The Business: Friday March 21 2014

Company news, markets and financial talking points, available from 8am Monday to Friday

‘LITTLE SISTER’ NEXT TO OVERTAKE M&S?

Next’s rising profits are set to beat those of struggling rivals M&S for the first time, predicts The Guardian. Next said annual profits were up 12% to £695m. The news came just a day after M&S’s house brokers cut profit forecasts to around £615m. "The year to January 2014 was a great year for Next," said its chairman, John Barton. The chain has for many years been considered the “little sister” of M&S.

NO UK TOP RATING ‘UNTIL 2018’

Britain is unlikely to recover its top credit rating before 2018 because the national debt remains too high, says a leading agency. Fitch has welcomed the improvements in the British economy’s growth and public finances, but says they do not yet justify an upgrade to the coveted top rating. “The public debt ratio will need to be lower and steadily declining before any upgrade to AAA,” Fitch said. Both Fitch and Moody’s stripped the UK of its top-notch rating last year.

IFS: BUDGET DID NOT GO FAR ENOUGH

The pro-business measures announced in George Osborne’s Budget do not give companies the confidence they need to drive forward the economy in the long-term, says the Institute for Fiscal Studies. "I think what we've seen more recently in budgets is more tinkering around the edge that probably isn't going to have any long-term effects,” said the IFS’s Helen Miller. Business leaders had largely welcomed the Chancellor’s plans to boost exports.

BOOKIES TAKE £22M HIT FROM BUDGET

William Hill says it will take a £22m hit from George Osborne’s Budget measures. The leading bookmaker says the 25% tax on fixed-odd betting machines and the 15% tax on online gambling will hit it hard. Shares in William Hill fell almost 7% on Budget day and have sunk 4.9p further to 346.6p. Although rivals Ladbrokes have yet to announce how much the Budget will impact them, their shares have fallen to 134.p.

QUOTE OF THE DAY… DOES CROZIER DESERVE £8.4M PAY?

“Is £8.4m the right value? You have to say he has done a great job. His payment is consistent with a strong recovery in ITV's share price.” Media analyst Alex DeGroote believes ITV boss Adam Crozier deserves the remuneration he received for 2013.

NIKE SHARES SLIP DESPITE SALES RISE

Shares in Nike have slipped 4% in response to currency headwinds, widening margins and cautious guidance for future growth, says the Financial Times. The fall came despite the sportswear manufacturer announcing a better than expected third quarter, says the Financial Times. Buoyed by strong demand in Europe and the US, and benefitting from the run-up to this summer’s football world cup, sales rose 13%.

THE NUMBERS... AT 0730 GMT


FTSE-100: down -0.47 to 6542.44
Dow Jones: up +0.67 to 16331.05
Dax: up +0.21 to 9296.12
Cac-40: up +0.46 to 4327.91
Nikkei: down -1.65 to 14224.23
Hang Seng: up +1.31 to 21459.97
US dollar: buys €0.72580 and £0.60630
Sterling: buys $1.64900 and €1.9700
Oil: $106.21 up +0.3