Pound hits two-year high against euro

Sterling has jumped to hit its highest level against the euro in almost two years amid expectations of sharper interest rate cuts in Europe.

The pound was trading at its strongest level against the euro since August 2022 on Wednesday morning, rising as much as 0.3pc.

The latest rise follows weeks of sterling strengthening against the common currency. It has gained almost 0.6pc against the euro over the past month on expectations that the Bank of England will be cutting interest rates less sharply than policymakers in the EU.

Higher interest rates draw in money from around the world as investors seek higher returns, pushing up a currency.

Traders are expecting the European Central Bank to be one of the first major banks to start cutting interest rates, with the first to come as soon as next month.

ECB chief economist Philip Lane this week told the Financial Times: “Barring major surprises, at this point in time there is enough in what we see to remove the top level of restriction.”

Markets are pricing in at least two reductions by the ECB this year.

The Bank of England, meanwhile, is only expected to cut rates once this year. It follows strong services inflation figures last week, which spooked traders who pushed back their prediction for the first reduction in interest rates from 5.25pc from June to November.

The upcoming election has also meant few people are expecting an imminent interest rate cut. Since becoming independent in May 1997, the Bank of England has never cut rates immediately before a general election.

Read the latest updates below.

06:39 PM BSTSigning off…

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06:12 PM BSTEuropean Commission to postpone Chinese electric car tariff decision

The European Commission will postpone its decision on Chinese electric vehicles tariffs until after the European elections on June 9, German magazine Spiegel reported today, citing sources familiar with the matter.

The provisional tariffs, expected to be announced by June 5, could represent billions of dollars in new costs for Chinese electric car makers.

The delay aims to keep the issue out of the election campaign phase, Spiegel said.

The investigation, officially launched on October 4, can last up to 13 months. The Commission can impose provisional anti-subsidy duties nine months after the start of the probe.

The European Commission has warned three Chinese electric vehicle makers that they have not supplied sufficient information for its anti-subsidy investigation, two people familiar with the case told Reuters earlier this month.

06:10 PM BSTSony Music in talks to buy Bohemian Rhapsody and other Queen hits

Sony Music is in talks to buy Queen’s music catalogue and merchandising rights, in a deal that could total $1bn (£790m), according to a report.

Bloomberg said that Sony is working with an unnamed investor on the purchase of hits such as Bohemian Rhapsody and Killer Queen. The transaction could be one of the largest-ever deals of its kind.

It follows a wave of artists cashing in their back catalogues.

In February, Sony bought half of Michael Jackson’s music catalogue for at least $600m, two years after buying Bruce Spingsteen’s back catalogue for a reported $500m.

Sony Music is the second largest of the “Big Three” record companies, behind Universal Music Group.

A spokesman for Queen declined to comment. Sony Music was approached for comment.

Freddie Mercury and Brian May of Queen performing on stage in an archive photo – Phil Dent/Redferns05:37 PM BSTHome ownership for young adults rebounds

Home ownership amoung young people has rebounded to its level in 2010, but is still much lower than in the 90s, according to new data from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).

Jonathan Cribb, an IFS economist who specialises in retirement and savings, writes:

Homeownership for young adults fell continuously from 2000 through to 2015, most significantly during and immediately after the Great Recession. This fall was concentrated in particular on middle-income people.

Since 2015, there has been a gradual recovery in homeownership for young adults, rising by 6 percentage points back to 39pc by 2022–23, the same level it was in 2010–11. This recovery has also been concentrated on middle-income people.

The reasons for the recovery are not immediately clear, though it is noticeable that disposable incomes of young adults have grown markedly faster since 2015 than those of the population as a whole.

Despite the positive news since 2015, it is clear that the recovery is partial at best, with homeownership rates for 25- to 34-year-olds still 20 percentage points lower than in 2000.

05:28 PM BSTLondon stocks fall on interest rate worries and the end of a takeover bid

London’s blue-chip stocks dropped today for the sixth straight session as traders pared back bets on the timing of Federal Reserve interest rate cuts, while Anglo American fell after Australian resources giant BHP Group walked away from its $49bn (£38.5bn) takeover pursuit.

Anglo shares fell 3.0bn. Earlier in the day Anglo rejected BHP’s last-ditch request for more time to discuss a takeover offer, dismissing it as highly complex.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 closed 0.9pc lower, in its longest losing streak since August 2023.

Meanwhile, the mid-cap FTSE 250 also ended 1.3pc lower, logging its worst day in over a month.

US Treasury yields rose after data showed a sharp improvement in US consumer confidence measure for May that prompted investors to lower their bets on a rate cut in September.

Fiona Cincotta, senior market analyst at City Index, said:

The rise in yields reflects sticky inflation concerns and higher interest rate expectations after stronger-than-expected U.S. consumer confidence data yesterday and hawkish commentary from Federal Reserve officials.

05:24 PM BSTEuropean shares suffer worst day in over six weeks as rate jitters persist

European shares declined today as worries that global interest rates will stay elevated for longer pushed bond yields higher, with fresh evidence of persistently high inflation in the region’s biggest economy only exacerbating such concerns.

The pan-European Stixx 600 index – which includes some UK heavy hitters – closed 1.1pc lower, touching a three-week low, clocking its biggest single-day fall since April 16.

There were steep declines in all major bourses in the region, with France’s Cac 40 index and Italy’s FTSE MIB leading losses with a roughly 1.5pc drop each.

The yield on the 10-year bund, considered Europe’s benchmark, rose to an over six-month high and was last at 2.685pc after German inflation increased slightly more than forecast to 2.8pc in May.

Dan Boardman-Weston of BRI Wealth Management said:

What you’ve seen over the last few weeks is that this “higher for longer” narrative in terms of interest rates has come back to the fore.

04:54 PM BSTFootsie closes down

The FTSE 100 closed down 0.9pc today. The biggest riser was mining company Fresnillo, up 2pc, followed by insurer Beazley, up 1.3pc. The largest faller was Ocado, down 12.3pc, followed by components supplier RS Group, down 4.5pc.

Meanwhile, the mid-cap FTSE 250 fell 1.1pc. The top riser was Ithaca Energy, up 8.4pc, followed by Royal Mailer owner International Distributions Services, up 4.3pc. The biggest faller was IWG, down 11.1pc, followed by National Express owner Mobico, down 6.7pc.

04:24 PM BSTOil giant ConocoPhillips buys rival in £18bn deal

US energy giant ConocoPhillips announced this afternoon that it will buy competitor Marathon Oil in an all-share transaction valued at $22.5bn (£17.7bn), including $5.4bn in debt.

The deal is the latest in a series of acquisitions in the US oil sector which run counter to calls to begin their energy transition as climate change takes hold.

It will enable ConocoPhillips to strengthen its position in shale oil and gas-rich regions such as the Bakken Basin in the northern US and the Permian Basin in the south.

The acquisition “further deepens our portfolio and fits within our financial framework, adding high-quality, low cost of supply inventory,” ConocoPhillips boss Ryan Lance said.

The deal represents a 14.7pc premium over Marathon Oil’s closing price on Tuesday.

The deal should see ConocoPhillips achieve savings of $500 million in the year after, according to a statement, largely due to reduced administrative and production costs.

In the UK, ConocoPhillips operates a major oil terminal in Teesside and a commodities trading unit in London.

04:14 PM BSTBritish chip giant Arm unveils new AI chip designs

Cambridge-based Arm Holdings today unveiled new chip blueprints and software tools to help smartphones handle artificial intelligence tasks, along with changes to how it delivers those blueprints that could help speed their adoption.

Arm’s technology powered the rise of smartphones and is increasingly found in laptops and in data centers, where chip designers have gravitated toward its energy efficiency.

Smartphones remain Arm’s biggest single market, where the company supplies intellectual property to arch rivals such as Apple and Android chip suppliers Qualcomm and MediaTek.

Earlier today, Arm launched new designs for central processing units (CPUs) that it said are better suited to AI work and new graphics processing units (GPUs). It will also provide software tools to make it easier for developers to run chatbots and other AI code on Arm chips.

But the bigger change is in how those products are sold. In the past, Arm mostly delivered its technology as either specifications or abstract designs that chip companies then needed to turn into a physical blueprint for a chip – which in turn is no small task when deciding how arrange billions of transistors, the tiny switches that make up chips.

For the new products, Arm worked with Samsung and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company to deliver blueprints of physical designs that are ready for manufacturing.

Chris Bergey of Arm said the company is not trying to compete with its customers. It is instead trying to help them get to market faster while focusing on other increasingly important parts of both PC and phone chips, such as a neural processing units (NPU) that provide the best AI performance.

ARM boss Rene Haas holds the Nasdaq Opening Bell Crystal at Nasdaq MarketSite during the company’s second IPO, in New York last September – Richard Drew/AP Photo04:07 PM BSTIWG founder sells £68m stake in office company to pay off bank loan

The chief executive and founder of the shared workspace provider International Workplace Group (IWG) has sold a £68.5m stake in the company to pay off a bank loan. Adam Mawardi reports:

Mark Dixon offloaded 35m shares in the flexible workspace provider at 196p each through his wholly owned investment vehicle, Estorn.

The funds raised were used to repay a lending agreement between Estorn and Deutsche Bank’s Luxembourg business, according to an update shared with investors.

Mr Dixon remains the IWG’s largest shareholder following the sale, with 25pc of shares worth about £470m. According to the Sunday Times Rich List, published this month, his net worth is £923m, making him the 177th richest person in Britain.

Shares in the FTSE 250 company plunged as much as 10pc following the announcement.

It follows reports that Mr Dixon pledged 270m shares in IWG as collateral for a Deutsche Bank loan, the size of which has not been disclosed.

Last month IWG said revenue was flat at £912m during the first quarter of 2024 compared with the same period a year earlier.

Mr Dixon founded the IWG, formerly Regus, in Brussels in 1989 to provide desks for executives on the move after spotting businessmen holding meetings around coffee tables in hotels.

The WeWork rival, which is registered in Jersey, now operates 3,500 shared offices in 120 countries.

Mark Dixon of IWG, pictured in 2004 – Marina Imperi04:03 PM BSTOil prices volatile ahead of oil cartel meeting

Oil prices have been volatile today as traders attempt to second-guess a meeting of oil cartel Opec+, which is being held on Sunday.

Opec+, made up of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries along with allies including Russia, will be discussing whether to extend voluntary cuts in production after soft demand.

Oil stocks among the Opec countries stood at 2.79bn barrels in March, up 20m barrels on the month and 34, barrels on the year, despite Opec+ cuts, according to preliminary data from Opec in its May oil market report.

“The physical market is well supplied while demand is slowing down,” a second Opec+ delegate said.

Inventories in non-Opec countries rose in March for the first time since November, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said, although in contrast to Opec, it reported Opec stocks at their lowest levels in 20 years.

The two forecasters produce their own estimates but tend to revise figures as more data becomes available, bringing them more in line.

Giovanni Staunovo, a commodity strategist at UBS, told Bloomberg:

Traders are likely following the momentum in the market and don’t want to get caught out short in case there are any surprises next week. Oil demand growth is healthy, and the fundamentals are solid enough to support prices.

03:39 PM BSTNational Express owner drops 6pc as after being slated for relegation from the FTSE 250

The owner of National Express have dropped over 6pc in trading today after a difficult year on the stock market means the transport company is likely to be removed from the FTSE 250.

Mobico shares have falled 47pc over the past year.

The result was that yesterday FTSE 250 indexers FTSE Russell put the company on its list of indicative deletions from the index.

A National Express coach at Victoria bus station – Justin Tallis/AFP03:25 PM BSTShares fall as outlook for rate cuts dims

Stock markets fell Wednesday as indicators and comments from central bankers further dented hopes for interest rate cuts, while oil kept rising after an attack on a ship in the Red Sea stoked supply worries.

Many investors sought to lock in recent gains ahead of a series of crucial inflation data reports at the end of the week in the eurozone and the United States.

A forecast-beating report Tuesday on US consumer confidence further added to evidence that the American economy is not slowing fast enough to allow the Federal Reserve to cut borrowing costs any time soon.

A higher-than-expected inflation report in Australia today soured the mood in Asian trading.

In addition, US Treasury yields – a proxy for interest rates – moved higher.

All three major US indexes opened lower in New York.

Providing more gloom, US central bank official Neel Kashkari warned that decision-makers had not ruled out a possible hike if they continue to struggle to bring prices down to their two percent target.

His comments come after several other Fed officials have recently said they were cautious about cutting too soon and wanted to see more data proving inflation was coming back down to two percent.

A person stands in front of an electronic stock board showing Japan’s Nikkei index at a securities firm in Tokyo yesterday – Eugene Hoshiko/AP Photo03:12 PM BSTPets at Home profits drop as pet owners hold back on toys

Shares in Pets at Home jumped this morning but are now slightly down compared to when the market opened as investors mull its latest results.

The results for the year to March 28 revealed a pre-tax profit of £105.7m, down 13.7pc on the same period last year.

It said profitability was “impacted by short-term availability issues as we transitioned to our new DC (distribution centre) and weaker performance of discretionary accessories”.

It comes after the group cut its profit guidance in January in the face of slowing retail demand.

Pets at Home reported that total group revenues grew 5.2pc to £1.5bn for the year.

Adam Vettese, analyst at investment platform eToro, said:

Inflation pressures have led to pet owners holding back on toys and accessories for their furry friends, profitable items which really affect Pets at Home’s bottom line.

The firm has said they have a plan to resolve this situation, partly caused by now rectified distribution issues, which shareholders will want to see progress on by the next update.

The dividend has been held steady and £25m buybacks have been announced for next year, which may be of some comfort to investors who have seen the share price get a 30pc haircut since July last year.

Pets at Home has revealed a dip in profits – Mike Egerton/PA02:53 PM BSTAbercrombie ups sales forecasts amid brand revamp

US retail chain Abercrombie & Fitch has upped its sales forecasts for the year, saying it now expects growth of around 10pc, rather than between 4pc to 6pc.

The company said sales in both its Abercrombie and Hollister stores bounced in the latest quarter, rising 29pc and 13pc respectively on a comparable store basis.

It follows a major turnaround in the fortunes of the business, which has been focusing on attracting a more diverse customer base with more classic styles, a bigger range of sizes and, recently, wedding attire.

Abercrombie has been repositioning itself, having once been known for posting male models at its store doors.

Former chief Mike Jeffries claimed in 2006 that this was because “good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people”. “We don’t market to anyone other than that.”

Abercrombie used to use male models to help get customers into stores – Daniel Acker02:22 PM BSTDubai bidder makes final offer for Wood Group after series of rejections

Dubai-based oil services company Sidara has made a final offer of 230p per share for North Sea rival Wood Group, after its three prior bids were rebuffed.

Sidara said its fourth offer was at a 52pc premium to Wood Group’s share price before its first approach, adding that Wood had not engaged with it since then.

Sidara has until June 5 to say whether or not it is making a firm offer “unless this deadline is extended with the consent of Wood and the takeover panel”.

Sidara said it “does not believe that its proposal can be progressed unless the board of Wood engages with Sidara and an extension to the deadline is granted”.

It comes a year after Wood was involved in another takeover battle, with Apollo made a series of approaches.

01:59 PM BSTBingham-backed biotech bought in deal worth up to $3bn

A London biotech co-founded by Britain’s vaccine tsar Kate Bingham has been snapped up in a multi-billion pound deal, in a move bosses claimed could revolutionise the treatment of blindness.

US company Merck, which is known as MSD in the UK, said it would be paying an initial $1.3bn (£1bn) for Eyebio. The deal includes a potential further payment of $1.7bn if certain targets are hit.

MSD’s swoop comes three years after Eyebio was founded, with Dame Kate telling the Financial Times it was “astonishing” to have achieved such a high valuation in such a short space of time. Since the company was founded in August 2021, Eyebio has only raised $130m.

Dame Kate’s venture capital firm SV Health Investors set up the business together with scientists David Guyer and Tony Adamis. Dame Kate acts as chairman of Eyebio.

Her involvement in the company has boosted its profile, with Dame Kate having been among the leading architects for Britain’s vaccine rollout during the pandemic.

Dame Kate was brought in to steer the UK’s Vaccine Taskforce in early 2020 and was given a damehood in recognition for her success in acquiring Covid-19 vaccines. It meant the UK was the first Western country to start vaccinating citizens in late 2020.

Kate Bingham – Andrew Crowley01:34 PM BSTGerman workers handed record pay rise

German workers were handed a record pay increase at the start of the year, new figures from the country’s statistics office showed on Wednesday.

According to the data, there was a 3.8pc rise in real wages in the first three months of the year compared to the same period a year earlier.

It marks the biggest jump since at least 2008. The European Central Bank is monitoring inflationary pressures in the bloc amid expectations of an imminent interest rate cut.

The figures suggested that the increase was driven by one-off payments, and as workers caught up to losses incurred when consumer prices rose faster than their salaries.

12:56 PM BSTEvening Standard scraps daily print paper as it blames work from home

The Evening Standard is to stop printing a daily newspaper, blaming working from home and increased WiFi on the London Underground.

As James Warrington writes:

The London freesheet told staff on Wednesday it will scrap its daily print edition and become a weekly title instead.The Standard, which is owned by Russian-born billionaire Lord Lebedev, has been struggling for direction in recent years after being hammered by a collapse in commuting and a deep advertising downturn during Covid lockdowns.The rise of home working and increased mobile and WiFi signal on the London Underground have also hit its readership.In October, print circulation dropped below 300,000 for the first time since it became a free newspaper in 2009.

Read more here. 

12:27 PM BSTHarry Potter publisher strikes ‘game-changer’ US deal

The publisher of Harry Potter has struck a deal to buy a US rival, saying the move would be a “game-changer” which will help accelerate its expansion overseas.

Bloomsbury is swooping for Rowman & Littlefield in a £65m deal, which is said marked its biggest acquisition to date.

Nigel Newton, Bloomsbury’s chief executive, said: “Their 40,000 academic titles added to ours will make us a significant US academic publisher, growing Bloomsbury’s academic and digital publishing presence in North America, opening new markets and publishing areas to Bloomsbury, and is a key milestone in the delivery of our long-term growth strategy.”

Dan Coatsworth, an investment analyst for AJ Bell, said it was a sign of Bloomsbury seeking to diversify.  He said: “Bloomsbury has come a long way from the days when its fortunes were almost completely tied to the Harry Potter franchise and today’s acquisition of a US academic publisher accelerates the company’s diversification strategy.”

Harry Potter books12:02 PM BSTUnion boss criticises Royal Mail over mismanagement

CWU General Secretary Dave Ward hit out at Royal Mail’s management on the Today programme.

General Secretary Dave Ward on the today programme today calling our the gross mismanagement from the Royal Mail Board which has destroyed postal services in the UK. Only workers and customers can rebuild it. pic.twitter.com/ntESZ6qUmR

— CWU (@CWUnews) May 29, 2024

11:45 AM BSTAdmiral Taverns strikes £18.3m deal for more pubs

Pub company Admiral Taverns has struck a deal to buy 37 pubs from Fuller’s as it bolsters its position in the south-east of England.

Admiral said it would pay £18.3m for the portfolio of pubs, which span sites in London, Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire. It means Admiral will now have more than 300 pubs in the south-east of England.

Chris Jowsey, CEO of Admiral Taverns, said:

Despite the complexities of the macro economic environment, across our estate we are seeing community pubs, and specifically wet-led establishments [ones that focus on drinks], maintaining their popularity amongst locals as people continue to enjoy going out for an affordable treat with family and friends. Wet-led, community pubs have demonstrated real resilience over recent times, and we remain optimistic that our nurturing ethos, entrepreneurial licensees and high-quality estate continues to position the group well to be at the forefront of opportunities in our wider market.

11:28 AM BSTDo not switch to autopilot on rate cuts, ECB warned

The European Central Bank should not switch to “autopilot” on how they cut interest rates, one of its governing council members has said.

Latvian official Martins Kazaks said it was “still key” that the ECB rely on incoming economic data on future rate cuts. It is expected to lower borrowing rates as soon as next month.

Speaking at an MNI Connect conference, Mr Kazaks said: “Keep calm, steady hand. Wages-productivity-profit margins to watch carefully.”

He said it was “too early to declare victory on inflation”, adding that the “‘last mile’ may still be rather bumpy”.

11:18 AM BSTAnglo American shares slump on extension rejection

Shares in Anglo American have slumped as much as 7.6pc on the news it will not be giving BHP any more time to commit to a takeover offer.

It comes after the takeover discussions provided a bump to its value. Since BHP made an initial approach, shares in Anglo American are up more than 16pc.

10:24 AM BSTAnglo American rejects request for BHP deadline extension

Anglo American has rejected a request by BHP to extend takeover talks, saying there was “no basis” for it to push back a deadline.

In a statement after BHP requested the extension this morning, Anglo American said: “BHP has not addressed the Board’s fundamental concerns relating to the disproportionate execution risk associated with the proposed structure and the value that would ultimately be delivered to Anglo American’s shareholders.

“Also taking into consideration detailed feedback from the board’s extensive engagement with Anglo American’s shareholders and stakeholders, the board has therefore unanimously concluded that there is no basis for a further extension to the deadline.”

10:16 AM BSTGovernment clearance ‘major hurdle’ to Royal Mail deal, analyst says

Liberum analyst Gerald Khoo has suggested that Royal Mail’s takeover could be blocked, despite it getting approval by the IDS board.

Mr Khoo said: “We still see government clearance under the National Security & Investment Act as a major hurdle.“Our expectation is that an appropriate review of the proposed takeover could be lengthy. Even if that were not to be the case, any decision would fall foul of the pre-election prohibition on making long-term decisions that would tie the hands of the next government.“Our base case remains that the deal gets blocked by the government.”

10:02 AM BSTFunding Circle cutting 120 roles in cost-cutting drive

Business lender Funding Circle is cutting around 120 roles in a cost-cutting push, as it announced its chief financial officer was also stepping down.

Funding Circle said it was aiming to save around £15m worth of costs in 2025 by cutting swathes of roles. It said this was part of its “ongoing commitment to profitability”.

The changes will mean it incurs around £5m in costs in the current year.

Lisa Jacobs, chief executive, said: “We are pleased to report continued momentum on the path we set out in March to become a simpler, profitable business. The reduction in roles is not a decision we took lightly, and I would like to thank all the departing team for their hard work and commitment.”

It announced the job cuts as it revealed its chief financial officer, Oliver White, would also be stepping down later this year.

Mr White will be replaced by Tony Nicol, its current director of finance and investor relations. The transition will start after it publishes its interim results in September, with Mr White to leave its board at the end of this year.

09:44 AM BSTPets at Home ‘not threatened’ by vet market investigation

Pets at Home said it is “not threatened” by an investigation into the vet market by the competition watchdog, after its revenues were boosted by more visits to clinics.

The company shrugged off any hit from the ongoing review by regulators into how the vet market operates.

Last week, the Competition & Markets Authority kicked off an official investigation amid concerns that customers are getting a bad deal.

It suggested pet owners should consider buying medication online to try avoid being overcharged.

Pets at Home said: “We believe that our vets growth strategy is not threatened by the CMA’s review into the vet sector. Our key building blocks for growth support competition and deliver better outcomes for consumers.”

It came after Pets at Home revealed revenue growth was fuelled by its vet business last year, with revenues in that division up 17pc compared to 4pc growth in its pet stores.

09:16 AM BSTSterling at strongest level against the euro since August 2022

The pound has risen to its strongest level against the euro in almost two years amid expectations that the European Central Bank will start lowering interest rates as soon as next month.

Sterling was up as much as 0.2pc against the euro on Wednesday morning, hitting its highest level since August 2022.

It follows signs that the ECB will deliver at least interest rate cuts by December, with the first expected as soon as next month.

The Bank of England is expected to trial the ECB for cuts, with markets only pricing in one quarter-point reduction this year.

09:09 AM BSTLondon a ‘less attractive’ market than others, Oaknorth chief says

London is looking “less attractive” than other markets, the boss of fintech Oaknorth has said, becoming the latest chief to criticise the Square Mile.

Speaking to CityAM, Oaknorth co-founder Rishi Khosla said the UK had “not done the best in branding over the last two, three, four years”. “Actually, really since the Brexit referendum vote.”

He said Oaknorth had not made any decision on when it would list or where it would like, but said the UK was “less attractive on a relative basis” than other markets.

It comes amid growing concerns over the financial health of London’s markets.

Paddy Power owner Flutter, plumbing giant Ferguson, cement-maker CRH and tour operator Tui are among the major companies to have recently turned their backs on the City.

08:47 AM BSTLabour Party welcomes Royal Mail assurances

The Labour Party has been responding to the news that Royal Mail has accepted a takeover bid from Mr Kretinsky, saying assurances made by his EP Group are a positive.

In a statement, the party said: “These assurances are welcome that Royal Mail will retain its British identity and safeguard its workforce with no compulsory redundancies. Labour in government will ensure these are adhered to.”

08:26 AM BSTBritish drivers being charged highest diesel prices in Europe, says RAC

Drivers are being forced to pay more for diesel in the UK than anywhere else in Europe, according to new analysis.

A litre of diesel is selling for an average of 155p at UK forecourts, which is more than 5p more than in Ireland and Belgium, the RAC research found.

In Italy, diesel is selling for around 7p less per litre than in the UK.

It comes despite the Government moving to bring down prices at the pump in 2022, cutting fuel duty by 5p per litre.

RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said: “The average price of a litre of diesel should really be down to around the 145p level if retailers were charging fairer prices.

“The margin on petrol is also, in our view, unreasonably high at 13p. We can see no good reason why retailers in Britain aren’t cutting their prices at the pumps.”

The UK competition watchdog has been investigating the fuel market, finding last year that there was evidence of profiteering. In March, the Competition & Markets Authority said it was concerned about the increases in petrol station profit margins.

diesel08:13 AM BSTBHP pushes for extension to Anglo bid deadline

BHP has called for further extension to a bid deadline to allow for more talks over a takeover of rival Anglo American.

BHP said the deadline should be pushed back from later today, coming after three of its takeover offers were rejected.

Anglo previously claimed the offers were too risky and complex. The latest bid valued it at £38.6bn. It came after BHP had put forward two prior bids, valuing Anglo at £31.1bn and £34bn respectively.

BHP on Wednesday said: “BHP believes that the proposed measures it has put forward provide substantial risk protection for Anglo American shareholders and supplement the significant value uplift that Anglo American shareholders will receive from the potential combination.”

07:54 AM BSTWorkers have ‘lost all faith’ in Royal Mail management

Union bosses are poised to demand a ‘complete reset in employee and industrial relations’ when they meet with EP Group over the takeover next week.

Communication Workers Union general secretary Dave Ward said: “We do welcome some of the commitments that have been made but the reality is postal workers across the UK have lost all faith in the senior management of Royal Mail and the service has been deliberately run down.“We will meet with EP Group next week and call for a complete reset in employee and industrial relations, the restoration of postal services and further commitments on the future of the company.“We will also be directly engaging with the Labour Party and other stakeholders to call for a new model of ownership for Royal Mail where our members and customers have a direct say in key decisions and the creation of a golden share which will protect a key part of the UK’s communications infrastructure.”

07:45 AM BSTWho is IDS buyer Daniel Kretinsky?Daniel Kretinsky – David W Cerny/Reuters

Despite an estimated $7.2bn (£5.8bn) fortune, Daniel Kretinsky is notoriously private. The billionaire’s reluctance to talk about his investments – or much else – has earned him the nickname the Czech sphinx.

Born in Brno, a big city southeast of Prague, his father was a professor and his mother a judge at the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic.

Mr Kretinsky trained as a lawyer before turning to finance, making his name as a young dealmaker at industrial investor J&T Group.

He eventually struck out alone and grew his business, EP Group, by snapping up unfashionable fossil fuel assets from companies looking to retreat from oil and gas.

This strategy paid off handsomely after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as EP’s collection of power plants, gas pipelines and other infrastructure became more critical than ever to keeping the lights on.

More recently Mr Kretinsky has branched out into everything from newspapers, football clubs and groceries.

He is the co-owner of Sparta Prague football club and owns a stake in West Ham United.

Read more here. 

07:38 AM BSTOwning Royal Mail will come with ‘enormous responsibility’, Kretinsky says

Daniel Kretinsky has said IDS ‘must accelerate its transformation and investments into modernisation” after the board recommended his takeover offer.

Mr Kretinsky said: “IDS, and Royal Mail in particular, form part of the national infrastructure of the countries they operate in. More than that, Royal Mail is part of the fabric of UK society and has been for hundreds of years.

“The EP group has the utmost respect for Royal Mail’s history and tradition, and I know that owning this business will come with enormous responsibility – not just to the employees but to the citizens who rely on its services every day.

“The scale of the commitments we are offering to the company and the UK Government reflect how seriously we take this responsibility, to the benefit of IDS’ employees, union representatives and all other stakeholders.”

07:31 AM BSTGood morning

The board of Royal Mail owner International Distribution Services said it has agreed to a £3.57bn takeover offer from Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky.

Under the deal, Mr Kretinsky has agreed for Royal Mail to deliver first-class post six days a week for the next five years.

5 things to start your day

1) Labour’s business letter ridiculed after executives refused to sign | Lack of big-hitting names should be ‘a big concern’ for the party, critics warn

2) Ocado set to be axed from FTSE 100 | Pressure to list in New York grows as tech company faces relegation from blue-chip index

3) Shell plots job cuts in offshore wind division | The oil giant is continuing to shift from green energy

4) US immigration surge risks keeping interest rates high for months | Top Fed official ‘concerned’ about housing market pressures amid battle to tame inflation

5) How Google’s malfunctioning AI risks ruining the internet | In changing the way its search engine works, the tech giant threatens to become its own undoing

What happened overnight

On Wall Street, the Nasdaq managed to rise past the symbolic 17,000 barrier, and close above it for the first time as AI leader Nvidia hit a record high.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.55pc, to 38,852.86, the S&P 500 gained 0.02pc, closing at 5,306.04, and the Nasdaq Composite gained 0.59pc, to 17,019.88.

The yield on benchmark 10-year US Treasury bonds rose to 4.54pc, from 4.473pc late on Friday.

Hong Kong shares fell at the beginning of Wednesday on concerns about the likelihood the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates at all this year.

The Hang Seng Index sank 0.86pc to 18,659.41, the Shanghai Composite Index dipped 0.05pc to 3,108.03, while the Shenzhen Composite Index on China’s second exchange eased 0.12pc to 1,726.93.

Tokyo stocks opened flat on Wednesday after shares on Wall Street ended mixed.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index was up 0.03pc at 38,867.89 in early trade, while the broader Topix index was down 0.05pc at 2,767.17.

Matt Earle

Matthew Earle is the Founder of MiningFeeds. In 2005, Matt founded MiningNerds.com to provide data and information to the mining investment community. This site was merged with Highgrade Review to form MiningFeeds. Matt has a B.Sc. degree with a minor in geology from the University of Toronto.

By Matt Earle

Matthew Earle is the Founder of MiningFeeds. In 2005, Matt founded MiningNerds.com to provide data and information to the mining investment community. This site was merged with Highgrade Review to form MiningFeeds. Matt has a B.Sc. degree with a minor in geology from the University of Toronto.

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