BUSINESS LIVE: Shell margins squeezed; YouGov buys US firm; Trading platforms up profits

The FTSE 100 will open at 8am. Among the companies with reports and trading updates today are Shell, YouGov, CMC Markets, Plus 500 and CMO Group. Read the Monday 8 January Business Live blog below.

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Bespoke boom helps Rolls-Royce glide to record sales

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars glided to a record year of sales in 2023 – as the British luxury car company’s super-wealthy customers spent heavily on bespoke personalised features and extras.

The British luxury car-maker delivered 6,032 motor cars to wealthy clients in more than 50 countries worldwide last year – more than ever before in the marque’s 119-year history.

Weak start to the year puts pressure on FTSE 100 firms reporting this week

Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor:

‘UK markets [are] unable to shake off the overarching concerns which have troubled global investors in the first few days of this year.

‘Although there remains a long way to go, the FTSE100 has shed 0.8% so far which inevitably puts added pressure on companies reporting in the imminent annual results season.

‘In the meantime, a combination of a weaker oil price and a slightly disappointing update weighed on shares of Shell, while BP also moved slightly lower in response.

‘Endeavour Mining continued to feel the reverberations of its decision to out the Chief Executive last week, amid some general weakness in mining shares reflecting a move to a risk-off approach in early trade.

‘Broker upgrades to the likes of Taylor Wimpey, Rolls-Royce, Legal & General and RELX mitigated some of the damage, but the early signs of investor insouciance are a concerning echo of the 2023 experience, where the primary index found some difficulty in attracting sustained investor confidence and interest.’

Business leaders increasingly optimistic about UK prospects for 2024

Business leaders are increasingly optimistic about Britain’s prospects for the year ahead, major industry surveys reveal today.

Most manufacturers see the UK as a more competitive place to operate compared to 12 months ago, found a study by industry body Make UK and accountants PwC.

Geopolitical tensions spark investor wariness

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

‘Wariness has returned at the start of the week, as investors assess the risks of geo-political conflict, amid fresh signs of global economic slowdown and uncertainty about the trajectory of inflation.

‘Such are the risks of the Israel-Gaza conflict widening, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has embarked on a whistlestop diplomatic tour, in an attempt to calm inflamed tensions. It comes after Israel’s defence minister described the hostilities the country is facing as an axis rather than a single enemy.

‘Concerns are rising that this could lead to fresh violence, particularly in Lebanon.’

Almost 120,000 retail workers lost their jobs last year as High Street was hit by collapses of stores

Almost 120,000 retail workers lost their jobs last year as the High Street was hit by collapses of stores including Wilko.

The Centre for Retail Research revealed that a total 119,405 jobs were lost across the sector in 2023.

Their analysis also found that 10,494 stores shuttered. Wilko’s demise saw around 400 close.

YouGov buys US firm

YouGov has acquired US-based survey data management solutions firm KnowledgeHound for an undisclosed fee.

The move that further extends the capabilities of the YouGov Crunch survey analytics platform to handle the needs of large brands, the group said.

Alex McIntosh, YouGov’s chief financial officer, added:

‘YouGov’s acquisition of KnowledgeHound represents a significant shift in what the industry should expect from data analytics platforms.

‘By adding KnowledgeHound – a leading search-based survey data analysis solution – to YouGov Crunch – the ultimate tool for granular data analysis – we will make it easier than ever before to get fast, actionable, reliable insights all in one place.’

Trading platforms up profit expectations

CMC Markets has raised its full-year operating income forecast, with the trading platform citing a strong third quarter driven by improved market conditions.

The company, which provides trading in more than 12,000 financial instruments, including shares, indexes, foreign currencies, commodities and treasuries, attributed the strong quarterly performance to resilient business-to-business and institutional investor demand.

It now expects net operating income between £290million and £310million for fiscal year 2024, up from its previous forecast of £250million to £280million.

Separately, rival Plus500 said it generated revenue of about $725million and core profit of around $340million for the year ended31 December, citing expansion into different regions such as Japan and the UAE.

Grocers set to deliver bumper festive results

High Street winners and losers will emerge this week as some of Britain’s biggest stores publish festive trading figures.

M&S is tipped to have had a stellar Christmas, as revealed by The Mail on Sunday, and will update investors on Thursday.

The supermarket giants are also expected to have performed strongly with Sainsbury’s and Tesco due to release figures on Wednesday and Thursday respectively.

Shell margins squeezed as oil major flags impairment charges of up to $4.5bn

Energy giant Shell expects refining profits to be squeezed in the fourth quarter, with margins falling from $16 per barrel to $10/bbl.

It has also flagged impairment charges of about $2.5billion to $4.5 billion for the fourth quarter, mainly related to the Singapore refining and chemicals hub the oil major is looking to sell.

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