BUSINESS LIVE: Retail sales stagnant; 888 revenues exceeded expectations; Home REIT raises £15.9m

The FTSE 100 is down 0.4 percent in early trading. Among the companies with reports and trading updates today are 888 and Home REIT. Read the Business Live blog from Friday April 19 below.

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Hunt raises alarm over bid for Royal Mail as ‘Czech Sphinx’ plots new attack

The Chancellor has raised concerns about the proposed takeover of Royal Mail by a billionaire dubbed the ‘Czech Sphinx’, in a sign that a deal could be blocked.

While analysts suggested that tycoon Daniel Kretinsky should increase his bid for the postal group to more than £4 billion, Jeremy Hunt said there were ‘lessons’ to be learned from the chaos at Thames Water.

Home REIT raises £15.9 million from the sale of 65 homes

Embattled investment trust Home REIT has sold a further 65 properties, generating gross proceeds of £15.9m – or 4.8 per cent of the portfolio value.

Home REIT has now completed the sale of 533 properties and swapped 240 properties since August last year, raising £11.4 million.

888 sales exceeded expectations

Bookmaker 888 saw first-quarter revenue exceed expectations, helped by strong customer volumes, and said it expects revenue to grow again from the second quarter.

The group posted sales of £431m for the three months to March 31, beating expectations of £420m to £430m.

Per Widerström, CEO of 888, said:

“I am pleased to report that revenue in the first quarter of 2024 was slightly ahead of our expectations, with strong player volumes translating into improved revenue figures.

‘Having navigated several regulatory and compliance changes during the quarter, and thanks to increased marketing investment supported by an exciting product pipeline, we remain confident of a return to growth from the second quarter of 2024.

‘I was pleased to outline our multi-year value creation plan alongside our full-year results in March, and am pleased to report a strong quarter of progress against these plans.

“We are resolute and on track to position our business for long-term success, and I look forward to providing further updates on our progress in the coming months.”

Two female BP executives are leaving in the first reshuffle since Looney resigned

Two female executives are leaving BP in the first reshuffle since former boss Bernard Looney resigned for failing to disclose relationships with colleagues.

Leigh-Ann Russell, Chief Technology Officer, is leaving after 18 years at the oil giant, while Anja-Isabel Dotzenrath is heading the company’s gas and low-carbon division after two years. Both will be replaced by men.

1713511730 49 BUSINESS LIVE Retail sales stagnant 888 revenues exceeded expectations Home

Why retail sales will ‘gradually improve’

Thomas Pugh, economist at RSM UK:

‘The flatness of retail sales in March means that sales volumes in the first quarter rose 1.9% quarter on quarter, another strong sign that the recession that marred the second half of last year is over.

‘We expect retail sales volumes to continue to gradually improve from here for three key reasons. First, real disposable household incomes will rise rapidly from April onwards as inflation falls to 2% and tax cuts take effect. This will boost overall consumer spending and retail sales. Moreover, consumer confidence should continue to rise so that households can spend most of their new income.

‘Second, inflation is particularly weak within retail sales. The price of retail goods rose just 2.2% year-on-year in March, the slowest increase since early 2021. This means that continued strong nominal spending will increasingly be reflected in sales volumes.

“Third, retail sales volumes are still about 2% below pre-pandemic levels. This is partly a hangover from the huge spending on goods during the pandemic.

‘But after two years of reduced spending on retail goods, households will need to start replacing some of the things they bought during the pandemic. In addition, as the housing market begins to recover and the number of transactions increases, this will stimulate demand for household goods.”

No Easter shower for retailers

Silvia Rindone, retail leader at EY UK&I:

‘After a challenging start to the year, retail sales were flat in March after rising 0.1% in February.

‘Easter did not bring the sales boost retailers were hoping for, with sales volumes and values ​​remaining relatively unchanged for a second month. Non-food stores saw their turnover volumes increase by 0.5%, while food stores and non-store retailers saw a decrease of 0.7% and 1.5%.

‘As we enter the summer months, retailers are hoping for a turn in the tide as consumer confidence grows.’

Retail sales stagnate in March

British retail sales stagnated in March, missing forecasts of 0.3 percent growth, data from the Office for National Statistics showed.

This follows growth of 0.1 percent in February, following an increase from previous estimates of flat growth.