FCA extends repossessions ban
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is extending its ban on house repossessions until April, saying it is taking the worsening pandemic and the Government’s tighter coronavirus-related restrictions into account. Under previous guidance, banks were told not to enforce repossessions before January 31 except in exceptional circumstances. The FCA has now said people who fall behind with mortgage payments will be given a grace period until April 1. However, other credit providers, such as car leasing firms and shops with repayment schemes, are allowed to seize items from indebted customers from January 31. The FCA said the different approaches reflected “the different risks and harms customers with goods or vehicles on credit are likely to face compared with those at risk of losing their home”. Amid the pandemic, many customers have been protected by payment holidays, with mortgage borrowers and those on short-term credit agreements still able to apply for a pause on payments until March 31.
Europe regulator warns banks against dodging post-Brexit trading rules
The European Securities and Markets Authority has told EU banks and fund managers not to bypass post-Brexit rules on cross-border dealing, having uncovered examples of "some questionable practices".
UniCredit sounds out Orcel and Thiam
UniCredit has reportedly approached top bankers including former head of UBS's investment bank Andrea Orcel and former Credit Suisse CEO Tidjane Thiam as it seeks to appoint a new chief executive.
Honda plant to shut again
Honda’s UK vehicle manufacturing site at Swindon plant is to shut for four days next week as a result of a global shortage of semiconductors. Employees have been told that “some production activities will not run Monday 18 to Thursday 21 January due to COVID-related supply issues”. This follows earlier closures last month and earlier in January due to congestion at ports in the UK.
Persimmon: Housing market remains strong
Persimmon says the country’s property market remains “resilient,” with the firm holding £1.23bn in cash, an increase from £844m in the year earlier period, and a current forward sales position of £1.68bn, compared to a previous figure of £1.35bn. Chief executive Dean Finch said the group’s strong second half completions “were supported by its advanced build coming into the year, an agile and effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic and resilient customer demand.”
MPs vote against buy now, pay later regulation
MPs have rejected calls for greater scrutiny of the buy now, pay later sector, voting against an amendment to the Financial Services Bill that would have put firms under the remit of the Financial Conduct Authority. Labour’s Stella Creasy tabled the amendment, saying it was “vital we act before this becomes another Wonga-style scandal”. However, 355 members voted against the amendment following a debate in the House of Commons, with 265 MPs voting in favour. The Telegraph notes that the buy now, pay later sector may still face regulation, with a review into unsecured credit currently being conducted by former FCA executive Christoper Woolard. The Woolard Review, which is considering whether action should be taken to protect consumers from easy loans, is expected to report this spring.
Charles Stanley recovery on track
Wealth manager Charles Stanley has added £2bn to its assets, with a third-quarter trading update for the London-listed firm showing that while net inflows had increased by only £0.1bn, market improvements saw over £2bn growth in overall assets to £25.1bn for the quarter. Revenues in the period were at £42.2m, with total revenues for the year to December 31 falling from £128.1m to £124.1m.
Vitruvian Partners investment for Carne Group
- financial services firm Carne Group has secured €100m of funding from private equity firm Vitruvian Partners. Carne’s flagship platform, CORR, helps over 550 asset managers and institutional investors with issues related to governance, compliance and regulation.
European equities drift as countries extend Covid lockdowns
European equity markets are falling amid investor concern over the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as increased fiscal stimulus promised by incoming US president Joe Biden.
New Bayer drugs will not bridge revenue gap, says pharma head
Bayer head of pharma Stefan Oelrich has said potential new blockbuster drugs will not offset an expected fall in revenues when its two best-sellers Xarelto and Eylea go off patent.
LEISURE AND HOSPITALITY
William Hill in £30m loss
William Hill has announced a £30m loss in its retail business for last year, as total group revenue for the year fell 16% to £1,324m. Online revenue in the UK was up 5%, with online gaming net revenue up 20% in that quarter.
Hostelworld seeks €30m debt facility from lenders
Hostelworld is seeking a new €30m debt facility from lenders, citing muted global travel demand in the fourth quarter of last year. The group had a net cash position of €18.2m on December 31 and current liabilities of €20.7m, with cash liabilities in the first half of 2021 expected to be between €6.5m and €7m.
MEDIA AND ENTERTAINMENT
American Tower buys Telxius for €7.7bn in European push
Telxius, a telecom tower unit owned by Telefónica and KKR which operates 31,000 tower sites in Europe and Latin America, is to be acquired by Boston-based American Tower for €7.7bn.
Page Group sees 20% profit loss
Recruiter Page Group saw profits slip 20.2% to £165.5m in Q4, with the coronavirus crisis and Brexit uncertainty having an impact. UK fees feel by more than a third to £21m – marking an improvement on the 47.9% slip in Q3. Over the full year. fees were down 40.1% to £81m.
Stamp duty holiday extension could add 100k property sales
Research suggests that extending the stamp duty holiday until the end of 2021 would unlock 100,000 extra home sales and could help prevent a slump in the property market. The report from estate agent Hamptons International suggests that extending the tax break for nine months beyond the current cut-off would boost transactions by around 10% this year, accounting for 100,000 extra sales and driving the total to 1.2m. The stamp duty holiday is set to end on March 31 but Chancellor Rishi Sunak is facing calls to push back the deadline so more buyers can benefit.
Christmas sales drive Asos profit growth
Asos said it expects full-year profit to be at the high end of market expectations, with savings across the company more than offsetting the additional costs of coping with COVID-19. The online retailer said group sales rose 23% to £1.3bn in the four months to December 31, including a 36% increase in UK sales. Full-year profits are expected to rise to around £170m, above the £135m projected by City analysts.
Lidl’s Christmas sales jump 17.9%
The British arm of German discount supermarket Lidl said sales had increased by 17.9% in the four weeks to December 27, and claimed its performance makes it the fastest-growing retailer in the UK, ahead of Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons, and other competitors.
Debenhams shuts London flagship
Debenhams has confirmed that its flagship Oxford Street store in London is to close permanently, as are branches in Portsmouth, Staines, Harrogate, Weymouth and Worcester. The closures will mean the loss of 320 jobs.
Europe’s football giants see €1bn loss
Analysis shows that twenty of Europe's biggest football clubs lost more than €1bn in revenue over the past year, with pressure brought about by the coronavirus crisis also knocking almost 10% off players' average values. A 20-team sample of European sides calculated that only two had seen an increase in revenue over last season.
Report reveals change in expenses
Analysis by uSwitch shows that, for the average household, rent and council tax have risen more than any other household expenditure in the past fifty years. The study, which looked at the proportion of typical household income spent on costs such as bills, rent and food, found that people typically spend 15.47% of their salaries on rent, compared to just 10% in 1970. It was also found that utilities are costing people 5% more now than they did in the 1970s, with the average Briton spending £1,279 a year on fuelling their home in 2019. The study highlights changes over the past 50 years which have influenced household income, such as the introduction of the national minimum wage and the increase in women taking up paid work. It also notes that student loans and credit card fees are a financial outgoing that did not exist in the 1970s, with these now making up almost 6% of household spending.
BoE criticised by internal watchdog over easing programme
The Independent Evaluation Office has warned that the Bank of England does not fully understand its own quantitative easing programme, saying "important knowledge gaps" hinder efforts to build public trust in QE.