TOP NEWS SUMMARY: Rio Tinto Lowers Iron Ore Guidance Amid Disruption

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

Alliance News 16 April, 2019 | 11:26AM
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LONDON (Alliance News) - The following is a summary of top news stories Tuesday.
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COMPANIES
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Rio Tinto lowered its annual iron ore production guidance as its operations were hit by fire and tropical cyclone, also affecting shipments. For the three months ended March, the FTSE 100-listed miner reported that its Pilbara operations in western Australia recorded a 9% year-on-year decline in iron ore production to 76.0 million tonnes of which 64.1 million was net to Rio Tinto. Consequently, iron ore shipments decreased by 14% to 69.1 million tonnes of which 58.2 million tonnes were net to Rio Tinto. Production was impacted by a fire at Cape Lambert A in January and significant disruptions caused by tropical cyclone Veronica in March. Rio Tinto now expects its Pilbara shipments in 2019 to be between 333 million and 343 million tonnes, down from 338 million and 350 million tonnes previously. The miner made the revisions after the damage to the port from tropical cyclone Veronica is expected to result in ongoing disruption to shipments. Rio Tinto Chief Executive Officer Jean-Sebastien Jacques said: "The quarterly operational performance in our other products was solid, generally higher than last year." Bauxite production expanded 1% in the quarter to 12.8 million tonnes and mined copper jumped 48% to 143,900 tonnes helped by an increased plant throughput. Aluminium production, however, was flat at 796,000 tonnes due to an "ongoing lock-out" at the Becancour smelter in Canada. Excluding production from the non-managed Becancour smelter, production was 1% higher year-on-year. Outside of iron ore, 2019 guidance remained unchanged. Rio Tinto forecasts bauxite production in 2019 between 56 million and 59 million tonnes. For mined copper, 2019 output is forecast to be between 550,000 and 600,000 tonnes. Meanwhile, aluminium production is guided between 3.2 million and 3.4 million tonnes.
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JD Sports Fashion saw annual revenue and profit jump despite challenges in its core UK market after seeing encouraging same store sales growth. For the year ended February 2, the FTSE 250 listed clothing retailer reported pretax profit widened 15% to GBP339.9 million from GBP294.5 million the year prior. This was after revenue 49% year-on-year to GBP4.72 billion from GBP3.16 billion, helped by the contribution from its Finish Line acquisition in the US. Selling & distribution expenses rose to GBP1.63 billion from GBP1.08 billion, while administrative costs were up to GBP253.6 million from GBP144.7 million. JD proposed a 1.44 pence per share final dividend, up 5.1% from 1.37p the year prior. For the full year, the dividend rose 4.9% to 1.71p per share from 1.63p the year before. "We continue to believe that it is in the longer term interests of all shareholders to keep dividend growth restrained so as to maximise the available funding for our ongoing development opportunities," JD explained in a statement. During the year, JD acquired Finish Line in the US which "significantly" extended its global reach. JD has since seen "encouraging early results" from the trial of its JD fascia in the new shops in the US. Since the start of the new financial year, the retailer has also agreed to acquire minor peer Footasylum PLC for GBP90 million and bought Pretty Green Ltd out of administration for GBP1.5 million with further GBP1.8 million of debt. JD added that despite the continued uncertainty arising from the stalled Brexit process, it remains "confident in the international potential" of its proposition.
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Galliford Try announced plans to scale back its Construction business, resulting in a GBP30 million to GBP40 million dent in profit for the current year. The housebuilder is undertaking a strategic review of its Galliford Try and Morrison Construction businesses, which will lead to a reduction in size of the unit. The construction unit will instead focus on its "key strengths" where it has a "track record of success". As a result of the review, Galliford expects pretax profit for the year ending June will be held back by between GBP30 million and GBP40 million lower than current consensus analyst forecast of GBP156 million. "The board anticipates finalising its conclusions in the next few weeks and will share the detail of the review of the Construction business along with a further update on group trading in its scheduled statement on May 21", Galliford said.
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Card Factory reported its annual profit narrowed after like-for-like sales were hurt by continued weakness of UK footfall during the year. For the year ended January, the greetings card retailer announced pretax profit narrowed 8.3% to GBP66.6 million from GBP72.6 million the year prior. This was despite revenue increasing 3.3% to GBP436.0 million from GBP422.1 million the year before. Revenue performance was helped by a strong 56% growth in online sales despite like-for-like sales having dipped 0.1% due to widespread high street footfall decline. "We delivered a robust performance for the year, maintaining flat like-for-like sales despite a tough consumer environment," Card Factory Chief Executive Officer Karen Hubbard said. "Our focus has been on continual improvements to our customer offer, producing better, more innovative ranges of everyday and seasonal cards and maintaining our quality and value positioning, while also being more efficient and driving savings across the business." During the year, the firm opened 51 new stores which accounted for its "biggest growth channel" and it was now looking for further openings both in the UK and internationally. Card Factory proposed an unchanged 6.4 pence per share final dividend, also resulting in a flat full year payout of 9.3p. Card Factory was "satisfied" with trading since the start of its new financial year, as both Valentine's Day and Mother's Day "saw record seasonal performance". Nonetheless, the firm continues to expect earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation to be "broadly flat" on the GBP93.6 million reported in the recently ended year in light of "various external pressures."
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MARKETS
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The FTSE 100 was higher as unemployment remained at historically low levels. Intercontinental Hotels was amongst the biggest blue chip gainers after Mainfirst initiated coverage of the firm with an Outperform rating and 5,600 pence per share price target. Meanwhile, mining giant Rio Tinto was under pressure after it was forced to reduce iron ore production guidance following operational disruption caused by fires and a tropical cyclone. In the US, Wall Street is also forecast to open higher.
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FTSE 100: up 0.2% at 7,453.25
FTSE 250: up 0.3% at 19,870.66
AIM ALL-SHARE: up marginally at 948.02

GBP: lower at USD1.3082 (USD1.3109)
EUR: lower at USD1.1286 (USD1.1301)

GOLD: lower at USD1,283.25 per ounce (USD1,287.83)
OIL (Brent): soft at USD71.08 a barrel (USD71.09)

(changes since previous London equities close)
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ECONOMICS AND GENERAL
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The headline unemployment rate remained at multi-year lows in the three months to February, the Office For National Statistics said Tuesday. The UK unemployment rate held steady at 3.9% in the three months to February, the lowest rate since 1975, the ONS said. The figure matched analysts' estimates. Including bonuses, average weekly earnings for employees in the UK increased 3.5% in the month of February, unchanged on the previous month. Excluding bonuses, average weekly earnings for employees in the UK increased by 3.4% in February, dipping from an upwardly revised figure of 3.5% in the previous month. Employment jumped by 179,000 in the three months to February, to 32.7 million, the highest total since records began in 1971. The figure has increased by 457,000 over the past year, all among full-time employees and the self-employed, while the number of people in part-time jobs fell by 15,000, said the ONS. "The jobs market remains robust, with the number of people in work continuing to grow," ONS Deputy Head of Labour Market Statistics Matt Hughes said. "The increase over the past year is all coming from full-timers, both employees and the self-employed. Earnings have now been growing ahead of inflation for over a year, but in real terms, wage levels have not yet returned to their pre-downturn peak."
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UK Prime Minister Theresa May must use the delay to Brexit to prepare for the next stage of negotiations with the EU and avoid repeating the blunders made during the divorce process, a respected think tank has said. Talks on a future trade deal with Brussels will be "more complicated" than the negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement, an Institute for Government report said. In a highly critical assessment of the government's handling of the Brexit process so far, the analysis blamed May for creating the "unsustainable" split in responsibilities between Number 10 and the Department for Exiting the EU, with the "secretive" approach adopted by the prime minister and her closest aides fuelling division. "Ministers, from the prime minister down, were unclear about the instructions they gave to officials," the report said, meaning that critics could blame the civil servants, undermining their work. IfG programme director Jill Rutter said "Whoever is prime minister for the second phase of the negotiations needs to ensure that they avoid similar mistakes next time round."
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There would be no chance of a US-UK trade deal if there was any weakening of the Good Friday Agreement, a senior US politician has said. US House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi told a packed lecture theatre that the Good Friday Agreement was a model that could not be "bargained away in another agreement". Speaking at the London School of Economics on Monday Pelosi said passing a trade bill in Congress would be very hard and was "no given". She added: "First of all it is very hard to pass a trade bill in the Congress of the US, so it's no given anyway." "But if there were any weakening of the Good Friday accords there would be no chance whatsoever, a non-starter for a US-UK trade agreement."
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The European Commission will aim to conclude talks on a limited trade deal with the US by late October, now that EU member states have approved the start of negotiations, said EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom on Monday. The EU hopes such a deal will prevent US President Donald Trump from pressing ahead with threatened car import tariffs. However, Malmstrom emphasized that agriculture will stay off the table, calling it a "red line" for the EU. The US has long sought a trade deal with the EU that includes agriculture. Trump did not directly address the latest decision, but did slam the EU over "the barriers they have to agricultural products and cars and so many other things," in a speech to business leaders in Minnesota. "They barely take our agriculture products and yet they can sell Mercedes Benz and they can sell anything they want in our country, including their farm products, and it is not fair and those days are changing rapidly. They understand it," he said. "If it doesn't change we are going to tariff all of your cars and everything else that comes in. You can't treat our farmers that way, you can't treat our people that way," he threatened the Europeans. The negotiation mandate approved by EU member states on Monday paves the way for formal talks to begin soon.
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By Ahren Lester; ahrenlester@alliancenews.com

Copyright 2019 Alliance News Limited. All Rights Reserved.

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Securities Mentioned in Article
Security Name Price Change (%) Morningstar Rating
Galliford Try PLC 640.50 GBX -0.54 -
JD Sports Fashion PLC 591.00 GBX -0.10 -
Card Factory PLC 178.00 GBX 1.42 -
Rio Tinto PLC 4,773.00 GBX 0.06
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