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Gas prices jump as Russia keeps a lid on supplies

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·40 min read
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Gas prices Russia supply energy crisis Gazprom - Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg
Gas prices Russia supply energy crisis Gazprom - Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

European gas prices have risen sharply after Russia opted not to pump more gas into Europe even after President Vladimir Putin said he was prepared to boost supplies.

Gazprom doesn't plan to send more gas via pipelines through Ukraine next month, according to the results of several auctions this month. Instead it will send only limited supplies through Poland.

The latest move shows the Kremlin is maintaining its tight grip on the market, despite President Putin claiming he was “prepared to discuss any additional steps” to boost supplies and calm the turbulent market.

UK gas prices jumped almost 12pc to 262p a therm before falling back to more modest gains, while prices on the Dutch exchange – the European benchmark – rose as much as 15pc.

It comes after Russia said it's already pumped gas into its controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is still awaiting approach from German regulators. The Kremlin has said the pipeline could help ease gas supply issues across the continent.

05:03 PM

Wrap

That's all for today - thanks for following. We'll be back in the morning.

04:51 PM

High street names rush to find festive workers

M&S - Charlotte Ball/PA
M&S - Charlotte Ball/PA

Marks & Spencer and Boots are joining the scramble to find Christmas workers, with tens of thousands of jobs yet to be filled on the high street.

M&S said it was looking to hire 12,000 temporary customer assistants who would work in its stores over December, as well as 750 seasonal and permanent roles in its warehouses. Some of those working in its UK stores over the Christmas period may be offered permanent roles.

High street pharmacy Boots, meanwhile, is aiming to hire 5,500 seasonal staff across its stores, warehouses and call centre.

The pair announced their plans amid a rush to find temporary workers among major high street names, including at Amazon where staff are being offered signing-on bonuses as large as £3,000.

04:30 PM

German fintech N26 more than doubles valuation in latest fundraise

German digital bank N26 has landed a valuation of more than $9bn (£6.6bn) ahead of a possible public listing, in a sign investor appetite for fintechs remains buoyant.

N26 said it had raised more than $900m in a round led by Third Point Ventures, in a move which meant its valuation more than doubled, from $3.5bn.

It means N26's valuation is around the same as Germany's second largest listed lender Commerzbank.

N26 chief financial officer Jan Kemper told Bloomberg:

“We also want to use the money for M&A deals, to either expand geographically or to grow our product offering. We do not need to develop everything ourselves.”

Mr Kemper has previously spoken about plans to float the business, saying earlier this year:

“Within the next one and half to two years, we want to be in the position to pull the trigger on a stock market listing if we decide that is the right thing to do."

N26 made the move to quit Britain and shut hundreds of thousands of customers' bank accounts in 2019 - something it said was driven by Brexit and red tape.

04:10 PM

Amazon accused of misleading Congress over data use

Amazon - DAVID BECKER/AFP
Amazon - DAVID BECKER/AFP

Amazon has been accused by US politicians of misleading Congress about how the online retailer uses data from third-party sellers.

In a letter to Amazon’s chief executive Andy Jassy, five members of the US House Judiciary committee cited “recent, credible reporting that directly contradicts the sworn testimony and representations of Amazon’s top executives” to the panel, questioning if the case should be criminally investigated.

Representatives from Amazon, including founder and former boss Jeff Bezos, have previously told Congress the company has a policy against using individual seller data to compete against them or to create rival products. Media reports have suggested otherwise.

When asked under oath last year about a report by the Wall Street Journal that the online behemoth had regularly used data in apparent violation of the policy, Mr Bezos said he couldn’t guarantee that the rule had never been violated.

The letter to Mr Jassy read:

“In light of the serious nature of this matter, we are providing you with a final opportunity to provide exculpatory evidence to corroborate the prior testimony and statements on behalf of Amazon to the committee."

In a statement to Bloomberg, Amazon spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter said that the company investigates all such allegations and takes “appropriate action”.

“In addition, we design our search experience to feature the items customers will want to purchase, regardless of whether they are offered by Amazon or one of our selling partners."

03:51 PM

French vaccine maker reports strong trial results for Covid jab

French vaccine maker Valneva has claimed its Covid-19 jab yields a stronger immune response than AstraZeneca’s, weeks after the UK cancelled its order for doses.

Valneva said late-stage trials for its vaccine showed it elicits more neutralising antibodies than the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab, and that those receiving the vaccine experienced fewer side effects.

It comes just over a month after the Government terminated its €1.4bn (£1.2bn) deal for at least 100 million doses of the French vaccine, which had been due to be made in Scotland.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid told MPs the contract was scrapped due to commercial reasons, but also as "it was clear to us that the vaccine in question that the company was developing would not get approval by [the regulatory body] the MHRA here in the UK".

The ministerial record was later corrected to read that the company "has not gained" approval and "may not".

The UK has already given at least one Covid jab almost nine in ten of those aged 12 or over, and its autumn booster campaign is well underway.

03:31 PM

Caffe Nero plots store openings amid sales rebound

Caffe Nero - Marina Imperi
Caffe Nero - Marina Imperi

Caffe Nero will open dozens more shops over the next year as it said business was "coming back" despite some central London and airport sites struggling to recover.

The coffee shop chain said it was plotting new sites after sales across its business were currently around 87pc of 2019 levels. It said they would likely hit 90pc in November.

Some parts of its estate, including stores in suburbs and market towns, have already rebounded to 2019 levels, whilst high street shopping sites are also nearing pre-pandemic levels.

Caffe Nero said transport hubs and central London locations, however, remained down on 2019 levels, although there had been an uptick since September.

It follows figures out from Heathrow Airport which suggested passenger numbers were still 40pc down on normal levels, as people took fewer flights, particularly to the US.

03:14 PM

Handing over

That's all from me today – thanks for following along! My colleague Hannah Boland will take you through to the end of the day.

03:13 PM

Amazon to hire 150,000 workers for Christmas period

Amazon warehouse Christmas - AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File
Amazon warehouse Christmas - AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File

Amazon has said it will hire 150,000 additional workers in the US for the Christmas period as it braces for high demand and supply chain troubles in its key shopping season.

It's an increase from the 100,000 extra staff members Amazon announced last year after it had already boosted its workforce during the pandemic.

The plan comes amid a major labour shortage in the US that has led to many companies hiking salaries.

Amazon's seasonal roles will include sign-on bonuses of up to $3,000 and an additional $3 per hour depending on shifts.

Amazon said last month it had started recruiting for 20,000 seasonal positions in the UK for the Christmas season.

03:05 PM

Focus turns to Apple ahead of new product launches

All eyes are turning to Silicon Valley now as Apple gears up for its latest event.

The 'Unleashed' event is expected to include a string of new product announcements, including updated MacBook Pros. New Airpods could also be on the agenda.

Apple's online store has gone down ahead of the event, apparently confirming that new tech is on the way.

The event kicks off at 6pm UK time.

02:50 PM

Volvo targets $23bn valuation in stock market float

Volvo IPO Stockholm stock market debut - AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File
Volvo IPO Stockholm stock market debut - AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File

Volvo is targeting a valuation of up to $23bn (£16.8bn) following its debut on the Stockholm stock exchange next week.

The Swedish car maker first announced plans to go public earlier this month, saying Chinese owner Geely would remain the largest shareholder.

The expected share price will be between 53 and 68 kronor per share, "corresponding to a market capitalisation of Volvo Cars of 163-200bn kronor after completion," the company said in a statement.

Volvo is also aiming to raise around 25bn kronor ($2.9bn) through the listing.

The final initial public offering (IPO) price is to be announced on October 27, as is a separate IPO from electric car manufacturer Polestar, a joint subsidiary of Volvo Cars and Geely.

02:28 PM

Another energy supplier goes bust

Yet another small energy supplier has gone bust as surging wholesale gas prices continue to take their toll on the market.

Kent-based GOTO Energy Limited today announced it was ceasing to trade, according to regulator Ofgem.

GOTO supplies gas and electricity to around 22,000 domestic customers. Under Ofgem measures, impacted consumers will be transferred to a new supplier.

It's the latest in a string of failures among small suppliers unable to cope with the crisis. It takes the total number of collapses to 13 since the start of September.

02:22 PM

Watchdog launches court action against Teletext Holidays

CMA Teletext Holidays Covid refund  - ANDY RAIN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
CMA Teletext Holidays Covid refund - ANDY RAIN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The competition watchdog has launched court action against travel firm Teletext Holidays over delays in refunding customers for trips that were cancelled due to the pandemic.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it has requested a court order forcing the company to repay package holiday customers immediately. In future, it wants those entitled to a refund to be paid within the 14 days required by law.

Parent company Truly Holidays, which operates Teletext and Alpharooms.com, agreed in May to address failures related to timely refunds. However, the CMA said it didn't believe enough had been done to deal with the problem.

The watchdog said that its actions had so far secured £7m of refunds for Truly Holidays customers.

It's previously secured agreements from LoveHolidays, Lastminute.com, Virgin Holidays and Tui after thousands of customers complained that the companies had failed to refund them for cancelled trips.

02:12 PM

JPMorgan brings forward rate hike expectations

JPMorgan has brought forward its expectations for a Bank of England rate hike to next month – hours after Goldman Sachs did the same.

JP Morgan now expects a 15 basis points (bp) increase in November, followed by 25bps hikes in both February and August. It had previously forecast hikes to start with a 15bp move in February.

It comes after Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey said the Bank would "have to act" to tackle rising inflation.

JPMorgan economist Allan Monks said Bailey had made “another hawkish intervention for the second week in a row, ramping up market expectations for a more aggressive tightening in monetary policy”.

He added: “A risk to the call is that the BoE instead chooses to send a strong signal in November before belatedly acting on it in December, potentially then moving 40bps in one go (or hiking 15bps in Dec and then 25bp in Feb).”

Earlier today Goldman Sachs said it expects three rate hikes at alternate MPC meetings, taking the Bank's benchmark rate to 0.75pc by May and 1pc by the end of next year.

02:02 PM

EG Group scraps plans to buy Asda’s petrol stations

EG Group Asda petrol stations - Jon Super
EG Group Asda petrol stations - Jon Super

EG Group has ditched its planned £750m takeover of Asda’s forecourt business, citing a fresh financial evaluation of the deal.

A merger had been agreed by EG Group, which is owned by the billionaire Issa brothers, who co-own Asda alongside TDR Capital.

The companies said a competition watchdog decision in June had lifted a hold-separate order and allowed the two sides to share information with each other.

This resulted in "several changes to the financial evaluation of the proposed transaction", prompting the decision to scrap the deal, they said.

01:49 PM

Wall Street dips at the open

Wall Street has followed the FTSE 100 into negative territory this afternoon as traders digested slowing Chinese growth and a further rise in oil prices.

The benchmark S&P 500 and Dow Jones are both trading 0.2pc lower, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq is down 0.4pc.

01:27 PM

US industrial output falls amid supply troubles

US industrial output - JIM YOUNG/AFP/Getty Images
US industrial output - JIM YOUNG/AFP/Getty Images

US industrial output dipped in September as supply chain troubles continued to disrupt factories, with car manufacturing particularly badly hit.

The 0.7pc decrease for manufacturers followed a revised 0.4pc decline in August, according to Federal Reserve data. Total industrial production, which also includes mining and utility output, fell 1.3pc last month.

The surprise numbers missed analyst expectations of a 0.1pc increase. It's also the biggest monthly fall since February.

Production has remained elevated thanks to resilient demand among firms and consumers, but this has also contributed to order backlogs as manufacturers struggle to source materials and skilled labour. The weaker-than-expected September print indicates that producers continue to be held back by snarled supply chains.

The Fed also pointed to the impact of Hurricane Ida, which contributed 0.3pc to the overall manufacturing drop.

However, the biggest fall came from the manufacturing of cars, which dropped 7.2pc last month – its biggest decline since April – as the semiconductor shortage continues to bite.

01:01 PM

Oil prices push higher

Oil prices have continued their upward march today, trading higher after the global energy crunch sparked the eight week of gains.

Oil climbed above $83 a barrel after rising 3.5pc last week to cap the longest run of weekly gains since 2015.

The commodity has rallied to its highest level in seven years as shortages of natural gas and coal have compounded with a rebound in demand following Covid lockdowns.

Energy consultant Vandana Hari told Bloomberg oil was "now in a full speculative rally and buying frenzy". She added that the usual relief measures on the supply side – such as Opec+ action – had been ruled out for now, leaving demand response to higher prices as the only barrier to further rises.

12:41 PM

City of London now half full as bankers lead sluggish office return

City of London footfall pandemic home working -  Eye Ubiquitous/REX/Shutterstock
City of London footfall pandemic home working - Eye Ubiquitous/REX/Shutterstock

The City of London is now just over half full as bankers lead the gradual return to the office after the pandemic.

Footfall the Square Mile was at 51pc of February 2020 levels on Oct 13, according to an analysis by Orbital Insight, which monitors activity through satellites and mobile phone data.

Canary Wharf is even busier – hitting 59pc on Wednesday – though both financial hubs are lagging behind Wall Street, where footfall has reached around two-thirds of its pre-pandemic levels.

The figures show it's been a slow return to the office, despite hopes Britons would pour back into work after the easing of lockdown measures.

It's also unclear how much busier offices will get – particularly at the beginning and end of the week.

Separate data from Freespace showed office occupancy across Europe was 14pc on Mondays and just 11pc on Fridays, well below the level seen on other weekdays.

A more flexible working set-up appears to be the most popular option. According to a survey by JP Morgan, more than 80pc of London-based office employees consider working full time either from home or from the office their least preferred options.

12:24 PM

FTSE 100 falls on rate hike worries

Time for a lunchtime update on the FTSE 100, which has extended its losses. The blue-chip index is now down 0.5pc at 7,198 points.

British Airways owner IAG is the biggest laggard, dropping 3.8pc. It had been among travel stocks to end the week on a high after the US said it will lift its UK travel ban on Nov 8. AstraZeneca and Diageo are also dragging down the index.

There's some upward momentum coming from miners, which have benefited from surging commodities prices. Glencore, BHP, National Grid and Shell are all providing the strongest gains.

The FTSE 250 is down 0.2pc with the biggest movement still coming from Playtech which has soared 58pc after it announced a £2.7bn takeover offer from Australian rival Aristrocrat.

11:42 AM

Total opens North Sea offshore wind hub

TotalEnergies wind farm North Sea renewables green energy - Dave Hughes 
TotalEnergies wind farm North Sea renewables green energy - Dave Hughes

In more wind-related news, TotalEnergies said it's opening an offshore wind hub within its existing centre for UK North Sea oil and gas.

The French company said it will use the expertise it's built in Aberdeen over the last 50 years and enable staff to shift their skills from oil and gas to renewables amid a shift to green sources of energy.

Chief executive Patrick Pouyanne said: “With the energy transition gathering speed, we see Scotland as a great place to broaden our relationship by investing in offshore wind.”

It's the latest in a string of green energy investments by Total, which expects global oil demand to peak before 2030 because of the shift to low-carbon sources.

It purchased a majority stake in a large wind farm off the coast of Scotland last year and made an investment in a smaller floating-wind project in Wales. It has also partnered with Macquarie's Green Investment Group is several other wind farm projects.

11:21 AM

German power prices plunge on record wind forecast

Meanwhile, there's been a much-needed easing of energy prices in Germany, where a gust of very windy weather is expected later this week.

Low levels of generation from wind turbines has been one of the factors behind Europe's energy crisis, as countries have been forced to fire up more coal and gas plants. Output was down 8pc last month compared to a year earlier and is lagging in October as well.

But forecasts for gusty weather pushed German power prices down to their lowest level for a working today since the end of July.

UK wind output is also poised to hit record levels on Thursday.

11:09 AM

US futures slip on inflation fears

Wall Street is set to start the week on the back foot as inflation fears cast a shadow over upcoming corporate results.

Futures tracking the S&P 500 and Dow Jones both fell 0.3pc, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq dropped 0.4pc.

Facebook, Google-owner Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon and Intel were all in the red ahead of markets opening. Disney fell 1.6pc after Barclays downgraded the media giant's stock to "equal weight" from "overweight".

Impressive results from major Wall Street banks last week set a positive tone for third-quarter results season. Netflix, Tesla and Intel are among the companies set to report this week.

But surging oil prices have fuelled inflation concerns, while lacklustre economic growth figures in China have also soured sentiment today.

10:56 AM

Gas prices jump as Russia keeps a lid on supply

Russia has opted not to pump more gas into Europe even after President Vladimir Putin said he was prepared to boost supplies, showing the Kremlin is maintaining its tight grip on the market.

Gazprom doesn't plan to send more gas via pipelines through Ukraine next month, according to the results of several auctions this month. Instead it will send only limited supplies through Poland.

It comes despite comments from President Putin, who said he was “prepared to discuss any additional steps” to boost suppliers and calm the turbulent market.

UK gas prices jumped almost 12pc to 262p a therm while prices on the Dutch exchange – the European benchmark – rose 13pc.

It comes after Russia said it's already pumped gas into its controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is still awaiting approach from German regulators. The Kremlin has said the pipeline could help ease gas supply issues across the continent.

10:39 AM

Brussels vows to avoid 'cliff edge' over post-Brexit clearing rules

Mairead McGuinness EU clearing houses - OLIVIER HOSLET/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Mairead McGuinness EU clearing houses - OLIVIER HOSLET/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The EU's head of financial services has vowed to avoid a "cliff edge" or market instability in the bloc's decision over European banks' ability to access UK clearing houses.

Mairead McGuinness said the European Commission would not engage in “any sudden twists and turns” on a decision over the current temporary licence – fuelling speculation that it will extend the current deadline of June.

The Irish commissioner said a decision could come within weeks, though she stuck by the EU's demand that euro-denominated derivatives business move to the EU over the longer term after Brexit.

She told the Financial Times: “We have to make sure that there is no instability in the short-term, but we also have to look at our long-term interests.

“They should read my lips and hear what I am saying. We do view this as a strategic issue for us in the medium, long term.”

10:30 AM

Goldman predicts November interest rate hike

Goldman Sachs reckons the Bank of England is likely to raise interest rates in November, adding further momentum to market expectations of a rapid tightening of policy.

In a note Goldman economists wrote: “While we view it as a close call between a November and December lift-off, we think the November meeting is slightly more likely given it comes with a press conference and updated projections within the Monetary Policy Report.”

The US investment bank now expects three rate hikes at alternate MPC meetings, taking the Bank's benchmark rate to 0.75pc by May and 1pc by the end of next year.

It comes after more hawkish comments from Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey, who said the central bank would "have to act" to tackle rising inflation.

10:16 AM

Sunak considers cutting VAT on energy bills

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is considering slashing VAT on energy bills in what would be a significant intervention to ease the strain of soaring prices on households.

Tim Wallace has the details:

Rishi Sunak is considering a reduction in the 5pc VAT rate on household energy bills, in a move that would reduce the pain of soaring prices for consumers.

The price cap rose more than 12pc this month amid global shortages and surging wholesale gas prices.

More than a dozen energy suppliers have gone bust since August.

Energy is already taxed at less than the 20pc VAT rate and the Government is unlikely to be keen to cut tax on fossil fuel use ahead of the looming COP26 conference. However, the Chancellor is looking at the measure, amounting to a tax break of up to £1.5bn a year, due to pressures on the cost of living, the Financial Times reported.

Inflation is already above 3pc and is expected to rise to more than 4pc in the coming months, more than double the Bank of England’s 2pc target as the economic recovery combines with supply shortages of manufactured goods around the world to force up prices.

Read more on this story here

10:09 AM

NatWest chief: Rising jitters over supply chain troubles

NatWest chief executive Alison Rose - Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
NatWest chief executive Alison Rose - Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

NatWest chief executive Alison Rose has warned that businesses are getting even more nervous about supply chain issues and staff shortages.

She told Bloomberg: “Clearly there are challenges they are facing as a result of coming out of lockdown and the supply chain issues.”

Ms Rose said that for now at least companies were paying back their coronavirus loans, with about 92pc of firms owing debts under emergency government-backed schemes repaying on time.

But she added: “This is really an issue around the speed of recovery and then confidence going into next year and the decisions businesses may be making around investing.”

09:57 AM

UK shunned in Facebook's 10,000-job metaverse plans

Facebook metaverse 10,000 jobs UK - Graeme Jennings - Pool/Getty Images
Facebook metaverse 10,000 jobs UK - Graeme Jennings - Pool/Getty Images

Britain has been snubbed from major investment plans once again this morning. First, it was Sir Jim Ratcliffe's €2bn hydrogen plant scheme. Now, it's Facebook's plans to develop a metaverse.

The social media giant has said it will create 10,000 highly-skilled jobs in Europe as it looks to create a virtual environment that covers everything from gaming to work and socialising.

Target markets for the hiring include the Republic of Ireland, as well as Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, and the Netherlands – but the UK isn't included.

In a blog post Facebook executives said the initiative was a vote of confidence in Europe's tech sector.

They wrote: “We look forward to working with governments across the EU to find the right people and the right markets to take this forward, as part of an upcoming recruitment drive across the region.”

09:49 AM

Money round-up

Time to check in with the Telegraph's Money team — here are some of their stories to kick off the week:

09:35 AM

Playtech shareholder backs £2.7bn takeover

Jason Ader, one of Playtech’s largest shareholders and chief executive of SpringOwl Asset Management, says:

This deal represents a compelling alignment of strategic interests and validates our long-held view of the value of Playtech.

This would be a significant victory for Brian Mattingley in his short tenure as Chairman and we congratulate him on his efforts to address our concerns as long-term shareholders and put the company in a position to unlock value and attract investment into Playtech.

09:29 AM

Sterling hits 20-month high on Bailey's rate hike hints

Sterling has jumped to its highest level against the euro in 20 months after Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey gave further signs of an upcoming interest rate hike.

Overnight, the pound rose against the euro to 84.25p – its highest since February 2020 – before losing some steam and trading flat at 84.42p. Versus the dollar, it dipped 0.2pc to $1.3717, though this was not far from a one-month high touched on Friday.

Sterling has gained 5.5pc against the euro this year, with analysts pointing to rate rise expectations as the biggest supporting factor.

Over the weekend Mr Bailey said the Bank of England will "have to act" in its monetary policy meetings on the risk of medium term inflation.

09:10 AM

Virgin Media O2 launches first joint product

It's only been 150 days since the £31bn merger between Virgin Media and O2, but the newly-combined product has already thrown down the gauntlet to rival BT.

It's launching its first combined product, offering customers double the broadband speed and double the monthly data for no extra cost.

Virgin Media O2 is hoping the new service, dubbed Volt, will persuade customers of one brand to sign up to the other as well. It will also be looking to win market share away from BT.

Jeff Dodds, chief operating officer at Virgin Media O2, said:

With Volt, we’re combining the speed and reliability of Virgin Media’s broadband and O2’s mobile networks alongside a variety of incredible perks to give our customers more.

The launch of converged services in less than 150 days as a business is a huge milestone moment and demonstrates the momentum we have behind our commitment to supercharge connectivity across the UK. This is just the start.

08:59 AM

China coal prices hit record high

China's power problems look set to worsen as coal prices rose to a record high on Monday.

Coal shortages have driven up fuel prices for power generators, leading to rationing for industrial users. In turn this has led to shutdowns at some factories, sparking further turbulence for global supply chains.

China has set out plans to ramp up coal output, but data published this morning showed it has continued to fall even as power demand surges to meet post-pandemic industrial needs.

The supply and demand mismatch helped push Chinese coal prices to another record on Monday. Coal for January delivery – the most actively traded contract on the Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange – climbed by the upper trading limit of 11pc to 1,829 yuan (£207.22) a tonne, signalling a belief in a persistent coal supply crunch.

The power crisis is contributing to a faltering recovery in the world's second largest economy. Data published this morning showed GDP growth slowed to 4.9pc in the third quarter, down from 7.9pc in the previous three-month period.

08:44 AM

Klarna launches 'pay now' option amid regulator scrutiny

Klarna, the controversial 'buy now pay later' firm, is adding an option for consumers to pay immediately as it looks to ease regulatory concerns about its business model.

The Financial Conduct Authority has said it will start regulating the interest-free BNPL sector after user numbers soared during the pandemic. The watchdog is worried about money laundering and the cost of credit.

The Swedish company said other changes would include “strengthening affordability checks and checkout language, providing more ways for consumers to challenge complaints decisions on the rare occasions this becomes necessary, and removing the last remaining late fees on its regulated financing product”.

08:36 AM

Workers injured in Kuwait oil refinery fire

Mina al-Ahmadi Kuwait oil fire  - KNPC/AFP via Getty Images
Mina al-Ahmadi Kuwait oil fire - KNPC/AFP via Getty Images

A major oil refinery in Kuwait has been hit by a fire that has injured a number of workers, though operations have been unaffected.

The blaze broke out in a unit of the Mina al-Ahmadi refinery but has since been brought under control, officials said.

A number of workers employed by a contractor suffered minor injuries and smoke inhalation, the state refiner said, adding that normal operations should resume in a few hours.

It comes as global gas shortages have fuelled an energy crisis, with prices soaring for consumers.

Last month, Kuwait's state refiner said it started full operation of a project to expand refining capacity and produce fuel that generates lower emissions, including expanding capacity at the Mina al-Ahmadi refinery to 346,000 barrels per day.

08:26 AM

UK snubbed in first stage of €2bn hydrogen plant scheme

Britain has been left out of an initial wave of hydrogen plants announced by Sir Jim Ratcliffe after the chemicals tycoon unveiled plans for factories in Norway, Germany and Belgium, reports my colleague Lucy Burton.

The billionaire’s company Ineos is to invest more than €2bn (£1.7bn) into electrolysis projects to make zero-carbon green hydrogen across Europe.

It said the first unit to be built will produce clean hydrogen through the electrolysis of water in Norway, powered by renewable electricity, and will serve as a hub to provide gas for the country’s transport industry.

This will be followed by projects in Germany and Belgium.

Ineos said that it also intends to invest in France and the UK, where the hydrogen business will be headquartered, but did not give details. An insider said more information would be shared shortly.

Read Lucy's full story here

08:18 AM

Economists and traders at odds over interest rate hike

Economists are becoming more and more downbeat about the UK's prospects for economic recovery, putting them at odds with market expectations of a rapid Bank of England interest rate hike.

The outlook for UK growth next year was trimmed by 0.4 percentage points to 5.1pc, the sharpest reduction for any major European economy, according to a monthly survey by Bloomberg.

Analysts don't expect any increase in the Bank's key rate – currently at 0.1pc – until May, with another hike coming in November.

That clashes with market sentiment, with traders bringing forward their bets for tighter policy. Recent hawkish comments from some Bank officials have raised expectations of a rate hike by the end of this year, with rates hitting 1pc in December 2022.

Economists also boosted their inflation forecasts, predicting readings above the Bank of England's 2pc target into the first quarter of 2023. While the Bank expects inflation to top 4pc later this year, it has forecast a fall back to 2.6pc by the third quarter of 2022.

08:09 AM

Pod Point to raise £120m in London float

Electric vehicle charging firm Pod Point has confirmed plans to float on the London Stock Exchange, saying it hopes to raise £120m through the listing.

Pod Point said the debut will consist of new shares as well as existing shares to be sold by Legal & General and some existing employees.

It expects current majority shareholder EDF to retain a stake of over 50pc, while Legal & General will remain a minority shareholder.

Pod Point said the offer process will be determined following a book-building process and shares are expected to begin trading in early November.

Erik Fairbairn, chief executive of Pod Point, said:

I am extremely pleased to confirm Pod Point's intention to float and I am delighted that we have reached this stage in the Company's growth. Now is the right time for us to list– as a market leader, we are well placed to capture the significant market opportunity ahead.

I believe our smart network of charge points will be key in enabling the mass adoption of electric vehicles, helping our customers to reduce their carbon footprint and supporting the UK to meet its net zero carbon emissions target. We look forward to welcoming our new investors and continuing to deliver value to all our stakeholders.

07:56 AM

THG's Matt Moulding gives up golden share

The Hut Group Matt Moulding golden share
The Hut Group Matt Moulding golden share

We've got some more details on Matt Moulding, the billionaire businessman whose ecommerce empire The Hut Group is suffering a crisis of investor confidence.

The company said Mr Moulding will cancel his special share rights that have given him control over acquisitions.

It added it would also carry out a further review of its corporate governance arrangements amid concerns about the founder's joint role as both chief executive and executive chairman.

THG, which listed in London last September, saw its share price plunge by more than a third last week after a disastrous investor presentation that failed to allay concerns about its valuation and strategy.

Shares rose as much as 8pc in early trading today as investors welcomed the move.

07:40 AM

FTSE risers and fallers

While Playtech is the biggest market mover this morning, it's been a rather less dramatic start to the week for the FTSE 100.

The blue-chip index is down 0.2pc after closing last week at a 19-month high. HSBC, AstraZeneca and Diageo are among the biggest drags.

Meanwhile, The Hut Group rose as much as 8.4pc after the troubled online retailer said it would remove founder Matt Moulding's so-called golden share and pursue a listing on the premium segment of the London Stock Exchange.

The domestically-focused FTSE 250 slipped 0.1pc.

07:36 AM

National Express granted extension for Stagecoach takeover bid

National Express Stagecoach takeover - Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
National Express Stagecoach takeover - Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

National Express will have more time to prepare a firm offer for rival Stagecoach after regulators granted an extension to a previous deadline.

The two companies previously said they were in talks over an all-share deal valuing Stagecoach at around £445m, with the original deadline set for Oct 19.

But the Takeover Panel has now given National Express until no later than 5pm on Nov 16 to either make a firm offer or walk away.

If a takeover goes through, it would mark a reversal of fortunes for the two companies. In 2009, National Express rejected a £1.7bn merger approach made by Stagecoach.

07:27 AM

Playtech shares hit the jackpot

As expected, shares in Playtech have soared following the announcement of its £2.7bn takeover offer.

The company has jumped to the top of the FTSE 250, rising as much as 57pc to around 676p – just shy of Aristocrat's 680p per share offer.

07:15 AM

Ford to invest £230m in UK electric vehicle plant

Ford Halewood electric vehicle - Greg Harding/PA
Ford Halewood electric vehicle - Greg Harding/PA

Ford has said it will invest as much as £230m to start making electric vehicle parts at its existing factory on Merseyside.

The US car giant said its Halewood site will be retooled to start building electric power units from 2024 to gradually replace manufacturing of combustion-engine transmissions. It added that the move will help to safeguard 500 jobs.

It comes after Ford secured an undisclosed amount from a government fund aimed at accelerating the shift to electric vehicles.

While the investment is a major boost for the UK's automotive sector, it pales in comparison to the $1bn Ford has pledged to upgrade its factory in Cologne.

07:04 AM

FTSE 100 dips at the open

The FTSE 100 has opened in negative territory this morning after China delivered disappointing economic growth figures for the third quarter.

The blue-chip index is down 0.2pc at 7,219 points.

It comes after the FTSE finished last week at a 19-month high, clawing back pandemic losses to rise above 7,200 for the first time since February 2020.

06:57 AM

Gaming group Playtech agrees £2.7bn takeover

The big corporate news of the morning comes from FTSE 250-listed gaming group Playtech, which said it's agreed a £2.7bn takeover by Australian slot machine firm Aristrocrat.

Playtech, which was founded by billionaire businessman Teddy Sagi, said it's agreed an offer worth 680p per share, representing a 58.4pc premium on its closing share price on Friday.

The move is expected to complete in the second quarter of 2022 if shareholders approve the deal, the firms said.

Mor Weizer, chief executive of Playtech, said:

This transaction marks an exciting opportunity in the next stage of growth for Playtech, and delivers significant benefits to our stakeholders, including our customers, our shareholders and our incredibly talented people.

This deal has the potential to enhance our distribution, our capacity to build new and deeper relationships with partners, and bolsters our technological capabilities.

The combination of our two companies builds one of the largest B2B gaming platforms in the world, with the people, infrastructure and expertise to provide our customers with a truly best-in-class offer across all areas of gaming and sports betting.

All eyes will now be on Playtech's share price when markets open in a few minutes.

06:51 AM

Expert reaction: House prices party like it's 2007

Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman, says:

The impact of the pandemic may still be compromising some areas of the economy but seems to be having a minimal effect on the housing market so far.

These figures confirm that asking prices remain high as supply is still below what we would have expected at this time of year and not rising fast enough to satisfy above-normal demand.

Buyers are continuing to seek extra space inside and out to reflect more time spent at home as part of new hybrid commuting/work arrangements while shrugging off concerns about inflation and higher interest rates for the time being at least.

06:49 AM

House prices hit record high

Meanwhile closer to home - house prices have surged to a record high in every region of the UK for the first time since the financial crisis in 2007.

Asking prices rose 1.8pc in October, the biggest gain for this time of year since 2015, according to the latest house price index from Rightmove. The average cost of a home is now £344,445 – 6.5pc higher a year ago.

While the stamp duty holiday has now been wound down, the figures reflect a surge in activity as buyers looked to capitalise on low interest rates.

The Bank of England is expected to hike rates before the end of the year – a move that will curb cheap credit that has kept the housing market buoyant through the pandemic.

Tim Bannister at Rightmove said: “Mortgage interest rates are lower than they have ever been before, and lenders are keen to lend in a competitive market, with employment and wage growth also robust.”

London, which has lagged behind the rest of the country for the past year, posted the strongest growth in the past month. A 1.9pc gain put the average asking price of a home in the capital at £650,683.

06:36 AM

Expert reaction: China 'on the cusp of deeper downturn'

Julian Evans-Pritchard at Capital Economics warns there could be worse to come for China.

In quarter-on-quarter terms, official GDP growth slowed to a crawl last quarter. And our China Activity Proxy points to a sharp contraction. Although some of the recent weakness in services is now reversing, industry and construction appear on the cusp of a deeper downturn [...]

For now, the blow from the deepening property downturn is being softened by very strong exports. But over the coming year, foreign demand is likely to drop back as global consumption patterns normalise coming out of the pandemic and backlogs of orders are gradually cleared. All told, we expect growth of just 3pc on our China Activity Proxy next year, the slowest pace since the global financial crisis.

06:27 AM

China's economic growth slows

Good morning.

We start the week with some lacklustre figures from China, which has missed expectations for GDP growth in the third quarter.

The world's second-largest economy recorded growth of 4.9pc, down from 7.9pc in the previous three-month period.

It comes as China battles an energy crunch that has forced factories to shut down in a string regions, while Beijing is also struggling to contain a worsening debt crisis at property giant Evergrande.

Analysts said there were signs of more pain to come, raising pressure on authorities to do more to prop up the country's faltering economic recovery.

5 things to start your day

1) Treasury prepares to launch online sales tax: Rishi Sunak is stepping up plans for an online sales tax to level the playing field between tech behemoths and high street retailers after delaying an overhaul of business rates.

Treasury officials have accelerated work on a new e-commerce tax in the past few weeks and are scoping out details of a potential levy, including what goods and services will be covered, sources told The Daily Telegraph.

2) Revolutionary Australian battery company plans £100m London float: A battery storage developer spun out of the University of Sydney plans to list in London to raise more than £16m to commercialise its technology.

Autralia-based Gelion Technologies is expected to be valued at around £120m when it floats on Aim next month, having already raised cash from investors including Regal Funds Management and Elphinstone Group.

3) Millions of mobile customers to see bills hiked, warns Vodafone: Vodafone has warned that the bills of millions of mobile customers will rise if regulators increase a £300m “regressive tax” on consumers.

The mobile operator has lashed out at plans by Ofcom to introduce extra charges on the airwaves that underpin Britain’s mobile communications industry.

4) Squid Game to reel in $900m for Netflix: The hit show Squid Game is expected to generate almost $900m (£655m) of value for Netflix, according to internal estimates by the streaming company.

Around 132m people watched at least two minutes of Squid Game in the first 23 days of the violent South Korean show airing, according to data leaked to Bloomberg - beating a previous record set by the period drama Bridgerton.

5) Qataris take lead to bag Selfridges in £2bn auction: Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund is reportedly in talks to buy Selfridges as the owners of the department chain eye a £4bn sale.

The Qatar Investment Authority is said to be mulling a deal to buy the retailer, with City sources telling the Mail on Sunday that the Gulf nation has taken a lead over potential rivals.

It would add to a growing high street empire run by the fund, which bought Harrods for £1.5bn from Mohammed Al-Fayed in 2010 and also purchased the Parisian retailer Printemps in 2013 for 1.75bn (£1.47bn).

What happened overnight

Mainland Chinese and Hong Kong equity markets fell on Monday after data showed China's economy grew more slowly than expected in the third quarter, weighing on regional stocks, although losses were capped by hopes of support from policymakers.

Oil prices, meanwhile, hit new multi-year peaks, continuing their recent surge amid a global energy shortage, with US crude at a fresh seven-year high and Brent at a three-year high.

China's gross domestic product (GDP) grew 4.9pc in July-September from a year earlier, the weakest pace since the third quarter of 2020, as China grappled with power shortages, supply bottlenecks and sporadic Covid outbreaks as well as rising jitters over the property sector.

Chinese blue chips were down 1.53pc and the Hong Kong benchmark lost 0.56pc, although most of the falls came right after the bell, prior to the release of the data.

The weaker-than expected data weighed on regional benchmarks. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was last down 0.2pc, while Japan's Nikkei lost 0.3pc. US stock futures, the S&P 500 e-minis, were steady.

Coming up today

  • Corporate: Schroders (trading update)

  • Economics: Industrial production (US), GDP and retail sales (China)