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What to Watch: RBS profit doubles, EDF loses customers, and custard sale canned

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Ross McEwan, chief Executive of RBS. Photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

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

RBS profit doubles

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L) reported an annual profit of £1.62bn on Friday, compared to £752m last year.

The taxpayer-owned bank announced £977m will go back to the Treasury as part of a dividend payment.

Chief executive Ross McEwan said: “This is a good performance in the face of economic and political uncertainty, with bottom-line profits more than double what we achieved the previous year.

“We are also announcing an intention to pay back more capital to shareholders and almost £1bn is set to be returned to UK taxpayers for 2018. With strong capital and liquidity levels, we are well positioned to support the UK economy. Our total lending to business and commercial customers reached over £100bn at the end of 2018.”

EDF loses 200,000 customers

EDF (EDF.PA) announced a big slump in UK earnings caused by energy customers leaving the provider last year.

200,000 customers left EDF’s UK business in 2018, the company said. Earnings fell by 16.5% to £691m in the year. Sales rose by 3.9% to €8.9bn (£7.9bn).

EDF said: “The supply activities benefited from increases in residential tariffs, although the residential customer portfolio showed a year-on-year decrease of -4.2% in a highly competitive environment.”

Custard sale canned

Premier Foods (PFD.L) has scrapped plans to sell off its Ambrosia custard brand, blaming the current “business climate”.

“The board has concluded that in the present business climate the process will not result in a satisfactory financial outcome,” the company said. “As a result, these discussions have now concluded.”

Premier Foods, which owns brands such as Mr Kipling cakes, cooked up its strongest annual performance for five years, with its Batchelors brand helping drive sales.

Revenue rose 3.6% to £819.2m in the 52 weeks to March 31, while pre-tax profit rocketed 74.2% to £20.9m.

Baker & Spice sold

Baker & Spice, the remaining division of bust Patisserie Valerie still in administration, has been sold.

Administrators KPMG said on Friday that the chain has been sold to coffee brand the Department of Coffee and Social Affairs for a reported £2.5m. It comes a day after the main bulk of Patisserie Valerie was bought out of administration.

Matthew Gill, deputy chairman of Department of Coffee and Social Affairs, said: “We’re very excited to now own Baker and Spice, it’s a tremendous brand and the team are looking to build upon its success.”

European markets

European stock markets were mixed, with US President Donald Trump’s suggestions he will call a national emergency over his border wall plans weighing on investor sentiment.

Britain’s FTSE 100 (^FTSE) was up by 0.07%, Germany’s DAX (^GDAXI) was down 0.2%, France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) was up by 0.4%, and the Euronext 100 (^N100) was up by 0.2%.

Asian markets were lower overnight. Japan’s Nikkei 225 (^N225) closed down by 1.1%, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index (^HSI) was down by 1.8%, and China’s benchmark Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) was down by 1.4%.

What to expect in the US

US stock futures were pointing to a lower open. S&P 500 futures (ES=F) were down by 0.2%, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures (YM=F) were down by 0.2%, and Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) were down by 0.2%. The VIX volatility-tracking index (^VIX) was up by 5.3%.

Companies reporting in the US later today include Pepsi Co (PEP).