The Business: Wednesday May 21 2014
Company news, markets and financial talking points, available from 8am Monday to Friday
Is Britain’s open free-market economy under threat from the rise of Ukip? George Osborne will argue that case at the CBI today. The chancellor will say that business leaders must speak up for the free market and free trade. Otherwise, he will warn them, the country will slide into an “anti-business” era of regulation, trade barriers, and high taxation. He will also tell them that the prospect of a Labour government threatens economic “consensus”.
Britain’s biggest mortgage lender has banned home loans of more than four times a borrower’s income, reports The Times. It has made the change to mortgages of more than £500,000. Lloyds hopes its desperate bid to stave off rising house prices will also pre-empt an expected crackdown by regulators. The lender is responsible for one in five mortgages and has often lent five times incomes and sometimes more.
The energy giant SSE has posted a 9.6% profit rise just months after it announced price increases, says Sky News. However, the provider saw the retail division operating profit fall 28.6% to £292m in the year to March 31 as a mild winter caused a plunge in energy usage. Britain’s second largest provider of household energy said increased output from renewable energy helped its wholesale arm's operating profit rise to £634.6m - up 24.8%.
“Despite all the investment, a looming three-year blitz on margins and promised cash returns, few are convinced that M&S will deliver. Mr Bolland is yet to prove that M&S remains a business worth fighting over.” Alistair Osborne is unconvinced by Marc Bolland’s efforts at M&S.
UK inflation has risen to 1.8%, says the Office for National Statistics. A rise in fares for flights and ferries helped to push the rate of inflation up in April. It was the first increase in the rate for 10 months. The timing of Easter, which fell in April, is likely to have had an impact on travelling prices. An increase in fuel and travel costs were offset to a degree by a fall in the cost of food, says the organisation.
Netflix is to expand into a further six European countries, says the BBC. The television and movie streaming service plans to launch in France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg. Germany is a potentially lucrative market but Netflix will face strong rivalry from existing services. The America-based firm now boasts 48 million subscribers in over 40 countries. It reported profits of $53m (£32m) in its most recent quarter.
FTSE-100: down -0.62 to 6802.00
Dow Jones: down -0.83 to 16374.31
Dax: down -0.21 to 9639.08
Cac-40: down -0.39 to 4452.35
Nikkei: down -0.21 to 14045.29
Hang Seng: up +0.12 to 22861.31
US dollar: buys €0.72970 and £0.59360
Sterling: buys $1.68460 and €1.22920
Oil: $109.80 up + 0.4