© Reuters

Tesco’s new boss Ken Murphy presents his first set of results on Wednesday with the grocer’s half-year figures. The former Walgreens Boots executive took over from Dave Lewis last week.

He starts with a solid set of numbers, other than in Tesco’s bank. Pre-tax profits for the six months to end-August were up 29 per cent to £551m with group sales excluding VAT and fuel up 6.6 per cent. Sales growth in the UK and Ireland offset revenue declines in Tesco’s central European operations and its bank, and Mr Murphy unveiled a 21 per cent increase to Tesco’s interim dividend.

Like other supermarkets, Covid-19 measures have cost Tesco — £533m in the first half — but those extra expenses were offset by the business rates holiday and higher sales in the UK and Ireland. It expects the bank to make a loss of between £175m and £200m in the full year (the bank made a £155m underlying operating loss in the first half of the year), though the retail bit of the business reported a 4.4 per cent increase in adjusted operating profit to £1.19bn.

Tesco said that while there were still uncertainties about the rest of the fiscal year, retail profit for the year should be at least as good as in the previous one.

Briefly

SoftBank-backed Greensill Capital provided tens of millions of loans under one of the UK government-guaranteed loan schemes to two companies associated with steel magnate Sanjeev Gupta employing just 11 people. Greensill has provided billions of pounds in financing in recent years to Mr Gupta’s loosely affiliated GFG Alliance of family-owned businesses, and Mr Gupta has a close relationship with Lex Greensill. The structure of the Alliance allowed several GFG companies to apply for separate loans from Greensill. The full scoop from Robert Smith and Michael Pooler is here.

G4S is taking the gloves off in its fight against rival GardaWorld’s attempt at a hostile takeover. G4S on Wednesday described GardaWorld’s record as “one of a loss-making company which . . . lacks the geographic coverage to be a truly global company”. G4S insists the 190p a share offer “significantly undervalues” it. For its part, GardaWorld is out wooing G4S shareholders.

Up to £26bn lost to fraud and company defaults through the government-guaranteed bounceback loan scheme. That’s the conclusion of a report from the National Audit Office released on Wednesday, which said that the government had prioritised getting money to businesses quickly and has been prepared to tolerate the potential losses that go with that policy. Assuming the scheme lends £43bn — £38bn in loans have been issued by banks so far, with the scheme running until the end of next month — the potential cost to government of its 100 per cent guarantee is likely to be between £15bn and £26bn, the NAO says.

Job moves 

Tesco has a new finance director to go with its new chief executive. Imran Nawaz, chief financial officer at Tate & Lyle and a former executive at global food group Mondelez, will join the board in April.

Beyond the Square Mile 

© AFP via Getty Images

Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook have all abused their market power, according to a damning Congressional report released on Tuesday that recommended forcing large technology companies to restructure their businesses entirely. The 449-page report concluded that each of the four large tech companies had choked off competition unfairly in different ways and suggested rewriting US anti-trust law. While Republicans are not supporting these recommendations, Democratic officials expect them to be seriously considered by Joe Biden should he win November’s presidential election.

New research shows that no major oil, gas or coal company is on track to align their business with the Paris climate goal of limiting the global temperature rise to well below 2°C by 2050, despite making net-zero emissions pledges. A partnership between London School of Economics academics and investors that manage funds that total $21tn, called the Transition Pathway Initiative, assessed 125 oil and gas producers, coal miners and electricity groups on their preparedness for a lower-carbon economy. Read more on the findings here.

Boeing has slashed its expectations for global passenger jet demand over the next decade by 11 per cent, representing a loss to the industry of an estimated $200bn in potential revenue. The US aircraft maker signalled a long, slow road to recovery for the aviation sector in its annual outlook for commercial jet demand over the next two decades.

Essential comment before you go

© Ingram Pinn/Financial Times

Brooke Masters
At a glance, cinemas and attractions share many of the same issues relating to Covid-19. However, the sectors are facing different fates.

Lombard
Finablr, the cross-border payments business, has barely had time to float let alone sink. But it is sinking and within little more than a year of being listed.

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