Asda will stop baking bread and croissants from scratch in stores, putting 1,200 jobs at risk.
The supermarket is the latest chain to overhaul its bakeries after a similar move from Tesco last year.
While none of its 341 counters will close, the chain plans to reduce the amount of baking on site. Asda blamed the move on the rise of wraps, artisan breads and bagels as shoppers shun traditional loaves of bread.
Making products at centralised hubs will allow it to sell a broader range of freshly baked goods throughout the day, the company said.
The news comes as its new owners, the billionaire Issa brothers, prepare to put their stamp on Britain’s number three supermarket. The competition watchdog has set an April 20 deadline for a preliminary decision on its £6.8bn deal to buy the chain.
The pair are merging Asda’s petrol stations with their forecourt empire in a £750m deal as part of their takeover of the supermarket.
Asda said it hopes to transfer as many staff as possible to other stores.
Derek Lawlor, Asda’s chief merchandising officer, said: “The current model has restricted our ability to respond to changing customer demands and offer them the speciality products and freshly baked goods they want to buy throughout the day.”
Only in February, the retailer announced a major restructuring. It warned it could axe up to 5,000 staff as part of a drive to simplify the management structure in stores and bolster its online offering. Bosses were also seeking to hire 4,500 staff to pick internet orders.
That is all from us today - here are some of our top stories:
Thank you for following along, and see you back here tomorrow.
Powell cautions risks of rising cases
Fed chair Jerome Powell has said the US economy is entering a period of quicker economic expansion, but that risks remain from a potential spike in coronavirus cases. He added it would be wise to keep wearing masks and stay socially distanced for a while longer.
“We’re going into a period of faster growth and job creation and that’s a good thing,” he said at a virtual event hosted by the Economic Club of Washington. “I would say the main risk is that we’ll have another spike in cases, in one of the virus strains that may be more difficult to treat now.”
The Fed has pledged to maintain aggressive monetary policy support, even as the economic recovery from the pandemic picks up speed, helping to power US stocks to fresh highs. Meanwhile, vaccinations are spreading and the economy reopening, while employers added 916,000 jobs in March.
1,200 jobs at risk as Asda slashes in-store bakeries
Supermarket chain Asda plans to restructure its in-store bakeries, putting more than 1,000 staff jobs at risk.
The company has started consulting the staff over plans, sparked by changing tastes among shoppers, and said it was treating redundancy as "the last option". Up to 1,200 of Asda's employees work at the in-store bakeries across 341 branches.
"If the proposals are enacted, the priority will be to move as many colleagues as possible into alternative roles within Asda, with redundancy the last option," it said in a statement.
The move will result in a centralised bakery delivering a larger range of pre-baked goods to supermarkets each day, replacing the current model where the goods are baked on site. It comes amid a fall in demand as customers increasingly look for speciality breads, wraps, bagels and pancakes ahead of traditional loaves.
Recruiter Robert Walters says confidence is growing
Recruiter Robert Walters has revealed a 12pc drop in UK revenue to £17.3m in the first three months of the year.
Bosses said despite the lockdown that spanned the whole quarter, there were early signs of improvement in confidence, especially in London and in the legal and technology spaces. It comes as global revenue also dropped 12pc to £77.3m.
A better performance in the Asia Pacific area - down only 5pc - means that 78pc of the company's net fee income now comes from international operations.
Wall Street's Dow hits record high
Back to US markets, strong earnings from Goldman Sachs (see 3:38pm post) has driven the Dow Jones to a new record high.
"The US session still has plenty of time on the clock, however, with an appearance from Fed chair Jerome Powell for the Dow et al. to navigate at 5pm GMT," said Connor Campbell, financial analyst at Spreadex.
"Then it’s on to March’s retail sales tomorrow afternoon, and a serious Chinese data dump overnight on Friday. Those events are going to dictate whether the Dow closes the week triumphant above 34,000, or in retreat from its current levels."
By just before midday in New York:
S&P 500: +0.1pc
Dow Jones: +0.7pc
Tech-heavy Nasdaq: -0.3pc
Eurozone standing on "two crutches" - Lagarde
The euro zone economy is still standing on the "two crutches" of monetary and fiscal stimulus and these cannot be taken away until it makes a full recovery, according to Christine Lagarde, president of the European Central Bank.
Reuters has more:
The comments, at a Reuters Newsmaker event, marked a rare intervention by Lagarde in the policy debate and signalled a pushback on suggestions, expressed by some euro zone central bank governors last week, that the ECB start dialling back its emergency bond purchases as soon as July.
"Think of a patient which is out of a deep crisis but still on two crutches," Lagarde said. "You don't want to remove either crutch, the fiscal or the monetary, until the patient can actually walk fine, and to do that means support well into the recovery."
In March, the ECB upped the pace of its Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme to stem a rise in bond yields and keep credit cheap for governments, companies and households impacted by the COVID-19.
The euro zone's rate-setters are due to meet again next week and, while no policy change is expected, governors are likely to begin discussing the future of PEPP.
Coinbase readies IPO
Shares of Coinbase were set to jump 36pc above their reference price in the cryptocurrency exchange's market debut on Wednesday, the latest sign of the surge in interest and trading in bitcoin and other digital currencies.
The company's stock was indicated to open at $340, up from a reference price of $250 per share.
At the indicated price, the digital asset exchange would be valued at around $89bn. Read our tech live blog for the latest updates.
Wall Street latest
We've seen a trio of big Wall Street banks reporting their first-quarter numbers today. Here's a round-up:
JP Morgan sailed past Wall Street expectations by reporting a nearly 400pc increase in quarterly profit. The gains came from JPMorgan releasing more than $5bn it had set aside to cover potential coronavirus loan losses that have not materialised. JPMorgan boss Jamie Dimon (who was very scathing about Brexit last week) said individuals and businesses were ready to start spending and investing. "The consumer has so much money to pay down their credit card loan, which is good," he said. Its shares fell 1.1pc.
Goldman Sachs shares rose 3.3pc after it reported a massive jump in first-quarter profit, capitalizing on record levels of global dealmaking activity. Unlike JPMorgan, Goldman's results did not benefit from a release from its loan-loss reserves of any significant amount.
Wells Fargo bounced back to a profit of almost $5bn in the first quarter of 2021, ahead of estimates as it reduced bad loan provisions and got a grip on costs. The fourth-largest US lender cut its allowance for credit losses by $1.6bn.
Drinks sales soar
The chilly weather apparently didn't put people off venturing to reopened pubs on Monday.
Pubs, restaurants and bars that reopened on Monday said their sales were more than double the levels seen before the coronavirus pandemic struck, according to new figures.
Hospitality data specialists at CGA said that like-for-like drink sales jumped by 113.8pc on the first day of outdoor trading, compared with the same day in 2019.
Hospitality firms in England welcomed customers again on Monday after at least three months of closure due to the latest set of lockdown measures.
However, only 38.2pc of venues, around 41,100 licensed premises in total, had the outdoor space to enable them to reopen this week (via PA).
Oil demand on the up
Remember when oil prices turned negative? It's all a distant memory.
Global oil demand is expected to recover more quickly than previously forecast - giving a boost to prices one year after they plunged into negative territory, Rachel Millard writes.
The International Energy Agency has raised its expectations amid optimism about the pace of vaccine roll-outs and government stimulus measures.
It now predicts demand will grow by 5.7m barrels per day during the year to 96.7m barrels - 230,000 barrels per day faster than previously forecast.
Demand fell by about 9m barrels per day in 2020 as lockdowns forced people to stay at home and factories to slow down.
The price of West Texas Intermediate briefly turned negative in April in what the IEA said was "one of the darkest months ever for world oil markets".
But, in its monthly report published today, it said the picture "looks decidedly stronger".
Pubs spin out
Who says the pub is dead? NewRiver, the FTSE 250 landlord, is considering spinning off its pubs business as a separate listing to focus on its retail division, writes Ben Gartside.
Hawthorn is one of Britain’s biggest pub companies and operates nearly 700 pubs. It is expected to fetch a valuation of £200m if it is carved out of NewRiver.
NewRiver entered the pub sector in December 2013 with the acquisition of 202 pubs from Marston's, and bought operator Hawthorn in 2018 for £107m.
Chief executive Allan Lockhart said the money raised from the spin-off would be used to invest in NewRiver’s retail portfolio, which includes 33 shopping centres and 19 retail parks.
The move comes as investors and pub bosses look to cash in on opportunities created by the pandemic. Rooney Anand, former boss of Greene King, is seeking to pick up pubs forced to shut during pandemic through his newly formed RedCat Pub Company, while Wetherspoon is planning to open 18 new pubs and create 2,000 jobs.
Aerospace industry worried about Liberty
Britain’s aerospace industry has asked Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng to be ready to prop up Liberty Steel over fears its collapse could create a shortage of critical parts, Alan Tovey writes.
ADS, the trade body that counts Airbus, BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce as members, said that the industry relied on the troubled company for speciality parts.
Liberty is owned by industrials entrepreneur Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG group. GFG has been thrown into crisis following the collapse of its main lender Greensill Capital.
Mr Gupta has been trying to find new financing, but Credit Suisse, one of the major investors in Greensill, has initiated winding up orders against some of GFG’s businesses, including the speciality steel arm.
In a letter sent last week, ADS interim boss Kevin Craven spelled out worries in the industry about the impact the failure of Liberty would have. The letter highlighted concerns about Liberty’s UK steel businesses, which employ about 3,000 people in the UK, and singled out the speciality divisions in Rotherham and Stocksbridge, which are key suppliers to the aerospace industry.
Mr Craven did not ask for financial aid for Liberty, but warned of how few alternative suppliers there were around the world for the aerospace-grade steel the plants produce.
BREAKING: Bernie Madoff dies
Bernie Madoff, the financier who pleaded guilty to orchestrating the largest Ponzi scheme in history, died early on Wednesday in a federal prison, a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.
Madoff died at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina, apparently from natural causes, the person said. The person was not authorised to speak publicly and spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity.
Last year, Madoff's lawyers filed court papers to try to get the 82-year-old released from prison in the Covid-19 pandemic, saying he had suffered from end-stage renal disease and other chronic medical conditions. The request was denied.
Madoff admitted swindling thousands of clients out of billions of dollars in investments over decades.
A court-appointed trustee has recovered more than $13 billion of an estimated $17.5 billion that investors put into Madoff's business. At the time of Madoff's arrest, fake account statements were telling clients they had holdings worth $60 billion. Read more here.
A history of fat fingers
No word yet on what caused the freak drop in Barclays' share price this morning. But Bloomberg has this fun rundown of pevious 'fat finger' errors, a flavour below:
In 2018, Deutsche Bank accidentally transferred €28bn to one of its outside accounts. The sum far exceeded the amount it was due to post.
The same year, someone at Samsung Securities, one of South Korea’s largest brokerages, tried to pay employees 1,000 won (93 US cents) per share in dividends under a company compensation plan, but instead gave them 1,000 company shares instead, worth on paper about 112.6 trillion won, more than 30 times the company’s market value. Things got worse when 16 employees sold the stock, spurring a rout of as much as 12pc in the space of minutes.
BNP Paribas was blamed for erroneous orders that knocked almost 10pc off the value of Formosa Petrochemical in March 2018, Taiwan’s third-largest stock. Trades were caused by a bug in BNP’s system, the official said at the time.
Gold traders were rattled in June 2017 by a huge spike in volume in New York futures when trading jumped to 1.8 million ounces of gold in just a minute, an amount bigger than the gold reserves of Finland. One possible explanation: a mistaken trade of 18,149 lots of a futures contract, about 100 times the size of a typical trade of 18,149 ounces.
In December 2015, Mizuho Securities mistakenly offered to sell 610,000 shares of employment agency J-Com for 1 yen each, instead of one share for 610,000 yen, something the firm blamed on a typing error. Problems with the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s computer system prevented the brokerage from cancelling the sell order.
Britain was more produtive despite pandemic
See? Working from home wasn't too bad after all.
The Office for National Statistics had some data out this morning on productivity, which rose last year despite the pandemic sending the economy plunging 10pc, according to official figures.
The ONS said economic output per hour worked rose 0.4pc in 2020: "Although there was substantial volatility during the year; this contrasts with a slow and steady decline in productivity during the 2008-09 economic downturn."
The data showed output per hour worked fell 0.7pc year-on-year in the final quarter. Output per worker dropped by 5.9pc year-on-year between October and December as many employees were on furlough and not working.
The ONS said the rise in output per hour last year came as lower-paid jobs were hit hardest by the crisis, while higher-paid roles were able to shift to home working, helping shore up productivity.
OECD: Axe stamp duty
The thinkers at the OECD have been thinking and their latest suggestion may prove popular with home owners and movers: make the current stamp duty holiday permanent.
The think tank notes that Britain has the highest property taxes in the developed world, raking in £91bn in the pre-pandemic year of 2019. It means 12pc of Government revenues come from hitting residential and business property owners, roughly twice the average of the OECD’s 37 member countries.
It believes rich nations need to embrace radical ideas to thrive after Covid. Angel Gurria, the OECD’s secretary-general, saysL
All was not well before the pandemic. Many of our economies have been struggling for more than a decade with slow productivity growth, declining business dynamism, persistent long-term unemployment and very unequal opportunities.
The recovery is an opportunity to set our policies right, to achieve growth that is stronger, more equitable, more resilient, and for this Governments have to act now. They have to be bold.
Read Tim Wallace's full report here.
Stock markets climb ahead of US earnings round
Barclays appears to have recovered from its button-mashing debacle this morning that led shares to slump by a tenth. Though it remains 0.5pc down at 186.3p. The FTSE 100 index overall is up 0.4pc for the day so far at 6,916.8 points, edging ever closer to the 7,000 milestone.
Miner Glencore is leading the way at 295.8p, a 3.1pc jump for the day. Close behind are BAE Systems at 514p, up 2.3pc, and Intercontinental Hotels, up 2.1pc.
Around the world stock markets mostly rose and the dollar fell as investors shook off a forecast-topping US inflation print and concerns over Johnson & Johnson's Covid vaccine, instead turning their attention to the earnings season, while Bitcoin hit another record price - $64,870 - ahead of a potential $100bn float from global crypto exchange Coinbase.
Oil prices also jumped 1.6pc as the International Energy Agency raised its expectations for the recovery in oil demand following hiked forecasts for global growth this year.
Hopes are high for the latest round of US corporate reports, with analysts saying they will be keeping an eye on outlooks and executives' views on potential US tax reform measures, among other issues.
Denmark to 'permanently stop' AstraZeneca vaccine
Denmark will become the first EU country to permanently discontinue use of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine, according to reports.
The decision, which follows a Tuesday statement by the Danish Medicines Agency that there was a link between the jab and blood clots, will delay Denmark’s vaccination roll out by a few weeks, Broadcaster TV 2 reported.
Denmark, which was the first country to suspend the use of the jab on March 11, has approved the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines.
The Danish have suspended the J&J vaccine after the company halted its EU roll out on Wednesday, amid US reports it could cause blood clots.
Hundreds of British Gas engineers to be sacked in 'fire and rehire' dispute
Hundreds of British Gas engineers are set to be sacked on Wednesday following a bitter row over pay and conditions that has marked new boss Chris O'Shea's first year in office.
My colleague Rachel Millard reports:
Workers faced a noon deadline to agree to new terms involving longer hours and weekend work or be dismissed. Some last-minute acceptances had been anticipated, but between 300 to 400 engineers are expected to lose their jobs at Britain's largest energy supplier. The GMB union posted images on Twitter it said showed vans being collected from engineers across the country. British Gas "should be ashamed" of the way it had treated workers, the union said. Parent company Centrica announced the plans last summer to cut about 1,000 jobs and change the terms of existing contracts - using a controversial "fire and rehire" tactic that infuriated unions. It claimed the changes were needed to protect jobs as it tried to shore up its position in a fast-changing market.
Exclusive: Cameron's Downing Street promoted Greensill to business, leak reveals
A senior adviser to David Cameron in Downing Street encouraged an organisation for small businesses to promote the “supply chain finance guru” Lex Greensill to its members, raising further questions over the Australian financier’s political influence.
My colleague Tom Rees with the scoop. He reports:
Tim Luke, then a civil servant who was a senior adviser in the former prime minister's policy unit, attempted to introduce the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) to Mr Greensill in March 2013, an email seen by The Telegraph reveals.
Using a Downing Street email address, Mr Luke referred to Mr Greensill as “Lex the supply chain finance guru” and said the FSB members would "benefit from connecting" with him.
Mr Greensill’s firm, Greensill Capital, collapsed last month putting thousands of jobs at risk in companies that relied on its lending, especially at GFG Alliance, the steel maker controlled by Sanjeev Gupta.
Greensill specialised in short-term financing promoted as a way to help suppliers get paid more promptly and help their customers manage cash flow.
After leaving Downing Street, Mr Cameron became a paid adviser to Greensill in 2018 as it rapidly expanded following backing from major investors including General Atlantic and Softbank.
Sales at Foxtons jump 25pc
Sales at Foxtons jumped by a quarter after the London estate agent spent £14m acquiring rival Douglas & Gordon.
My colleague Maighna Nanu reports:
Foxtons posted group revenues of £28.5m for the first three months of 2021, up from £23m in 2020.
The company said its purchase of Douglas & Gordon in March, the largest acquisition in the company’s history, contributed to £1m of lettings revenue during the period, pushing up sales within the division by 6pc to £14.8m.
However, rents in the capital fell by 12pc during the same period as Londoners continue to seek out larger properties in the suburbs and international residents return to their home countries.
Revenue from Foxtons' sales arm soared 60pc to £11.4m helping to drive mortgage broking revenue 20pc higher to £2.3m.
Nic Budden, chief executive, said: "As we look forward, the strong trading momentum is expected to continue through the second quarter and together with tight cost control gives us confidence that operating profit for the first half will be significantly higher than last year."
FT: HSBC relocates top leadership from London to Hong Kong
HSBC will move four of its top executives to Hong Kong from London, one more than had been anticipated, as the bank continues to accelerate its strategic shift to Asia, according to a report in the FT.
In an internal memo, chief executive Noel Quinn said that Greg Guyett, co-head of global banking and markets, Nuno Matos, chief executive of wealth and personal banking, and Barry O’Byrne, chief executive of global commercial banking, would relocate in the second half of 2021.
HSBC had signalled earlier this year that the executives were likely to head to Hong Kong, the 156-year-old lender's historic base.
Market update: FTSE rebounds
London's blue-chip index has reversed earlier losses and is now trading 0.2pc higher.
European stocks got a boost from positive updates by LVMH and SAP, while some of the biggest US banks are due to release results later today.
European industrial production dips in February
Industrial production across the eurozone dipped during February, continuing a run of patchy performance over recent months.
My colleague Louis Ashworth reports:
Total production fell by 1pc month-on-month, leaving it 1.6pc lower year-on-year. All major industrial categories declined, but the sharpest drop was seen in capital goods, which fell by 1.9pc amid supply disruptions.
ING’s Bert Colijn said the decline “will mean that the manufacturing contribution to GDP may disappoint a bit”, especially after a strong end to 2020, but added that trends are still pointing upwards.
He said: “While shortages may hinder production from month to month as supply issues pop up, the trend remains one of strong growth as the global economy recovers from the crisis.”
Most European countries saw production decline over the 12 months to February, but Ireland bucked the trend with a 41.4pc rise. The country’s stats body is currently reviewing its methodology for measuring production.
Spain’s CaixaBank to cut 7,000 jobs
Spanish lender CaixaBank SA is seeking to cut about 7,000 jobs after taking over of smaller rival Bankia SA, according to reports.
Bloomberg has the details:
The bank’s management and workers’ representatives agreed at a meeting on Tuesday to form a negotiation committee on the cuts and will meet next on April 20, a spokesman for the lender said, declining to give details on the number of jobs to be lost.
Spanish lenders are seeking to cut costs as margins come under pressure from low interest rates and an economic contraction caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Spain’s government last week trimmed its 2021 annual economic growth forecast to 6.5pc.
CaixaBank has more than 51,000 employees following the integration of Bankia earlier this year. Larger rival Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA will also start talks with unions this month to cut about 3,000 jobs, according to newspaper El Pais.
Tesco 'in pretty good shape'
Commenting on this morning's results, Nicholas Hyett, an equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, says:
We suspect the longer term impact will be a permanent uplift in online shopping, and Tesco has used the last year to dramatically increase its delivery capacity. Weekly slots have more than doubled to 1.5m a week and new fulfilment centres are under construction and due online shortly. With the recent sale of the group’s Asian businesses fortifying the balance sheet, Tesco is in pretty good shape.
Unfortunately the underlying positives haven’t been enough to boost the share price this morning, and we suspect that’s due to relatively lacklustre guidance. Operating profits are expected to be similar to 2019/20 in the coming year, suggesting that while the pandemic hasn’t done the group much harm, a year of captive shoppers hasn’t done it much long term good either. We suspect that may turn out to be an overcautious forecast, but as things stand it has clearly left the market disappointed.
Shares have fallen 1.5pc to 228.7p in early trading.
£31bn Virgin and O2 merger cleared by CMA
The merger between Virgin and O2 has been provisionally cleared by the Competition and Markets Authority, paving the way for the £31bn mega-deal.
The regulator announced that an inquiry group had provisionally concluded the deal is unlikely to damage competition in the supply of wholesale services.
In a statement, the CMA said it had reached this conclusion partly because the presence of other players in the market offering the same leased-line services, such as BT Openreach, "means the merged company will still need to maintain the competitiveness of its service or risk losing wholesale custom."
Virgin provides wholesale leased lines to telecommunication companies, such as Vodafone and Three, which they use to connect key parts of their network.
British Land buys retail parks and warehouses
British Land is acquiring retail parks and warehouses outside city centres as it seeks to move away from central shops and office space.
It comes after the FTSE 100 company warned that it collected just over half of retail rent due to be paid by tenants in March.
It added that retailers on its estate paid 70pc of what they owed in rent last year, as rolling lockdowns shut stores. Office tenants fared better, despite most being left vacant since the pandemic struck.
Shares fell 0.2pc in early trading.
Barclays share price rebounds after 'fat finger' error
Shares in Barclays slumped nearly 10pc this morning before rebounding to trade just 0.1pc in the red.
Trading in the stock was halted for five minutes due to high volatility with traders describing the slump as a "fat finger" error.
Lundgren says most European countries should be on UK's green list
The chief executive of easyJet said that by the time travel restarts, which in Britain is expected after May 17, most European countries should be on the UK's green list for travel.
"I will struggle to see that there will be, unless something happens between now and then, that there would be many (European) countries who wouldn't be in that green category," easyJet boss Johan Lundgren said.
Britain has yet to say which countries will make its green list for low risk travel.
Mr Lundgren said the main question customers were asking was which countries would be on the green list and urged the government to come forward with details as soon as possible. [via Reuters]
Covid costs take a bite out of Tesco profits
Tesco's annual sales were boosted by the boom in online shopping, but Covid-related costs and the repayment of business rates relief dragged down annual profits.
My colleague Laura Onita reports:
It posted a 7pc increase in overall sales to £53.4bn from £49.9bn for the year to the end of Feb 27, but pre-tax profit dropped by almost 20pc to £825m from £1bn.
The chain was hit with £892m of Covid-related costs to keep stores and staff safe. It also handed back £535m of business rates relief.
Online sales grew by 77pc to £6.3bn after it more than doubled its slots to 1.5 million a week. Home deliveries accounted for 79pc of interent orders, with click and collect increasing from 11pc at the start of the year to 25pc.
Tesco warned that although it expected strong sales this financial year, some of the growth will fall away as hospitality reopens and Britons return to work.
Nevertheless, profit should recover strongly as some one-off costs will not be repeated.
FTSE opens lower
The FTSE 100 has opened in the red as concerns grow that the suspension of the Johnson & Johnson jab will slow the global vaccine roll-out.
EasyJet losses better than expected
EasyJet said it expected to start to fly more from late May onwards, shrugging off worries about a third wave of Covid-19 infections in continental Europe, which have dampened hopes for a rebound in travel this summer.
EasyJet said this morning that most countries were planning to resume flying at scale in May, and it expected a ramp up from late May. It said that overall in its April to end of June quarter it would fly up to 20pc of 2019 capacity levels.
The return to flying at scale will help boost the airline's finances which have been squeezed during the pandemic. It flew just 14pc of 2019 capacity in the October to end of March period.
For the six months ended in March, the airline said it expected to report a loss before tax in the range of £690m to £730m, after it made stronger cost reductions than analysts had forecasted.
EasyJet said it had £2.9bn of liquidity and was well positioned to capitalise on a recovery in flying: "We maintain significant flexibility to ramp capacity up or down quickly depending upon the unwinding of travel restrictions and expected demand across our European network."
International flights on the horizon?
Good morning. EasyJet hopes to start flying more passengers from May, after saying its loss for the six months to March will be slightly less than expected.
Elsewhere, Tesco's annual profits were hit by Covid costs, despite a jump in sales during the pandemic.
5 things to start your day
1) Czech billionaire swoops on Sainsbury's: Czech sphinx Daniel Kretinsky’s firm has increased its stake sparking speculation the grocer could be targeted in a deal to take it private.
2) Andy Haldane steps down as Bank of England chief economist: The veteran of more than three decades is leaving to head the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce.
3) Young people hit by biggest jobless rise for almost 30 years: Unemployment among 18-to-24 year olds rose during the first six months of Covid in Britain, marking the largest quarterly climb since 1992.
4) Drugmaker's jailed ex-boss in line for £2.3m 'good leaver' bonus: Indivior's decision to award share options to former chief executive Shaun Thaxter comes under fire from advisory firm Glass Lewis.
5) Terry Smith's knockout payday caps journey from East End underdog to City champ: Terry Smith, one of Britain's best-known fund managers, bagged a bumper payday of up to £125m after record profit at his investment firm.
What happened overnight
Asian stock markets rose on Wednesday after Wall Street hit a high following an uptick in US inflation and an order by regulators to suspend use of Johnson & Johnson's coronavirus vaccine.
Shanghai, Hong Kong, Seoul and Sydney rose, while Tokyo was off less than 0.5pc.
The Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.4pc to 3,408.51 while the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo shed 0.3pc to 29,676.30. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong advanced 1.2pc to 28,849.09.
The Kospi in Seoul was up less than 0.1pc at 3,171.18 and Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 gained 0.6pc to 7,022.30. New Zealand and Jakarta advanced while Singapore declined.
Coming up today
Corporate: Full-year results Tesco (Full year); easyJet (Trading update)
Economics: Industrial production (EU), crude oil inventories (US)