Paddy Power Betfair (PPB), William Hill (WMH), GVC Holdings (GVC) – Betting adverts could be banned during live sports broadcasts as early as this month. The move follows political pressure about the amount of betting advertising on television, with more than 90 minutes of adverts shown during the World Cup. The Remote Gambling Association, which includes Bet365, Ladbrokes and Paddy Power among others, has struck a deal to agree a ‘whistle-to-whistle’ TV advertising ban. The deal is said to ensure no adverts will be broadcast for a defined period before and after a game is broadcast. It will include any game that starts prior to the 9pm watershed but ends after that time. Anti-gambling campaigners say sport’s use of adverts ‘normalises’ betting and the RGA has previously said it was ‘very mindful of public concerns’.
Tesco (TSCO) – Two ex-Tesco directors have been cleared of fraud and false accounting after profits were overstated by £250million as the case against them dramatically collapsed. The retailer’s shares saw £2billion wiped off the value when it said in 2014 that it had overstated profits the previous month, amid claims it had been ‘cooking the books’. A jury at Southwark Crown Court in London were told this morning that Chris Bush, 52, and John Scouler, 50, had been acquitted at the Court of Appeal yesterday. It is a major embarrassment for the Serious Fraud Office, which is thought to have spent more than £10million on its investigation and legal fees over two trials. Bush admitted today that he was ‘delighted that my innocence has finally been established’ – but added that it was ‘troubling’ how they were ever charged.
Specialist London-based insurance group Beazley (BEZ) has revealed that the recent wildfires in California will cost the firm around £35.1million ($40million) in claims. The payouts from reinsurance hit the group’s finances after fires damaged several settlements and killed dozens of people in the US’s most populous state. In the two sentence update, the group also said: ‘Investment markets continue to be volatile and our year to date investment return to 30 November 2018 is 0.5%.’
BT removing kit made by Chinese firm Huawei from its network amid fears of spying. The move comes after the governments of the US, New Zealand and Australia blocked the use of Huawei’s equipment completely in next generation 5G mobile networks. Earlier this week, the head of MI6 suggested the UK needed to decide if it was comfortable using technology owned by the Chinese. Critics have suggested that laws in China could force Huawei to hand over data or spy on other countries if it was instructed to do so. BT Group (BT.A) confirmed it was in the process of removing Huawei kit from the most sensitive parts of its mobile network.
Patisserie Valerie appoints interim finance boss as it tries to steady the ship following accounting scandal. Nick Perrin, former finance head at veterinary group CVS, will take up the role while the board searches for a permanent replacement for predecessor Chris Marsh. Mr Marsh was arrested on suspicion of fraud following the discovery of a £40million black hole in Patisserie Valerie’s accounts in October, but was later released on bail. Chief executive Paul May resigned in November and was succeeded by Stephen Francis, who was chief executive of pork farmer Tulip. In a statement on Perrin’s appointment, Mr Francis said: ‘I am pleased to welcome Nick to Patisserie Holdings (CAKE). ‘He brings with him the necessary experience to help strengthen the team as the Company works tirelessly to put the events of the past months behind it and look forward to the future.’
Chairman of beleaguered Thomas Cook Group (TCG) snapped up 373,000 shares for under 21.5p each – a day before price soared 50%. In a vote of confidence for the travel firm, Frank Meysman, 66, forked out £80,441 on Tuesday, having seen the share price fall more than 50% last week following a profit warning. And yesterday the stock jumped 51.4%, or 11.68p, to 34.4p, valuing the purchase at £128,312. Non-executive director Lesley Knox also bought shares on the cheap at the same time, purchasing 208,778 shares at 22.6p each, or nearly £47,200. But despite the rally, fears persist over Thomas Cook’s debt pile, which has ballooned from £40m to £389m in 12 months.
Ted Baker (TED) board branded ‘weak’ as chairman insists investigation into harassment complaints against its chief executive would be ‘impartial’. A leading investor raised doubts about the ability of directors to stand up to Ray Kelvin – but also warned that the company would be rudderless without him. With pressure mounting on bosses, the fashion chain will today unveil full details of the probe into Kelvin’s behaviour alongside a trading update which is expected to see it post disappointing sales.
Joules lifts the lid on contingency plans for ‘no-deal’ Brexit as the British fashion brand ups its profit forecast. British fashion brand Joules Group (JOUL) said today it is setting up a new EU distribution hub and ordering products early as part of contingency plans for a potential hard Brexit. The group – a favourite of Kate Middleton’s – also said it is ramping up its currency hedging to help protect it against volatility in the pound as Brexit day approaches. Joules unveiled its Brexit contingency plans alongside strong half-year results. Sales jumped by 17.6% to £113.1million, defying the wider gloom on the UK High Street.
Thousands of Ryanair customer compensation claims to go to court after airline refused to pay out when strikes ruined their holidays because of flight delays and cancellations. Ryanair Holdings (RYA) is today facing legal action over its ‘appalling’ treatment of passengers who were refused compensation over flight disruption caused by striking staff. Ryanair claimed the industrial action falls under ‘extraordinary circumstances’ and refused to pay out to customers. But the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) disagreed and said compensation should be granted under EU law, and has now launched enforcement action. The news comes as a shot in the arm to some 100,000 beleaguered customers who were left stranded at airports over the summer after their flights were delayed or cancelled.
Shares in Stagecoach Group (SGC) have motored higher after the transport firm revealed its struggling US arm is on the block. Stagecoach, which has been testing self-driving buses between Edinburgh and Fife, is in discussions to sell all or part of the US division, including the American branch of bus operator Megabus. Investors welcomed the change in strategy, despite Stagecoach’s £22.6m loss in the six months to October compared to a £96.7m profit a year earlier.
Housebuilders and banks also boosted the market as investors hoped greater parliamentary control over the Brexit process would lead to a softer withdrawal from the EU. Theresa May suffered a defeat in the House of Commons on Tuesday, which means MPs can prevent a no-deal Brexit. Many traders think a less dramatic withdrawal from the EU will be better for the UK economy – and therefore better for the companies that depend on it, such as British housebuilders and banks. On the FTSE 100, Persimmon (PSN) shot up 131.5p, to 1995.5p, Berkeley Group Holdings (The) (BKG) by 193p, to 3423p, Barratt Developments (BDEV) by 23p, to 473.8p, and Taylor Wimpey (TW.) by 5.6p, to 137p. Among mid-sized housebuilders, Redrow (RDW) leapt by 28.4p, to 496.2p and Bellway (BWY) by 143p, to 2645p.
Construction equipment hire company Ashtead Group (AHT) was the biggest loser, dropping 103.5p, to 1672.5p, amid fears of a slowdown in the US economy. Laith Khalaf at Hargreaves Lansdown said: ‘We wouldn’t bet the house on gains being sustained. There’s still a wide range of outcomes from the parliamentary process, and more twists and turns in the tale before we have a definitive direction for Brexit.’ He said the stock market is still split into Brexit beauties – companies which make chunks of their money abroad – and beasts – such as banks and builders who are plugged into the UK economy.
Car supermarket Motorpoint Group (MOTR) was driven higher by Numis. The broker recognised the motor retail sector had been heavily sold off due to Brexit fears and new emissions test rules, but said Motorpoint’s growth potential and the amount of cash it was generating warranted a positive outlook.
Faron Pharmaceuticals Oy (DI) (FARN), which tanked in October after it said its treatment for acute respiratory distress syndrome wasn’t as effective as hoped, is fighting back, up 22.2%, or 14p, to 77p as it said the treatment worked well for patients with a certain genetic mutation.