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What to watch: William Hill backs £2.9bn bid, Shell cutting 9,000 jobs, and Boohoo sales rise

Oscar Williams-Grut
·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·4-min read
File photo dated 4/7/2019 of a branch of William Hill, Ludgate Hill, in central London. The gambling giant has confirmed it has received two separate takeover bids from private equity giant Apollo and casino group Caesars Entertainment. The betting business said it received a written proposal from Apollo on August 27, before receiving further proposals from each party.
A branch of William Hill, Ludgate Hill, in central London. Photo: PA

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

William Hill backs £2.9bn bid

US casino giant Caesars Entertainment (CZR) has officially tabled a £2.9bn ($3.7bn) bid for William Hill (WMH.L).

Caesars, which first shared details of the possible offer on Monday, said it had agreed an all cash deal with William Hill’s board. The US company will pay 272p per share for the business.

Roger Devlin, chairman of William Hill, urged shareholders to approve the deal, saying it was “the best option for William Hill at an attractive price for shareholders.”

Caesars CEO Tom Reeg said: “The opportunity to combine our land based-casinos, sports betting and online gaming in the US is a truly exciting prospect.

“William Hill's sports betting expertise will complement Caesars' current offering, enabling the combined group to better serve our customers in the fast growing US sports betting and online market.”

Shares in William Hill were trading above the bid price on Wednesday and fell 0.1% to 273.85p. The bookmakers has also been subject to bid interest from private equity firm Apollo and the price action suggests investors believe a bidding war could erupt.

Shell cutting 9,000 jobs

Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB.L) revealed that it will cut 7,000 to 9,000 jobs as part of a major restructuring plan to shift the oil and gas giant to low-carbon energy.

The jobs cuts equate to just over 10% of its workforce. Shell has 83,000 employees, according to its figures at the end of 2019.

The group confirmed in its third quarter update that the headcount cull is set save the group $2bn (£1.5bn) to $2.5bn by 2022.

Boohoo sales rise

Sales and profits continue to rise at online fast fashion retailer Boohoo (BOO.L), despite the recent scandal over working conditions in its supply chain.

Boohoo on Wednesday said sales rose by 45% to £816.5m ($1.04bn) in the six months to 31 August. Pre-tax profit jumped by 51% to £68.1m.

The company raised its guidance for full-year sales growth, saying it now expects revenue to grow by between 28% and 32% for the full-year. Earnings forecasts were also upgraded.

Stocks slip after Trump-Biden debate

European stock markets slipped on Wednesday, as investors reacted to the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden with unease.

The president and his challenger held their first televised debate on Tuesday evening. The New York Times said the debate was characterised by “cross talk, lies and mockery” and “unravelled into an ugly melee.”

Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at Avatrade, said: “The presidential debate reinforced the market concerns that Trump isn’t going to accept his defeat that easily.”

The German DAX (^GDAXI) and French CAC 40 (^FCHI) were both down 0.6% in early trade, while the FTSE 100 was down 0.1%.

S&P 500 futures (ES=F) were down 0.7%, Dow Jones futures (YM=F) were down 0.8%, and Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) were trading 0.9% lower.

Watch: Futures lower as investors close out 3rd quarter

UK GDP slump during lockdown not as bad as first thought

The British economy shrank by less than first feared during the depths of the COVID-19 lockdown, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said on Wednesday.

The ONS said UK GDP fell by 19.8% between April and June, revised up from an earlier estimate of a 20.4% contraction made by the ONS in August.

Economists had expected Wednesday’s final second quarter GDP reading to show no change.

The second quarter slump still marks the worst quarterly performance on record and confirms the UK suffered one of the worst COVID-19 slumps of any developed nation.

The ONS said the services, production and construction sectors all suffered record falls in output between April and June, as they were “most exposed to government restrictions.”

The ONS also revised down its estimate for first quarter GDP. The stats body said the UK economy contracted by 2.5%, rather than 2.2% as first thought.

Taken together, the two quarters confirmed the worst UK recession in modern history. The economy shrank by almost a quarter in the first six months of 2020.

House prices jump by most since 2016

UK house prices are surging at their fastest rate in four years, as pent-up demand post-lockdown and a temporary stamp duty cut fuel a buying boom.

Nationwide’s closely-watched House Price Index found prices jumped by 5% on an annual basis in September, the biggest increase since September 2016.

Prices grew by 0.9% between August and September. Both the annual growth figure and the month-on-month growth were ahead of City forecasts.

The average UK house price now stands at £226,129 ($288,167), Nationwide said.

Additional reporting by Lianna Brinded.

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