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What to Watch: ITV cuts £100m, companies told to delay results, and stocks slide on Covid-19

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
The logo of broadcaster ITV at their MediaCityUK studios in Salford, Greater Manchester, northwest England, on May 14, 2019. (PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

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

ITV cuts £100m as advertising slides

ITV is cutting back on programming spend as advertising revenue slides.

The broadcaster said on Monday it was axing £100m from its programming budget this year. The cut in part reflects the cancellation of major sporting events this year but is also driven by a slump in TV advertising.

“We have seen further deferrals in advertising which are now coming from across the advertiser categories rather than just in travel,” the broadcaster said.

ITV said the situation was moving so quickly it couldn’t give any guidance as to how much advertising revenues may ultimately decline by, but it said a 1% reduction in full-year advertising revenues generally leads to £17m lower revenue and profit.

“We are operating in unprecedented and uncertain times, requiring us to take difficult decisions, plan carefully and act with speed,” chief executive Carolyn McCall said.

“We are actively taking measures to reduce costs and manage our cash flow so that we are best positioned to continue to deliver our strategy of building a digitally led media and entertainment company over the medium term.”

ITV also axed its £216m final dividend. Shares were down 10%.

Companies told to delay results

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has told companies to delay their preliminary results.

The watchdog wrote to companies due to report results in the company days to tell them to delay results by at least two weeks.

“Investors in capital markets rely on trustworthy information on the companies whose instruments they trade,” the FCA said in a statement. “The unprecedented events of the last couple of weeks mean that the basis on which companies are reporting and planning is changing rapidly.

“It is important that due consideration is given by companies to these events in preparing their disclosures. Observing timetables set before this crisis arose may not give companies the necessary time to do this.”

B&Q-owner Kingfisher (KFG.L), Irn Bru-maker AG Barr (BAG.L), and Card Factory (CARD.L) all announced plans to delay updates that were due this week.

European stocks sink as US fails to agree stimulus package

European stocks fell sharply on Monday after lawmakers in Washington failed to pass a massive funding package designed to tackle the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

The political stalemate raised the alarm of investors, who had been hoping that Democrats and Republicans would quickly agree on the stimulus measures needed to shield the world’s largest economy.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index (^STOXX) fell by around 4.4%. London’s FTSE 100 (^FTSE) was down by around 4.5%.

Germany’s DAX (^GDAXI) declined by around 4.4%, while France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) was 4.2% in the red.

S&P 500 futures (ES=F) fell by around 3.5%, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures (YM=F) declined by more than 3.7%, while Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) were down by more than 2.8%.

Overnight in Asia, China’s SSE Composite Index (^SSEC) fell by more than 3.1%, while the Hang Seng (^HSI) was down by almost 4.9% in Hong Kong at market close.

While Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) rose by around 2%, the KOSPI Composite Index (^KOSPI) in South Korea closed 5.3% in the red. Australia’s ASX 200 (^AXJO) fell by 5.6%.

Government takes temporary charge of UK rail network

The government has announced temporary measures to take charge of the UK’s rail network “to provide stability and certainty” during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The Department for Transport said on Monday it would temporarily suspend all rail franchise agreements for an initial six months. Private sector train companies will continue to run their routes for a set fee but the government will collect all revenues and take on all risk associated with the running the railways.

The government said the measures were necessary to keep the rail system operating after a sharp drop in passenger numbers. Passenger numbers had already fallen by 70% and a sustained slump could leave some train companies at risk of going bust.

Separately on Monday, transport operators First Group (FGP.L) and Go-Ahead (GOG.L) both put out statements warning of a sharp drop in passenger numbers and business. Both companies reassured investors they were doing everything to conserve cash and keep the business going.

Stagecoach (SGC.L) also warned it is unlikely to pay its final dividend and warned on profits.

John Lewis closes all stores for first time in 155 years

John Lewis has temporarily closed all of its UK stores for the first time in its 155-year history.

It followed other major retailers Primark, Topshop, New Look, Kurt Geiger HMV, Foyles and Waterstones in announcing stores would shut over the coronavirus pandemic.

John Lewis announced its 50 branches are open for business as usual on Monday, but will not reopen on Tuesday.

"The welfare of our customers, communities and partners is always our absolute priority,” said its chair Sharon White.

The John Lewis website, as well as Waitrose’s website and 338 stores owned by the partnership, will continue to operate.

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