Shares in Oxford Biomedica rose to their highest level since mid-March after the Covid vaccine manufacturer announced an investment drive thanks in part to its contract with AstraZeneca.
It came as the company said sales last year rose 37pc to £87.7m, while revenue from its bioprocessing and commercial development division grew by nearly half to £68.5m, thanks in large part to cash generated by the deal with AstraZeneca to make the jab.
This year the biotech expects another £50m sales bump from payments from Anglo-Swedish AstraZeneca and that demand for similar contract manufacturing and bioprocessing services will increase sharply.
It was already in the process of expanding, completing the construction of a giant manufacturing facility called Oxbox, before the pandemic struck. Three of the four processing suites are being used to make the vaccine and the facility has capacity for four to six more suites.
Chief executive John Dawson said he expects a “massive increase” in the work the firm carries out in cell and gene therapy and manufacturing, and the AstraZeneca money had given the firm “more leeway to invest in the platform”.
“The platform is very important and investing in the technology will enable us to improve quality and the batch yields, making more doses per batch”. Shares in the FTSE 250 company rose 2p to £10.42.
On the FTSE 100, pharmaceuticals company GlaxoSmithKline took the limelight as the second biggest winner among blue-chips on reports hedge fund activist Elliott Management had built up a multibillion-pound stake in the firm. Shares surged 58.8p to £13.48.
UK markets had a strong session with the FTSE 250 sustaining recent momentum, closing 116.5 points higher to reach a record 22,472.04. The FTSE 100, meanwhile, hit its highest level since February 2020 to finish up 43.92 points, just shy of 7,000.
Mining giants buoyed the benchmark index, with Antofagasta, Fresnillo and Polymetal all among the top risers. A pick up of iron ore prices due to tight near-term supply also helped lift the broader mining sector.
“There are increasing signs that UK stocks are finally finding favour with investors as the UK economy embarks upon the next stage of its economic reopening,” said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.
Helping to boost sentiment also was US stocks hitting fresh records on the back of higher than expected retail sales last month and lower than expected jobless claims in the past week, fuelling recovery optimism.
In this light, FTSE 250 developer Countryside Properties was the top mid-cap riser, up 26p to 541p. It was followed closely by train ticket platform Trainline, which gained 16.6p to 489.8p, and housebuilder Crest Nicholson, which rose 13.4p to 428p.
Elsewhere, London Stock Exchange Group jumped 146p to £79 after one of its major investors backed extra spending to fix problems at its new $27bn (£20bn) purchase of Refinitiv.
That is all from us today - here are some of our top stories:
Thank you for following along and see you again tomorrow.
Co-op chief exec's big bonus
Steve Murrells, chief executive of Co-operative Group, took home £2.2m last year despite the company’s controversial refusal to repay business rates relief handed out amid the pandemic.
Mr Murrells, who stepped into the role in 2017, received just over £860,000 in salary and benefits last year, plus a bonus of more than £1.35m.
Jo Whitfield, chief executive of Co-op Food, meanwhile, was paid almost £1.4m including a £649,000 bonus.
The large bonus payouts come despite The Co-op last week coming under attack from supermarket rivals for its decision to keep £66m of business rates relief it was handed during the pandemic.
The mutual, which also has funeral, legal and insurance divisions, posted sales of £11.5bn for the year through January, in a £600m uptick when compared to 2019. Pre-tax profits, meanwhile, rose 429pc to £127m, while underlying operating profits for its food business jumped 24pc to £350m.
A Co-op spokesman said: “We are paying bonuses to over 8,000 Co-op Colleagues this year, including our Executive team, to reflect what they achieved for our members and their communities in an exceptionally challenging year. In determining the final outturn the Remco [remuneration committee] reviewed carefully each of the balanced scorecard measures, taking into account the pandemic's headwinds and tailwinds.
“When reviewing the operating profit element of our balanced scorecard the Remco excluded all Government support monies. After much deliberation the Remco also decided to use its discretion to reduce the overall outturn for the Executive team. This meant that the actual annual bonus amount payable is at a similar level to 2019 for our Executive team”.
Wizz Air expects gradual recovery to travel this summer
European airline Wizz Air has said it expects only a gradual recovery in travel this summer, while warning that losses for the past year could be as high as €590m (£513m).
The FTSE 250-listed carrier told investors it is set to swing to losses of between €570m (£495m) and €590m (£513m) for the year to March, from a €281m (£244m) profit last year, after it was hit hard by the pandemic.
The group said there is still significant uncertainty regarding travel demand this year but it expects rising vaccination rates to help drive progress.
Chief executive Jozsel Varadi said: "Despite the continued impact of the pandemic, we are well-prepared, with one of the strongest balance sheets in the airline industry."
Ever Given update
In an update from my colleague Alan Tovey, two members of the Ever Given's crew have been allowed to leave the ship and return home because of emergency personal reasons.
The SCA said it was "co-operating fully to meet the needs of the crew" of the impounded ship as negotiations about compensation continue and the probe into how the incident took place runs on.
Evergreen, the shipping line which operated the vessel, has also said it is investigating whether the cargo can be treated separately from the ship when it comes to the claims, as it tried to get the goods aboard to their destinations.
Strong session for UK markets
UK markets had a strong session today, with the FTSE 250 sustaining recent momentum to hit a record high. The FTSE 100, meanwhile, hit its highest level since February 2020 to finish the day just shy of 7,000.
"While other major indices have led the way in posting record highs on a fairly regular basis, there are increasing signs that UK stocks are finally finding favour with investors as the UK economy embarks upon the next stage of its economic reopening," said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.
"We’ve already seen the FTSE250 make record highs, which leaves the FTSE100 as the serial laggard with a lot of ground to make up, given it is still well below last year’s peaks of 7,689."
GlaxoSmithKline shares lead the blue-chips higher on reports hedge fund activist Elliott Management have built up a multibillion-pound stake in the firm (see 2:24pm post).
Vaccine manufacturer plans to turbocharge expansion
Covid vaccine manufacturer Oxford Biomedica plans to turbocharge expansion thanks in part to extra cash generated by the deal with AstraZeneca to make the jab.
My colleague Julia Bradshaw reports:
Chief executive John Dawson said he expected a “massive increase” in the sort of work that Oxford Biomedica carries out in cell and gene therapy and manufacturing and that the AstraZeneca money had given the company “more leeway to invest in the platform”.
“The platform is very important and investing in the technology will enable us to improve quality and the batch yields, making more doses per batch,” he said.
The company was already in the process of expanding, completing the construction of a giant manufacturing facility called Oxbox just before the pandemic struck. Three of the four processing suites are being used to make the vaccine and the facility has capacity for four to six more suites.
Last year sales rose 37pc to £87.7m, while revenue from its bioprocessing and commercial development division grew by nearly half to £68.5m, thanks in large part to the AstraZeneca contract.
This year the biotech expects a further £50m sales bump from payments from AstraZeneca and that demand for similar contract manufacturing and bioprocessing services will increase sharply.
...meanwhile in Germany
The strong figures in the US (see below) contrast with the eurozone, which is struggling with new Covid lockdowns and only a belated surge in the vaccination programmes in some countries (Tim Wallace writes).
Analysts at the IFO Institute in Germany downgraded their forecasts for the continent’s largest economy, which they now expect to grow by 3.7pc in 2021, down from last October’s prediction of 4.7pc.
Consumer spending should lead the way as Germans are allowed to spend and mingle more freely, while the IFO expects cross-border trade in financial services to take off more gradually “as vaccination progresses in other countries”.
Eurozone GDP is predicted to grow by 4.3pc this year and 4.2pc in 2022. This would return the economy to its pre-Covid size, but still leave it 3pc short of the output which had been anticipated before the pandemic.
The IFO expects the UK economy to grow by 5pc this year, as restrictions begin to be eased, in part because of the faster vaccination programme.
US economy roars back
Hre's a little more from my colleague Tim Wallace on those US retail sales earlier, which jumped by almost 10pc in March compared to February.
At the same time the number of workers claiming jobless benefits dropped to a pandemic-era low of 576,000 last week, according to the Department of Labor, down by almost 200,000 on the week before. It indicates the combination of high savings, low interest rates, Government grants to households and post-lockdown enthusiasm is resulting in a powerful economic rebound.
“The $1,400 stimulus payment will keep retail sales momentum strong for April and with job creation continuing to improve, the fundamentals underpinning the economy look very robust,” said economist James Knightley at ING.
In a positive sign for the UK, which only reopened shops and outdoor dining this week, US spending on food and drink services jumped by more than 13pc, motor vehicle sales more than 15pc and clothes sales 18pc, according to the Census Bureau.
Big banks on a roll
Wall Street banks are having a bumper quarter. After Goldman and JP Morgan yesterday, Citigroup today trounced market estimates for first-quarter profit. The third-largest US lender released reserves set aside for loan losses from the pandemic, while disclosing plans to exit some overseas markets.
Separately Bank of American reported revenue from sales and trading rose 17pc in the first quarter, a bigger jump than expected, and equity underwriting fees more than tripled.
Wall Street's strong run has helped pushed the Dow and the S&P 500 to record highs this afternoon.
Shell climate vote
Shell will put its plans to tackle climate change before shareholders next month in the first vote of its kind for a major listed company, Rachel Millard writes.
The FTSE 100 Anglo-Dutch business is preparing to invest more in hydrogen, clean power and carbon capture systems due to a slump in oil production, which Shell said peaked in 2019.
Shareholders will be asked to vote on plans at a meeting next month to reduce carbon emissions from Shell's products to net zero by 2050. The pay of more than 16,500 staff will be linked to annual progress towards that goal.
As part of targets which Shell said were “in line with climate science and in step with society's progress", it will also aim to double electricity sales by 2030. Shell does not anticipate new frontier oil exploration beyond 2025.
It is the first time an oil major has asked its shareholders to vote on climate change plans, which Shell will update every three years. Investors will be given an advisory vote every year from 2022 on the company's progress toward the targets.
Every little helps AO World
AO Worlds results (out this morning) show it's been a lockdown winner from the shift to online. My colleague Laura Onita writes: AO World is planning to open more than 100 shops in Tesco's supermarkets after sales shot up by almost two-thirds.
The retailer gained more than two million new customers during the year to March 31 as people bought fridges, freezers and laptops online during lockdowns, pushing revenues up by 62pc to £1.7bn.
In a trading update to shareholders, the company said it expected underlying profits for the year to be in the range of £63m to £72m, up from £19.6m a year earlier.
AO opened its first concession inside a Tesco store before the third lockdown and has a further four in the pipeline.
Chief executive John Roberts, who founded AO in 2000, said the company wanted to open more than 100 Tesco concessions if trials over the next six months were successful.
Other rivals have been opening concessions in supermarkets recently, including B&Q in Asda's stores.
Lockdown drinking lifts Naked Wines
Another company with an update out today is Naked Wines, which made more than £150m in the US over the last year as the company's American market proved its most important.
The company said that its US business had grown by 75pc across the year, and £9 in every £20 of wine it sells is now in the country.
It puts the US ahead of the UK as the firm's single biggest market.
Overall sales also grew, but slower than in the US. Across the group sales were 68pc higher between April 2020 and March this year than in the 12 months before. The shares were down 1.6pc in afternoon trade.
Wall Street hits record high
US stocks have opened at record highs as investors cheered solid earnings reports and data signalling a recovery in the world’s biggest economy.
Glaxo shares jump after activist hedge fund builds big stake
Shares in GlaxoSmithKline surged on reports that hedge fund activist Elliott Management has built up a multi-billion pound stake in the FTSE 100 company.
My colleague Julia Bradshaw reports:
The New York-based activist investor has a long history of building up minority stakes in businesses it regards as possible takeover targets and putting pressure on management to pursue certain strategies.
The size of Elliott's GSK stake, which was first reported by the Financial Times, has not been disclosed.
The biggest shareholder in GSK is BlackRock with a 6pc stake.
Shares jumped almost 5pc to £13.49 in afternoon trading in London, valuing the company at close to £68bn.
GSK has lagged its pharmaceutical rivals in recent years with the share price falling by almost a third since January 2020. The stock has declined by 14pc since Dame Emma Walmsley became chief executive in April 2017.
Colin versus Cuthbert as M&S declares caterpillar cake war on Aldi
The battle lines have been drawn. Are you team Colin or team Cuthbert?
My colleague Laura Onita reports:
Marks & Spencer is taking legal action against Aldi in a bid to to protect its Colin the Caterpillar cake.
The retailer argues that the German chain's Cuthbert the Caterpillar product infringes its trademark and has lodged an intellectual property claim with the High Court this week.
M&S said that the similarity of Aldi's product leads consumers to believe they are of the same standard and "ride on the coat-tails" of its reputation with the product.
Marks wants Aldi to stop selling the Cuthbert cake and agree not to sell anything similar in the future.
M&S launched Colin the Caterpillar about 30 years ago and his appearance has been substantially unchanged since around 2004, except for adaptations for events such as Halloween and Christmas, and related products such as Connie the Caterpillar.
The product is central to M&S's partnership with cancer charity Macmillan and the retailer has created a Colin product for the annual World's Biggest Coffee Morning fundraising event.
US retail sales smash expectations
US retail sales have smashed expectations, growing by nearly 10pc in March, after $1,400 stimulus cheques landed last month.
Citigroup retreats from EMEA retail banking
Lending giant Citi is set to exit retail banking in 13 markets across Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), it said today.
Instead new boss Jane Fraser will focus on its consumer-banking franchise in both regions from four wealth centres in Singapore, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates and London.
The move is the first big shake-up under Ms Fraser's ongoing strategic review after she started in the chief executive role last month.
“This positions us to capture the strong growth and attractive returns the wealth management business offers through these important hubs,” she said in a statement.
Bloomberg has the details:
Citigroup will exit its consumer franchises in Australia, Bahrain, China, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Poland, Russia, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
The firm will continue to offer products in those markets to customers of its institutional clients group, which houses the private bank, cash-management arm and investment-banking and trading businesses.
The New York-based bank has already been building out a wealth advisory hub in Singapore. The 30,000 sq ft space is the largest of its kind for the bank and has room for more than 300 relationship managers and product specialists.
The withdrawal came as Citigroup reported record quarterly profit, boosted by the flurry of blank-check companies it helped take public in the first three months of the year.
“While the other 13 markets have excellent businesses, we don’t have the scale we need to compete,” Fraser said. “We believe our capital, investment dollars and other resources are better deployed against higher returning opportunities in wealth management and our institutional businesses in Asia.”
In charts: Britain's post-Brexit trade with Ireland
Here are a few charts that illustrate the plunge in trade between Britain and Ireland after Brexit. Trade from Britain of food and live animals slumped the most after Brexit, while trade in machinery also suffered a dramatic drop.
Here's how the year-on-year drop in British exports to Ireland compares to the levels of other trading partners.
The steep fall in British exports as well as the blow to EU exports means Ireland has a healthy trading surplus (meaning it exports more than it imports).
FTSE 250 hits fresh high
The FTSE 250 has hit a fresh high while the FTSE 100 is trading 0.3pc higher. Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell and Telegraph columnist, says:
Mining stocks have come to the rescue, helping the FTSE 100 advance 0.3% to 6,962. Iron ore prices have been picking up again on tight near-term supply, helping to drive up the likes of Rio Tinto, BHP and Anglo American.
Diageo also continues to push forward, having recently been stuck in a tight trading range. Its share price managed to break out of this trend at the start of April and keen chart-watching investors have been latching on to this event ever since. A price target upgrade from a big investment bank also helped the stock on Thursday, pushing up Diageo 1pc.
The mid cap FTSE 250 index continues to set new record highs, rising 0.3pc to 22,429 thanks to a mixture of builders’ merchants, housebuilders and airlines. Investors are buying these sectors to play the reopening trade and a general recovery in interest for UK stocks after a long period of being in the doldrums.
Exports to Ireland plunge amid Brexit disruption
Exports to Ireland from Britain plunged by more than half in February compared to a year ago, in the latest sign of post-Brexit disruption.
Exports to the Republic of Ireland from the British mainland, not including those to Northern Ireland, decreased by €742m (£644m) to €650m compared with February 2020, Ireland’s central statistics office said on Thursday.
The largest drops were in the imports of food and live animals, mineral fuels, and machinery and transport equipment, it said. Exports from Ireland to Great Britain fell 11pc year-on- year.
US Secretary of State makes surprise visit to Afghanistan
Ever Given insurers in $900m compensation battle with Suez canal operator
Abandoning the giant container ship that blocked the Suez Canal to Egyptian authorities would be cheaper for its insurers than paying out a compensation claim, legal sources have claimed.
My colleague Alan Tovey reports:
The 220,000-tonne Ever Given has been seized on the orders of an Egyptian court after the Suez Canal Authority placed a $916m claim, which included a $300m for “salvage bonus” and $300m for “loss of reputation”.
However, the 1,312ft long ship is worth just $170m, according to data from maritime data provider Vessels Value.
The Ever Given is owned by Japan’s Shoei Kisen Kaisha, and is insured by UK P&I Club against third-party liabilities.
P&I has appointed international law firm HFW’s shipping practice to represent it, with lawyers now trying to negotiate a 90pc reduction on the compensation claim.
A source with knowledge of the legal process described the canal authority's estimate as “ridiculous”, adding: “No one in their right mind would put almost $1bn when the ship is worth $100m or so.”
LSEG shares jump after major investor backs extra spending on Refinitiv
Shares in the London Stock Exchange Group have jumped nearly 2pc this morning after one of the company's major investors backed extra spending to fix long-standing problems at its new $27bn purchase Refinitiv.
Lindsell Train, which has the largest shareholding by a fund manager in the group, told investors it was important “not to lose sight of the strategic benefit of the deal” after LSE shares lost a fifth of their value last month, the FT reported.
Concerns have grown among investors about the impact of Refinitiv after LSE said in March it would incur higher-than-expected expenses to integrate the data provider.
Online sales save Ladbrokes owner Entain
Ladbrokes owner Entain said online revenues jumped by a third in the first three months of 2021 as it continued to see strong demand from punters stuck at home.
Shares in the gambling giant, which also owns Coral, rose more than 1pc after it hailed the "strong" online performance.
Online net gaming revenues increased by 33pc for the quarter to March 31 compared with the same period last year, in its 21st consecutive quarter of double-digit online growth.
The company said this was driven by positive trading across all its major markets except Germany, where a tightening of online gambling regulations weighed on trading.
Entain, previously known as GVC, told investors on Thursday that total net revenues fell by 13pc over the quarter as a result of the closure of almost all of its more-than-3,000 betting shops.
Retail revenues plummeted by 99pc compared with the same quarter a year ago as a result.
In England and Wales, betting shops reopened on Monday as part of the second phase of the Government's road map out of lockdown.
London new home sales hit nine-year low
London new-home sales fell to their lowest level in almost nine years in the first quarter, led by a lack of interest from landlords and a dearth of buyers for central properties.
Bloomberg has the details:
Sales of the homes tumbled 39pc to 3,703 compared with the same period last year, according to data compiled by Molior London and seen by Bloomberg News. The researcher calculates the numbers based on transactions at projects with at least 20 units.
London’s housing market is in flux as a premium on space and greenery causes the value of suburban houses to rise and apartment prices to fall. Sentiment in the new homes market improved in March as Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s timetable for easing lockdown restrictions boosted confidence, according to Molior.
“London’s been one of the weakest markets over the past year” as people now prefer to buy houses over apartments, said Aneisha Beveridge, head of research at broker Hamptons International. The majority of new-build sales in London are apartments so the decline reflects that change, she said.
Homebuilder shares rose on Thursday on optimism about the vaccination program, which allowed England to begin reopening its economy after about 100 days of restrictions, raising the question of whether the popularity of urban life will return to a post-pandemic London.
Job vacancies surge as economy springs back to life
Job vacancies surged last week as the economy sprang back to life on 12 April’s partial reopening of the retail and hospitality industries.
My colleague Tim Wallace reports:
The number of catering and hospitality positions available jumped to 58pc of its pre-pandemic levels, according to the Office for National Statistics and Adzuna, the highest level since March last year as outdoor dining and drinking returns.
Reservations through OpenTable on reopening day hit 79pc of their level on the same day of 2019. It is the first time since the start of the January lockdown that bookings have been above 2pc of their old level.
Retail and wholesale workers are also in more demand than at any point in the past 12 months as shops are allowed to throw open their doors, even if only a limited number of masked customers are permitted inside. Job adverts in the industry are up above three-quarters of their level in February 2020.
This is not the only sign of life returning to high streets and town centres.
More entrepreneurs are setting up businesses.
Last month 25,320 new companies registered to report VAT, the biggest increase since August 2016.
Road traffic volumes are back at 91pc of their pre-Covid levels, up seven percentage points on the week as more drivers took to the road to get to work or social engagements.
Sky News: Peel Hunt eyes return to stock market
Peel Hunt, one of the City's leading independent investment banks, is eyeing a return to the stock market two decades 20 after it was taken private, according to a report by Sky News.
Peel Hunt's management, led by chief executive Steven Fine, has appointed Evercore to advise it on a process that could lead to an initial public offering (IPO) in the next 12 months, the report says.
Insiders said on Thursday that a flotation could value the broker at somewhere in the region of £350m.
Alcohol and tobacco spend jumps during lockdown
Hut Group founder pledges £100m to charity
The founder of online retailer The Hut Group has pledged to gift £100m of the firm's shares to charity and hand all his salary to good causes following its stock market debut last year.
Matthew Moulding, executive chairman and chief executive of the group, will give the mammoth stake to the Moulding Foundation, set up by the entrepreneur and his family last year.
The move will make Mr Moulding one of the UK's biggest philanthropists.
It said it had already donated £300,000 to charities between last September's IPO and the end of 2020 instead of paying Mr Moulding and co-director John Gallemore their base salaries.
It came as the group said revenues soared by more than two-fifths to £1.6bn in 2020 and underlying profit jumped 354.2pc to £151m.
However, statutory pre-tax losses widened to £534,639 from £45,158 in 2019 after it paid out for share option schemes as well as the costs of the IPO.
ICYMI: Britain's most expensive apartment yours for £175m - Bitcoin accepted
My colleague Rachel Millard has a cracking story about Britian's most expensive apartment going on the market. She writes:
A luxury Knightsbridge penthouse overlooking Hyde Park can be yours for a mere £175m – and the seller will take offers in Bitcoin.
Developer Nick Candy is selling the 18,000 sq ft, five-bedroom apartment in the One Hyde Park development following a surge in interest in the capital's most exclusive homes.
The 48-year-old told Bloomberg the penthouse is “a world-class real estate asset in the heart of London that will continue to perform as a solid investment for years to come".
Offers in Bitcoin and Ethereum will be considered as cryptocurrencies are a “big opportunity”, he added.
Mr Candy is understood to have received approaches from potential buyers in the US, Hong Kong and China.
The property, which is 18 times larger than the average UK home, has a media room, private spa, cocktail bar, two terraces, four car parking spaces and a wine room that can hold 750 bottles.
City vacancies jump 70pc as fears of an exodus subside
The number of job vacancies in the City soared by 70pc in the first quarter of the year, despite efforts by Brussels to shift business to the Continent.
Hiring in the Square Mile significantly picked up during the period as the vaccine rollout boosted confidence among employers, according to new research from recruitment agency Morgan McKinley.
The report shows that the number of finance jobs available in London increased by nearly three-quarters between January and March, compared with the final quarter of 2020.
It came despite attempts by Brussels to seize greater control of Europe’s €735 trillion (£658 trillion) clearing market, which is dominated by London and is considered one of its most treasured assets.
The research found that workers changing jobs in the capital financial services industry can expect to get an 18pc pay rise.
Hakan Enver, managing director of Morgan McKinley UK, said:
Financial services has had a strong start to 2021. As the vaccine rollout continues apace and the road out of lockdown clears, we are seeing the sector recover at a faster rate than anticipated. We expect this recovery and confidence to continue as the country unlocks and normal working life resumes.
Deliveroo slides after posting a cautious outlook
More pain for Deliveroo. Shares fell as much as 2.3pc in early trading after the company posted a cautious outlook, saying it accepts growth to decelerate as lockdowns ease.
The stock has recovered slightly but is still trading about 1pc lower at 267p.
Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, says:
The company kept its guidance unchanged for full year annual gross transaction value growth of between 30pc to 40pc, and a gross profit margin of 7.5pc to 8pc, though the guidance came with a warning that growth might slow as lockdown restrictions are eased.
This will be a concern across the sector, which makes it doubly important that Deliveroo is able to expand in other areas of its business model, where it has an advantage. Its logistics model means it has a head start on the likes of Just Eat Takeaway, who are already making inroads having signed deals with Leon, Chipotle, Starbucks and Costa.
Market update: FTSE opens higher
The FTSE 100 has opened higher, along with European peers, as the market rally continues.
AO sales jump
Online electricals retailer AO World has said it expects to report soaring full-year earnings as UK sales surged by 88pc in its final quarter.
The bumper performance helped AO's group revenues jump by 62pc to £1.66bn in the year to March 31.
It now expects annual underlying earnings to surge to between £63m and £72m, up from £19.6m the previous year, despite extra costs relating to the pandemic.
But the group added it expects to book a charge of around £15m due to customers cancelling long-term mobile and warranty contracts as they change their spending behaviour amid the pandemic.
Deliveroo says growth could slow
Food delivery company Deliveroo warned its rate of growth could slow as lockdown eases in its first trading update since its highly anticipated listing in London last month flopped.
The company said its orders more than doubled in the quarter to the end of March.
Growth accelerated for the fourth consecutive quarter, the company said, with group orders up 114pc year-on-year to 71 million and gross transaction value up 130pc year-on-year to £1.65bn.
But Deliveroo admitted it was "difficult to say" how much of this growth was driven by lockdown restrictions. "Deliveroo expects the rate of growth to decelerate as lockdowns ease, but the extent of the deceleration remains uncertain," it said. Read our report here.
Good morning. The FTSE is tipped to open fractionally higher as a recent rally in markets cools.
5 things to start your day
1) Former Met Police chief drawn into Greensill scandal: Lord Hogan-Howe, Britain’s most senior police officer until 2017, was a paid adviser to Greensill Capital while on the board of the Cabinet Office.
2) Make stamp duty cut permanent, says OECD: The change would be part of a radical post-Covid overhaul to boost investment and make it easier for people to move to new jobs.
3) Spain plans green energy push after Covid tourism collapse: Prime minister Pedro Sanchez said he hopes the plans will help to unlock Spain's "biggest economic opportunity since the 1980s".
4) Plane parts shortage feared if Gupta's steel empire collapses: Britain’s aerospace companies called for Kwasi Kwarteng’s “urgent intervention” in the crisis, as Gupta battles to keep GFG empire afloat.
5) Britain's most expensive flat yours for £175m - Bitcoin accepted: The 18,000 sq ft, five-bedroom apartment in the One Hyde Park developmentis 18 times larger than the average UK home.
What happened overnight
Asian shares were on the back foot on Thursday following mixed cues from Wall Street where a sharp sell-off in the largest bitcoin exchange, Coinbase, hit tech shares while the dollar index struggled near one-month lows.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan paused after two straight days of gains. It was last at 690.53, a long way from a record high of 745.89 touched in February.
Japan's Nikkei rose 0.2pc while South Korea's KOSPI index was up a tad.
Australia's benchmark index slipped 0.4pc as miners were dented by weaker prices for iron ore and coal.
Global shares have surged in recent weeks led by successful rollouts of Covid vaccines around the world, US stimulus packages and higher US inflation expectations.
Chinese shares started in the red on Thursday with the blue-chip CSI300 index down 0.2pc.
Coming up today
Corporate: Legal & General, St James's Place, Standard Life Aberdeen, THG (The Hut Group), Puretech Health, Oxford Biomedica (Full year); Deliveroo, Hays, Naked Wine (Trading update)
Economics: Wholesale and consumer price index (Germany), initial jobless claims, retail sales, industrial production (US), industrial production (EU)