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FTSE recovers as eurozone slips into double dip

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UVDL 
UVDL

Education publisher Pearson has been hit with a second successive investor revolt over executive pay, sending shares into the red.

Around 37pc of shareholders opposed the blue-chip’s remuneration report following a $9.3m (£7.2m) golden hello handed to new chief executive Andy Bird. Some 33pc opposed Mr Bird’s co-investment award at an extraordinary general meeting in September.

The former Disney executive is in line for nearly $10m in share awards on top of an annual salary worth $1.25m.

Following the annual meeting, Pearson said it always recognised the pay package needed to secure an executive of Mr Bird’s calibre would be unusual for the UK market.

A spokesman said: “We continue to have wide-ranging and constructive engagement with our shareholders, and there is strong support for Andy’s appointment and for the new strategy he announced.”

It comes after Pearson chairman Sidney Taurel announced plans last week to step down at next year’s AGM after coming under pressure following the pay row.

Pearson’s shares slid 5.4p to 830p, though remain more than 20pc higher than at the beginning of the year.

A string of positive corporate earnings helped to buoy the FTSE 100, leaving it up for the third successive month in a row though still below the threshold of 7,000 it topped earlier in April. The benchmark added 8.33 points to 6,969.81, securing a monthly gain of about 3.8pc, the most since November.

The FTSE 250, which hit record highs this month, finished April’s final day of trading with gains of 104.43 points at 22,497.37.London’s gains came as the eurozone suffered a double dip recession at the start of the year.

Sterling meanwhile slipped against the dollar and euro as traders await the Bank of England’s policy meeting next week.

AstraZeneca gave markets a shot in the arm as the top flight’s best performing stock after it said net profit doubled in the first quarter, with sales of its Covid jab at $275m (£197m). Shares rose 317p to £77.15 – its highest price since the end of January.

Just behind was packaging firm Smurfit Kappa, which soared 150p to £37.14 after the Dublin-based firm reported a 6pc rise in first quarter revenue to €2.3bn (£2bn). It has been boosted by rising cardboard packaging prices which have shot up as people turn to online shopping.

Chief executive Tony Smurfit said: “The first quarter was remarkable in many ways. We had strong corrugated volume growth in practically every area and all markets in which we operate.”

Hikma Pharmaceuticals joined the pack, adding 75p to £24.40 after it said it expects revenue at its generics arm to reach the top end of previous guidance of $770m to $810m (£553m to £582m). It also won approval in the US for a nasal spray used to treat victims of suspected opioid overdoses.

05:06 PM

Wrapping up

That is all from us this week - here are some of today's top stories:

Thanks for joining, and have a great weekend!

04:32 PM

Markets 'roar out of April'

Some comments from AJ Bell's financial analyst Danni Hewson, on the final day of April trading and a little look ahead:

“The FTSE 100 clearly decided to ditch the old adage and roared out of April, briefly topping the 7,000 mark before ending the day a hair below at 6,969. The bank holiday will no doubt prove a welcome respite after a whirlwind of economic data and company results over the past couple of weeks.

"The FTSE’s recovery comes in-spite of confirmation that the Eurozone suffered a double dip recession at the start of the year, a factor that seemed to trouble markets across the Atlantic.

“The dollar strengthened, and sterling slipped as US monetary policy issues were set aside and UK ones brought into focus ahead of next week’s Bank of England meeting. Like the Fed policy makers, there will likely be discussions about the improving outlook but not expected to make any immediate changes.

“And what of that outlook? Is the Barclays boss correct in his predictions that the economy is about to party like it’s 1948? Judging by the numbers flocking to my local pub he’s definitely onto something, though the bank’s decision not to release any funds set aside for bad debt seemed strangely at odds with the optimistic rhetoric."

04:07 PM

Pearson hit with investor revolt

Education publisher Pearson has been hit with a second successive investor revolt over executive pay.

My colleague Ben Woods reports:

Around 37pc of shareholders have opposed the company's remuneration report following a $9.3m (£7.2m) golden hello handed to new chief executive Andy Bird.

The rebellion comes after 33pc opposed Mr Bird's co-investment award at an extraordinary general meeting on September 18. The former Disney executive is in line for nearly $10m in share awards on top of an annual salary worth $1.25m.

Following the annual meeting, Pearson said it always recognised that the pay package needed to secure an executive of Mr Bird's calibre would be unusual for the UK market.

It comes after Pearson chairman Sidney Taurel announced plans last week to step down at next year's annual meeting. He has come under pressure following the pay row and overseeing a lengthy selection process that allowed Mr Bird to interview candidates as an independent director before applying for the role himself.

03:40 PM

US markets fall from all-time highs

Twitter
Twitter

US stocks have dropped from all-time highs today, as some of the world's largest tech firms lose out and as fresh data showed potential inflation pressures.

Figures showed US personal incomes soared in March by the most in monthly records back to 1946, fuelled by a third set of pandemic-relief cheques.

The personal consumption expenditure price index - a key measure of consumer prices that the Fed officially uses for targets - rose 2.3pc last Month compared to a year earlier. This marks the biggest gain since 2018.

Among tech firms, Twitter has slumped more than 13pc after posting a sluggish start to the year in its advertising arm. Other big names like Apple and Google-parent Alphabet, also slipped.

Here's how markets stand just before midday in New York:

  • S&P 500: -0.6pc

The benchmark is still poised to end the first four months of the year with a rally of more than 10pc.

  • Dow Jones: -0.7pc

  • Tech-heavy Nasdaq: -0.5pc

03:12 PM

UK vaccine uptake

New government figures show more than 34.2m people in Britain have been given the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Another 2,381 people have contracted the disease, in a slight dip from yesterday.

03:05 PM

IMF creates gender issues role

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said it is creating a new high level adviser position on gender issues, in order to strengthen its work on gender equality and help member countries create more opportunities amid a recovery from the pandemic.

At an online event, managing director Kristalina Georgieva said that IMF economist Ratna Sahay - deputy director of its monetary and capital markets department - would fill the role.

02:50 PM

Amazon keeps on climbing

Amazon's shares have rallied to a record intraday high in the wake of quarterly results that topped analyst projections.

The e-commerce giant said yesterday online shopping would remain high in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Its shares rose as much as 2.4pc to touch an all-time high of $3,554, taking out a previous record that was set in September. First-quarter revenue jumped 44pc to $108.5bn and earnings were a record $15.79 a share, blowing past Wall Street analysts’ expectations. It also provided a second-quarter sales forecast that were stronger than projections.

Analysts were widely positive on Amazon’s results, with several boosting their share-price targets and calling for strong long-term growth ahead.

02:30 PM

'Maybe Darktrace is a real technology company after all'

Our chief City commentator Ben Marlow has this to say on Darktrace's IPO today on the stock exchange: "How apt that cyber security firm Darktrace has managed to catch unsuspecting doubters off guard with what looks like a successful stock market debut. Perhaps it’s a real technology company after all." He adds:

With the shares rocketing more than 40pc in early trading, it is easy to get carried away and declare this a resounding triumph after Deliveroo’s spectacular float flop. The listing stands as a clear lesson for wannabe public stocks everywhere, not just tech companies.

When it comes to selling shares, if investors have just had their fingers burnt on one float, it pays to be prudent. In fact, it is always wise to leave something on the table, as the saying goes.

Read more of Ben's City Intelligence column here.

02:24 PM

Sterling slips

The pound has slipped against the dollar and euro, as traders await the Bank of England's policy meeting next week.

Sterling fell by as much fell as 0.7pc, on course for its worst day in over a month, to around $1.3853.

The losses marked a retreat from a nine-day high on Thursday, as the dollar rebounded from the lowest level in nine weeks, plumbed after the US Federal Reserve squashed expectation of any shift in its monetary policy.

01:52 PM

Rule change for 'blank cheque' companies

The UK’s markets regulator has unveiled changes to its listing rules for "blank cheque" companies as London attempts to throw the door open to the growing Spac craze, Morgan Meaker writes.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said that it plans to ease rules that dictate special purpose acquisition (Spacs) should suspend their shares in the event of a reverse takeover.

Designed to prevent disorderly trading, the rules have been cited as one of the key reasons why the City has missed out on a Spac frenzy that has gripped the US and Europe.

Spacs - "blank cheque" vehicles that float on the market before they find a takeover target – raised $83bn (£60bn) last year alone. However, the vast majority of that came from the US where 248 Spacs listed.

In the UK, there were only four listings, raising just £30m. The watchdog estimates that number has grown rapidly in 2021. But of the 33 Spacs currently listed in the UK, 40pc are suspended under the current rules.

To avoid suspensions, the FCA said Spacs should set a minimum amount of £200m to be raised when shares are initially listed and ensure cash raised from public shareholders is ring-fenced to either fund an acquisition or be returned.

They should also offer a "redemption" option, enabling investors to exit prior to any acquisition being completed and a time limit on their operating period if no acquisition is made.

Spacs that cannot or will not meet those requirements would still be subject to the suspension rules under the new reforms, the FCA said.

01:45 PM

US personal income surges

Americans saw a big recovery in earnings last month, boosted by a new round of government aid that quickly found its way to retailers, according to government data released on Friday.

Personal income surged 21.1pc in March after falling seven percent in the prior month, "impacted by the continued government response to Covid-19", the Commerce Department said.

The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan relief measure enacted last month included $1,400 cash payments to most taxpayers while also expanding unemployment benefits and aid to businesses, as well as tax credits meant to fight poverty.

With extra cash on hand, personal consumption expenditures rose 4.2pc or $616bn in the month, more than recovering from the one percent drop in February, according to the report.

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01:39 PM

Wall Street opens lower

Wall Street's main indexes opened lower on Friday as investors hit pause after a barrage of strong earnings and upbeat economic data through the week drove the benchmark S&P 500 index to record levels in the previous session.

The Dow Jones fell 71.6 points, or 0.21pc, at the open to 33988.75. The S&P 500 fell 13.4 points, or 0.32pc, to 4198.1​, while the Nasdaq Composite dropped 111.8 points, or 0.79pc, to 13970.729.

01:32 PM

Hurricane blow out

Shares in North Sea oil driller Hurricane Energy have crashed as the company announced a restructuring that will hand 95pc of the business to bondholders, Rachel Millard writes.

The Aim-listed company says the debt-for-equity swap is essential to keep going with a new strategy after its Lancaster field in the west of Shetland area “significantly underperformed” leading to downgraded production estimates.

Hurricane has a strong following of retail shareholders who bought into the vision of former chief executive Robert Trice, a geologist who developed techniques to recover oil from fractures in brittle rock.

But under the deal announced today, bondholders will waive $50m debt in return for 95pc of the company, while payment dates on the remaining $180m owed will be pushed out to 2024.

Antony Maris, who took over as chief executive afterMr Trice stepped down last year, said: "Current financial projections show we will not be in a position to repay our convertible bonds at maturity from Lancaster Field cash flows.

“Significant time and effort has been focused on all available technical, financial and commercial options and, after careful consideration, we believe that implementation of the proposed restructuring will deliver the best possible outcome.”

The plan will be voted on by bondholders at a meeting on May 21. But the company warned if it did not go through, "it is likely that there would be a controlled wind-down of the group's operations followed by an insolvent liquidation of the company".

Shares crashed 49pc to record lows of 1.18p.

01:27 PM

ExxonMobil: back in black

One of the world's largest oil companies has followed peers such as Shell in reporting a strong first quarter. ExxonMobil said on Friday it had returned to profitability, bolstered by a significant jump in oil and natural gas prices.

The oil giant, which reported losses in all four quarters in 2020, reported profits of $2.7bn in the first quarter. Revenues rose 5.3pc to $59.1bn.

The company said its average price for crude oil sold rose 42pc compared with the fourth quarter, while natural gas prices rose by 33pc.

After a strong rally, oil is off the pace a little today, however: Brent crude is down 2.6pc at $66.74 a barrel.

01:20 PM

Darktrace: in demand

Shares in cybersecurity business Darktrace are still up 40pc on its public market debut, James Cook writes.

The company, which uses artificial intelligence to detect and prevent cyberattacks, priced its share at 250p on Friday morning, giving the business a valuation of £1.7bn that was far below a £3bn market cap that was initially planned.

Strong interest in conditional trading of Darktrace shares sent that price up more than 40pc as trading began, boosting the price to above 350p.

The rise in Darktrace’s share price indicated that investor appetite remains strong for British technology businesses despite Deliveroo’s disappointing float in March.

The food delivery company’s share price crashed more than 25pc in its debut, wiping £2bn off its valuation.

12:32 PM

Soriot's fighting talk

The chief executive of AstraZeneca has hit back at critics in Brussels over jab shortages and said India would have had "no vaccines" without it, Hannah Boland writes.

Pascal Soriot, speaking at its first quarter results on Friday, said the company had "done its best" on delivering vaccines for the Covid pandemic, even in the face of intense criticism.

He said at the start of the pandemic "everybody was talking about 120, 130 vaccines in development - we forget that. But where are all those vaccines? They're nowhere."

"Without AstraZeneca, there would be no vaccine in India and no supply to Covax", Mr Soriot said, referring to the organisation delivering jabs to developing countries. Read the full story here.

12:23 PM

Archegos fallout continues

Remember the huge losses incurred by banks that extended credit to hedge fund Archegos? Well, the fallout keeps going... two senior execs at Nomura and Credit Suisse have stepped down over the fiasco.

Nomura’s most senior trader at its US unit is stepping down from his role, the latest shake-up at the Japanese bank after it lost almost $3bn on trades with Archegos, Bloomberg reports.

Jonathan Raiff, deputy head of global markets who oversees trading in the Americas, will focus on other projects, according to people familiar with the matter.

Meanwhile Credit Suisse board member and risk committee chairman Andreas Gottschling did not stand for re-election at its AGM today, becoming the latest head to roll among top leadership after a series of debacles.

Mr Gottschling is leaving after proxy adviser Glass Lewis and some of Credit Suisse's large investors opposed his re-election to the board.

At the bank's annual general meeting, new chair Antonio Horta-Osorio, said: “We will take the time required for an in-depth assessment of the bank’s strategic options... Then we will decide on a course of action and closely oversee the execution.”

11:54 AM

HSBC to raise pay for junior staff as banks battle burnout

HSBC 
HSBC

HSBC's global banking unit will raise fixed pay for junior investment bankers in key hubs and hire more of them to share the workload, becoming the latest global firm to take steps to address burnout among staff.

The lender will also shorten a four year associate program for certain groups in hub locations, including Hong Kong, London and the US, according to an internal memo seen by Bloomberg.

Associates with three years experience will now be considered for promotion to vice president, or associate director, the memo said.

The work-till-you-drop culture of global finance has come to the fore in recent months as Covid-19 has emptied office towers in New York, London and beyond and the industry experiences one of its busiest years in memory. [via Bloomberg]

11:36 AM

EU charges Apple with antitrust abuse

Margrethe Vestager
Margrethe Vestager

The European Commission has formally charged Apple with abusing its power as a gatekeeper to music-streaming apps via its App Store and creating adverse conditions for smaller players in the market.

My colleague Morgan Meaker reports:

The antitrust case follows complaints from Swedish streaming service Spotify that accused Apple of unfairly squeezing its music streaming service with constantly changing rules and a large sales commission on the app store which has forced it to raise its prices.

“Apple is a gatekeeper to users of iPhones and iPads via the App Store,” EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said.

In a later press conference, she took aim at strict rules Apple sets for apps on its app stores which allow them to qualify for cheaper commission rates.

"Not only are they not allowed to mention their website or link to them in their own apps, they are also not allowed to send emails to users that created an account in the app in order to inform them about cheaper alternatives," she said.

"So Apple devices users pay significantly higher prices for some music services, or for service like Spotify, they cannot buy certain subscriptions directly in the app."

11:15 AM

Sturgeon accused of ‘culture of waste’ after £100m ferry loss

Sturgeon
Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon's SNP has been accused of a “casual culture of waste and arrogant disregard for public funds” after a Glasgow shipyard racked up £100m of losses in just four months after being nationalised.

My colleague Oliver Gill reports:

The 118-year-old Ferguson Marine yard on the Firth of Clyde was taken into public ownership in December 2019 after collapsing into administration four months earlier.

Accounts filed this week revealed that the losses were generated over just four months of operational trading between August 2019 and March 2020.

Bosses blamed the losses on write-offs in relation to the shipbuilder’s failure to deliver two ferries linking Scottish islands to the mainland.

The Scottish government injected £17m into the business to keep it afloat during the four months of trading, according to The Herald, which first reported the losses.

10:55 AM

Staley says Barclays to avoid ‘strict mandate’ on office return

Jes Staley
Jes Staley

Barclays boss Jes Staley, who previously said home working was "not sustainable", changed his tune this morning, saying the bank won’t force employees to return to the office once lockdowns ease.

"I don’t think you’ll see a strict mandate from Barclays saying you have to be in from this day to that day. The pandemic has taught us we can be quite flexible," he told Bloomberg TV.

Mr Staley said he still expects many staff will miss working alongside colleagues and forecast a “scaled return” from June. "I think many would like to come back into the office to reconnect with their employees. That physical presence is important for people."

10:34 AM

Smurfit Kappa jumps as sales rise

Shares in Smurfit Kappa soared 4.2pc after the box maker reported a rise in first quarter sales, making it the biggest riser on the FTSE 100.

The company was boosted by rising cardboard packaging prices, which have shot up in recent months as people turned to online shopping.

Millions of boxes are being shipped each week, bringing everything from food to games and electronics to front doors around the world.

"The first quarter was remarkable in many ways. We had strong corrugated volume growth in practically every area and all markets in which we operate," said Smurfit Kappa chief executive Tony Smurfit.

Underlying revenue jumped 6pc to €2.3bn (£2bn) at the Dublin-based company which is listed on London's FTSE 100 index.

10:14 AM

Palladium extends rally to record $3,000

Palladium
Palladium

Palladium climbed above $3,000 an ounce for the first time, extending its record rally as recovering economies bolster demand from automakers and a global shortage of the metal deepens.

Bloomberg has the details:

Palladium, used in catalytic converters to curb emissions in gasoline-powered vehicles, rose as much as 1.7pc to $3,010.63 an ounce in London.

Prices have advanced more than 20pc this year, building on five straight annual gains.

The surge is the latest in a series of milestones for metals this month, with rebounding industrial demand pushing everything from aluminum to copper to steel to records or multiyear highs.

At the same time supplies are shrinking: With rising car demand, tightening pollution controls and production disruptions, UBS Group AG says consumption of palladium is set to outstrip production for a 10th straight year.

09:46 AM

Australia considering five-year jail terms for citizens arriving from India

Local media in Australia is reporting that its government is considering five year jail terms and $66,000 fines for any citizen who tries to return to the country from India, after it banned entry to 9000 Aussies stranded in the country earlier this week.

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09:30 AM

Full report: Eurozone plunges into double dip recession as Covid ravages continent

Our Deputy Economics Editor Tim Wallace has a full report on Europe slipping into a double dip recession. He writes:

The eurozone tumbled into a double dip recession at the start of the year as Germany stumbled with an unexpectedly large Covid contraction.

Measures to combat the pandemic pushed the continent’s largest economy into reverse, with German GDP falling 1.7pc in the first three months of the year.

Its economy is still almost 5pc smaller now than it was before the coronavirus struck.

Carsten Brzeski, an economist at ING, called the drop “a severe setback”, adding: “While the country was a positive growth driver for the entire eurozone economy at the end of last year, it has now turned into a drag factor.”

Germany helped drag the wider eurozone back into recession, with GDP down 0.6pc, following the 0.7pc contraction in the final quarter of 2020.

A recession formally occurs when an economy shrinks for two consecutive quarters. Italy now meets that criteria. Its economy contracted by 0.4pc in the first quarter and by 1.8pc in the final three months of last year.

Spain is on the brink of a recession after its economy stagnated at the end of 2020 then shrank 0.5pc in the first quarter.

09:22 AM

House prices surge at fastest pace in 17 years

Houses
Houses

House prices have surged at the fastest pace in more than 17 years to a record high, as the extension of the stamp duty holiday reignited the property market.

My colleague Will Kirkman writes:

Prices jumped 2.1pc month-on-month in April, the biggest monthly rise since February 2004, to a record high average price of £238,831, according to lender Nationwide.

House prices bounced back from a dip in March, with Nationwide reporting an annual increase in values of 7.1pc, up from 5.7pc in March and close to December’s six-year high of 7.3pc.

Nationwide’s Robert Gardner said: “Just as expectations of the end of the stamp duty holiday led to a slowdown in house price growth in March, so the extension of the stamp duty holiday in the Budget prompted a reacceleration in April.”

Buyer demand was widely expected to collapse when the stamp duty holiday finished, but the scheme was extended in March to September 30.

Ryan Schofield, of Peak Mortgages and Protection, a mortgage broker, said: "Demand in April has been incredible, particularly among first time buyers given that mortgage availability has improved for those with smaller deposits."

09:07 AM

BREAKING: Eurozone enters double dip

The euro-area economy slid into a double-dip recession at the start of the year as strict coronavirus lockdowns across the region kept many businesses shuttered and consumers wary to spend.

Output in the 19-nation euro area was down 0.6pc in the first quarter and declined at nearly three times that pace in Germany, Bloomberg reports.

The numbers show how far behind the European Union is in recovering from the pandemic amid a slow vaccine rollout.

In contrast, the US yesterday posted annualised growth of 6.4pc - fueled by a rush of household spending.

08:42 AM

Barclays shares fall, Astra shares climb

The two big blue-chip names reporting today have found themselves at opposite ends of the FTSE 100.

Barclays shares are down more than 5pc despite reporting its most profitable quarter for more than a decade.

Why so? Investec analyst Ian Gordon offers this explanation: he said in a note to clients that the bank's near-term profits will depend heavily on its investment banking arm, as the lender says "headwinds to income in Barclays UK are expected to persist in 2021”.

Mr Gordon adds: "The outlook remains problematic... Additionally, costs are now guided to increase year on year in 2021 reflecting variable pay and structural spend (including a real estate review)."

Russ Mould, of AJ Bell, suggests Barclays' decision "not to adjust its previous bad debt estimates, unlike most of its peer group, appears to have spooked the market". Rivals HSBC, Lloyds and NatWest this week all released cash they had put by for a rainy day in the expectation that companies and households would default on loans.

Meanwhile AstraZeneca shares are up nearly 4pc on its positive update. ShoreCap analysts said: "Although relative to consensus expectations the performance of key assets in the first quarter was slightly weaker than expected, we continue to see robust financials moving forward, not least improving profitability this financial year, which should be supportive of out-performance."

08:24 AM

German economy shrinks

Germany's economy shrank 1.7pc in the first quarter as rising coronavirus infections forced shutdowns to be extended, official data showed on Friday.

"The coronavirus crisis caused another decline in economic performance at the beginning of 2021," the Destatis federal statistics agency said, after analysts surveyed by Factset had expected a smaller contraction of 1.5pc in Europe's largest economy.

08:18 AM

Darktrace: the Lynch connection

Darktrace is best known for its connection to Mike Lynch, the founder of Autonomy, writes James Cook.

The tech entrepreneur is awaiting judgement in a $5bn (£3.6bn) High Court trial over the company’s sale to HP and is fighting extradition to the US on fraud charges. He has denied all wrongdoing.

Dr Lynch helped start Darktrace using his Invoke Capital fund and the company’s senior ranks feature many of his former Autonomy employees. Chief executive Poppy Gustaffson, for example, previously worked as a financial controller at Autonomy.

Dr Lynch and his wife together own 18.5pc stake in Darktrace. Autonomy’s former finance chief Sushovan Hussain, who was imprisoned on fraud charges, owns 2.8pc of the company.

Ahead of the float, there had been concerns that the shadow of Dr Lynch over the business could frighten investors away from backing Darktrace.

Darktrace warned in filings for its float that the criminal and civil charges against Dr Lynch "could result in a material adverse effect" on the business.

Mike Lynch
Mike Lynch

UBS, the Swiss investment bank, quit as an adviser in February citing compliance concerns.

City sources told The Telegraph that rival banks declined the chance to participate in the float after Darktrace raised concerns on due diligence committees.

Earlier this month, a Darktrace spokesman denied suggestions that Dr Lynch controls the company, saying: “Darktrace operates as a stand-alone company led by Poppy.”

08:12 AM

'Welcome boost' to London markets

Michael Hewson of CMC Markets says Darktrace's float is a "welcome boost" for the London market. He adds:

There were early indications that the initial valuation might be higher than this, at around £3bn, however it appears that a little bit of caution has broken out amongst London bankers after the shambles of the Deliveroo valuation.

Given the sharp boost in initial trading there will inevitably be some criticism that the listing was priced too low, however given what happened with Deliveroo maybe expectations were adjusted lower by a little too much.

07:35 AM

Darktrace shares pop on debut

The cybersecurity company's shares have jumped nearly 40pc in early trading. Having priced at 250p, they're now around 350p.

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07:17 AM

Darktrace prices shares at 250p

Shares in Cambridge cybersecurity business Darktrace has begun conditional trading in London this morning, with the business pricing its shares at 250p with a £1.7bn valuation, writes James Cook.

That is a steep discount on initial plans to go public at a £3bn valuation.

Technology investors will hope that the reduction will help the software business to avoid the same fate as Deliveroo, which saw its share price crash in its market debut.

Darktrace, which uses artificial intelligence to automatically detect and stop cyberattacks, has taken great care to explain to potential backers that it doesn’t suffer from Deliveroo’s gig economy issues.

“I think that investors can see that Deliveroo is a very different type of business,” Darktrace chief executive Poppy Gustaffson told The Telegraph earlier this month.

Unlimited trading of the shares will begin on May 6, Darktrace confirmed this morning.

The float will be welcomed by Mike Lynch, the Autonomy founder who awaits judgement in a $5bn (£3.6bn) High Court trial over the company’s sale to HP and is fighting extradition to the US on fraud charges. He has denied all wrongdoing. Mr Lynch and his wife together own 18.5pc stake in Darktrace

06:50 AM

Bullish Barclays

Barclays made its biggest quarterly profits in 13 years during the first three months of the year - recording a pre-tax profit of £2.4bn - on revenues of £5.9bn.

The bank said it benefitted from a strong recovery in the stock market through its corporate and investment bank and also enjoyed a boost from its high street mortgage lending as homeowners took advantage of the stamp duty holiday.

Barclays boss Jes Staley said the bank had seen "encouraging early signs of recovery in some sectors, including those hit hardest by the crisis".

"I think there will be a very robust recovery," he told the BBC this morning.

06:44 AM

Astra reveals vaccine sales figures

AstraZeneca said its Covid-19 vaccine contributed $275m in sales and shaved off three cents per share from its first-quarter profits, as it reported better-than-expected results and forecast sales growth.

This is the first time the drugmaker has given financial details from the distribution and sales of its vaccine. It has said it will not make a profit from the shot during the pandemic.

Vaccine revenue included delivery of about 68 million doses worldwide, it said. Sales in Europe were $224m, emerging market sales were $43m, and $8min the rest of the world, it said.

Total revenue, which includes payments from collaborations, rose 11pc to $7.32bn for the three months to March on a constant-currency basis, while core earnings stood at $1.63 cents per share, the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker said.

Analysts on average were expecting core earnings of $1.48 per share on sales of $6.94bn for the first quarter, according to a company-provided consensus of 18 analysts.

"We expect the impact of Covid to reduce and anticipate a performance acceleration in the second half of 2021," chief executive Pascal Soriot said.

06:31 AM

Astra profits jump

Good morning. Pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneca said that net profit doubled in the first quarter, with sales of its Covid jab at $275m (£197m).

Profit after tax jumped to $1.56 billion in the three months to the end of March, compared with $780 million a year earlier​.

5 things to start your day

1) NatWest to move HQ if Scotland votes for independence: Ms Rose said the bailed-out bank would be forced to act because it is simply too big for the Scottish economy to support.

2) WPP blocks share options for Martin Sorrell over media leaks: Advertising agency says incentives for former chief executive will lapse because he disclosed confidential information to media.

3) Amazon shares hit all-time high as profits treble: Jeff Bezos’ retail giant trebled profits and said it expects its sales boom to continue even as the pandemic subsides.

4) ITV in the race for BT Sport: Deal with commercial broadcaster would be likely to put some Premier League and Champions League matches back on terrestrial television.

5) Brexit freedoms let BoE cut red tape for small lenders: Officials are looking at how they can liberate smaller banks and building societies that operate only in the UK from the regulation.

What happened overnight

Asian shares slipped on Friday but world stocks held near a record high after strong US economic data and the Federal Reserve's commitment to continue supporting the economy fuelled investors' appetite for risk.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dropped 0.5pc with both Japan and China falling ahead of a long weekend. Both markets will be closed through to Wednesday.

Japan's Nikkei fell 0.4pc while China's CSI 300 lost 0.5pc in early trade.

MSCI's broadest gauge of world stocks covering 50 markets, ACWI, was little changed, a day after it hit a historic high, extending its monthly gains to 5.1pc.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 also closed at an all-time high while the Nasdaq Composite hit a intraday record before paring some gains.

For both ACWI and S&P500, analysts are now expecting the earnings in the next 12 months to recover to above their pre-pandemic levels.

Coming up today

Corporate: AstraZeneca, Barclays (Interim); Hikma Pharma, Smurfit Kappa (Trading update)

Economics: Retail sales (Ger); GDP, consumer price index, unemployment rate (EU); personal consumption (US)