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What to watch: Reckitt peaks on cleaning demand, UBS surges on strong growth and BMW's cash flow sends shares up

Kumutha Ramanathan
·Contributor
·4-min read
Cleaning with spray detergent, rubber gloves and dish cloth on work surface concept for hygiene
Reckitt Benckiser's third-quarter sales surged following increase customer demand for cleaning supplies following the COVID-19 outbreak. Photo: Getty

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

Reckitt sales top estimates on COVID-19 demand for cleaning products

The maker of Dettol and Lysol disinfectants Reckitt Benckiser (RB.L) reported on Tuesday a much larger than expected rise in third-quarter sales and that it was raising its full-year outlook as more consumers are staying home and cleaning in the face of looming COVID-19 concerns.

Shares were up 2.6% at around 9:45am in London following the news.

The business said third-quarter like-for-like net revenue growth, a key metric for the sector, was 13.3%. That is above the 9.5% that analysts had expected.

“Growth has been underpinned by better customer service levels and an improved supply chain performance, together with strong momentum in eCommerce,” said Laxman Narasimhan, chief executive officer of Reckitt Benckiser, in a company statement.

“With a world-class portfolio of hygiene, health and nutrition brands and a clear purpose - to protect, heal and nurture in the relentless pursuit of a cleaner and healthier world - we are uniquely placed to help tackle the challenges the world is facing,” he added.

UBS sees best third quarter in a decade

Profit at Swiss bank UBS (UBSG.SW) surged in the third quarter, helped by strong performances at its investment bank, asset management business, and private wealth division.

UBS on Tuesday said pre-tax profit rose by 92% to $2.6bn (£2bn) in the third quarter of 2020. On an adjusted basis, pre-tax profit was up 41% to $2.1bn. It marked the bank’s best quarterly performance in a decade.

Pre-tax profit at UBS’ investment bank surged by 268% to $632m. Markets revenue rose by 42% in the quarter as stock market volatility led to more trading by clients. Corporate customers tapped equity markets to raise additional funds, helping global banking revenue rise 44% to $198m.

UBS’ asset management arm also performed strongly. Pre-tax profit rose 495% to $739m, although the bulk was driven by the sale of its fund distribution platform Fundcenter. Once that was stripped out, asset management profit was up 42% to $191m.

READ MORE: Trading boom pushes UBS to best third quarter in a decade

‘Faster recovery’ boost BMW’s third-quarter cash flow

BMW (BMW.DE) on Monday evening reported that it had a much higher free cash flow than expected in the third quarter of this year.

In a preliminary release, ahead of its third-quarter earnings report on 4 November, the German luxury carmaker said that its free cash flow came to €3.07bn (£2.8bn, $3.6bn) compared with €714m in the same quarter of 2019.

The carmaker said in a statement that “this was due in particular to faster recovery in several markets, which led to higher sales growth.”

It also attributed the higher cash flow to reduction in fixed costs and capital expenditure, and optimisation of working capital, but noted that its earnings forecasts for the group are unchanged.

COVID-19 is making future predictions tough, BMW noted. “Economic disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic continues to significantly impair forecasting and leads therefore to considerable uncertainty in providing an accurate outlook,” it said in its statement.

READ MORE: Rebounding markets boost BMW’s third-quarter cash flow

Watch: Brexit talks intensify this week

Markets tick lower with mounting COVID-19 cases and US stimulus impasse

Markets in Asia and Europe continue to be driven down by news on COVID-19 and dampened US stimulus hopes.

With the confirmed number of global coronavirus cases passing the 40 million mark, governments around the world have been imposing restrictions again.

In the UK, another 18,803 cases were reported after Wales announced a two-week “firebreak” that will commence on Friday (23 October) evening. People will be expected to stay at home, apart from certain exceptions, while pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops will be closed.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson faces increasing pressure to follow a similar move in England, with UK opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer leading the calls.

At market open in London, London’s FTSE 100 (^FTSE) was off 0.03%. The pan-European STOXX 600 (^STOXX) was down 0.1%. Germany’s DAX (^GDAXI) slumped by 0.3%, and France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) went lower by 0.3%.

US futures are mixed. The S&P 500 (ES=F) is up 0.4%, the Dow Jones (YM=F) is also off 0.3%, and the Nasdaq (NQ=F) is slightly up 0.6%.

Watch: What are freeports?