Afternoon Financial Press Update
Paul Kettle
PM Press Round-Up -2 min read
15:38, 16th May 2019

Below are the key headlines from the midday updated papers, featuring the Financial Times, The Times, The Telegraph, The Daily Mail & more - see the full Press section here.

Investec (INVP) FOLLOW shuts robot savings adviser after losses mount. The rise of the robots hit a glitch on Thursday after wealth adviser Investec killed off its “robo-advice” service due to sluggish demand. Click & Invest, launched in June 2017, will shut with immediate effect after plunging to a £12.8 million loss, the second consecutive year in the red. The unit employs 54 people and some of the jobs are at risk. Robo-advice, which manages savings with algorithms instead of humans, has been hailed in some quarters as the future of wealth management due to its low costs.

Thomas Cook suffers £1.5bn loss as it confirms ‘multiple’ bids received for airline business. Thomas Cook Group (TCG) FOLLOW said it had received “multiple bids” for all or part of its airline business as the troubled holiday company reported a dramatic increase in losses in the six months to March. The travel agent suffered a pre-tax loss of almost £1.5bn, a near five-fold increase on the £303m loss it endured during the same period last year. A highly promotional environment, driven by political and economic uncertainty, coupled with higher fuel and hotel costs would act as a drag on second half performance and full-year earnings, the company said. It warned that it now expected underlying earnings before interest and tax in the second half of the year would be behind the same period last year.

Landlord Grainger (GRI) FOLLOW boosted as Brits in their forties head to rental homes. A rising number of Brits in their thirties and forties priced out of the housing market are embracing renting, the boss of property firm Grainger said on Thursday. Helen Gordon said her business, the UK’s largest listed residential landlord, has seen a rise in the number of renters in the 35-44 age bracket, particularly in the capital. She added: “That is partly because our flats are seen as an attractive alternative to people priced off the housing ladder. But, there has also been a mindset change in society: not everyone feels the need to own anymore.”

Just Group plans US exit after sluggish first quarter. Retirement specialist Just Group (JUST) FOLLOW will exit the US as part of a broader strategy to improve its capital position by 2022. The decision accompanied news of a 55% drop in new business sales during the first three months of the year, which prompted a significant sell-off in the shares. The FTSE 250 company, which was forced to raise £375m in March to comply with new capital requirement rules, said it was “absolutely focused” on generating sufficient capital to fund new business within the next few years. This means redoubling efforts to control costs, closing loss-making operations and shifting focus towards more “capital efficient” assets.

Sophos rallies as it swings to profit in ‘challenging’ year. Oxford-based cyber security company Sophos Group (SOPH) FOLLOW has warned that the “vast majority” of smaller businesses are still not protected against attacks, after a year in which it struggled to keep up the strong growth seen after the WannaCry hack. Chief executive Kris Hagerman said many of the smaller and media enterprises it was selling to were “a little been overwhelmed by the problem, so they don’t have the IT teams, and just want to run their school or retailer or hospital”. He said there “probably is a level of misunderstanding” about the risks, but the “other thing that clearly applies here is there’s an inertia”, where people needed educating that updating their systems would be in their interest. The comments come after Sophos manage to dispel fears over the strength of its business, swinging to a profit despite branding the year “challenging”.

National Grid profits down 31% after US dispute. National Grid (NG.) FOLLOW profits slumped last year as it counted the £283 million cost of a protracted US industrial dispute and a £137 million bill for work on cancelled UK nuclear plants. The FTSE 100 utility group said that pre-tax profits had fallen by 31% to £1.8 billion due to the one-off charges on both sides of the Atlantic. The company had to bring in contractors to carry out its work in Massachusetts after locking out 1,250 of its own workers during a seven-month industrial dispute over pensions and healthcare. It said that it had also written off the costs of a decade of work it had carried out preparing network connections for Nugen’s cancelled nuclear plant at Moorside in Cumbria, and Horizon’s abandoned projects at Wylfa on Anglesey and Oldbury in Gloucester.

Disclaimer & Declaration of Interest

The information, investment views and recommendations in this article are provided for general information purposes only. Nothing in this article should be construed as a solicitation to buy or sell any financial product relating to any companies under discussion or to engage in or refrain from doing so or engaging in any other transaction. Any opinions or comments are made to the best of the knowledge and belief of the writer but no responsibility is accepted for actions based on such opinions or comments. Vox Markets may receive payment from companies mentioned for enhanced profiling or publication presence. The writer may or may not hold investments in the companies under discussion.

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