Matthew Moulding, founder, chairman and chief executive of The Hut Group
Matthew Moulding, founder, chairman and chief executive of The Hut Group © via REUTERS

The Hut Group, one of the very few large companies to float on the London Stock Exchange this year, has lifted its sales guidance in its first trading update since the IPO.

At the time of its listing in September, the health, beauty and nutrition retailer said it expected to report full-year revenues of £1.4bn, representing sales growth of 25 per cent — not bad. On Monday it raised that guidance to around £1.5bn and a growth rate of between 30 and 33 per cent, with third-quarter revenues up 39 per cent year-on-year to £378m.

But it cautioned that the run-up to Christmas, and in particular Black Friday, would play a key role in the group’s results, with the period typically accounting for almost a third of revenue each year.

Hut Group also announced it was creating an “advisory panel” to provide “additional counsel and support” to its board subcommittees. But the company nonetheless retains unconventional corporate governance arrangements, which have left an unusual degree of control in the hands of founder, chairman and chief executive Matthew Moulding. More on that from Lex here.

Briefly

Fraudulent coronavirus loan applications are going almost entirely unreported, data from the national Action Fraud service show. Despite estimates that imply at least £1.85bn has been claimed dishonestly through the Bounce Back Loan Scheme, data suggest that less than 0.5 per cent of the expected fraud cases have been flagged to police. More here.

Royal Mail’s chairman has warned its letter-delivery duty is “not economic”. The group is obliged to deliver letters Monday to Saturday at the same price across the country. But with Britons sending fewer letters and more parcels, the postal group is chafing against the statutory obligation. Full interview with Keith Williams here.

PrimaryBid, the platform that has allowed retail investors to participate in some of the recent cash-calls that might otherwise have been limited to institutional investors, has raised $50m through a new funding round. Investors include the London Stock Exchange, Draper Esprit and Omers Ventures.

Finally Europe’s biggest Coke bottler is in formal talks to buy Australia’s Coca-Cola Amatil in a deal that would value the Australian group at $7.6bn. If completed the acquisition by Coca-Cola European Partners would mark the latest round of consolidation for Coke’s bottlers, after CCEP merged with its Iberian and German counterparts three years ago. More on the deal here.

Beyond the Square Mile

box of donuts
© REUTERS

Dunkin’ Brands, the company behind the coffee and doughnuts chain and Baskin-Robbins ice cream franchises, is close to a sale to private equity. Inspire Brands, the PE house behind Buffalo Wings and Sonic, has made an offer worth $106.50 a share, valuing Dunkin’ at around $9bn. If a deal is finalised — which could happen in the next few days — Dunkin’ would join a fast food empire that includes Rusty Taco, Jimmy Johns and Arby’s.

Bayer is buying US-based gene therapy pioneer Asklepios for up to $4bn, in the German group’s biggest pharma deal since 2006. The AskBio deal marks Bayer’s entry into the novel therapeutic approach of gene therapy, Olaf Storbeck and Hannah Kuchler report. Bayer will pay half the purchase price up front, with the rest dependent on AskBio meeting performance targets.

One of Europe’s few tech giants Booking.com is complaining that planned EU rules will “hobble” the platform. Brussels wants to regulate the company as a “gatekeeper” in the hotels market as part of sweeping legislation to curb the dominance of Big Tech. But Booking.com says efforts to “handcuff” it will help foreign rivals and hurt the EU’s tech industry.

While the airline industry is in crisis, it’s almost business as usual for private jet operators benefiting from an influx of business from first-time users looking to limit contact with other air passengers. While commercial flight numbers have halved, the number of private flights fell only 10 per cent between September 1 and October 15, according to consultancy WingX. Flying on a private plane emits up to 20 times more carbon dioxide than a commercial flight, says jet charter company Victor.

Essential comment before you go

© REUTERS

Patrick Jenkins Barclays’ upbeat results on Friday appear to have persuaded investors that the resumption of dividends for UK banks is just around the corner. But bankers’ claims that the worst is over ignore the reality of second-wave problems.

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