Business Briefing

Ferrero ‘gobbles up’ Jammie Dodgers maker Burton’s Biscuits

Wetherspoons boss calls for more EU migration, shoppers warned of autumn price rises, and other breaking business news

1

Food & Drink 

Burton’s sales soar after Brits stock up on tea-time classics 

Italian confectionery giant the Ferrero Group is set to “gobble up” Jammie Dodgers manufacturer Burton’s Biscuits for an undisclosed sum, the Daily Mail reports. Burton’s employs around 2,000 people at six factories across the UK and Ferrero says it has “entered into a definitive agreement” to acquire the company from its current owners, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board. 

Burton’s, which also makes Wagon Wheels and Maryland Cookies, generated £275m in sales last year. The acquisition will see Ferrero “taking a larger bite of the biscuit market” after Britons stocked up on tea-time classics during the pandemic, The Daily Telegraph says. 

2

Property market 

Annual house-price growth hits highest level for seven years

The UK’s annual house-price growth has risen to 10.9%, the highest level in nearly seven years, according to Nationwide’s May 2021 house price index. Prices were up 1.8% month on month, following a 2.3% rise in April. There is a new record average price of £242,832, up £23,930 over the past 12 months.

“The market has seen a complete turnaround over the past 12 months,” said Robert Gardner, Nationwide’s chief economist. “A year ago, activity collapsed in the wake of the first lockdown with housing transactions falling to a record low of 42,000 in April 2020. But activity surged towards the end of last year and into 2021, reaching a record high of 183,000 [transactions] in March.”

3

Hospitality 

Wetherspoons boss calls for more EU migration amid staff shortage 

Tim Martin, the Brexit-backing boss of JD Wetherspoon, has called on Boris Johnson to introduce a visa scheme for EU workers amid a staff shortage for bars and restaurants. In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, the ardent Brexiteer said “a reasonably liberal immigration system controlled by those we have elected, as distinct from the EU system, would be a plus for the economy and the country”.

The hospitality sector has been hit by a shortage of staff and industry body UKHospitality estimates that businesses are struggling to recruit as many as 188,000 workers, Yahoo! Finance reports. 

“It is time for the Government to review its list of shortage occupations and consider the introduction of an Australian-style visa scheme to enable the workers we need, who don’t meet the point-based system, to come and work here,” UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said last week.

4

Retail 

Shoppers warned of autumn price increases 

Prices are expected to rise this autumn, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC), which says consumers could face higher shopping bills as costs climb and Brexit red tape increases. 

Global food prices have reached their highest for seven years, shipping costs have risen threefold and commodity prices are climbing. “Retailers may be forced to pass on some costs to their customers,” said BRC chief Helen Dickinson.

She called on the government to help “ease the burden on consumers by finding ways to minimise the impact of new checks and documentation required at EU borders from October”, the BBC reports. 

5

Books

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Getty Images

Harry Potter publisher Bloomsbury issues third profit upgrade 

Bloomsbury, publisher of the Harry Potter books, has issued its third profit upgrade of the year after a 22% surge in annual pre-tax profits. People “rediscovered the joy of reading” during the coronavirus lockdowns and this helped push Bloomsbury’s sales 14% higher to £185m in the 12 months to the end of February, The Guardian reports. 

Bloomsbury chief executive Nigel Newton told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the reopening of bookshops on 12 April has been a “complete game-changer and what we have seen in the period since then is the combined success of online and digital sales and high-street sales around the world”.

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