By continuing to use this site you consent to the use of cookies on your device. Find out more about our cookie policy and the types of cookies we use by clicking here

TOP NEWS SUMMARY: UK Races To Renew Brexit Talks As Irish Row Drags On

LONDON (Alliance News) - The following is a summary of top news stories ...

Alliance News 7 December, 2017 | 11:23AM
Email Form

LONDON (Alliance News) - The following is a summary of top news stories Thursday.
----------
COMPANIES
----------
Ladbrokes Coral Group and GVC Holdings said they are holding talks about a possible merger that would see GVC buy Ladbrokes in a deal worth potentially up to GBP3.90 billion. The non-binding proposal is for GVC to pay 32.7 pence in cash and issue 0.141 GVC shares for each Ladbrokes share, with a further potential payout of 42.8 pence structured as a contingent value right that will be payable if certain targets are met. Excluding the potential 42.8 pence deferred payout, the offer values Ladbrokes at 160.9 pence per share, or GBP3.10 billion in total. Including the maximum deferred consideration, the value rises to GBP3.90 billion. Ladbrokes shares closed on Wednesday at 135.70p. Ladbrokes shareholders would own about 46.5% of the enlarged group, while GVC shareholders would own the other 53.5%.
----------
Coca-Cola HBC said it has appointed Zoran Bogdanovic as chief executive officer with immediate effect. He will be succeeding Dimitris Lois who held the role for six years, but died in October during a leave of absence to undergo treatment for a medical condition. Bogdanovic has been a part of Coca-Cola HBC for nearly twenty years since 1998, his most recent role being regional director, taking responsibility for 12 countries situated in the Balkans and Africa for nearly five years since 2013.
----------
Legal & General Group said it has continued to see "great momentum" in all its businesses in the year-to-date, with "particularly strong growth" in recent weeks, keeping it on course to deliver growth and returns in its core markets. In L&G Retirement, total sales so far in 2017 have amounted to GBP6.20 billion, with the business showing strong momentum in the UK and US institutional pension risk transfer markets, as well as in individual annuities and lifetime mortgages. Annuity sales generated GBP4.5 billion of annuity premium, consisting of GBP3.3 billion of UK institutional pension risk transfer business, USD700 million of US institutional pension risk transfer business and GBP600 million of UK retail annuities. "L&G is on track for a record year for earnings and profits. Our core business divisions are generating formidable momentum," said Chief Executive Nigel Wilson.
----------
The under-fire chairman of the London Stock Exchange Group has received a welcome boost from an influential voting advisor 13 days ahead of a shareholder meeting that will decide his future, Sky News reported. Sky News said it has obtained a copy of a report by Institutional Shareholder Services which recommends that investors in the LSE's owner oppose a resolution aimed at ousting Donald Brydon from the board. ISS's endorsement of Brydon could prove an important factor in securing his tenure until his planned exit in 2019, Sky News noted, even as The Children's Investment Fund Management continues to agitate for his immediate departure.
----------
Italy's antitrust agency has fined Unilever's Italian arm for abusing its dominant position in the country's ice cream market, Reuters reported. The agency said on Wednesday it is to fine the Italian segment more than EUR60.0 million for abusing its position in single-wrapped, so-called "impulse" ice-creams intended for immediate consumption, which are sold through its Algida brand. Reuters said Unilever's Italian unit has rejected the agency's decision and will appeal.
----------
Insurer Prudential is looking to sell up to GBP13 billion of its GBP33 billion UK annuity business, Sky News reported. The company has asked potential bidders to table offers for one or more portfolios from its legacy book by December 22, Sky News reported, citing sources.
----------
RELX has completed a GBP700 million share buyback program for 2017, and said that it along with its Amsterdam-listed entity it will repurchase further GBP100 million worth of ordinary shares. The company, which is also London-listed, said the additional share repurchase will be made between January 2 and February 12. The ratio of the respective ordinary shares to be bought back by each - RELX PLC and RELX NV - over the course of the share repurchase programme will be set by reference to the companies' respective economic interests in RELX Group PLC. The companies intend to purchase no more than 101.0 million ordinary shares of RELX PLC and 89.4 million ordinary shares of RELX NV.
----------
DS Smith - which will begin trading in the FTSE 100 effective December 18 following the latest index review - reported strong volume and revenue growth for the first half, and said it remains confident in outlook for the business. Pretax profit for the six months to October 31 fell to GBP144.0 million from GBP146.0 million the same period the year before, mainly due to an increase in one-off costs to GBP40.0 million from GBP21.0 million last year. Revenue for the period was up 14% at constant currency and 19% at reported rates to GBP2.80 billion from GBP2.36 billion the prior year. DS Smith said it will raise its interim dividend payment by 7.0% to 4.9 pence per share compared to the 4.6p paid out for the same period the prior year. The dividend increase was attributed to the company's confidence in outlook.
----------
John Laing Group said Will Samuel has been appointed as non-executive chairman designate and will succeed current Chairman Phil Nolan on May 10, 2018. Nolan, having served as chairman since early 2010, will step down next year after the company's annual general meeting, when Samuel will formally take over the reins at the infrastructure project developer. Samuel is currently the chairman of TSB Bank and Tilney Group, and has previously served as a director for the likes of Ecclesiastical Insurance Group, The Edinburgh Investment Trust, Howden Joinery Group and Inchcape.
----------
MARKETS
----------
London shares were flat to higher, with Ladbrokes and GVC leading the midcap risers amid merger talks. Gold hit its lowest level in four month as the dollar rose amid expectations the US Federal Reserve will raise interest rates next week. Wall Street was pointed to a flat to higher open.
----------
FTSE 100: flat at 7,350.78
FTSE 250: up 0.2% at 19,865.72
AIM ALL-SHARE: up 0.1% at 1,012.03

GBP: firm at USD1.3390 (USD1.3379)
EUR: flat at USD1.1781 (USD1.1781)

GOLD: down at USD1,256.00 per ounce (USD1,263.21)
OIL (Brent): flat at USD61.62 a barrel (USD61.63)

(changes since previous London equities close)
----------
ECONOMICS AND GENERAL
----------
Theresa May is facing a high-pressure race against time to make progress in Brexit talks amid a deadlock over the Irish border which threatens to drag on until the new year. The UK prime minister is hoping to make a new offer by Friday to satisfy both Ireland and the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party which props up her Government and scuppered a deal on divorce issues on Monday. Pressure is growing on May to get leaders at the December 14 European Council summit to declare sufficient progress has been made on divorce issues so trade talks can begin, with business chiefs warning companies will activate contingency plans that will cost Britain jobs if there is further delay. After talks in Dublin, Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Dutch PM Mark Rutte made clear the EU would not compromise and allow the Irish border to be kicked down the road to phase two of the talks, even under threat of Britain crashing out with no deal or divorce negotiations dragging on to 2018.
----------
May spoke to her Irish counterpart, Leo Varadkar, and to the leader of Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party on Wednesday following this week's collapse of a deal on the post-Brexit Irish border. May discussed the border issue by phone with Varadkar and DUP leader Arlene Foster, with DUP sources saying afterwards that there was "still work to be done" to reach agreement, The Belfast Telegraph reported. May's minority Conservative government is propped up by 10 DUP lawmakers on key votes in the British parliament. Answering questions in Parliament on Wednesday, May said the border issue would be finalized only when Brexit negotiations moved into the second phase.
----------
UK house prices increased more than expected in November, data published by the mortgage lender Halifax and IHS Markit showed. On a monthly basis, house prices increased 0.5%, faster than the 0.3% rise posted in October. This was the fifth consecutive increase. Prices were forecast to grow marginally by 0.2%. At the same time, house prices advanced at a slower pace of 3.9% in three months to November from previous year after climbing 4.5% in three months to October. During September to November, house prices grew 2.4% from the previous quarter. This was the fastest price growth, on this measure, since January.
----------
The euro area economy expanded, as initially estimated, in the third quarter largely on investment and exports, Eurostat reported. Gross domestic product grew 0.6% sequentially, slightly slower than the 0.7% expansion seen in the second quarter. The rate came in line with the estimate released on November 14. On a yearly basis, GDP advanced 2.6%, which was revised up from the flash estimate of 2.5%. The expenditure-side breakdown of GDP showed that household spending climbed 0.3% sequentially slower than the 0.5% growth registered in the second quarter. Likewise, government spending growth eased to 0.2% from 0.3%. Gross fixed capital formation rose 1.1% but weaker than the 2.2% rise seen a quarter ago.
----------
US President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has triggered an outpouring of criticism from European and Arab leaders amid fears it could spark further violence in the region. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Trump's Wednesday announcement, which overturns decades of US policy and will see the US embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, was "reprehensible." It would undermine peace efforts and encourage Israel "to pursue the policy of occupation, settlement, apartheid and ethnic cleansing," Abbas said, adding that the US had "withdrawn" from its role in Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts. Eight members of the UN Security Council, including Britain and France, Egypt, Italy and Sweden called for an emergency meeting, now due to take place on Friday, on the US move. But Trump said the move was a "recognition of reality".
----------
Trump's decision on Jerusalem harms the prospect for Israeli-Palestinian peace, Prime Minister May said. "We disagree with the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital before a final status agreement. We believe it is unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region," she said in a statement. "Our position on the status of Jerusalem is clear and long-standing: it should be determined in a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and Jerusalem should ultimately be the shared capital of the Israeli and Palestinian states."
----------
China's soaring levels of corporate, government and household debt are threatening the country's financial stability, the International Monetary Fund said in a report, urging the government to move away from credit-fuelled economic growth. China's credit-to-GDP ratio now stands at around 25%, which is "very high by international standards" and "consistent with a high probability of financial distress," the report said. Corporate debt has reached 165% of gross domestic product while household debt has also risen quickly over the past few years, the IMF said. The Chinese government is prioritizing "social stability" in the near-term, appearing "to rely on credit expansion to continue financing firms even when they are not viable," the report said.
----------
Germany's industrial production dropped unexpectedly in October, data from Destatis revealed. Industrial production fell 1.4% month-on-month in October, following a revised 0.9% drop in September. Production was forecast to rebound 0.9%.
----------
Germany's Social Democrats hold a conference opening Thursday to consider a call from the centre-left party's leadership to launch talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel so to end the nation's political gridlock following September's election. SPD leader Martin Schulz attempted on Wednesday to rally his party behind the talks with members torn between backing Merkel for a fourth term in power or going into opposition to regroup after suffering its worst result since 1949 at the September poll.
----------
Growing tensions between western and eastern Europe are high on the agenda as dozens of foreign ministers gather Thursday in Vienna for the annual meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. The Russian and US chief diplomats, Sergei Lavrov and Rex Tillerson, are planning to meet face-to-face to discuss the Ukraine crisis, which has damaged relations between Moscow and Western countries.
----------
By Arvind Bhunjun; arvindbhunjun@alliancenews.com

Copyright 2017 Alliance News Limited. All Rights Reserved.

Email Form
About Author Alliance News

Alliance News provides Morningstar with continuously updating coverage of news affecting listed companies.