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What to Watch: Sorrell's S4 Capital growth, Zara owner shares dip, and LSE bid

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
Martin Sorrell, now in charge of S4 Capital. Photo: PA

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

Martin Sorrell’s S4 Capital plans to double its size

Martin Sorrell’s new venture S4 Capital (SFOR.L) says it is on track to double in size by 2021, according to its founder.

Sorrell launched the company after leaving the world’s biggest advertising company WPP (WPP), which he founded, after a disputed complaint of personal misconduct against him.

He has been building up the firm rapidly and said the new digital advertising company was increasingly being invited to bid for large corporate accounts.

The group reported billings of £184m ($228m) and gross profit of £70.9m ($87.7m), both up 44.4%, providing advance ‘pro forma’ figures in its results for the six months to 30 June.

Zara owner Inditex shares dip despite sales growth

Shares in Inditex (ITX.MC), the owner of the Zara fashion chain, fell 2.3% after lower-than-expected growth in profit margins.

The world’s biggest fashion retailer reported strong sales growth in the first half of the year in its latest results.

Sales in stores and online were up 8% in the first five weeks of the most recent financial period, boosted by good weather across Europe in the summer.

The firm said its gross margin in their first half of the year was stable, up 12 basis points, but some analysts estimated its margins fell in the second quarter. The company does not break down the figures.

Richard Chamberlain, of RBC Capital Markets, said a strong euro could and less strong sales at full prices may have hit margins.

Surprise £32bn bid for London Stock Exchange

Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEX) has made a surprise takeover bid for the London Stock Exchange Group (LSE.L), proposing to merge the two companies.

The LSE’s shares soared more than 10% on news of the proposed offer from the Hong Kong exchange group, which would see it valued at around £31.6bn ($39.1bn).

Charles Li, chief executive of HKEX, which also owns the London Metal Exchange, said the move would “redefine global capital markets for decades to come.”

HKEX made clear its offer would only go ahead if the LSE abandoned its plans to buy financial Refinitiv. The LSE agreed to the purchase of the financial information provider a few weeks ago, in a deal aimed at offering trading across regions and currencies.

European markets higher, Asian markets mixed

European markets opened higher on Friday, with the FTSE 100 (^FTSE) up 0.9%, FTSE 250 (^FTMC) up 1.4% and Euronext 100 (^N100) up 0.3%.

France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) was up 0.2%, and the German DAX (^GDAXI) was up 0.7%.

Overnight in Asia, Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) was up 1% and the Hong Kong Hang Seng Index (^HSI) was up 1.8% but and China’s Shanghai Composite index (000001.SS) was down 0.4%.

What to expect in the US

US stocks looked set for a near-flat open. Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) was down 0.1%, S&P500 futures (ES=F) was flat and Dow Jones futures (YM=F) rose 0.1%.