TOP NEWS SUMMARY: Tory Leadership Race To Narrow As First Ballot Opens

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

Alliance News 13 June, 2019 | 11:27AM
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(Alliance News) - The following is a summary of top news stories Thursday.
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COMPANIES
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Tesco reported a "strong start" to its financial year, with softness in Central Europe offset by stronger showings from Asian operations and wholesaler Booker, as well as a bumper Easter in the UK. Total group sales excluding VAT and fuel were up 0.4% at constant exchange rates to GBP13.98 billion in the 13 weeks to May 25, rising 0.2% on a like-for-like basis. At actual exchange rates, sales were up 0.4%. Tesco's total sales in the UK and Ireland were up 1.3% at constant exchange rates to GBP11.17 billion, up 0.8% on a like-for-like basis, and 1.2% higher at actual currency rates. Among business units in its home region, Tesco saw a 0.4% like-for-like rise in the UK, 1.3% growth in Ireland and a 3.1% advance for Booker. UK online grocery sales were up 7.0% year-on-year, while the closure of Tesco Direct in July last year hit sales growth by 0.8%. Tesco said it delivered a robust Easter performance across all formats, including the "biggest-ever" sales day for its small stores on Easter Sunday.
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Wm Morrison Supermarkets and e-commerce giant Amazon.com have expanded the "Morrisons at Amazon" same day online grocery delivery service to more UK cities, the UK supermarket chain said. The "Morrisons at Amazon" delivery service is currently available to Amazon Prime Now customers in four cities: Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, and parts of London and the home counties. Under the agreement, Morrisons products shopped online are picked up at a local Morrisons store and delivered by Amazon. Morrisons said the same day delivery service will now be rolled out to other UK cities, including Glasgow, Newcastle, Liverpool, Sheffield, and Portsmouth.
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Vodafone said its German subsidiary has acquired "important" wireless spectrum for delivering next-generation 5G mobile data services in the country, spending EUR1.88 billion. Following a Federal Network Agency auction, Vodafone Germany secured 90 megahertz of spectrum in the 3.6 gigahertz band for EUR1.07 billion which will be available until 2040. The FTSE 100 telecoms firm also secured a further 40 megahertz in the 2,100 megaghertz spectrum until 2040 for EUR806.5 million of which 30 megahertz would be available from 2021 and the remainder from 2026.
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DS Smith reported a "strong" set of annual results, with the US business coming in "well ahead" of expectations. For the 12 months to March, pretax profit rose 35% year-on-year to GBP350 million, with the adjusted figure up 31% to GBP569 million. Revenue for the period climbed 12% to GBP6.17 billion, with organic corrugated box volume growth 2.4% after a strong first half, though growth did ease slightly in the second half. This box volume growth was ahead of market growth, DS Smith added. DS Smith is paying a final dividend of 11.0 pence per share, taking the year's total to 16.2p, 13% higher than the 14.4p paid a year before. The FTSE 100 firm reported a "record" return on sales margin of 10.2%, ahead of its 8% to 10% target. As a result, it has now upped its target to 10% to 12%.
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Funds managed by Trian Investors Management have taken a stake worth GBP736 million in Ferguson, Trian Investors 1 said. Trian has taken a 6.0% stake in the company, saying: "Trian believes Ferguson is an attractive business that trades at a discount to comparable US peers." Trian could increase or decrease its investment over time, it said.
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MARKETS
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London shares were mixed. Ferguson was the best blue-chip performer, up 6.2%. The pound was down against the dollar. Oil was up after reports of a tanker in the Gulf of Oman catching fire. Wall Street was pointed to a higher open.
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FTSE 100: up 0.3% at 7,392.40
FTSE 250: flat at 19,246.44
AIM ALL-SHARE: down 0.1% at 943.85

GBP: down at USD1.2674 (USD1.2727)
EUR: down at USD1.1292 (USD1.1320)

GOLD: flat at USD1,335.30 per ounce (USD1,334.28)
OIL (Brent): up at USD62.02 a barrel (USD60.85)

(changes since previous London equities close)
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ECONOMICS AND GENERAL
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US President Donald Trump said he will meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit later this month and also confirmed he will have talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Japan to discuss trade. "I have a feeling we are going to make a deal with China," Trump said on Wednesday at the White House, but also cautioned: "I'd like to make a deal but we will see what happens." Trump has accused China of reneging on agreements that were reached between the sides and indicated he is not willing to open up again issues that he believed were settled. Speaking in the Rose Garden of the White House, Trump said the sides had agreed on opening China for foreign businesses and handling issues around intellectual property theft.
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Iran's navy rescued 44 crew members from two oil tankers which caught fire after an "accident" in the Sea of Oman on Thursday, official news agency IRNA reported according to Agence France-Presse. "Forty-four sailors from the two foreign oil tankers which had an accident this morning in the Sea of Oman were saved from the water by the (navy) rescue unit of Hormozgan province and transferred to the port of Bandar-e-Jask," IRNA quoted an "informed source" as saying, AFP reported.
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The race to become the next UK prime minister is set to narrow as Conservative members of Parliament hold the first ballot of the contest following a week of leadership pitches. Frontrunner Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Sajid Javid were the final two of the 10 candidates to launch their campaigns, as the battle for Number 10 intensifies. Leadership hopefuls need at least 17 votes in the secret ballot to go through to the second round, with anyone below the threshold automatically eliminated. But even if all the candidates meet the target, the one with the lowest number of votes overall will still have to exit the race. Johnson launched his bid with a warning to MPs that they will "reap the whirlwind" if they try to thwart Brexit - and said it was essential that Britain was out of the EU by the end of October. Thursday's ballot is taking place between 1000 BST and 1200 BST, with the result due to be announced at 1300 BST.
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UK MPs opposed to a no-deal Brexit have failed in their latest attempt to seize control of parliamentary business in a bid to stop the next prime minister taking Britain out of the EU without a deal with Brussels. The Commons voted Wednesday by 309 to 298 to defeat a cross-party motion which would have given MPs control of the business of the House on June 25. For Labour, shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said the move would have enabled MPs to prevent the next prime minister leaving without a deal. Labour sources made clear they would try to find other parliamentary routes.
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The UK housing market is showing signs of stabilising following the Brexit deadline being pushed back to October, according to surveyors. For the first time since July 2018, property professionals have not reported that demand from buyers is declining, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said. It said: "The outright declines in the interest of new buyers in purchasing a home showed signs of stabilising May, in the wake of decision to extend the deadline for withdrawal from the EU till the end of October."
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Eurozone finance ministers are due Thursday to seek agreement on a fledgling eurozone budget at talks in Luxembourg, but must resolve differences on the financing and approximate size of such a fund, according to a senior EU official. The idea of a eurozone budget has been around for several years, with French President Emmanuel Macron pitching the notion of a standalone multi-billion-euro fund which was subsequently whittled down into a more modest Franco-German proposal. As it stands, the budget for the eurozone - which currently has 19 members - would be anchored in the financial spending framework for the entire 28-country EU, restricting the amount of money available.
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