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What to watch: Betfair-owner 'exceeds expectations,' Wetherspoon counts cost of second lockdown, and market rally continues

Oscar Williams-Grut
·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·4-min read
Runners and riders at Betfair Sprint Cup Day 2020 at Haydock Racecourse in Newton-le-Willows, UK. Photo: David Davies/Getty Images
Runners and riders at Betfair Sprint Cup Day 2020 at Haydock Racecourse in Newton-le-Willows, UK. Photo: David Davies/Getty Images

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

Paddy Power-owner 'exceeds expectations'

Flutter Entertainment (FLTR.L), the owner of gambling firms Paddy Power and Betfair, beat forecasts with third quarter trading thanks to the strong performance of its Australian and US business.

Flutter said in a trading update that third quarter revenue rose 30%, driven by a 33% rise in sports betting revenues.

Revenues leapt 76% in Australia, while the company maintained its number one position in the nascent US market where it operates popular fantasy gaming service FanDuel.

“Flutter's performance in the third quarter exceeded our expectations in both sports and gaming,” chief executive Peter Jackson said.

Analysts at Barclays labeled it an “impressive” quarter and said the performance was “well ahead” of their forecasts.

Shares in Flutter rose 2.5%.

Wetherspoon counts cost of second lockdown

JD Wetherspoon (JDW.L) has forecasted a “cash burn” of around £14m ($18m) as its doors remain closed during the second UK lockdown.

In a trading update, the pub chain revealed that like-for-like sales in the 15 weeks to 8 November fell by 27.6%.

Sales in October were significantly lower than the previous months due to a number of government restrictions, the company said, including changes in tie categories across the country, a 10pm curfew, a requirement to order all food and drink at tables and the mandatory use of face masks when moving around inside pubs.

Shares fell 2% in early trade.

Market rally continues

European stock markets opened higher on Wednesday as optimism about Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine continued to abound.

Major markets across Europe rose at the open, setting up a third straight day of gains. Analysts said the performance was still being driven by Pfizer’s announcement on Monday that a coronavirus vaccine it is jointly developing with Germany’s BioNTech induced an immune response in 90% of cases.

The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) opened 0.4% higher in London on Wednesday, while the CAC 40 (^FCHI) was trading up 0.5% in Paris and the DAX (^GDAXI) was up 0.3% in Frankfurt.

US markets were on track for a largely positive open, although momentum looked more muted in New York. S&P 500 futures (ES=F) were up 0.1%, Dow Jones futures (YM=F) were 0.5% higher, and Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) were down 0.1%. The S&P and Nasdaq had closed lower on Tuesday, weighed down by tech stocks.

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Rolls-Royce to build mini-nuclear power plant

A consortium led by Rolls-Royce (RR.L) said it expects to create 6,000 jobs in the UK within the next five years, if the government “makes a clear commitment” that enables 16 small modular reactor power stations to be built over the next 20 years.

The government gave the UK SMR consortium £18m ($24m) last year to design the small modular reactors. The consortium matched the funding and is now looking to secure a further £217m, which would also be matched by industry.

“The power stations will help secure the UK’s net zero commitments affordably, revitalise the UK’s regional industrial base and position the UK to secure exports of at least £250bn,” Rolls-Royce said in a statement.

Shares in Rolls-Royce were trading almost 5% lower.

Heathrow passengers plunge 82%

Heathrow passenger numbers have fallen for an eighth month in a row, with traffic down 82.4% year-on-year in October.

Airport chiefs called it another “month of catastrophic decline,” but warned in a statement on Wednesday: “November is likely to be even worse.”

England’s new lockdown means travelling away from home is not allowed other than in limited circumstances such as work and education, including overseas travel.

Heathrow said long-haul and key trade markets had suffered the worst declines in traffic, “due to the government’s debilitating quarantine requirements.”

Overall cargo volumes were down 23% last month compared with the previous year, with exports to North America taking a significant hit.

Additional reporting by Saleha Riaz, LaToya Harding and Tom Belger

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