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What to Watch: H&M soars, abrupt exit for Pendragon boss, and bitcoin retreats

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
An H&M store in Palm Springs, California. Photo: Robert Alexander/Getty Images

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

H&M stock soars

Shares in Swedish retailer H&M (HM-B.ST) jumped over 10% on Thursday after the company’s turnaround plans showed signs of progress.

Net sales rose by 11% to £9.2bn in the first half of the year. Profit fell to £592.2m but H&M said the previous year was boosted by a one-off windfall from the US tax reforms.

H&M CEO Karl-Johan Persson said: “The H&M group continues to increase full-price sales, reduce markdowns and increase market share, showing that customers appreciate our collections and the improvements we are making to the product assortment and the customer experience.”

Abrupt exit for Pendragon boss

Shares in Pendragon (PDG.L) fell by almost 4% after the car dealer announced the surprise exit of its CEO.

Mark Herbert only took over as chief executive in April, but has left just weeks after issuing a shock profit warning that the company would swing to a loss.

Herbert leaves Pendragon, which trades as Evans Halshaw, Stratstone and Car Store brands, on June 30. He will be replaced by Martin Casha, chief operating officer, and Mark Willis, the chief financial officer, while a replacement is found, the company said.

The former boss’s plans for a major strategic update due in September will now be put on hold. Mr Herbert made no initial comment on his departure.

Bitcoin retreats

Bitcoin is retreating from its highs after rallying over 50% so far this month.

The cryptocurrency peaked at a price of over $13,800 on Wednesday evening, before its price began to slide. Bitcoin suffered a “flash crash” at around 9.30pm UK time on Wednesday evening.

“It looks to have been down to problems with the cryptocurrency trading platform Coinbase,” Neil Wilson, the chief market analyst at Markets.com, said.

“Flash crashes like this can happen anywhere to just about any major market, but bitcoin seems particularly susceptible to them. This indicates that there is yet not the maturity or liquidity in this market than many of the crypto evangelists would like to think. Still volatile, still very risky – still Bitcoin.”

Bitcoin was down 4.9% against the dollar to $12,274.01 (BTC-USD) at 9.05am UK time on Thursday and down 5.5% against the pound to £9,619.95 (BTC-GBP).

Starbucks’ UK profits fall

Starbucks (SBUX) slipped to a loss in the UK last year as it was hit by declining footfall, accounts show.

Accounts filed with Companies House show that Starbucks UK made a loss of £17.2m in the 12-months ended September 2018, compared with a profit of £4.8m a year earlier, Bloomberg reported.

Car production slide continues

Car production in the UK slumped again in May, with output falling 15.5% compared to the same month a year ago, making it the 12th consecutive month of decline.

Last month, 21,239 fewer cars were manufactured in the UK, according to the latest data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The global slowdown in car sales is hurting both foreign and domestic demand for new cars from Britain, both of which declined by double digits in May. The SMMT said that with eight out of every ten cars made in the UK destined for foreign markets, frictionless free trade post-Brexit is more important than ever.

Greene King profits drop

Pubs and brewery business Greene King (GNK.L) has seen profits drop by 12.5% after it was forced to make a series of one-off payments and the value of its property portfolio fell, the company said.

Pretax profits hit £172.8m, although revenues grew 1.8% to £2.2bn in the year to April 28. Pub sales were up 2.9% on a like-for-like basis, it added.

Greene King predicted this year will be more challenging than last, especially with no large football tournaments taking place, but bosses plan to focus on creating “experiential offers” in pubs.

It added: “Wellbeing remains a key concern for customers with millennials, in particular, seeking healthy food and drink options and placing greater importance on sustainability.”

Funds like Woodford 'built on a lie'

The UK’s top financial watchdog has been accused of “failing to address fundamental questions” raised by the suspension of the Woodford Equity Income Fund at the start of the month.

“I am concerned that, despite previous problems and repeated warnings, including recent comments by Mark Carney, the FCA is still failing to address these fundamental questions,” Ian Sayers, the chief executive of the Association of Investment Companies (AIC), wrote in a letter to MPs.

Sayers comments came in a letter to Treasury Select Committee chair Nicky Morgan MP. The letter was dated June 14 but published on Wednesday.

Separately on Wednesday, Bank of England governor Mark Carney told the same committee that funds like Woodford’s are “built on a lie” because of their liquidity mismatch.

B&Q owner names new boss

B&Q owner Kingfisher (KGF.L) has appointed Thierry Garnier as its new chief executive to replace outgoing boss Veronique Laury.

Garnier is currently at French retail giant Carrefour, where he heads up the Asia operations responsible for more than 350 stores in China and Taiwan.

He will be based at Kingfisher’s headquarters in London and will join in autumn, with a start date still to be finalised.

Europe markets in the green

European markets were marginally higher on Thursday.

Britain's FTSE 100 (^FTSE) was up by 0.1%, by Germany's DAX (^GDAXI) was down by 0.6%, and France's CAC 40 (^FCHI) and the Euronext 100 (^N100) were both flat.

“This weekend is extremely important for the future direction of global stock markets,” Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said. “The G20 summit will include trade talks between the US and China and investors will be looking for any sign that the two countries can sort out their differences.

“Investors in Asia are certainly looking optimistic with markets in China, Hong Kong, India and Japan all rallying. European markets are more muted including only a small movement from the UK’s FTSE 100 index.”

Japan's Nikkei 225 (^N225) ended up 1.1% overnight, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index (^HSI) was up by 1.3%, and China's benchmark Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) was up by 0.6%.

What to expect in the US

US stock futures were pointing to a higher open later today.

S&P 500 futures (ES=F) were up by 0.4%, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures (YM=F) were up by 0.2%, and Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) were up by 0.6%.

Companies reporting later today in the US include:

  • Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA)

  • Accenture (ACN)

  • Nike (NKE)