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What to Watch: Lookers £19m accounting woes, record gilt sale, stocks rise

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
A couple walk past cars on the forecourt of Vauxhall Lookers in Speke, Liverpool, England. Photo: PA

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

Lookers takes £19m hit over accounting troubles

Lookers (LOOK.L) will take a £19m ($23.5m) hit after an investigation into accounting problems at the leading car dealership firm.

The company had warned earlier this month it may have to suspend its shares from the start of July, after saying it had identified potential fraud in March.

Auditors Deloitte previously announced their resignation after the 2019 results were published, and Grant Thornton was appointed to investigate the problems.

Lookers told investors on Monday Grant Thornton’s draft report had found £19m of “non-cash adjustments necessary to correct overstatements in profitability over several years.”

It said £15m of the costs involved “incorrect or inconsistent application of policies, processes and accounting standards.”

Lookers shares rose 4.8% on the update, suggesting the hit may have been less than investors feared.

Airbus expects 40% slump in production over two years

Guillaume Faury, the chief executive of Airbus (AIR.PA), expects production at the European aircraft manufacturer to be down 40% this year and next year due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

In an interview with Die Welt newspaper published on Monday, Faury said that airlines’ struggles at the moment have a knock-on effect on Airbus.

“For the next two years, ie 2020/2021, we assume that production and deliveries will be 40% lower than originally planned,” Faury told Die Welt. “We are trying to coordinate the production with the handover of the aircraft to the customers.”

Airbus had announced previously that it would cut production by one-third on average.

UK borrowing to hit record £275bn over summer

The UK government plans to sell a record £275bn ($340bn) of debt between April and August, as it raises cash to fund its efforts to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

The fundraising drive means the government will look to raise twice as much in five months as it raised in the whole of the last financial year.

The borrowing figures were confirmed on Monday by the UK Debt Management Office, which will hold 33 government bond auctions in July and August. The latest figures mark a £50bn increase on its previous plans for April to July.

Prime minister Boris Johnson’s government needs the cash to bankroll wide-ranging measures to relieve the economic downturn, estimated at more than £130bn this year. It also needs to compensate for tumbling tax receipts as activity suffered an unprecedented peacetime collapse during lockdown and several taxes have been deferred.

Stocks rise despite global death toll passing 500,000

European stocks edged higher in early trading on Monday, despite the mounting coronavirus death toll worldwide denting confidence in economic reopening.

Several leading European stock indices initially dropped on the open, following falls in Asia as the number of recorded deaths globally passed 500,000 on Sunday (28 June), according to Reuters analysis.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 (^N225) fell 2.3% overnight, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng  (^HSI) index lost 1.2% and China’s Shanghai Composite index (000001.SS) shed 0.6%.

But the overall death toll worldwide has flattened in recent weeks, and investors remain broadly upbeat about eventual recovery as economies increasingly reopen.

Britain’s FTSE 100 (^FTSE) opened in the red, but was trading 0.1% higher at around 8.30am in London. France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) also dropped as markets opened but was up 0.2%. Germany’s DAX (^GDAXI) was up 0.7%.

“Investors now seem to be taking the view that localised flare-ups are going to happen and that they will be quickly contained," said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.

What to expect in the US

US stock futures were pointed to a mixed open. S&P 500 (ES=F) futures were up 0.2% and Dow Jones (YM=F) futures were trading 0.3% higher, but Nasdaq (NQ=F) futures were down 0.1% at around 5.25am eastern time.