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What to watch: Whitbread sinks on losses, HSBC beats estimates and BP returns to profit

Kumutha Ramanathan
·Contributor
·3-min read
Premier Inn
Premier Inn hotel in County Durham, England. Photo: Lee Smith/Reuters

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

Whitbread sinks on reported losses

Premier Inn owner Whitbread PLC (WTB.L) posted an interim loss but said it is still focused on “accelerating growth” in Germany, having signed onto open another 15 hotels, the company said in a statement on Tuesday.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, it reopened 97% of its UK hotels by the end of July.

“Given the fast-changing nature of the COVID-19 environment in which we are operating, and increased levels of local and regional lockdowns, near-term visibility remains limited,” said the company. “However, as the situation evolves, Premier Inn remains well-placed to capitalise on the enhanced structural growth opportunities that will exist, driving attractive returns on investment in the long-term.”

Occupancy for the UK business increased from 51% in August to 58% in September, but market performance slowed as local lockdowns started being implemented in October.

The company said its financial strength was boosted following a £1bn ($1.32bn) Rights Issue that was completed in June, and it also “positions the business for long-term growth” said Alison Brittain, Whitbread’s chief executive officer.

HSBC beats estimates

HSBC (HSBA.L) said it will look to pay a “conservative” dividend if regulators allow it, after posting better-than-expected third quarter results.

The UK-Hong Kong bank on Tuesday reported forecast-beating revenue and profits, boosted by lower loss provisions than analysts had predicted.

“These were promising results against a backdrop of the continuing impacts of COVID-19 on the global economy,” chief executive Noel Quinn said in a statement.

Quinn said HSBC would aim to pay a “conservative dividend if circumstances allow.” Along with other European lenders, HSBC was forced to scrap its shareholder payouts earlier this year under pressure from the Bank of England. The move angered retail investors in Hong Kong. UK regulators are currently reconsidering the ban.

READ MORE: HSBC plans 'conservative' dividend after better-than-expected quarter

BP returns to profit

BP (BP) returned to profit in the third quarter, but warned there are challenges ahead as looming COVID-19 fears have hit demand for oil.

The company announced on Tuesday that its underlying replacement cost profit, its definition of net income, was $86m (£66m) from July to September.

That was down from $2.2bn a year earlier, but a major improvement on its massive second-quarter loss of $6.7bn.

Despite global market challenges, the business was "performing while transforming" said chief executive Bernard Looney.

In February, BP announced that it planned sharp cuts in carbon emissions by 2050.

Modest gains for European and Asian shares as COVID-19 cases mount

European and Asian markets saw modest gains on Tuesday as COVID-19 cases continue mounting around the world and it becomes clear a US stimulus deal is unlikely ahead of the US election.

Daily new case numbers in the UK came down to over 19,000 on Monday, but the past week as a whole has seen an uptick. A study from Imperial College London found that the proportion of people in England with antibodies dropped by more than a quarter over a three month time period. This raises concerns about whether people could be re-infected.

The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) was up by 0.2%. The pan-European STOXX 600 (^STOXX) was up by 0.14%. Germany’s DAX (^GDAXI) gained by 0.3% and France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) went lower by 0.1%.

US futures were all up. The S&P 500 (ES=F) was up 0.3%, the Dow Jones (YM=F) was higher by 0.3%, and the Nasdaq (NQ=F) was lower by 0.3%.

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