United Airlines is slashing its flight schedules as the company grapples with widespread staff shortages caused by the omicron variant.
In a note to staff, chief executive Scott Kirby said that on one day alone nearly a third of its staff at Newark Airport called in sick. Around 3,000 workers are currently infected with Covid.
United, which will cut its flight schedule for January and February “on an ongoing basis”, is one of a number of airlines to be hit by the rapid spread of the new strain.
Earlier today Heathrow Airport said 600,000 passengers cancelled flights last month and warned of “significant doubt” over the speed of recovery in travel.
Motorola hits out at competition regulator’s decision to investigate dominance over emergency services network
Motorola has launched a legal bid to halt an investigation into concerns that its monopoly on communications for the emergency services is overcharging taxpayers. Ben Woods writes:
The US telecoms company has lodged an appeal against the Competition and Markets Authority, which has been examining whether Motorola was “cashing in” on its position of delivering a new system while still operating the older Airwave network.
Delays have hampered the upgraded service based on 4G technology that was supposed to be rolled out to the police, ambulance and fire brigade by 2019.
However, the cost of the new system has now spiralled to around £1.2bn, and is not due to launch until 2026.
In an application to the Competition Appeal Tribunal, Motorola said the CMA failed to understand the contractual agreement between the company and the Home Office.
FTSE 100 closes higher amid global sell-off break
The FTSE 100 took a breather after a recent sell-off on concerns about tighter monetary policies, closing 0.6pc higher at 7,491.
Darktrace surged 6.9pc and was among the top gainers on the mid-index after raising its full-year outlook for revenue and earnings margin following strong customer growth and retention in the first half of the year.
“UK’s market is less exposed to tech stocks and with the sector inherently being more volatile given their nature, taking that away from the FTSE 100 gives it a more stable personality right now,” said Stuart Cole, head macro economist at Equiti Capital.
“We have the Bank of England and its willingness to further tighten policies following its December hike … there is a sense that monetary normalisation is on the cards.”
Cosmopolitan publisher Hearst shuts down Real People magazine after 16 years
The publisher of Cosmopolitan is axing Real People magazine after 16 years as part of a sweeping overhaul in response to the pandemic. Ben Woods has more:
Hearst UK said the weekly magazine featuring real life stories will publish its final copy on Jan. 20, as it took difficult decisions to position the business for growth.
The move comes after covid pressure last year prompted the company to put 200 of its 930-strong UK workforce at risk and close lifestyle title Town & Country.
Magazine publishers have endured a torrid time during the pandemic as companies slashed their marketing spend and print sales came under pressure at the height of lockdown.
Poland to slash taxes to keep a lid on inflation
Poland’s government vowed to slash levies on everything from food to fuel to rein in the highest inflation in more than two decades and manage anger over a botched tax overhaul that has left some workers poorer.
In his cabinet’s second anti-inflation package in as many months, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the government will temporary reduce value-added tax on gasoline and scrap it on basic foods, fertiliser and natural gas starting from February.
He also urged retailers to respond by reducing prices and asked Poles to “watch out” for shops that don’t.
“Most Poles can’t sleep because of rising bills,” Morawiecki said. “It is known that inflation was caused by external factors, but we have to find the answer and bear the price.”
Monzo relaunches £5 refer-a-friend bonus
Monzo has relaunched a refer-a-friend bonus more than two years after it was scrapped.
It gives £5 to both the customer and to the new person who they manage to sign up.
“We know how much our customers love using Monzo and the experience of doing so with friends, through features like bill splitting and shared tabs,” the challenger bank said.
“The average customer has 30 friends using Monzo and now we’re letting them invite even more to explore the benefits.”
Monzo had discontinued the system in 2019 when it was facing financial pressure.
VW China deliveries slump as zero-Covid policy triggers supplier shutdowns
China’s zero-Covid policies cut Volkswagen production by 14pc last year in its biggest market after factories were forced to suspend output. My colleague Howard Mustoe reports:
The German car maker delivered 3.3m cars as a shortage of computer chips also curbed production, with only its Porsche, Bentley, and Lamborghini marques posting higher sales.
China is pursuing a zero-Covid policy, shutting down entire neighbourhoods or even cities with stringent rules where outbreaks are detected, in an effort to stamp out the virus.
That has forced VW factories and those of its suppliers to close, cutting production.
In December a lockdown in the port city of Ningbo, where the company makes VW and Skoda cars, led to a cut in production of about 4,000 to 5,000 vehicles.
As a result of the disruption, VW missed its electric vehicle sales target by 10,000 cars and its market share in China fell from 19pc to 11.7pc for 2021.
JPMorgan boss Jamie Dimon says US labour market under ‘huge pressure’
JPMorgan boss Jamie Dimon has said that, for the first time in his life, there’s “huge pressure” on the US labour market.
Average hourly earnings rose more than economists expected in December, matching the largest advance since April and indicating employers’ willingness to pay more to attract and retain workers.
Wall Street has been grappling with a surge in turnover in recent months, resulting in firms such as JPMorgan paying more for talent from junior bankers to the C-suite. The investment bank warned in October that compensation costs may rise in 2022.
“The price of labour’s going up, we’re going to have to deal with it,” Dimon told Fox Business.
He also noted the situation isn’t as bad as other potential economic scenarios. “It’s much worse to complain about 15pc unemployment and a recession than it is to complain about wages going up too fast,” he added.
Facebook tells staff they must have booster to come back to work – and delays return to the office again
Facebook owner Meta has delayed its US office reopening date and mandated Covid booster shots for employees returning to office, joining the growing list of companies revamping reopening plans as the omicron variant surges.
For employees who opt to work from office, the reopening date has been delayed to March 28 from the earlier plan of Jan. 31. All workers returning to office will have to present proof of their booster jabs.
Employees have until March 14 to decide whether to return to the office, request to work remotely full time or request to work from home temporarily.
That’s all from me today – thanks for following! My colleague Giulia Bottaro will take over from here.
Bain Capital and CVC team up for Boots bid
Two of the world’s largest buyout groups have reportedly teamed up to launch a multi-billion-pound bid for Boots.
Sky News reports that Bain Capital and CVC Capital Partners are preparing a joint offer for the high street retailer, which has more than 2,000 stores and employs more than 50,000 people.
The takeover plan is said to be based on substantial investment in the chemist’s digital, beauty and healthcare services offerings.
Other private equity firms are also expected to table offers, but the joint bid stands out due to the role of Dominic Murphy, a senior partner at CVC who is also a director of Boots’ US parent company.
According to the report, Mr Murphy will need to recuse himself from boardroom discussions about the deal to avoid a conflict of interest.
Wall Street muted ahead of Fed chair’s speech
US stocks have made a cautious start to trading this afternoon ahead of testimony from Federal Reserve chairman Jay Powell that could offer hints on plans for monetary policy.
The S&P 500 and Dow Jones opened 0.02pc and 0.03pc lower respectively, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq fell 0.2pc.
Volkswagen offers jabs to workers’ families
Volkswagen is rolling out vaccinations to relatives of its German employees as worries mount about the spread of the omicron variant.
A spokeswoman said jabs for families would begin today. Since June the car maker has administered about 100,000 doses – including first, second and booster jabs – at sites across Germany.
The move forms part of wider efforts in the country to avoid disruption to the economy. People who come into close contact with positive Covid cases have to self-isolate for up to 10 days, but this can be waived for those who’ve had booster jabs.
Get a grip on eurozone inflation, new Bundesbank chief tells Christine Lagarde
Germany’s new central bank chief has told eurozone rate-setters to “be on the alert” over persistent inflation in an opening salvo at European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde.
Russell Lynch has more:
The first public remarks of Joachim Nagel, the new president of the ultra-hawkish Bundesbank, came in the wake of German inflation surging to 5.3pc in December, the highest since June 1992.
Mr Nagel urged the ECB to get a grip on inflation amid rising discontent in Germany over almost a decade of negative interest rates and an emergency €1.85bn money-printing programme to tackle Covid.
He said: “The public have significantly less money in their pockets. Many people are understandably concerned about this loss of purchasing power – deeply concerned.”
Mr Nagel added: “I currently see a greater risk that inflation rates could remain elevated for longer than currently expected. In any case, monetary policymakers must be on the alert.”
Shoe Zone steps back into profit after store closures
Shoe Zone has swung back to a profit after shuttering dozens of loss-making stores.
The discount footwear retailer said both sales and profitability had recovered after it was hit by lockdown measures during the pandemic. The company posted a £9.5m pre-tax profit for the year to October, compared to a £14.6m loss a year earlier.
It came after Shoe Zone wielded the axe on around 50 unprofitable stores during the year, slimming down its portfolio to 410 sites.
Bosses said the retailer had benefited from a shift to larger store formats that allowed it to stock a greater range of styles.
Shares in Shoe Zone leapt 17pc following the update.
Paddy Power owner Flutter rises on double Citi upgrade
Flutter, the gambling group behind Paddy Power and Betfair, is on a winning streak today after analysts at Citi handed it a double upgrade.
In a note Citi analysts lifted their recommendation from sell to buy as the lender becomes “increasingly bullish” on the opportunities for gambling firms in the rapidly expanding US market.
It came as the FTSE 100 group said it had completed the £402m acquisition of bingo operator Tombola. Shares rose 3.4pc.
Founders of buyout group TDR step back after two decades
The founding partners private equity firm TDR Capital are handing over the reins after about two decades building the company.
Stephen Robertson and Manjit Dale will pass control to Gary Lindsay and Tom Mitchell, who will become managing partners.
Mr Dales will become the firm’s chief investment officer, while Mr Robertson will remain a member of TDR’s investment committee, according to a letter seen by Bloomberg.
TDR, which manages more than €10bn (£8.3bn) of committed capital, has been behind a string of high-profile buyouts of British firms in recent years, including the £6.8bn takeover of Asda.
The firm also owns fitness chain David Lloyd Leisure and pub operator Stonegate.
Wall Street poised for strong open
Wall Street looks set to start on the front foot this afternoon as stocks rebound from a sell-off led by tech stocks.
Futures tracking the S&P 500 and Dow Jones rose 0.3pc and 0.2pc respectively, while the Nasdaq gained 0.5pc.
Stocks began to recover in late trading on Monday following a slump on the tech-heavy Nasdaq, which veered into correction territory after falling 10pc from its peak last year.
Indian government takes stake in Vodafone Idea
Vodafone Idea has been handed a lifeline by the Indian government after it took a 36pc stake in the embattled mobile operator to stave off potential collapse, writes Ben Woods.
The telecoms giant forged through a joint venture between Vodafone and India’s Aditya Birla Group has been in a fight for survival since being ordered to repay the Indian government billions of pounds in spectrum and licence fees.
It has also ceded considerable ground to Reliance Jio, the mobile rival owned by the Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani, who denied takeover interest in BT last November.
Vodafone chief executive Nick Read has ruled out putting any more equity into Vodafone Idea and has written down the value of the FTSE 100 firm’s investments.
Shares in the Indian unit dropped 21pc after the announcement.
Oil rallies ahead of US data
Oil prices have bounced back alongside stocks this morning, with investors turning their attention to upcoming data from the US.
Benchmark Brent crude gained 1.4pc, while West Texas Intermediate rose 1.5pc to just shy of $80 a barrel.
The industry-funded American Petroleum Institute will release its weekly US oil inventories report later today, while the Energy Information Administration is set to publish its monthly market outlook.
Oil has made a positive start to the year on expectations demand will continue to grow, despite the threat posed by the omicron variant.
Post Office offers compensation to 777 postmasters
The Post Office has offered payments to 777 of the 2,500 postmasters who applied for compensation over a 20-year scandal that saw some of them serve prison sentences.
Chief executive Nick Read told MPs that he hopes lawyers and staff working on the case can make offers to all but a handful of the claimants by the end of the year.
But he warned that the Post Office will need help from the Government to ensure that all the postmasters are properly compensated for what happened to them.
He told the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee: “The Post Office itself doesn’t have the financial resources to compensate a miscarriage of justice of this scale.”
In total, 950 postmasters were prosecuted for a variety of charges from 1999, but many of these cases were later linked to problems in the Horizon computer system.
Some of the postmasters were sent to prison for false accounting and theft. So far, 72 convictions have been overturned.
Used car market caps off bumper year of growth
The used car market recorded yet another month of sharp growth in December, capping off a remarkable year for the sector despite the impact of omicron.
Used car prices surged by 30.5pc year on year last month, reaching an average of £17,816. It marks the 21st consecutive month of growth, according to Auto Trader.
Prices have been buoyed by surging demand for used cars amid global semiconductor shortages that have hampered the supply of new vehicles.
The huge price growth means almost a quarter of “nearly new” cars are currently priced above their brand-new equivalents, whilst half are priced within 5pc of the brand-new list price.
Richard Walker at Auto Trader said:
2021 was a remarkable year for the automotive industry. Used vehicle pricing saw double-digit growth and used cars flew off the forecourts in record time.
Despite ongoing restrictions, our sector has remained resilient in the face of significant challenges and is on track for strong continued price growth well into the second half of the new year.
The two main factors fuelling this growth, supply constraints and strong consumer demand, both show no signs of easing anytime soon. Claims of an imminent ‘bubble burst’ are failing to take these key dynamics into account.
City watchdog to review wholesale data markets
The City watchdog has said it will investigation possible competition issues in the wholesale data markets amid concerns “complex contracts” and high prices may push up charges for investors.
The Financial Conduct Authority said it will also gather information on trading data supplied by stock exchanges and others. It will look at how many financial instruments are being traded, what prices people are prepared to pay and how much they pay for trades to be executed.
The regulator will also carry out a market study over the summer into concerns that contracts for benchmarks and indices prevent switching to alternatives that may be cheaper or better quality.
A second market study will assess high charges for access to credit ratings and potential blocks to new rival services emerging.
Gas slides as tanker deliveries bolster supplies
Natural gas has fallen for a third consecutive day as the arrival of more cargo ships helped to offset the depletion of storage sites.
More than half of around 80 US cargo ships on the water are headed for Europe, according to Bloomberg data. Liquified natural gas flows to northwestern European terminals are also at the highest level since December 2019.
This is helping to ease the supply strain, while milder weather forecasts from this month are also calming the market.
Benchmark Dutch prices fell 2.5pc this morning, while the UK equivalent was down 1.4pc.
Productivity slumps as furlough winds down
UK productivity slumped in the final three months of the furlough scheme last year, according to newly-released figures.
Output per hour worked fell by 1.4pc between July and September compared to the previous three-month period, though it was 1.1pc above its pre-Covid level.
Output per worker fell to 0.6pc below 2019 levels.
Micro Focus jumps 11pc on Jefferies upgrade
Micro Focus is another big winner on the markets this morning, jumping 11pc after a bullish note from brokers.
Jefferies raised its recommendation on the software firm from hold to buy, setting a target price of 600p – a 44pc increase from its last closing price.
The surge in shares marked Micro Focus’ biggest gains since 1 July.
Green levy could be cut to slash energy bills
The Government is said to be considering a cut to a green levy on energy bills amid concerns about the strain of soaring costs on British households.
The Times reports that minister are reviewing the Energy Company Obligation (ECO), a £1bn levy on energy bills that covers the cost of insulation for around 200,000 households a year.
The tax, which pays for insulation and new boilers, adds £29 to the average annual energy bill and is viewed as an important part of the UK’s attempt to hit net zero.
It comes as Britain braces for a cost of living crisis in 2022, fuelled largely by soaring gas prices. Other measures under consideration include a windfall tax on oil and gas companies that has been backed by Labour.
Fuel prices fall to lowest since November
Amid all the gloom about inflation, there at at least signs that pressure on fuel prices are easing.
The latest Government stats show that pump prices for petrol and diesel fell to 144.82p per litre and 148.65p respectively this week – that’s the lowest since the first week of November.
Fuel prices have fallen back from their record highs at the end of last year. However, retailers have come under fire for failing to pass on these savings to motorists on the forecourt.
Pret index: Sandwich sales slump as bankers stay at home
Now time for an update from everyone’s favourite Covid footfall metric – the Pret index.
The latest figures show the chain’s coffee and sandwich sales have slumped to one of their lowest points in months since the start of the year as bankers shunned their desks and opted to stay at home.
Transactions in the City and Canary Wharf fell to below a third of pre-pandemic levels last week, hurt by the spread of omicron and the continued work from home order.
Excluding the weeks that included Christmas and Easter, sales last week were at their lowest level since lockdown in March, according to the index, which is compiled by Bloomberg.
Pano Christou, Pret’s chief executive, said:
The here and now is a challenge because businesses had support last time this was the case and now they don’t.
Businesses have depleted funds because of the current pandemic so people are in a worse position than they were 18 months ago.
Very Group boosted by games console demand
Online retailer The Very Group has reported a surge in sales over Christmas as Brits clamoured for the latest games consoles.
The company, which owns Very.co.uk and Littlewoods, said sales jumped 21.9pc for the seven weeks to Christmas Eve, compared to the same period in 2019.
The strongest growth came in its electricals business, but Very said its fashion and sportswear lines had also performed well.
The retailer also announced the appointment of former Walmart executive Dirk Van den Berghe as its non-executive chairman.
It comes ahead of a potential stock market float for the company, which chief executive Henry Birch was among a number of potential options for the business.
Getir eyes £8.8bn valuation with new funding
Rapid grocery delivery app Getir is said to be eyeing a valuation of $12bn (£8.8bn) through a funding round led by its existing investors.
The Turkish company, which was valued at $7.7bn last year, is aiming to raise more than $1bn to help fund further international expansion, Bloomberg reports.
Getir, which was founded in 2015, has grown to become one of the most valuable rapid delivery startups in a fiercely competitive global market. US rival Gopuff is valued at $15bn.
The app’s previous backers include Silver Lake, Tiger Global, Sequoia Capital and Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company.
Energy firm blasted over star jump advice
ICYMI, here’s a great PR disaster tale from my colleague Rachel Millard:
The country’s third largest energy company has sparked ridicule by advising households facing a jump in their energy bills to eat ginger and porridge or buy socks made of Merino wool so they can keep costs down while staying warm.
SSE Energy Services, which is owned by Ovo, also suggested customers do a “few star jumps” and “have a cuddle with pets or loved one” to keep cosy during the winter months.
The advice is part of a long-list of energy saving tips the company has emailed to customers and published on its website amid a gas price crisis gripping the UK and Europe, which is expected to send average household bills climbing 56pc to £2,000 or more in April.
Ministers and energy companies have been locked in talks since before Christmas to try and find ways to bring down consumers’ bills without heaping unsustainable pressure on energy providers, more than 26 of which went bust last year when faced with the soaring wholesale natural gas costs.
Pound hits two-month high as dollar slides
Sterling has rallied to a more than two-month high as the dollar lost ground despite speculation about a tightening of policy by the Federal Reserve.
The pound rose 0.4pc against the dollar to $1.3612 – its highest level since November 4. Against the euro, it slipped 0.1pc to 83.31p, its lowest since February 2020.
However, analysts warned of upcoming pressure on sterling amid tax hikes and a squeeze on household budgets.
Jeremy Stretch at CICB told Bloomberg: “Although the economy will rebound post the lifting of Covid restrictions into February the impending squeeze on real incomes as energy prices reset higher and taxes rise point toward looking to fade GDP gains into next month.”
Bolt raises £520m in new funding
Uber rival Bolt has raised €628m (£524m) in fresh funding as competition continues to mount in the ride-hailing market.
The new investment, led by Sequoia Capital and Fidelity Management, represents Bolt’s largest funding round to date and takes its valuation to €7.4bn.
The company continued to expand across the UK last year, growing its presence to 16 cities including Edinburgh, Cardiff and Birmingham.
Bolt said the cash injection would help accelerate the transition from owned cars to shared mobility in cities.
Darktrace surges after sales upgrade
Darktrace is by far the biggest mover this morning, jumping as much as 25pc on the back of strong forecasts.
The cybersecurity firm, which has endured a tumultuous period since going public last April, said trading had been stronger than expected in the first half of the year. As a result, it hiked its outlook for revenue growth from 39pc to 44pc.
Darktrace said the improved trading was driven both by new customer acquisitions and improvements in revenue retention rates.
The share surge will come as a welcome boost to the company, which has tumbled back towards its IPO price since reaching a peak in October.
FTSE risers and fallers
After a lacklustre start to the week, the FTSE 100 has rebounded this morning.
While stocks have pared gains from 0.5pc at the open, they’re still up 0.2pc as investors paused a sell-off driven by concerns about the Fed’s more hawkish policy stance.
Mining stocks Rio Tinto and BHP helped push up the blue-chip index, while Phoenix Group and Electrocomponents gained ground after upbeat trading statements.
The domestically-focused FTSE 250 is doing even better, rising 0.6pc. Darktrace led the gains, surging more than 20pc after raising its outlook for the full year.
New mortgage deals cost hundreds of pounds more just weeks after rate rise
Homeowners have seen mortgage costs rise by hundreds of pounds since the Bank of England shocked borrowers with a interest rate increase last month, writes Rachel Mortimer.
The effect of higher rates has now fed through to new fixed-term deals after initially only hitting borrowers on “variable rate” or “tracker” mortgages.
Those remortgaging on a two-year fix deal will pay 0.04 percentage points more than last month, with the average rate up to 2.38pc, according to analyst Moneyfacts. This has added £100 in interest each year on a £250,000 loan. This rises to £160 on a £400,000 mortgage.
The average five-year fix has also increased by 0.02 percentage points to reach 2.66pc, The cost of a two-year fix with a 40pc deposit is now 0.3 percentage points higher than three months ago.
London Metal Exchange up and running after five-hour outage
The London Metal Exchange has resumed trading after a power outage knocked it out for more than five hours.
Many traders were cut off from the bourse, which sets global prices for key commodities such as copper and aluminium. Markets had been due to open at 1am, but electronic trading only resumed at 6.15am.
The LME said: “Following a power outage at a third-party data center on Monday evening, the LME has now migrated all systems to its backup data center.”
The exchange said trading was now proceeding as normal and it was closely monitoring the incident.
Electrocomponents rises on profit upgrade
Shares in Electrocomponents have bounced this morning after the retailer said its full-year profit will come in ahead of expectations.
The FTSE 100 firm said revenue grew by a better-than-expected 21pc in the third quarter, driven by strong trading in its primary industrial product ranges.
Electrocomponents warned pressures from labour shortages and supply chain constraints were “likely to intensify” in the fourth quarter.
Despite this, it said full-year profit was expected to be slightly ahead of consensus, pushing shares up as much as 4.3pc to the top of the blue-chip index.
Games Workshop plagued by higher costs
Games Workshop suffered a dip in profits over the last six months as higher costs offset sales growth.
The Warhammer retailer posted a 3.7pc fall in profit to £88.2m for the six months to 28 November, even as revenues grew 2.5pc.
It came as the company suffered £2m in extra shipping and freight costs due to Brexit, as well as a £2.9m increase in warehouse and logistics costs over the year.
Bosses said the firm’s cash position was also hit by £15.1m worth of outstanding VAT receipts following Brexit.
Games Workshop said current trading was in line with expectations, but warned of continued uncertainty due to the unpredictable economic background.
Recruiter Robert Walters cashes in on staff shortages
Recruitment firm Robert Walters enjoyed a record performance in December as companies in the UK and worldwide grappled with staff shortages.
The group said there was “fierce competition for talent”, with shortages of staff across all locations and disciplines.
In the UK, the legal, commerce finance and technology sectors were among the most in demand in the hiring market as firms battle it out to secure workers.
This helped push up net fee income by 39pc to £95.1m in the fourth quarter, keeping it on track for better-than-expected annual profits. UK net fee income rose 7pc to £16m.
FTSE 100 jumps at the open
The FTSE 100 has made a strong start to trading today, undoing losses sparked by housebuilders at the beginning of the week.
The blue-chip index jumped 0.5pc to 7,484 points.
Lidl vows lowest prices as discount war heats up
With inflation heating up and a squeeze on household budgets looming, supermarkets are gearing up for a price war.
Lidl is the latest to get on war footing, promising it will offer the lowest grocery prices in 2022. It comes after rival German discounter Aldi made exactly the same pledge yesterday.
Lidl said it was the fastest growing brick-and-mortar retailer over the festive period, with sales up 2.6pc year on year. This was driven by record footfall, which jumped 14pc on its busiest day of 23 December.
It seems Lidl’s Christmas jumpers were the star product, with one sold every two seconds on the first day of sale.
Christian Härtnagel, chief executive of Lidl GB, said:
Despite ongoing challenges with the pandemic, customers continued to find ways to celebrate this Christmas. Our high quality, low priced festive ranges proved a hit, helping us achieve a record Christmas with footfall and sales beating the previous two years…
As inflation continues to rise, I want to reassure each and every one of our customers that we remain resolute in our promise of being the destination for the lowest grocery prices in the market.
Heathrow warns of ‘significant doubt’ over recovery
There are more glum forecasts from Heathrow this morning, which has warned there’s “significant doubt” over the speed at which travel demand will recover.
It comes after at least 600,000 passengers cancelled flights in December due to worries about omicron and the uncertainty caused by fresh restrictions.
Over 2021 as a whole, Heathrow handled just 19.4m passengers – less than a quarter of 2019 and lower even than 2020.
The airport urged the Government to remove all testing for fully-vaccinated passengers and to adopt a more predictable policy for any future variants of concern. It also called for any additional measures to be limited to passengers from high-risk destinations and allow quarantine at home instead of in a hotel.
John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow, said:
There are currently travel restrictions, such as testing, on all Heathrow routes – the aviation industry will only fully recover when these are all lifted and there is no risk that they will be reimposed at short notice, a situation which is likely to be years away.
Inflation risks loom for high street
We start the day with the latest retail sales data from the BRC and KPMG.
While trading was given a much-needed boost in December as shoppers opened their wallets despite omicron, the outlook is rather less rosy.
The BRC warned of a “storm ahead”, with consumer spending under threat from rising inflation, soaring energy bills and April’s National Insurance hike.
Meanwhile, Barclaycard data showed that while overall card spending increased 12.2pc last month, trading at restaurants slumped amid Covid fears.
5 things to start your day
1) Developers risk Help to Buy ban without cladding compensation scheme Michael Gove says housebuilders ‘must pay’ to make apartment blocks safe
2) Struggling customers should eat ginger and do star jumps to cut energy bills, says SSE Advice to eat porridge and cuddle will make ‘very little difference’, experts warn
3) KPMG misled watchdog over Carillion audits, boss admits Government contractor went bust in 2018 under the weight of a £7bn debt pile
4) Russian software firm’s shares sink after press release gaffe London-listed Softline suffers after mistakenly revealing deal early
5) Truck makers face damages of up to £13bn in price-fixing lawsuit Legal case targeting ‘cartel’ seeks massive compensation payout
What happened overnight
Asian shares mostly declined in cautious trading Tuesday following a retreat on Wall Street.
Investors are keeping an eye on rising numbers of coronavirus cases, especially in China, where a third city has locked down its residents because of a Covid-19 outbreak, raising the number confined to their homes in China to about 20m people.
Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 fell 0.9pc to finish at 28,222.48. South Korea’s Kospi picked up less than one point to 2,927.38.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 dipped 0.8pc to 7,390.10. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed 0.5pc to 23,624.11, while the Shanghai Composite index sank 0.8pc to 3,564.61.
Coming up today
- Corporate: Shoe Zone (Full-year results); Games Workshop (Interims); B&M, Electrocomponents, Rathbone Group, MJ Gleeson, Robert Walters, SIG (Trading update)
- Economics: GDP (UK), BRC retail sales (UK)