Two-thirds of self-employed lose out financially to Covid: Over half of Britain's self-employed are now earning less than £1,000 per month, compared with just under one-third at the start of 2020.

3) Zoom predicts boom will continue even after virus subsides: The remote working boom is set to continue despite global re-openings after Zoom predicted its revenues will rise by 42pc over the next year.

4) Hedge fund chief nets one of Britain's biggest ever paydays: Sir Chris Hohn has landed one of the biggest annual paydays ever recorded in Britain, of $479m (£344m) after profits soared at his firm.

5) Fleet St heavyweights chart fresh course for The New European: The paper's reason for existing was to keep Britain in the EU, but its new owners believe it can find a fresh purpose.

What happened overnight

Asian stock markets were mixed on Tuesday after Wall Street rose as a wave of investor concern about possible higher interest rates receded.

Market benchmarks in Tokyo, Shanghai and Hong Kong declined. Seoul and Sydney advanced.

Also on Tuesday, Japan reported employment rose despite a state of emergency to cope with renewed coronavirus outbreaks and South Korea reported higher factory output.

The Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.3pc to 3,539.91 and the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo sank 0.4pc to 29,554.75. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong lost 0.2pc to 29,405.45.

The Kospi in Seoul advanced 1.6pc to 3,060.39 after the government reported factory production increased by a better-than-forecast 7.5pc in January over a year earlier, up from December's 2.5pc.

The S&P-ASX 200 in Sydney was up less than 0.1pc at 6,792.50. New Zealand, Singapore and Jakarta also rose.

Coming up today

Corporate: Ashtead Group, Flutter, Fresnillo, Hotel Chocolat (Interim results); Apax Global Alpha, Croda International, Devro, Fisher (James) & Sons, Fresnillo, Intertek, Man Group, Robert Walters, Rotork, Signature Aviation, Taylor Wimpey, Travis Perkins, Weir, XP Power

Economics: Inflation (eurozone), unemployment (Germany)