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BUSINESS LIVE: GDP grows 0.2% in Q3; Apollo to buy TRG; Ofgem to probe energy debt


BUSINESS LIVE: GDP grows 0.2% in Q3; Apollo to buy TRG; Ofgem to probe energy debt


BUSINESS LIVE: GDP grows 0.2% in Q3; Apollo to buy TRG; Ofgem to probe energy debt

The FTSE 100 is up 0.4 per cent in early trading. Among the companies with reports and trading updates today are TRG, easyJet Dechra Pharmaceuticals, Hays and Workspace Group. Read the Thursday 12 October Business Live blog below.

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CMA: BBC and ITV may have broken law over freelance contracts

TRG shares soar on takeover deal

Russell Pointon, director of consumer at Edison Group:

‘The Restaurant Group’s share price has been on a downward trend for the majority of the last decade due to combination of high-priced M&A, underperformance of some of the brands and obviously the disruption due to the COVID pandemic.

‘Whilst the share price has responded positively to more encouraging trading and management tidying up the portfolio, leading to Restaurant Group being one of the best performers in the sector year-to-date, the proposed offer by Apollo of 65p is roughly half the levels that the share price was trading at prior to COVID, whilst consensus profit estimates for the coming years are heading back to pre-COVID levels of 2017 and 2018.

‘So, it will be interesting to see how the activist shareholders respond to the deal. The fact the share price has moved to a premium to the offer price indicates the market thinks a high offer will be required.’

Competition watchdog to probe Vodafone and Three’s £15bn merger

Market open: FTSE 100 up 0.3%; FTSE 250 adds 0.1%

UK stocks are on the rise this morning tracking a rally in Asian markets, buoyed by easing US Treasury yields and hopes of fresh China stimulus, while Restaurant Group shares have surged nearly 40 per cent on agreeing to a takeover offer.

The FTSE 100 is up, aided by a weaker pound after data showed the UK economy grew in line with expectations in August, but shrank more than initially thought in July.

A vehicle owned by PE firm Apollo Global agreed to buy Wagamama chain owner TRG for £506million in cash. The stock topped the offer price of 65p per share.

Mobico has tumbled 21 per cent to the bottom of the midcap index, after the transport firm lowered its profit forecast for the year and suspended dividends as it grapples with high costs.

Vodafone and Three’s £15bn merger to face CMA probe

Regulators are to probe the proposed £15bn tie-up between Vodafone and Three in the UK.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has called on rivals – as well as any other affected groups – to air their concerns about the deal.

Energy bills could rise as Ofgem mulls one-off price cap adjustment

Britain’s economy grew slightly by 0.2% in August as country’s service sector leads the way, ONS says

FSB: ‘Growth is volatile and fears of a recession have yet to be fully banished’

Tina McKenzie, policy chair of the Federation of Small Businesses:

‘This modest rise in August’s GDP is a relief, coming on the heels of the sharp drop recorded in July.

‘The recovery in services has driven the increase, but this masks concerning falls in production and construction, indicating that there are downward pressures on many sectors.

‘Today’s figures will go some way to allaying fears that the summer was a wash-out for small firms, although our research has consistently found that confidence levels in some sectors – especially consumer-facing ones such as retail and hospitality – have trailed behind the overall results for all sectors.

‘The early September pause in the upward march of the base rate has given small firms a ray of hope that the margin squeeze they’re enduring may ease.

‘As we’ve seen in recent months, growth is volatile and fears of a recession have yet to be fully banished. If this most recent monthly rise is to be sustained, the Government will need to consider how it can promote a trading environment where small firms can flourish.’

Competition watchdog: BBC and ITV may have broken law

Britain’s competition regulator has said television production companies including the BBC, ITV, Hat Trick and Tiger Aspect could have broken competition law in relation to the purchase of services from freelancers.

The Competition and Markets Authority has launched an investigation into the suspected breaches, but added that it had not reached a view as to whether there was sufficient evidence of an infringement.

ITV confirmed that it had received a case initiation notice from the CMA.

‘ITV is committed to complying with competition law and to cooperating with the CMA’s inquiries,’ it said in a statement.

The probe also includes Hartswood Films, Red Planet Pictures and Sister Pictures.

In July the regulator said it was investigating suspected breaches of competition law in relation to the purchase of services from freelancers in sports content by the BBC, BT Group, ITV, Sky UK and others.

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‘The UK economy continues to confound not just the worst, but most expectations in remaining relatively robust’

Neil Birrell, chief investment officer at Premier Miton Investors:

‘After a poor July, the UK economy bounced back in August. Like a number of other economies, the UK economy continues to confound not just the worst, but most expectations in remaining relatively robust.

‘The Fed has indicated it will proceed carefully on policy and the Bank of England must do the same as it balances the inflation versus growth equation. Recessionary risk remains real, but the damage that could be done by ongoing high inflation is a threat.’

GDP grows 0.2% in Q3: ‘Wmall glimmer of hope that the UK could scrape through and avoid a recession’

Richard Carter, head of fixed interest research at Quilter Cheviot:

‘This morning’s UK GDP figure provides another small glimmer of hope that the UK could scrape through and avoid a recession, with a slight 0.2% uptick in August following a disappointing 0.6% dip in July (revised down in the latest figures).

‘Just this week the IMF predicted that the UK would be the slowest growing economy across the G7 next year, and though 2024 may prove more difficult, this morning’s figure provides some relief that though economic growth is challenging, it is not yet non-existent for the UK.

‘We have also started to see hints that the pressure of the cost-of-living crisis is beginning to lift for households. Prices remain considerably higher than pre-pandemic periods, but disposable incomes are starting to improve which has provided some much-needed relief to those who have been struggling.

‘The Bank of England’s decision to pause rate hikes has also offered some respite to homeowners and the housing market which have been grappling with high mortgage rates.

‘Though the Bank of England has pressed pause on its rate hiking cycle for now, it still has an incredibly challenging job to do and it may still return to raising rates later in the year or into the next.

‘However, with an election fast approaching the Bank will be keen not to overcorrect and will instead begin to assess what impact its action has had to date.

‘We don’t necessarily see the case for further rate rise and things will continue to bite for consumers as a result of the lag effect of the rate rise. With rates now higher for longer, consumers and businesses will need to adapt to this new environment, one many haven’t faced in their lifetimes.

‘The economy may be holding up for now, but whether or not the UK truly manages to avoid a recession is yet to be seen. The speed of interest rate rises and the impact of the cost-of-living crisis may mean the pain is simply delayed, and 2024 could prove considerably more difficult.’

EasyJet to expand fleet with Airbus deal

EasyJet has reached a proposed deal with Airbus to expand its fleet by up to 257 additional aircraft, plotting its growth beyond 2028, with bigger and more fuel efficient planes.

The order comes as the airline forecast annual profit of £440million to £460million and said it would restart its dividend, signalling that its recovery from the pandemic was now in full flow.

‘Our strategy is achieving results and so today we have set out an ambitious roadmap to serve more customers and deliver attractive shareholder returns,’ chief executive Johan Lundgren said.

Ofgem to probe consumer energy debt

Regulator Ofgem is considering option to protect energy consumers and the wider market from spiralling levels of debt.

Consumer energy debt now stands at a record £2.6billion, according to Ofgem, as a result of the rise in wholesale energy prices and wider cost of living pressures.

Tim Jarvis, director general for markets at Ofgem, said: ‘We know that households across the country are struggling with wider cost of living challenges, including energy, so any decision to add costs to the price cap is not one we take lightly.

‘However, the scale of unrecoverable debt and the potential risk of suppliers leaving the market or going bust, which passes on even greater costs to households, means we must look at all the regulatory options available to us.

‘Ofgem cannot subsidise energy or force businesses to sell it at a loss and suppliers must be in a position to offer high quality services to customers.

‘We must consider the fairest way to maintain a stable energy market and we will do this in consultation with all our partners to ensure we are protecting the most vulnerable households.’

Birkenstock shares flop on Wall Street debut

Apollo to buy TRG

A vehicle owned and managed by private equity giant Apollo Global will acquire Wagamama owner The Restaurant Group for £506million.

Ken Hanna, TRG chair, said: ‘TRG operates a diverse portfolio of some of the UK’s leading hospitality brands.

‘As a result of ongoing positive management actions and the margin accretion plan we announced in March this year, the group has recovered well from the challenges of the pandemic and the cost of living crisis.

‘This is evidenced by the continued strength of our trading performance versus the broader hospitality sector and the share price increasing 55% this year.

‘In addition, the TRG Board and management of TRG have reviewed in detail the strategic options available to the group, resulting in the announcement of the proposed sale of the Leisure business.

‘The TRG Board continues to have confidence in the plan, but is cognisant of the premium and the certain value of the Apollo offer against the backdrop of a challenging macro-economic environment. As such, the TRG Directors intend to unanimously recommend the offer to TRG Shareholders.’

UK economy grows 0.2% in Q3

The British economy grew by 0,2 per cent in the third quarter of 2023, in line with expectations, despite bad weather and industrial action driving a 0.6 per cent slump in July, fresh data from the Office for National Statistics shows.

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