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TOP NEWS SUMMARY: Unilever Starts Share Buyback; CRH Finishes Its Own

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

Alliance News 29 April, 2019 | 11:33AM
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LONDON (Alliance News) - The following is a summary of top news stories Monday.
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COMPANIES
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Evraz reported strong growth in production, with sales also rising. Evraz produced 3.5 million tonnes of crude steel during the first quarter of 2019, 12% higher than the prior quarter and 4.1% higher on the same period a year before. Steel product sales rose 8.4% on the previous quarter to 3.2 million tonnes, and increased 3.9% on the year before. Evraz said the increase in steel output came mainly from higher pig iron production after repairs to a furnace during the fourth quarter of 2018. Evraz mined 6.8 million tonnes of raw coking coal, 0.1% down quarter-on-quarter, but up 15% on a year before. Coking coal concentrate production fell 13% on the quarter to 3.7 million tonnes and declined 11% on the year, while iron ore product output rose 8.0% on the quarter before to 3.6 million tonnes and by 6.0% year-on-year.
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Auto Trader Group announced the retirement of Chief Executive Trevor Mather who will leave his position at the end of March next year. Current Chief Operating Officer & Chief Financial Officer Nathan Coe will become CEO-designate on Wednesday this week, before taking over as CEO once Mather leaves. Auto Trader deputy CFO Jamie Warner becomes CFO-designate on Wednesday, and will take over finance functions once Coe becomes CEO next year. He will not join the board immediately but will do so in future. Catherine Faiers, current operations director, will become COO from Wednesday, and will join the board on that day.
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Ferrexpo said it was "naturally" disappointed by the resignation of auditor Deloitte. Last Friday, Deloitte quit with immediate effect amid an investigation into payments made by Ferrexpo into Ukrainian charity Blooming Land. Deloitte noted, as reasons for resigning, Ferrexpo's refusal in January to set up a forensic investigation into the matter. At the end of that month, it said that if Ferrexpo did not do so it would be forced to consider its position as auditor. Ferrexpo did set one up, but then released 2018 annual results before the review was completed. Ferrexpo released the annual figures on Tuesday last week. Ferrexpo said the charity is not related to the company in any way, nor to Chief Executive Kostyantin Zhevago, but Deloitte has disagreed. Ferrexpo has started looking for a new auditor, it confirmed Monday, and also said trading so far in 2019 has remained strong.
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Consumer goods giant Unilever said it is to buy back shares in a programme worth up to EUR165 million. The purpose, the Walls' ice cream owner said, is to allow the FTSE 100 firm to meet share award obligations. The buyback will start immediately and end by May 17. Unilever will buy a maximum of 995,000 Unilever PLC shares and 1.8 million Unilever NV shares.
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Irish building materials firm CRH will finish the latest part of its buyback programme by August, it said. CRH announced the EUR350 million extension last Wednesday as it reported a good start to 2019, and the buyback will run from Monday to August 16. J&E Davy will take charge of the buyback.
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MARKETS
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London shares were mixed as investors await a busy week of corporate earnings and interest rate decisions from the US Federal Reserve and Bank of England this week. The pound was flat against the dollar amid lack of progress over Brexit. Oil was down after US President Donald Trump's OPEC comments. Wall Street was pointed to a flat open with Google parent company Alphabet set to report earnings after the market close in New York Monday.
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FTSE 100: down 0.1% at 7,418.44
FTSE 250: up 0.3% at 19,901.22
AIM ALL-SHARE: flat at 969.97

GBP: flat at USD1.2932 (USD1.2929)
EUR: flat at USD1.1162 (USD1.1158)

GOLD: down at USD1,282.10 per ounce (USD1,287.14)
OIL (Brent): down at USD71.22 a barrel (USD71.90)

(changes since previous London equities close)
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ECONOMICS AND GENERAL
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Talks between the UK government and Labour aimed at breaking the Brexit deadlock will continue on Monday with both parties facing internal pressures ahead of European elections. Tories fear the May 23 poll could result in an electoral mauling for UK Prime Minister Theresa May if she has not been able to deliver the Brexit that Britons voted for almost three years ago. The contest is forcing Labour to clarify its position on a second referendum, with Jeremy Corbyn and the party's National Executive Committee under pressure from MPs and MEPs to back a vote on any Brexit deal. Senior Tories have said they still hope the elections – and the threat posed by Nigel Farage's Brexit Party – can be avoided if a compromise deal can get through Parliament before polling day, allowing the contest to be cancelled. But Labour has played down the prospects of a breakthrough in the cross-party talks, accusing May of refusing to change her Brexit red lines.
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Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez claimed victory in Sunday's general election as his Socialist Workers' Party appeared set to gain the most votes but without a clear majority, while far-right newcomers Vox were in for a breakthrough result. "The Socialist Party has won the general election," Sanchez told supporters. "The future has won and the past has lost." With 99.9% of ballots counted, the governing party was set to secure 123 of 350 seats in parliament, according to daily El Pais. However, the socialist victory won't be enough to end the political uncertainty that has dogged Spanish politics. The conservative People's Party came in second place with 16.7% of the votes, the liberal Ciudadanos came third with 15.8 and the left-wing Podemos party placed fourth with 14.3%. Meanwhile, the Vox party is expected to enter the national parliament for the first time since it was founded in 2013 with 10.2% of the votes, marking the first time in decades that a right-wing extremist force has made it into the Madrid legislature. "This is just the beginning," Vox leader Santiago Abascal told supporters.
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US President Donald Trump criticized Japanese tariffs on US agricultural products on Friday while saying a trade deal could "go very quickly", during a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Japan's chronic trade surplus with the US has attracted Trump's ire, with the US leader threatening to impose tariffs on Japanese vehicles. "We have a very big trade negotiation going on right now with Japan," Trump told reporters during a meeting with Abe at the White House. "We'll be discussing very strongly agriculture because as the PM knows Japan puts very massively tariffs on our agriculture."
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Chinese President Xi Jinping said USD64 billion in deals were signed at the second Belt & Road Forum in Beijing on Saturday, in his closing address to the conference. The deals were signed during a chief executives summit during the meeting, according to state news outlet Xinhua, without providing further details. Xi used his closing speech to reiterate that the massive infrastructure project would focus on "open, clean and green development" with different parties holding "consultation as equals." The Belt & Road Initiative has been accused by the US of luring developing countries into debt by offering cheap financing they cannot afford.
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Trump said Friday he called the oil cartel OPEC and demanded lower prices for energy, amid a spike in the cost of gasoline at the pump in the US. The US president claimed, without empirical evidence, that gasoline prices are already falling. It was unclear what Trump meant when he said he called the cartel. "The gasoline prices are coming down. I called up OPEC. I said: You have got to bring them down," Trump told reporters at the White House. "We are doing great." The president later posted on Twitter that he had spoken to Saudi Arabia about increasing output. "Spoke to Saudi Arabia and others about increasing oil flow. All are in agreement," Trump said, without elaborating further on the issue.
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