The Bank of England’s governor has warned the EU not to demand euro derivatives trading is settled in the bloc’s clearing houses, saying to do so would be a “very serious escalation”.
Andrew Bailey said the bloc is pursuing a “location policy” as it aims to snap up financial services activity post-Brexit. He said it appears that the EU is not seeking to establish ‘equivalence’ with the UK, instead working to make euro-denominated derivatives clearing activity shift to European hubs.
Mr Bailey warned the EU may introduce legislation to increase pressure on companies to shift their activities onto the Continent.
“I have to say to you that would be highly controversial – and that would be something that we would have to, and want to, resist very firmly,” he said.
In stock markets, energy giant BP surged 5pc as its boss said it would take time before investors were convinced by its green strategy.
The FTSE 100 group rose 15.3p to 298.8p, giving the blue-chip index an upwards boost as equities shrugged off Tuesday’s brief tech-stock rout.
Bernard Looney, the BP chief executive, told attendees at the second day of International Petroleum Week, the industry’s biggest event in London, that his company was working on winning people over to its ambitions, which include cutting oil and gas output by 40pc.
“We’ve outlined the ambition, we’ve redone our planning prices, we’ve done all the theoretical work,” Mr Looney said. “I’m fully confident that, over time, that will be acknowledged. But I understand that investors have questions whether we can do it or not.”
Peer Royal Dutch Shell also rose amid a broader return of the recovery rally, climbing 52p to £14.29.
The FTSE 100 shook off a bout of early underperformance to post a moderate gain, with international earners recovering initial losses as the pound eased back, having broken through $1.42 overnight.
Travel-linked stocks continued to rise on a reopening play, with Rolls-Royce and International Consolidated Airlines among top blue-chip climbers, while Tui, Carnival and easyJet all performed well on the FTSE 250.
Vodafone was the biggest FTSE 100 faller, dropping 4.4p to 125.5p after detailing plans to float a stake in its Vantage Towers business on the Frankfurt stock exchange.
Reckitt Benckiser fell 88p to £58.82 despite posting full-year results that showed record sales growth, with analysts warning the luxury goods giant may struggle to replicate the momentum its hygiene business has shown through the pandemic.
InterContinental Hotels fell 76p to £51.50 after Deutsche Bank downgraded the group from “buy” to “hold”. Analyst Andre Juillard said the risk-reward outlook for the group was “on balance” following a recent share price rally in reopening hopes, saying its exposure to fast-growing markets such as North America and China appears to be baked into the price.
Travel food retailer SSP, owner of Ritazza and Upper Crust, dropped 25.4p to 343.2p in a reversal of fortune from Tuesday’s gains, becoming the biggest dropper among the mid-caps.
Shopping centre operator Hammerson jumped 2.9p to 25.6p amid pre-Budget reports that the Government will continue to offer substantial support to businesses as it aims to slowly reopen the economy.
Elsewhere, Metro Bank shares dived 14.9p to 135p after its annual losses deepened severely due to the pandemic. The challenger bank posted a statutory pre-tax loss of £311.4m, compared with a £130.8m loss the year before.
That is all from me today - hope you enjoyed following along.
Check out some of our top stories to keep you going into the evening:
McKinsey boss ousted in shock leadership vote
Thank you for joining! Louis will be back with you bright and early.
What to look forward to (among more):
Updates from: Anglo American, Aston Martin Lagonda Global, BAE Systems, Centrica, Evraz, Hikma Pharmaceuticals, Inchcape, Kaz Minerals, Serco, St James's Place, Genus, Associated British Foods, Amigo, Virgin Money
Numbers on: Consumer and business confidence (EZ); initial jobless claims, pending home sales, GDP (US)
Sky - former Aviva CEO launching insurance venture
Mark Wilson - who was chief executive of FTSE 100-listed insurance giant Aviva from 2012-2018 - has teamed up with London-based private equity firm Sun Capital Partners to launch Abacai Holdings, an insurance tech company, according to Sky News.
It said the business will be created by merging Abacai with Complete Cover Group (CCG), an insurance distribution and underwriting business owned by Sun Capital.
Abacai aims to invest £50m in creating a new artificial intelligence platform and an announcement with more details will take place on Thursday morning.
Former UBS executive suing the bank
A former UBS executive is suing the bank after investing in a “free punt” film tax break scheme used by the rich and famous that was later investigated by HMRC.
My colleague Michael O'Dwyer reports:
Steven White, who was the global head of HR services at UBS, is seeking damages from the bank after HMRC deemed the Ingenious film investment scheme was a tax avoidance mechanism.
Mr White claims a colleague told him the investment was “safe as houses” and “wholly without risk” during a conversation about how to use his bonus around the end of 2005, Bloomberg reported.
No reasonable adviser in UBS’s position would have portrayed the film plan as a ‘watertight’ investment, Mr White’s lawyers said. UBS and HSBC are among dozens of defendants in the lawsuit.
The Ingenious controversy centres around tax breaks introduced in 1997 for investment in the British film industry, which were later tightened up.
Charles Randell, chairman of the Financial Conduct Authority, repaid more than £100,000 to the taxman after investing in the scheme. Sports stars and celebrities such as David Beckham and Jeremy Paxman also invested.
UBS declined to comment.
Andrew Bailey vows to fight Brussels power grab over the City
Rounding up our posts below, catch up with our full report on comments by Andrew Bailey, boss of the BoE, at a Treasury Committee hearing this afternoon,
He warned that the BoE would "resist very firmly" any move by the EU to seize control of the lucrative euro derivative trading market. He told MPs that pressure from Europe on banks to shift clearing activity from London would be 'very serious escalation' of the issue.
Read all about it here: Andrew Bailey vows to fight Brussels power grab over the City
Ibis and Novotel parent plunges to €2bn loss
Europe’s biggest hotel chain Accor plunged to €2bn (£1.7bn) loss in 2020 as lockdown measures and travel restrictions hammered sales.
My colleague Hannah Uttley reports:
The company, which runs the Ibis and Novotel chains, said revenue per available room, a key industry metric known as RevPAR, tumbled 62pc compared with a year earlier amid a “dramatic deterioration” across the sector.
Total revenues declined 60pc to €1.6bn, causing it to rack up heavy losses in stark contrast to the €464m net profit it recorded a year earlier. Accor said it was progressing with the rollout of the €200m cost savings plan announced last August.
Sébastien Bazin, chairman and chief executive of Accor, said the company had “navigated an unprecedented crisis” in 2020.
Accor operates more than 5,000 hotels in around 110 countries. The company said 82pc of its hotels were open as of end-December, compared with 90pc at end-September.
Bailey: "much better" to have a financial services deal with the EU
In some of his final comments of the hearing with the Treasury Committee, Bailey said it would be “much better” if the UK and the EU agreed on a financial services deal, before adding that “there is a price beyond which the deal is not worth having”.
He has earlier said Brussels would be making a mistake if it refused to grant access for the City, warning that the EU is poised to lock Britain out of its banking market which would push up financial costs for millions of consumers on both sides of the Channel.
Meanwhile earlier this month Mairead McGuinness, the EU’s financial services chief, warned the UK that “there cannot be equivalence and wide divergence” in financial regulation. Speaking at a conference hosted by the Financial Times, she added the EU would demand to know the UK’s future regulatory plans as a prerequisite for any agreement.
Bailey: uncertainty remains over post-Brexit trading
Andrew Bailey has said the BoE sticks by its earlier prediction that leaving the single market would have a "negative affect" with wide "disruption" for companies trading between the UK and EU in the first two quarters of this year.
He says continued disruption around trade "does illustrate that while it was important what was done before Christmas was done, there is a lot of work still to be done".
Bailey said uncertainty over trade negotiations came "right up to the wire" and it wouldn't be fair to say companies should have been more prepared in how to deal with new trading rules post-Brexit.
There is still a "long way to go" to solve the large level of uncertainty around how companies trade post-Brexit.
Bailey added: "I strongly would re-emphaise that it is critical to raise the levels of investment in the economy for longer-term growth".
Pitching in, Jonathan Haskel from the Monetary Policy Committee said a recent survey revealed 43pc of firms noted Brexit as being in the 'top level' of uncertainty, at the same level as a year ago.
It’s time for me to hand over to my colleague Louise Moon, who will steer the blog into the evening. Thanks for following along today!
Dogecoin has soared again after Tesla founder Elon Musk – the world’s second richest man – appeared to once again endorse the cryptocurrency, which was created as a joke.
My colleague Hannah Boland reports:
Musk posted a picture of the Shiba-Inu-themed tokens flag on the surface of the moon, a reference to a joke among Reddit traders determined to send the value of the currency soaring “to the moon”.
Dogecoin was up about a quarter to $0.0593 (£0.0421) as of 2.30pm today following the tweet from the enigmatic founder.
Elsewhere, Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing plans to enter the European market in a move that could shake Uber’s dominant position in the bloc.
Bailey: Hard to assess impact of clearing shift
Following his earlier comments on clearing house, Mr Bailey says it is difficult to assess the impact of the shift, saying it is not a new issue, but that the EU has seized a “renewed opportunity”. He says the impact of such a shift is difficult to assess, and we will have to wait to better understand the direction of travel.
Treasury expands levelling-up fund to cover UK beyond England
The Treasury has boosted the size of its ‘levelling-up’ fund by £800m, taking its total size to £4.8bn, and the scheme is expanded beyond England.
The fund, which was announced in November, now includes Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The Treasury said:
Taking this UK-wide approach makes sure that the UK Government can target funding more efficiently and responsibly between different parts of the country.
Chief secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay said:
Our levelling-up fund will back local projects to improve everyday life for millions of people and we look forward to working with all areas to boost local economies.
Haskel: 70pc of those with excess savings don’t plan to spend it
Building on Mr Broadbent’s comments, Mr Haskel says 70pc of those Britons who have built up “excess” savings during the pandemic do not intend to spend it – presenting a risk to a hoped-for rebound in consumer demand.
Broadbent: Savings skew could impact pace of recovery
Deputy governor Ben Broadbent says that there is a potential risk to the speed of a demand rebound because the savings accumulated during the pandemic have been primarily concentrated in the hands of richer people and pensioners, who may be less likely to spend it. Some economists have expressed a concern that could slow the pace of recovery.
Haskel: More support may be needed
Fellow Monetary Policy Committee member Jonathan Haskel, who is also speaking, said further support may be needed:
I remain open to the possibility that the economy might need further support to return inflation to target sustainably
He identified five key risks to the recovery:
A resurgence of the virus
A slower-than-expected business investment rebound
Weak consumer spending
The distinction between vaccine “efficacy” (in preventing the virus) and “effectiveness” (in creating a return of pre-pandemic behaviour)
Bailey: EU’s goal is to shift derivatives clearing activity out of the City
Tough words from Mr Bailey on discussions with the EU on so-called equivalence. He says the bloc is pursuing a “location policy” rather than an equivalence one.
He said it appears that the EU is not seeking to establish ‘equivalence’ with the UK, instead working to make euro-denominated derivatives clearing activity shift to European hubs.
Mr Bailey warned the EU may introduce legislation to increase pressure on companies to shift their activities onto the Continent.
“I have to say to you that would be highly controversial – and that would be something that we would have to, and want to, resist very firmly,” he said.
Bailey sounds warning on pace of recovery
Speaking at the Treasury Select Committee, Andrew Bailey says the first quarter of 2021 will be “considerably more negative than expected”.
He added that the memorandum of understanding the UK is expected to sign with the EU next month “is not going to lead automatically to equivalence”.
Wall Street opens in the red
US stocks have fallen again at the open as a surge in bond yields dimmed the appeal of stocks despite the Federal Reserve’s vow to support economic growth.
S&P 500: -0.1pc
Dow Jones: - 0.03pc
FT: McKinsey’s Kevin Sneader ousted in leadership vote
The FT is reporting that McKinsey partners have voted to replace Kevin Sneader as global managing partner, in a historic rebuke over his handling of a succession of crises.
This means that the next head of the influential global consulting firm will be either Bob Sternfels or Sven Smit, the heads of McKinsey’s San Francisco and Amsterdam offices respectively, who have made it through to the last round of the leadership election.
Each of Sneader’s five predecessors served a second three-year term, with some serving three or four terms, so the 54-year-old Scot’s failure to get through to the second round shocked some insiders.
McKinsey’s 650 senior partners routinely vote every three years on who should lead the firm, but this year’s election was seen as a referendum on Sneader’s handling of crises including US states’ litigation over the consultancy’s advice to opioid manufacturers and its work in autocratic countries around the world.
Turbine blade checks after Boeing 777 engine explosions
All engines of the type that exploded mid-flight on a United Airlines Boeing 777 jet last weekend must be checked for internal cracks before they can fly again.
My colleague Alan Tovey reports:
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an emergency airworthiness directive about the Pratt & Whitney PW4000-112 engines after one exploded and caught fire, with debris hitting the aircraft fuselage and falling to the ground in Denver.
Early investigations by the National Transportation Safety Board indicated one fan blade in the turbine suffered “metal fatigue”, causing it to break at its base, hitting another blade and snapping it.
The jets have been grounded since the incident on Sunday aboard United Airlines flight 328, in which no one was harmed. It was the third time in three years that an engine of this type has suffered a similar incident.
Sunak rules out fuel duty rise – Guardian
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has ruled out a rise in fuel duty, the Guardian reports, citing Treasury sources.
The paper says:
The chancellor is understood to have seriously considered an increase before his previous budget last March, keen to send a signal about the government green agenda.
The Treasury also considered a rise of up to 5p a litre from March 2021 on the assumption that the UK would be back to somewhere near normal transport use.
“More people are still using cars as safer mode of transport,” a Treasury source said. “And there is a massive cost to electric vehicles at the moment, that feels like the priority to address.”
FCA cum-ex investigation paused after judge questions priorities
The City watchdog’s investigation into a trade involved in controversial cum-ex trades has been brought to a halt after a judge questioned the regulator’s seemingly lack of appetite for probes into the European tax scandal.
The Financial Conduct Authority was ordered to pause its probe until 2022, after a separate court decides on a case brought by Danish tax authorities against former hedge-fund manager Sanjay Shah.
The investigations into the Cum-Ex scandal were not “one of the FCA’s high priorities,” Judge Jonathan Swift said Wednesday. The case into the accused man, who can’t be identified, has been open since at least 2015 and was among the UK agency’s most advanced.
The FCA is looking at 14 firms and six individuals who operated dividend-stripping schemes in Denmark, Germany, France and Italy.
The FCA has said it will seek permission to appeal.
Amsterdam battles City in post-Brexit push
Amsterdam, home to the world’s first “modern” stock exchange in the 17th century, is stealing the limelight from London once again.
My colleague Senay Boztas writes:
With EU-based financial institutions banned from trading European stock in London as a consequence of Brexit, Amsterdam overtook London as Europe’s top trading hub last month.
In a change described by one analyst as “symbolic”, shares worth more than €9bn (£6.4bn) a day were traded on Euronext Amsterdam and the Dutch arms of CBOE Europe and Turquoise, a fourfold increase on December. In London, meanwhile, volumes of daily European share trade plummeted to €8.6bn, according to CBOE Europe figures.
Amsterdam is not only tipped for the €30bn listing of Universal Music by Vivendi but traders say it is also becoming a popular destination for listing special purpose acquisition vehicles (Spacs) – “blank cheque” companies that raise money by floating and then merging with private firms to take them public.
InterContinental slips after Deutsche Bank cut
InterContinental Hotels is leading fallers on the FTSE 100, dropping more than 2pc after Deutsche Bank downgraded the group from ‘buy’ to ‘hold’.
Analyst Andre Juillard said the risk-reward outlook for the group was “on balance” following a recent share price rally in reopening hopes, saying its exposure to fast-growing markets such as North America and China appears to be baked into the price at this point.
Reporting results yesterday, Holiday Inn-owner IHG said it will look to restore dividend payments once it has a clearer picture of the speed and scale of the recovery.
Wall Street set for narrow rise
Still a few hours until the US open, but futures trading is pointing towards a slightly more stable opening after yesterday’s wobble and recovery.
The benchmark S&P 500 is on track to open 0.15pc higher, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq set to open basically flat.
Full report: Vodafone looks to Frankfurt for Vantage IPO
My colleague Ben Woods has a full report on Vodafone’s plans to list its towers business Vantage in Frankfurt. He writes:
Selling a stake will bring in up to €4bn (£3.4bn) for Vodafone and help pay down its €43bn debt pile.
The move is part of a growing trend by telecoms operators to milk their infrastructure assets as investors seek their stable long-term returns.
Vantage chief executive Vivek Badrinath said the Frankfurt listing would “set the foundations” for the next stage of growth.
After about three hours of trading, the FTSE 100 remains narrowly in the red, underperforming compared to its European rivals as sterling puts a drag on international earners.
Tweak City rules to win Spac listings, says ex-LSE boss
Shaking up City rules could help London win more floats by the “blank cheque” companies behind a wave of stock market listings in New York, according to the former London Stock Exchange chief and a co-founder of Vote Leave.
My colleague Michael O’Dwyer reports:
London should use the “golden opportunity” of a post-Brexit review of the UK listings market to become a global leader in the use of special purpose acquisition companies (Spacs), Xavier Rolet and Matthew Elliott said.
“The UK needs to promptly consider the Spac revolution,” the pair wrote in a submission to the UK’s Future Regulatory Framework review, along with Clive Black at Shore Capital, the brokerage where Mr Rolet and Mr Elliott hold senior roles.
Spacs raise money from investors through a stock market listing and then identify a takeover target. The boom in the use of the vehicles has centred on New York, where market rules are more accommodating.
Losses widen at Metro Bank
Losses deepened severely at Metro Bank during 2020 as the pandemic battered its performance.
The challenger bank posted a stautory pretax loss of £311.4m, compared to a £130.8m loss the year before, which reflected an underlying loss of £271.8m and “a number of one-off items”.
The group estimated it had taken a £124m financial blow from Covid-19, reflecting expected losses for loans turning sour, as well has lower fee income.
Chief executive Daniel Frumkin said:
The pandemic has clearly impacted performance, leading to significant expected credit losses, but our transformation strategy is firmly on track and we have accelerated initiatives to shift our asset mix, bringing higher yield and improving net interest margin, as evidenced in the second half.
Deposits grew by 11pc during the year to £16.07bn, while assets increased 6pc to £22.6bn. Customers numbers also rose, hitting 2.2m from 2m at the end of 2019.
Aviva announces exit from Turkey
Aviva says it has agreed to sell its 40pc stake in Ages SA, its Turkish joint venture, to Ageas Insurance from £122m in cash.
The move is part of the FTSE 100 insurer’s continued efforts to simplify its business and shed non-core international assets.
The sale is expected to complete this year.
Yesterday, Aviva said it had sold off its French unit for €3.2bn, in the latest deal under recently-appoint chief executive Amanda Blanc, who took the reins seven months ago.
It has already sold units in Vietnam, Italy and Singapore, with talks over a second Italian sale in progress according to Bloomberg.
Here are some of the day’s top stories from the Telegraph Money team:
Will the stamp duty holiday be extended in the 2021 Budget?: Prolonging tax break until the end of the year would increase transactions by 10pc.
Scottish Mortgage slump offers rare chance to buy shares at discount: Experts say sharp fall in shares of Britain’s largest investment trust presents buying opportunity.
Veteran TSB customers to lose free perks on popular ‘gold account’: Account has offered some customers free breakdown and travel cover for more than a decade.
Bitcoin bounces after Square backing
Bitcoin rallied on Wednesday morning, reversing some of the losses experienced earlier this week, after Jack Dorsey’s payments company Square revealed it had bought $170m (£120m) of the cryptocurrency.
My colleague Hannah Boland reports:
The price of Bitcoin jumped back above $50,000, rising as much as 7.2pc to about $51,393, following heavy losses in Monday and Tuesday's sessions.
Dorsey, who is also the chief executive and co-founder of Twitter, has been among the biggest advocates for Bitcoin, alongside Tesla boss Elon Musk.
The $170m investment is “part of Square’s ongoing commitment to Bitcoin, and the company plans to assess its aggregate investment in Bitcoin relative to its other investments on an ongoing basis,” his business said.
Read more and follow the latest tech updates here: Bitcoin bounces after Jack Dorsey invests $170m
Pound extends gains against dollar
The pound has pushed higher against the dollar today, breaking $1.42 in the early hours of the morning and holding just below that level at present. The currency has benefitted from a steady weakening in the dollar, as well as the UK’s vaccine rollout success.
Comings and goings at RB
Alongside its full-year results, Reckitt Benckiser also announced an acquisition and a sale.
The FTSE 100 consumer goods giant will buy Biofreeze, the US’s “number one clinically-recommended topical pain relief brand” to increase its presence in the “broader pain category”. RB said Biofreeze has delivered double-digit sales growth.
RN boss Laxman Narasimhan:
We see compelling opportunities to develop the topical pain relief category globally with Biofreeze and other RB pain management brands including Nurofen, Moov and Tempra.
It also announced the sale of footcare products-maker Scholl to private equity group Yellow Wood Partners as part of efforts to bring “greater focus” to its portfolio.
The sale is subject to consultation with RB’s work council in France, and is expected to complete by the third quarter of 2021.
German fourth-quarter growth stronger than first thought
Germany’s GDP rose by a revised 0.3pc in the fourth quarter of 2020, stronger than the 0.1pc rise initially reported.
The relatively robust figures reflect strong performances for exporters and a pickup in construction, even as consumer and government spending dropped.
They are likely to give way to a drop in the first quarter of 2021, with the country once again in a tight lockdown.
Reckitt posts record growth
Reckitt Benckiser posted record annual sales growth as the pandemic pushed customers towards its cleaning and disinfection products.
Like-for-like sales rose 11.8pc to £13.99bn over 2020, with revenues from hygiene products climbing almost a fifth. The FTSE 100 group said its Lysol and Finish brands had experienced particularly strong growth.
Chief executive Laxman Narasimhan said:
Our category-leading germ protection/disinfection brands have all seen substantial market growth, with around 80pc of our consumers expecting to retain many of their new improved habits post pandemic.
Health product sales rose 12.1pc year-on-year, while sales in its nutrition division were unchanged over the period.
RB said recent market developments support its expectations for growth of 4pc to 6pc over the medium term, with its hygiene products expected to outperform the sector.
FTSE falls at open
The FTSE 100 has opened moderately lower, despite a rise at the open for heavyweights Lloyds and Reckitt Benckiser (more on that shortly).
Vodafone confirms plan to float Vantage Towers
Vodafone has confirmed its (heavily trailed) plans to float its masts business Vantage Towers.
The business, one of the biggest telecoms infrastructure developers in Europe, is expected to list on the Frankfurt stock exchange by the end of March, Vodafone said.
Vantage chief executive Vivek Badrinath said:
The IPO is an important milestone and sets the foundations for the next stage of our growth within the dynamic towers industry. We will be looking to capture the exciting value-creating opportunities the sector has to offer and to build on our position as a leading tower infrastructure company in Europe.
Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and UBS will act as global co-ordinators for the float, with Barclays, Berenberg, BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs and Jefferies acting as joint bookrunners.
Lloyds beats profit expectations
Lloyds Bank’s full-year profit fell by almost half amid severe disruption caused by the pandemic, but still beat analysts’ expectations.
The lender made a statutory profit before tax of £792m, down 45pc on 2019 but solidly ahead of the company-compiled consensus estimate of £471m.
Chief executive António Horta-Osório said:
We are now seeing positive developments in the business, including growth of £10.2bn in the open mortgage book in the second half of the year and total deposits up £39bn in the year, the latter given curtailed retail spending and inflows to our trusted brands.
Lloyds said it made more than £12bn in lending over the year through Government-backed schemes, and had granted 1.3m payment holidays to retail customers.
Its net income for the year was £14.4bn, down 16pc on the previous year. It took a total impairment charge of £4.2bn related to the virus, the lion’s share of which – £3.8bn – related to the first half of 2020.
In a separate announcement, the lender said new chief executive Charlie Nunn will take up his role on August 16th, with chief financial officer William Chalmers set to cover the first job when Mr Horta-Osório steps down at the end of April.
Heathrow sinks to £2bn annual loss
Heathrow plunged £2bn into the red last year after passenger numbers fell to levels not seen in nearly half a century, leading to the airport issuing a warning about its future.
My colleague Simon Foy reports:
The UK’s biggest transport hub reported a pre-tax loss of £2.01bn for its full-year compared to a £546m profit a year earlier. Revenues plunged 62pc to £1.18bn, with passenger numbers collapsing 73pc to 22.1 million.
The dire results led the airport to issue a going concern warning, saying the “existence of a material uncertainty... could cast significant doubt upon the group and the company's ability to continue as a going concern”.
The aviation industry's crucial summer season remains in doubt as governments throughout Europe tighten their borders amid fears that the spread of new Covid variants could derail vaccine efforts.
Read more: Heathrow sinks to £2bn loss during pandemic
Agenda: FTSE set to decline
Good morning. The FTSE 100 is set to tumble at the open as a risk-off mood grips global markets.
Meanwhile the pound edged toward $1.42 on reports Chancellor Rishi Sunak could extend stamp duty holidays on property deals by another three months.
5 things to start your day
1) BT to upgrade mobile signals in 500 rural areas: More than 500 areas across the countryside will be upgraded to 4G coverage, handing relief to thousands of homes and businesses.
2) Investor backlash over bonuses at firms taking furlough cash: Association says bonuses paid to directors that availed of direct taxpayer support or investor emergency cash injections must have clear rationale.
3) HSBC to slash office space by 40pc: The bank has said it will slash around 8.6m sq ft of office space, and boss Noel Quinn singled out London as where reductions could be made.
4) Third of FTSE 350 directors are women: Women now hold one in three board positions at the UK’s 350 largest listed companies in a major milestone for City equality.
5) Banks urged to shift clearing out of London in leaked document: Brussels has ordered major banks to explain why they are not shifting lucrative euro derivative trading activity out of London.
What happened overnight
Bond markets steadied, the U.S. dollar fell and stocks edged ahead on Wednesday after central banks from Washington to Wellington vowed to keep monetary policy loose for a long time, giving investors enough confidence to seek out riskier assets.
US Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell told Congress on Tuesday the economy remained "a long way" from employment and inflation goals and that rates would stay low and bond buying proceed apace until there was "substantial further progress".
The Reserve Bank of New Zealand on Wednesday made no changes to its rates or bond purchase programme either and said policy will need to remain stimulatory until inflation is sustained at 2% and employment hits maximum levels.
Taken together, it was enough to reassure investors that authorities won't rush to raise rates even if inflation accelerates.
Coming up today
Corporate: Lloyds, Metro Bank (Full-year results); Paragon Banking (AGM)
Economics: GDP (GER); new home sales (US)