BUSINESS LIVE: Audioboom targets profitability; ITM Power to enter US market; UK growth


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BUSINESS LIVE: Audioboom targets profitability; ITM Power to enter US market; UK growth prospects improve

The FTSE 100 closed up 31.03 points at 7630.63. Among the companies with reports and trading updates today are Audioboom and ITM Power. Read the Monday 16 October Business Live blog below.

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FTSE 100 closes up 31.03 points at 7630.63

The Footsie closes soon

Just before close, the FTSE 100 was 0.59% up at 7,644.72.

Meanwhile, the FTSE 250 was 0.48% higher at 17,537.83.

Bitcoin soars on reports SEC will finally approve BlackRock ETF

The price of bitcoin spiked by 10 per cent this afternoon in response to rumours the US regulator had approved the launch of a new Blackrock fund.

The US Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) was rumoured to have given the greenlight to the long-awaited Blackrock Bitcoin Spot ETF, clearing the way for the launch of a vehicle capable of revolutionising how investors gain exposure to the cryptoasset.

‘You can be sure that investors will be keeping a wary eye on events in the Middle East’

Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK, comments on the markets at the start of the week:

European markets have started the week cautiously higher in the absence of an escalation of tensions over the weekend, although you can be sure that investors will be keeping a wary eye on events in the Middle East as Israel weighs its next move.

The FTSE 100 is edging higher helped by resilience in basic resources and energy with Shell seeing its share price hit a new record high.

This move would appear to justify the recent decision by new CEO Wael Sarwan to refocus new capex on the company’s key revenue earners of oil and gas, which while slightly weaker today is probably likely to remain well supported while the Middle East tensions remain.

It is also becoming increasingly obvious given the challenges facing the global economy that the fixation on net-zero will eventually have to collide with reality and be managed in a more economically sustainable way in the face of exponentially rising costs.

BP shares on the other hand have lagged as the look for a new CEO in the aftermath of the departure of Bernard Looney continues.

Can Octopus Energy’s tracker tariff save you money?

Millions of households have felt the pain of rising energy prices over the past two years, as they were moved onto expensive variable tariffs at the peak of the crisis.

Hipgnosis axes dividend following royalty warning

Hipgnosis has scrapped a planned dividend after being told that its royalty payments would be much lower than previously expected.

The London-listed investment trust, which invests in rights to music catalogues, revealed it would no longer hand investors a 1.31p per share interim dividend because doing so would threaten its ability to abide by debt covenants.

M&S to recruit 10,000 temporary workers for Christmas season

Marks & Spencer plans to recruit 10,000 temporary workers for the Christmas season, with the retailer gearing up for bumper demand this year.

The retailer said the recruitment, which will see 40 per cent more workers hired than last year, reflected investment it is making in staff hours to support customers on the shop floor.

How much further could house prices fall? This is Money podcast

House prices will continue to fall, says an influential poll of estate agents, but how bad are things in the property market?

The latest survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors found that home buyer demand is declining and fewer homes are coming to the market.

Are insurance stocks worth a look?

Britain’s insurance sector has navigated a particularly turbulent few years, with a global pandemic, Brexit, climate change and economic stagnation all contributing to significant volatility.

Many firms have seen wild fluctuations in their earnings, making a healthy profit in one year before swinging to a considerable loss the following year.

Audioboom sales hit by loss of true crime podcast

Audioboom saw a hefty drop in revenue following a slump in the advertising market and the loss of a hit show.

The podcast publisher, one of the largest in the United States, revealed turnover fell by around a fifth to $45.8million (£37.6million) for the opening nine months of 2023.

Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group further increases stake in Boohoo

(PA) – Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group has upped its stake in Boohoo once again, less than two weeks after becoming the fast fashion firm’s biggest single shareholder.

The owner of the Sports Direct and Flannels brands increased its shareholding in Boohoo to 15.1% from 13.4%, with the group now owning 191.8 million shares, according to filings.

Earlier this month, Frasers leapfrogged the co-founder of Boohoo – Mahmud Kamani – to become the largest single shareholder in the fashion company.

The latest move means Frasers owns a stake in Boohoo worth £56.6million, based on Friday’s closing share price of 29.52p.

Frasers first snapped up a stake in Boohoo in June, initially taking a 5% holding, saying at the time that it saw “potential synergies” between Boohoo and two of its brands, I Saw It First and Missguided, and hoped it would lead to collaborations.

Previously, Mr Kamani was the biggest individual shareholder in Boohoo, with a 12.9% stake, while he held an aggregate stake, together with his co-founder, Carol Kane, of 25%.

The stake-building in Boohoo comes as the online retailer has suffered hefty share price falls – down 43% over the past six months – as sales have suffered amid the cost-of-living crisis and a turnaround plan.

Hipgnosis tops FTSE 350 fallers

Top 15 falling FTSE 350 firms 16102023

IP Group shares top FTSE 350 risers

Top 15 rising FTSE 350 firms 16102023

DX Group reopens 10 former Tuffnells depots after administration deal

(PA) – DX Group has reopened 10 more former Tuffnells depots after buying them from administrators for the rival delivery firm this summer.

The Slough-based company struck a deal to rescue 15 Tuffnells Parcels Express sites and 250 staff in June.

Sheffield-based Tuffnells hired administrators from Interpath Advisory after it saw intensified pressure on its cash flow and failed in efforts to secure emergency funding.

The majority of Tuffnells’ 2,200 employees, working across its 33 UK depots, were made redundant as a result.

DX said the reopening of these 10 sites means that 12 in total have now restarted operations since the rescue deal.

It said this includes four freight depots in new locations for the business – in Andover, Hampshire; Haydock, Merseyside; Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire; and Lockerbie, in south-west Scotland.

Meanwhile, the other six new depots will replace existing sites and are located in Carnforth, Lancashire; Crawley, West Sussex; Dewsbury and Leeds, both in West Yorkshire; Northampton, Northamptonshire; and Sheffield, South Yorkshire.

DX chief executive Paul Ibbetson said: “These openings substantially increase our freight capability across the country, from the South of England, through the Midlands, Yorkshire, and into Scotland.”

Ratcliffe’s group to take control of operations at United this week

The petrochemicals billionaire appears to have won the race for the Premier League giants after his main rival, Qatari Sheikh Jassim, withdrew his offer on Saturday night.

British firms lose out on VAT-free Chinese shopping spree

London’s global rivals cashed in on VAT-free shopping during a major Chinese holiday this month, with the UK missing out due to its hated tourist tax.

China’s eight-day annual Golden Week festival from October 1 saw millions of its citizens visit Europe.

ITM Power to enter US market

ITM Power has revealed it is bidding for projects in the US now that it is able to supply compliant electrolyser products.

It can supply identical electrolyser stacks into both CE and ASME territories, enabling a single production process and supply chain.

ITM plans to pursue an accelerated, asset-light entry into the US market, leveraging relationships with partners Linde, Mott, Gore and others.

Analyst at Peel Hunt said: ‘The US has the potential to become one of the largest markets for electrolysers.

‘Supported by the US$370bn Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), demand for US domestic green hydrogen production is predicted to be 10mMT annually by 2030, 20mMT by 2040, and 50m MT by 2050.’

Market open: FTSE 100 up 0.3%; FTSE 250 adds 0.3%

The FTSE 100 is up 0.3 per cent in early trading, with the commodity-heavy index helped by elevated oil prices amid fears of an escalation of the conflict in the Middle East.

Asian equities slid and the safe-haven dollar was firm amid heightened anxiety over the escalating violence in Gaza and the prospect the conflict could spread beyond Israel and Hamas into the wider region.

Crude oil prices have edged slightly lower but held above $90 a barrel, after surging nearly 6 per cent on Friday.

Energy stocks are up 0.6 per cent.

Industrial metal miners have jumped 1.3 per cent, tracking higher copper prices

Europe’s biggest defence firms soar as wars rage

More than £8billion has been added to the value of five of Europe’s biggest defence firms since Hamas terrorists attacked Israel on October 7.

Shares in UK giant BAE Systems rose 10 per cent last week, and there were similar gains at Saab of Sweden, Germany’s Rheinmetall, French group Thales and Leonardo in Italy.

Investors seek out defensive positions

Susannah Streeter, head of money and markets, Hargreaves Lansdown:

‘As risk-off sentiment has been spreading, investors have been seeking more defensive positions amid fears of conflict escalating in the Middle East.

‘The FTSE 100 looks set to benefit from higher energy prices with oil and gas prices dipping back but remaining at elevated levels, having jumped sharply over supply concerns.

‘Investors are braced for volatility ahead amid fears that Hezbollah militants could attack Israel over its operations in Gaza as forces ready for invasion. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been on a whistle stop tour of countries around the Middle East, stressing that all leaders want to see the conflict contained, but there is clearly still concern about the risks of contagion.

‘Although gold prices have dipped back a little, they remain a near month-long highs demonstrating the desire for safe haven assets. The Israeli Prime Minister’s vow to demolish Hamas is also helping keep the dollar strong, as investors desert riskier positions.’

Audioboom targets profitability in Q4

Podcast producer Audioboom expects to return to profitability in the fourth quarter after revenues were held back by a weaker advertising market and the loss of a top show earlier this year.

Revenues slumped to $45.8millio in the nine months to the end of September, from $57.1million at the same time last year, leading the group to an earnings loss of $1.7million over the period.

It blamed this on the ‘the loss of the Morbid podcast’ in May 2022 and a ‘weak advertising market’.

However it expects to return to profit in the final quarter though ‘acceleration in recenue and consequently reduced exposure to creator contractual minimum guarantee obligations’.

Stuart Last, CEO of Audioboom, said:

‘Strong operational progress in Q3 2023 will be recognised through a return to year-on-year and strong sequential revenue growth in the final quarter of the year, as well as a return to adjusted EBITDA profit on a quarterly basis.

‘Across 2023 we have made improvements in key areas of our business in order to accelerate our path back to growth. Our milestone of creating 1 billion sellable advertising impressions in October is the result of changes to our inventory creation process, further development of our Showcase marketplace, and the continued growth of the Audioboom Creator Network.

‘This positions us to capture maximum advertiser demand, deliver more than US$19 million of revenue in Q4 2023, and puts us on a path to record annual revenue in 2024.

‘As audiences continue to flock to podcasting – highlighted by the record 126 million plus downloads across our network each month – we are optimising for the current advertising market, while we are also primed and ready to take full advantage of any future macro improvements.’

UK growth prospects improve





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