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LONDON MARKET PRE-OPEN: Kingfisher Picks New CEO From Carrefour Asia

(Alliance News) - Stocks in London are set for a broadly flat start to Thursday's session with ...

Alliance News 27 June, 2019 | 7:49AM
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(Alliance News) - Stocks in London are set for a broadly flat start to Thursday's session with traders continuing to look ahead to this week's G20 summit in Japan, as the US threatened China with yet more tariffs.

A host of board changes for UK companies were announced early Thursday, with B&Q owner Kingfisher hiring a new chief executive from French supermarket chain Carrefour and Pendragon's boss leaving after a profit warning earlier this month.

IG says futures indicate the FTSE 100 index of large-caps to open 6.21 points higher at 7,422.60 on Thursday. The FTSE 100 index closed down 6.04 points, or 0.1%, at 7,416.39 on Wednesday.

In the US on Wednesday, Wall Street ended mixed, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing flat, the S&P 500 down 0.1% and the Nasdaq Composite up 0.3%.

In Asia on Thursday, the Japanese Nikkei 225 index ended up 1.2%. In China, the Shanghai Composite is up 0.5%, and the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong is 1.1% higher.

"US President Donald Trump threatened China with more tariffs, yet again, wiping away the mild optimism that came after the announcement of delayed tariffs on some USD300 billion Chinese goods a day earlier," said Ipek Ozkardeskaya at London Capital Group.

"But stocks in Asia roared and the Australian dollar advanced the most among the G10 versus the greenback on confirmation that Trump and Xi will meet on June 29, at 11.30am local time in Osaka," Ozkardeskaya continued, though adding: "It is important to note that the chances of a trade-deal remain low."

Ahead of his planned meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit this week, Trump on Wednesday said he would impose "very substantial additional tariffs" on Chinese goods if the US and China are not able to reach a trade deal.

Tariffs of up to 25% on USD325 billion worth of Chinese imports that aren't yet subject to the tax are "absolutely possible", Trump said in an interview with Fox Business.

The deal must include intellectual property theft protections, balancing trade levels and the opening of Chinese markets - the goals set by Washington from the start of the negotiations, Trump added.

The economic events calendar on Thursday has German inflation readings at 1300 BST and the third reading US GDP for the first quarter at 1330 BST.

Looking at the quarter just ending now, Capital Economics said it thinks US GDP growth was around 2.0% year-on-year in the second quarter, slowing from the 3.1% advance reported so far in the first.

In a raft of board changes in London on Thursday, DIY retailer Kingfisher said it has appointed Thierry Garnier as chief executive officer.

Garnier is currently the CEO of Carrefour Asia, where he is responsible for over 350 stores in China and Taiwan. On Sunday, Carrefour announced it had agreed to sell an 80% stake in Carrefour China to Chinese group Suning.com for an enterprise value of EUR1.4 billion.

Carrefour China operates a network of 210 hypermarkets and 24 convenience stores. Suning.com, meanwhile, operates 8,881 stores and is the country's third largest B2C e-commerce platform.

"In what was a rigorous recruitment process, Thierry stood out for the board from a strong list of candidates due to his recognised operational know-how at a multi-national retail business, his delivery of long-term value creation, and his experience in driving leading edge digital innovation, most recently in China," said Kingfisher Chair Andy Cosslett.

Garnier will join Kingfisher in the autumn, the retailer said, with the effective date of his appointment as CEO to be announced in due course.

Insurer Hiscox said Richard Watson will be standing down as chief underwriting officer.

He will step down from the board at the end of 2019, though will continue as an advisor and serve on subsidiary boards. A successor will be announced following a review of internal and external candidates, Hiscox added.

Go-Ahead said it has appointed the chair of cross-Channel operator Eurostar, Clare Hollingsworth, to take up the same role at the public transport firm, replacing Andrew Allner who will step down at the end of October.

Hollingsworth will leave Eurostar at the end of June, said Go-Ahead. She was previously a non-executive director at Savills and Assura and has also held the role of chief executive at Spire Healthcare.

Pendragon said Chief Executive Mark Herbert will be leaving the car dealer by "mutual agreement" at the end of June.

The company said it has started to look for his replacement and, until such an appointment is concluded, Chief Operating Officer Martin Casha and Chief Financial Officer Mark Willis will lead the business on a day to day basis.

As a result of Herbert's departure, the company said the strategic update it planned to unveil in September will now be postponed until a new boss is found.

A fortnight ago, Pendragon issued a profit warning as it braced for a small underlying loss in 2019 due to market conditions and excess stock across the business.

Outside of board and management changes, Serco said it expects to report "another good performance" in the first half of 2019.

The government-services outsourcing firm anticipates 20% growth in underlying trading profit to GBP50 million, with revenue growth of 6% to near GBP1.5 billion. Organic growth is expected at 4%, driven by the Americas and Asia Pacific divisions.

Annual revenue expected to be around the top end of Serco's previously stated GBP2.9 billion to GBP3.0 billion range, while the outsourcer held its underlying trading profit guidance at GBP105 million.

Order intake has been "extremely strong", Serco said, driven by the signing of contracts for asylum accommodation and support services in the UK.

"Following a strong 2018, which marked an inflection point for Serco after several years of decline, we expect to report another good performance in the first half of 2019. The revenue growth seen in the second half of 2018 has continued, and profits and margins are both well up on the first half of last year," said Chief Executive Rupert Soames.

Superdry delayed its annual results release due to the "complexity" associated with a non-cash onerous lease and store impairment provision.

The struggling fashion retailer now expects to announce its annual results on Wednesday 10 July, as opposed to Thursday 4 July scheduled originally.

As previously announced, Superdry said it will be making a non-cash onerous lease and store impairment provision in its full year results.

"As a consequence of the complexity of the work related to that provision, coupled with the recent management transition, Superdry has agreed with its auditors that it is appropriate to delay reporting its preliminary results for a short period to allow that work to be completed," the company said, adding that underlying pretax profit is expected to be in line with revised market expectations.

Superdry noted that since the release of its pre-close trading statement in May, five analyst updates have been published which see Superdry's profit averaging GBP44.7 million for the 2019 financial year.

Staffline announced fundraising plans to take in over GBP40 million in order for the group to reduce debt.

Staffline proposed a placing of up to GBP34 million via an accelerated bookbuild and an open offer of up to GBP7 million at an issue price of 100 pence per share. Proceeds from both the open offer and placing will be used to reduce debt. Staffline shares closed at 150.00p on Wednesday.

If the bookbuild does not close or shareholders do not approve resolutions to allot shares and disapply statutory pre-emption rights, the open offer cannot be implemented and Staffline's lenders could demand repayment of all borrowings, "which the group cannot afford".

"In such circumstances, the board believes that the only realistic option for the company would be to seek to further renegotiate or refinance the credit facility, and there can be no certainty that the group would be able to do so on commercially acceptable terms or at all," said Staffline, which added that it has agreed with lenders to amend that credit facility.

Earlier in June, Staffline made a final update to its national minimum wage compliance liabilities, raising the total amount to GBP15.1 million from GBP7.9 million, including GBP500,000 of adviser costs, all of which is expected to be a cash cost in 2019.

Elsewhere in the UK, Boris Johnson has moved to seize the initiative in the Tory leadership race, pledging to deliver an Australian-style points-based immigration system if he becomes UK prime minister.

The frontrunner to succeed Theresa May said he wanted to rebuild the public's faith in the UK's immigration system and to be "tougher on those who abuse our hospitality".

Appearing at the Tories' digital leadership hustings on Wednesday, Johnson, who has said he will take Britain out of the EU by October 31 "do or die", insisted the chances of a no-deal Brexit were "a million-to-one against". However, he left open the option of suspending Parliament if MPs tried to block a no-deal break.

Meanwhile, his rival for the Tory crown, Jeremy Hunt, has promised to write off tuition fee debt for young entrepreneurs who start up new businesses and take on staff.

Economists at KPMG have slashed their expectations for the UK's economic growth and warned of a slowdown due to Brexit uncertainty and global headwinds.

The professional services firm has downgraded its gross domestic product forecast for 2020 by 0.2 percentage point to 1.3%, in its latest quarterly outlook. It is expected that the rate will slow from 1.4% growth in 2019, as the boost from stockpiling recorded earlier this year unwinds.

The pound was quoted at USD1.2674 early Thursday, soft compared to USD1.2682 late Wednesday.

By Lucy Heming; lucyheming@alliancenews.com

Copyright 2019 Alliance News Limited. All Rights Reserved.

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Securities Mentioned in Article

Security Name Price Change (%) Morningstar
Staffline Group PLC 101.80 GBX -3.96 -
Hiscox Ltd 1,323.00 GBX -2.22 -
Pendragon PLC 10.76 GBX 2.48 -
Superdry PLC 500.00 GBX -0.30 -
Go-Ahead Group (The) PLC 2,016.00 GBX 2.34 -
Kingfisher PLC 213.80 GBX 0.38
Serco Group PLC 146.00 GBX -0.68 -

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