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FTSE 100 Live: Manchester United shares soar to 3-year high on takeover speculation, SSE £1.5bn stake sale

 (Evening Standard)
(Evening Standard)

Shares in Manchester United hit a three-and-a-half year high, up 11.2% amid speculation that tech giant Apple is considering buying the club.

Car manufacturers have recorded a return to production growth after nearly 70,000 vehicles left the factory gates during October.

The figure recorded by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders represents growth of 7% on a year earlier, although the figure is still down 48% on 2019’s total.

In today’s corporate news, renewable energy giant SSE said it had sold a 25% stake in its electricity transmission business for £1.5 billion to Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan.

FTSE 100 Live Friday

  • Car production returns to growth

  • SSE clean energy drive boosted by stake sale

  • LSL Property shares fall on weaker outlook

Shares in Manchester United hit 3-year high as US stocks open: Wall Street open

14:46 , Simon Hunt

Shares in Manchester United hit a three-and-a-half year high, up 11.2% in the opening minutes of trading on Wall Street amid speculation that tech giant Apple is considering buying the club.

The technology giants have, according to the Daily Star, expressed an interest in buying United and are now weighing up a formal offer.

United were put up for sale on Tuesday by the Glazer family, who said they would “explore strategic alternatives”.

Wall Street set for steady start to Black Friday trading session

14:00 , Michael Hunter

The Black Friday sales are in full swing, the Thanksgiving holiday is behind the US and a steady open is expected on New York’s stock market.

According to futures trade, Wall Street’s S&P 500 will ease by just 2 points to 4030.75 when full trade begins. In pre-market trade, Activision Blizzard’s stock is down over 3% after reports that US regulators are likely to block Microsoft’s $69 billion deal to buy the video games publisher.

Oil price bounces back up over $86 after declines over the week on demand worries

11:58 , Michael Hunter

Brent crude oil is bouncing higher after falls over the wider week which tracked worries on the outlook for demand in China, where Covid restrictions are being tightened.

The international benchmark gained over 1% on the day to $86.56 a barrel, leaving lower by around 2% for the week. The recovery was helped by a looming ban on in the EU on imports of Russian crude, due to come into effect in early December, which will limit supply.

There is also a meeting of the OPEC+ oil exporting nations on December 4.

Challenger bank Atom secures new funding round

11:45 , Simon Hunt

UK fintech Atom has secured a new funding round as the UK’s first app-based bank shrugs off recession fears and eyes rapid expansion.

The Durham-based business, which recently surpassed £4.5 billion in customer deposits, has raised £30 million from investors BBVA, Toscafund and Infinity, bringing the total raised over the past year to over £100 million.

The funding values the challenger bank at £460 million, higher than its February 2022 valuation of £435 million but below its 2019 peak of £555 million.

The money will fuel further lending, Atom said, and is a step closer on its path to a public listing.

Atom boss Mark Mullen said: “Our prudent, secured lending model...allows us to make the very most of capital to support income growth and boost customer numbers.”

Property downturn hits LSL shares, Dr Martens continues fall

10:16 , Graeme Evans

Shares in LSL Property Services, whose brands include Your Move, e.Surv and the Mortgage Alliance, fell 10% today after it highlighted a marked slowdown in activity levels.

LSL blamed disruption created by September’s mini-budget and sharply increasing interest rates for the recent reduction in mortgage activity and new house sales, as well as an increase in fall-throughs of previously agreed transactions.

It now expects operating profits to be broadly in line with the second half of 2021, having previously forecast a stronger performance in the six month period.

LSL added: “The housing market is heavily impacted by sentiment and has the potential to surprise on the upside.

“However, with the recent reduction in activity levels and continuing uncertainty over UK economic conditions, until we have greater clarity on the economic backdrop, we are cautious on the market outlook for 2023.”

LSL shares dropped 26p to 236p and have now weakened 45% in the FTSE All-Share this year. Broker Peel Hunt said: “We expect to make sizeable cuts to our forecasts, but to some extent these have already been reflected in the share price.”

Property portal Rightmove dropped 6.2p to 563.4p, while housebuilders Taylor Wimpey and Persimmon declined 1.75p to 103.3p and 22p to 1303.5p respectively.

The FTSE 100 index rose 15.62 points to 7482.22, but the UK-focused FTSE 250 lost 74.40 points to 19,465.94 in a bleak Black Friday session for many consumer stocks.

Bootmaker Dr Martens lost another 7.8p to 213.6p on top of yesterday’s 23% results-day slide, while ASOS and Moonpig weakened 4% and 3% respectively.

Alkemy Capital, the owner of Tees Valley Lithium, soared 25% or 57.9p to 287.9p after planning permission was granted for Europe’s largest lithium hydroxide refinery at Teesside Freeport to supply the electric vehicle industry.

London fintech unicorn Zilch poised to begin wave of layoffs as downturn hits buy now pay later sector

09:55 , Simon Hunt

London fintech company Zilch is poised to begin a wave of layoffs as the buy now pay later business wrestles with the impact of recession and rising interest rates, the Standard has learned.

The Victoria-based “unicorn”, which was valued at $2 billion in a funding round earlier this year, is set to start a restructuring which could see dozens of staff - amounting to more than 10% of the workforce - being laid off, while new recruits set to join the firm report having their offers rescinded.

Data from LinkedIn suggests the number of staff at Zilch is down compared to earlier in the year, while hiring in November is at an all-time low.

The once fast-growing BNPL sector has been hit by the consumer downturn and the rising cost of the finance used to fund interest free credit offered to shoppers.

Zilch’s rival Klarna, which has seen its valuation plunge 85% to $6.7 billion, has also made a series of layoffs to cut costs.

A spokesperson for Zilch told the Standard: “In just 24 months since launch, Zilch has created over 250 new jobs, gained millions of customers at record speed and recently turned gross profitable.

“But in the last year the world has changed, and any business that thinks it’s immune to this historic economic change is mistaken.”

read more here

“Truly abysmal” City green funds

09:36 , Simon English

MOST City funds that pledge to invest only in green or “ethical” shares are massively underwater this year, the latest blow to a sector that is battling for credibility.

Analysis of the funds for the Evening Standard finds that on average they have lost 13.5% so far this year, compared to a stock market that is more or less flat.

In fund terms that is a spectacular under performance. Alan Miller of SCM Direct who did the analysis called the results “truly abysmal”.

SCM looked at 28 funds which manage £9.2 billion on behalf of savers looking to invest in the stock market while protecting the planet. So far this year, 96% have failed to keep pace with the market.

read more here

SSE £1.5bn stake sale lifts shares, FTSE 100 fails to spark

08:43 , Graeme Evans

Renewable energy firm SSE is one of the leading risers in the FTSE 100 index after it announced plans to sell a 25% stake in its Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission division to Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan.

SSE said the move will help it unlock the full potential of its electricity transmission business, which is core to its aim of becoming a “clean energy champion” specialising in electricity infrastructure.

Chief executive Gregor Alexander said: “In Ontario Teachers' we have a strong long-term partner who we have worked with successfully over the past 18 years.”

The move helped SSE shares to rise 15.5p to 1748p in a session when the FTSE 100 index stayed closed to its opening mark, up by just 1.49 points at 7468.09.

Housebuilders Taylor Wimpey and Persimmon were more than 2% lower, surrendering some of their recent gains after FTSE All-Share estate agency business LSL Property Services highlighted the impact of challenging trading conditions. Its shares tumbled 15%.

The FTSE 250 index fell 0.4% or 84.76 points to 19,455.58, with bootmaker Dr Martens suffering a further fall of 12.6p to 208.8p and retailers ASOS and Moonpig also dropping 4%.

Car output rises despite components disruption

07:54 , Graeme Evans

UK car production returned to growth in October after 69,524 vehicles left the factory gates, an increase of 7.4%. However, output is still down significantly on pre-Covid levels amid turbulent component supply.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “Getting the sector back on track in 2023 is a priority, given the jobs, exports and economic contribution the automotive industry sustains.

“UK car makers are doing all they can to ramp up production of the latest electrified vehicles, and help deliver net-zero, but more favourable conditions for investment are needed and needed urgently.”

He pointed to the sector’s requirements in affordable and sustainable energy and availability of talent as part of a supportive framework for automotive manufacturing.

Pound at $1.21, FTSE 100 seen flat

07:43 , Graeme Evans

A quiet session is expected in London as US markets were closed yesterday for the Thanksgiving holiday and will only reopen for morning trading later.

IG index sees the FTSE 100 opening 4.8 points lower at 7,461.80, although this will be sufficient to keep the top flight in positive territory for the week as a whole.

In contrast to London’s lacklustre performance, benchmarks on the continent rallied yesterday as the Dax in Frankfurt lifted 0.8% to a five-month high and the CAC 40 in Paris reached a seven month high after improving 0.4%.

The pound continues to trade at a three-month high above $1.21, while Brent crude is slightly higher this morning at $85.51.