© Bloomberg

The first British retail trading updates of 2021 suggest Christmas sales have proven resilient in spite of lockdown measures.

Next gave a better than expected statement for the nine weeks to December 26. Full price sales for the period were down 1 per cent year on year, well ahead of market expectations for a 5 per cent decline, as online sales jumped 38 per cent.

For the current financial year, Next expects a pre-tax profit of £370m before an increased provision against the value of its retail store estate and the benefit of an additional trading week, up slightly from the £365m predicted at its last update in October. The underlying figure beat consensus forecasts by about 3 per cent.

Wm Morrison, Britain’s fourth-biggest grocer, said group like-for-like sales excluding fuel rose 8.1 per cent in the 22 weeks to January 3. For the three weeks covering Christmas same-store sales surged 9.3 per cent, Morrison said.

Morrison cautioned of an extra £10m in Covid-19 costs for the 2021 financial year, bringing the total to £280m, in addition to a £230m cost from refunding business rates relief. However, Morrison left underlying full-year profit guidance unchanged at between £420m to £440m and stuck with plans to pay a 4p special dividend.

Briefly

Premier Foods said it has ended a relationship with Paulson & Co and rewritten terms of an agreement with Oasis Management, the activist investors that lobbied successfully last year for a strategic review. Non-executive directors Orkun Kilic, a Paulson nominee, steps down with immediate effect.

IT services group Softcat said trading had remained positive since its last update in mid November. Public sector demand had been strong though corporate business had been “somewhat mixed”, Softcat said.

Ryanair announced that December traffic dropped 83 per cent year on year to 1.9m passengers. Wizz Air’s traffic figures for December showed 665,772 passengers, an 81 per cent drop.

Job moves 

Gal Haber, co-founder of Plus500 and its former CEO, is stepping down from his position as managing director at the contracts-for-difference broker with immediate effect. News of his departure accompanied a trading update from Plus500 in which it said full-year ebitda for 2020 would be approximately $515m, in line with previous guidance.

Beyond the Square Mile 

© Bloomberg

The New York Stock Exchange has backtracked on plans to delist three Chinese state-run telecoms groups — China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom — reversing a decision that had threatened to further inflame tensions between Washington and Beijing. NYSE said on Monday evening that it no longer intended to carry out the delistings “in light of further consultation with relevant regulatory authorities”.

Hundreds of workers at Google parent Alphabet announced that they have formed a union, a rare move within Silicon Valley that is set to increase tensions between the tech giant and its employees. The newly formed Alphabet Workers Union includes 226 of Alphabet’s more than 140,000 employees and is affiliated with the Communications Workers of America union.

Haven Healthcare, the joint healthcare venture between Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase, will be shut down less than three years after it pledged to use the companies’ combined heft to lower costs and improve care. Haven informed its 57 employees on Monday morning that it will close by the end of February but a spokeswoman for the group said the three companies would continue to work together on healthcare “informally”.

Essential comment before you go

© REUTERS

Primrose Riordan
The freezing of the bank account of a former pro-democracy lawmaker in Hong Kong over the new year has shown that compliance problems are only getting more fraught for banks, particularly for HSBC.

Lombard
A combination of MGM brands such as Bellagio and Mirage with Entain’s in-house technology could create a formidable global player in the online gambling business.

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