Advertisement
Singapore markets open in 2 hours 48 minutes
  • Straits Times Index

    3,313.48
    +8.49 (+0.26%)
     
  • S&P 500

    5,303.27
    +6.17 (+0.12%)
     
  • Dow

    40,003.59
    +134.19 (+0.34%)
     
  • Nasdaq

    16,685.97
    -12.33 (-0.07%)
     
  • Bitcoin USD

    66,367.94
    -501.38 (-0.75%)
     
  • CMC Crypto 200

    1,353.24
    -20.60 (-1.50%)
     
  • FTSE 100

    8,420.26
    -18.39 (-0.22%)
     
  • Gold

    2,425.90
    +8.50 (+0.35%)
     
  • Crude Oil

    80.04
    -0.02 (-0.02%)
     
  • 10-Yr Bond

    4.4200
    +0.0430 (+0.98%)
     
  • Nikkei

    38,787.38
    -132.92 (-0.34%)
     
  • Hang Seng

    19,553.61
    +177.11 (+0.91%)
     
  • FTSE Bursa Malaysia

    1,616.62
    +5.51 (+0.34%)
     
  • Jakarta Composite Index

    7,317.24
    -7,246.70 (-49.76%)
     
  • PSE Index

    6,618.69
    -9.51 (-0.14%)
     

Britishvolt’s gigafactory site sold off in electric car blow

The site that had been earmarked for the Britishvolt gigafactory has been bought by Blackstone
The site that had been earmarked for the Britishvolt gigafactory has been bought by Blackstone - Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

US private equity investors have bought the site of what had been hoped would become Britain’s first electric car battery gigafactory in a blow to Britain’s net zero ambitions.

Land in Cambois near Blyth in Northumberland had been expected to become the home of the £3.8bn Britishvolt factory before the company fell into administration last year.

However, Northumberland County Council revealed it has sold the site to Blackstone, which plans to turn the site into a data centre.

Britishvolt, which was backed by mining giant Glencore, collapsed with the loss of more than 200 jobs and had been in line for £100m in funding from the Government via its Automotive Transformation Fund.

ADVERTISEMENT

An Australian company, Recharge Industries, had promised to buy the site before itself being hit with a winding up petition.

The Blackstone deal, for an undisclosed sum, comes after what receivers at Begbies Traynor Group described as a “complex” sales process for the 235-acre site.

Northumberland County Council leader Cllr Glen Sanderson said Blackstone’s plans would lead to an investment of up to £10bn and support as many as 4,300 jobs.

He said: “Driving growth and jobs is a key priority for this Council. Next week, Cabinet will consider this really unique opportunity for Northumberland which offers a huge boost to the regeneration and renaissance of the local area.”

Read the latest updates below.


07:00 PM BST

Signing off...

Thanks for joining us today. We’ll be back in the morning with all the latest from the markets, but - in the meantime - do check out the rest of the Business section here at The Telegraph.


06:59 PM BST

Alfa Romeo changes car name after Italian backlash

The owner of Alfa Romeo is changing the name of a car after it was criticised for being built in Poland. Stellantis is renaming its new Milano sports utility vehicle as the Junior.

The change came after Adolfo Urso, Italy’s industry minister, said on Thursday:

A car called Milano cannot be produced in Poland. This is forbidden by Italian law … This law stipulates that you cannot give indications that mislead consumers. So a car called Milano must be produced in Italy.

However, Alfa Romeo’s boss, Jean-Philippe Imparato, said today:

We decided to change the name, even though we know that we are not required to do so, because we want to preserve the positive emotion that our products have always generated and avoid any type of controversy.


05:44 PM BST

Wave of retirement is starving UK stocks of pension fund investment, warns Goldman Sachs

British businesses risk being starved of investment as pension funds sell off assets to meet a wave of retirement claims, Goldman Sachs has warned. Tim Wallace has the details:

Analysts at the Wall Street bank have sounded the alarm over investment levels flatlining in the UK after research found final salary schemes are selling almost as many British stocks as other pension funds are buying.

This has meant that UK-listed companies are receiving just £500m in net investment from pension funds each year.

Goldman Sachs said defined benefit (DB) schemes – which pay a fixed income but are largely closed to new savers – are selling £2.5bn of shares per quarter to pay out pensions to retirees.

At the same time, defined contribution (DC) pensions – which do not guarantee a specific income but depend on the performance of financial markets – are buying £3bn of equities over the same period.

However, the vast majority of this net investment is being ploughed into foreign stock markets, with only a quarter being diverted to British stocks.

In the 1990s, final salary schemes owned half of all UK shares, Goldman Sachs said.

By comparison, they now hold just 3pc after years of transferring funds to bonds, property and other assets deemed to be lower-risk.

Read the full story...


05:28 PM BST

Superdry to push for big rent cuts in restructuring

Superdry is to push for steep cuts in the rents it pays as it struggles to shore up its shaky finances.

Sky News has reported that the fashion retailer is planning to publish a formal restructuring plan this week focused on cutting rents. It is understood that it is not planning to close any shops but that landlords could terminate the leases if they are unhappy with the plan.

Superdry shares dropped nearly 6pc this afternoon on the news. They have lost more than 90pc of their value over the past year.

Superdry’s most recently filed accounts reported a loss of £148.1m on revenues of £622.5m.

Superdry said it “confirms it is in the advanced stages of preparing a restructuring plan which is expected to launch in the coming days. However, there is no certainty that such a restructuring plan will be implemented”.

The Superdry store on Oxford Street in London
The Superdry store on Oxford Street in London - Betty Laura Zapata/Bloomberg

04:58 PM BST

Footsie closes down

The FTSE 100 closed down 0.5pc. The biggest riser was insurance company Beazley, up 3pc, followed by Ocado, up 2pc. The biggest fallers were mining company Fresnillo, down 3.9pc, followed by BP, down 2.2pc.

Meanwhile, in the mid-market FTSE 250, the biggest riser was oursourcer Mitie, up 6.6pc, followed by technology business Kainos, up 5.3pc. The biggest faller was recruitment firm Pagegroup, down 9.1pc, followed by Endeavour Mining, down 7.1pc.


04:19 PM BST

Government plans ‘voluntary charter’ for social media giants

The Government is to urge technology giants to sign a voluntary charter giving parents more control of their children’s use of social media, according to a report.

Bloomberg said that sources have indicated that ministers are planning talks with Google owner Alphabet, Apple and others over the plan.

The Government told Bloomberg that it doesn’t comment on “speculation.” However, it added: “Our commitment to making the UK the safest place to be a child online is unwavering.”

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg - Erin Scott/Reuters

04:03 PM BST

Recruitment giant plunges after worse than expected figures

Recruitment giant PageGroup has plunged by more than 9pc today as anxious employers stall hiring in the UK and globally. Eir Nolsøe has more:

The FTSE 250-listed company on Monday confirmed it had cut 100 jobs since the start of the year, taking the total reduction in its staffing numbers over the past 12 months to 900.

Hiring remained muted in the UK, the US and Asia, while it deteriorated further in Continental Europe. The recruiter blamed the slump on bosses and candidates being anxious about taking risks.

Nicholas Kirk, chief executive of PageGroup, said: “Candidate and client sentiment remains subdued reflecting the general macroeconomic uncertainty in most of our markets.”

60 jobs were axed in the UK, with profits at its British division plunging by nearly a fifth over the past year to £27.1m.

After a heated war for talent coming out of the pandemic, job listings in the UK have fallen significantly over the last year and unemployment has edged up. It has coincided with a rapid rise in interest rates to their highest level in 16 years.

The UK fell into recession at the end of 2023, though economists believe it is likely to have been a short and shallow downturn.

While the hiring downturn is bad news for recruiters, policymakers at the Bank of England are likely to feel pleased.

The Bank’s rate-setters are closely studying wage growth to judge when they can start bringing down interest rates from a 16-year-high of 5.25pc. Job moves are a key source of pay rises and a tailing off in recruitment will help to soften upward pressure on wages.


03:58 PM BST

German airline giant Lufthansa offers ‘frustrating’ update, says analyst

Susannah Streeter, of Hargreaves Lansdown, says that the hefty first-quarter at Lufthansa is unexpected:

The cost of strikes has taken a big toll on Lufthansa, which has recorded a greater underlying loss than expected. Industrial action at the group and its partners dented earnings by around €350m.

There will also be disappointment that even though strikes are in the rear-view mirror and normal flight services have resumed, there won’t be a big ramp up in capacity in the second quarter, partly due to efforts to improve punctuality and delays in new aircraft deliveries.

It’s a frustrating update for shareholders, with the share price falling 3pc.

Employees of Lufthansa and members of German union Verdi protest during a strike last month
Employees of Lufthansa and members of German union Verdi protest during a strike last month - Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images

03:53 PM BST

Car group Inchcape jumps 4.7pc after making deal with rival

Shares in Inchcape, which distributes and sells cars, have jumped 4.7pc in trading today after its announcement this morning that it is selling its UK car showrooms.

The group, which operates in 32 countries looks set to receive £346m from the deal with US-based rival Group 1 Automotive.

Inchcape’s UK retail business generated around £2.06bn in revenues in the 2023 financial year, with an operating profit of £49m.

The dealerships will help to rapidly expand Group 1’s UK business, which currently comprises of 55 dealerships, largely focused in the south east and east of England.


03:33 PM BST

Lufthansa issues profit warning amid strikes

German airline giant Lufthansa reported a hefty first-quarter loss and downgraded its 2024 outlook due to recent strikes, while warning of risks from conflict in the Middle East.

Adjusted operating losses came in at €849m (£724m), compared to a loss of €273m in the same period last year, according to preliminary figures.

That’s all from me today. Alex Singleton will make sure you are kept up to speed with the latest updates from this point.

German airline Lufthansa has warned about the potential impact of tensions in the Middle East
German airline Lufthansa has warned about the potential impact of tensions in the Middle East - KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images

03:17 PM BST

Britishvolt site sold to US private equity in final blow to Britain’s gigafactory hopes

US private equity investors have bought the site of what had been hoped would become Britain’s first electric car battery gigafactory in a blow to Britain’s net zero ambitions.

Land in Cambois near Blyth in Northumberland had been expected to become the home of the £3.8bn Britishvolt factory before the company fell into administration last year.

However, Northumberland County Council revealed it has sold the site to Blackstone, which plans to turn the site into a data centre.

Britishvolt, which was backed by mining giant Glencore, collapsed with the loss of more than 200 jobs and had been in line for £100m in funding from the Government via its Automotive Transformation Fund.

An Australian company, Recharge Industries, had promised to buy the site before itself being hit with a winding up petition.

The Blackstone deal, for an undisclosed sum, comes after what receivers at Begbies Traynor Group described as a “complex” sales process for the 235-acre site.

Northumberland County Council leader Cllr Glen Sanderson said Blackstone’s plans would lead to an investment of up to £10bn and support as many as 4,300 jobs.

He said: “Driving growth and jobs is a key priority for this Council. Next week, Cabinet will consider this really unique opportunity for Northumberland which offers a huge boost to the regeneration and renaissance of the local area.”

An artist's impression of the battery gigafactory that had been proposed by Britishvolt
An artist's impression of the battery gigafactory that had been proposed by Britishvolt

02:58 PM BST

Oil prices slip as Israel and Iran tension fades

World oil prices sank as traders bet on de-escalation in the Middle East despite a strike on Israel by key crude producer Iran.

Brent crude oil, the international benchmark, has shed 1.1pc and is heading towards $89 a barrel. US-produced West Texas Intermediate slipped by 1.1pc below $85.

Markets have been relatively unmoved after Iran unleashed more than 300 ballistic and cruise missiles and attack drones late Saturday. Most were repelled by Israel’s air defences.

Tehran said the aerial strike was a legitimate response to a deadly attack on an Iranian embassy building in Damascus that it blames on Israel. But it also said “the matter can be deemed concluded”.


02:36 PM BST

Wall Street opens higher after strong US retail sales

The main US stock markets opened higher amid strong results for Goldman Sachs and signs that US consumers are proving resilient.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 92.14 points, or 0.2pc, at the open to 38,075.38.

The S&P 500 opened higher by 26.26 points, or 0.5pc, at 5,149.67, while the Nasdaq Composite gained 101.38 points, or 0.6pc, to 16,276.47 at the opening bell.


02:34 PM BST

Tesla executive quits amid job losses

A long-standing Tesla executive has quit the world’s largest car maker by market share, it has been reported, hours after it emerged the company plans to axe 14,000 jobs.

Drew Baglino has resigned as senior vice president of the electric car manufacturer, according to Bloomberg, becoming the second top executive to depart in eight months.

The 18-year veteran of the business has been one of just four executive officers at the company, leading engineering and technology development for its batteries, motors and energy products.

It comes as Tesla chief executive Elon Musk announced the company would lay off 10pc of its staff, equivalent to about 14,000 of its 140,000-strong workforce.


02:26 PM BST

Revolut investor increases value of stake by 45pc

A Revolut shareholder has marked up its stake in the British financial technology company by 45pc as investors eye a turnaround for the sector.

Our senior technology reporter Matthew Field has the details:

In its annual report, Schroders Capital Innovation Trust revalued its stake in Revolut at £7.8m in the year ending December 31, up from £5.4m the previous year.

The write up implies an overall valuation of about $25.7bn for Revolut, up from $17.7bn a year earlier.

That figure remains down on Revolut’s $33bn valuation in 2021, when it raised $800m from backers including SoftBank. Revolut declined to comment on the valuation.

Yet it signals an easing of investor concerns about valuations in the sector after a year when multiple start-ups suffered write-downs and share prices among listed companies fell sharply.

Near-zero interest rates caused valuations to balloon as easy access to capital fuelled investments in financial technology businesses. However, investors later grew cold on the sector as rising interest rates weighed on the availability of venture capital funding.

Revolut investor Schroders Capital Innovation Trust has increased its valuation of its stake in the fintech unicorn
Revolut investor Schroders Capital Innovation Trust has increased its valuation of its stake in the fintech unicorn - JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images

02:08 PM BST

US retail sales provide ‘another headache’ for Fed

As US retail sales grew faster than expected, Garry White, chief investment commentator at wealth manager Charles Stanley, said:

The strength of the US consumer has added to the case for the Federal Reserve to delay its interest rate cuts.

The US consumer is the main driver of the economy – and the central bank wants to see a slowdown before it loosens monetary policy.

However, recent data has shown a pick-up in the economy, which has made markets price in fewer rate cuts this year than it previously expected.

He added: “This data appears to provide another headache for the US central bank.”


01:59 PM BST

Fed will wait longer to start cutting interest rates, say economists

The Federal Reserve will wait longer to start cutting interest rates, economists have said, after US retail sales proved more resilient than expected.

The 0.7pc rise in sales between February and March was stronger than the 0.4pc predicted, while the previous month’s growth was revised up from 0.6pc to 0.9pc.

Andrew Hunter, deputy chief US economist at Capital Economics, said:

Although growth over the first quarter as a whole was hit by the weather-related weakness in January, the March gain leaves retail spending growth looking in better shape than the data previously implied.

And although overall real consumption growth still looks to have slowed from the 3.3pc annualised gain seen in the fourth quarter of last year, it was still apparently more than 2.5pc annualised.

Alongside the recent resurgence in employment growth, the continued resilience of consumption is another reason to suspect the Fed will wait longer before starting to cut interest rates, which now we think won’t happen until September.


01:49 PM BST

Lower income US shoppers boosting online retailers

US retail sales increased more than expected in March amid a surge in receipts at online retailers, providing further evidence that the economy ended the first quarter on solid ground.

Retail sales rose 0.7pc last month, the Commerce Department’s Census Bureau said, following news this month of strong employment gains in March.

Despite higher inflation and borrowing costs, spending continues to hold up, confounding predictions of distress among lower-income households, thanks to the resilient jobs market.

The latest Bank of America Credit card data showed lower-income spending continues to outpace higher-income spending.

It has reinforced expectations that the Federal Reserve could delay cutting interest rates this year.


01:37 PM BST

US retail sales grow more than expected

US retail sales grew by more than expected last month in a further sign that the Federal Reserve will delay cuts to interest rates.

Retailers reported a 0.7pc increase in sales in March compared to the previous month, which was ahead of forecasts of 0.4pc.

The previous rise between January and February was also revised up from 0.6pc to 0.9pc, and comes as US inflation remains persistent at 3.5pc.

As a result, markets have pushed back their expectations for the first interest rate cuts by the Fed, pricing in a first reduction from their 23-year highs by November.


01:20 PM BST

Bailey should have quit over handling of mini-Budget, says Truss

Andrew Bailey should have resigned over his handling of the fallout from the mini-Budget, Liz Truss has suggested.

Our politics live blog editor Jack Maidment has the details:

Asked during an interview on LBC if she believed Mr Bailey should still be the Governor of the Bank of England, the former prime minister said: “No, I don’t.

“I certainly think there should be a proper investigation into what happened in September 2022. And the actions the Bank of England took.

“The difficulty is the way that Gordon Brown set up the independence of the Bank of England in the statute books means it’s very hard to move a governor of the Bank of England on, but I think big mistakes have been made with monetary policy.

“I think interest rates were too low for too long. I think quantitative easing has done a lot of damage to our economy.”

Read more in our politics live blog.

Financial markets spiralled in the days following former prime minister Liz Truss's mini-Budget
Financial markets spiralled in the days following former prime minister Liz Truss's mini-Budget - Kent Nishimura/Bloomberg

01:14 PM BST

Record surge in aluminium prices after UK and US block Russian metal trading

Aluminium prices have surged by a record amount after Britain and the US banned the trade of Russian metals to “prevent the Kremlin funnelling more cash into its war machine”.

The price of aluminium at one point jumped by more than 9pc on the London Metal Exchange (LME) today, which was the biggest rise seen since current trading began in 1987.

Nickel prices also leapt higher, climbing more than 8pc at peak.

The surges came after new US and UK sanctions over the weekend prompted the LME to stop trading new aluminium, copper and nickel produced by Russia.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said the ban would “prevent the Kremlin funnelling more cash into its war machine”.

Read on for details.


12:36 PM BST

Goldman Sachs profits jump amid recovery in dealmaking

Goldman Sachs profits rose 28pc in the first three months of the year as it was buoyed by a recovery in debt underwriting and dealmaking that boosted its investment banking unit.

The Wall Street bank’s profits rose to $4.1bn, or $11.58 per share, for the three months ended March 31, compared with $3.2bn, or $8.79 per share, a year ago.

Chief executive David Solomon said: “We continue to execute on our strategy, focusing on our core strengths to serve our clients and deliver for our shareholders.”

Executives at rivals JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup pointed to improving conditions for dealmaking on Friday when the lenders reported profits that beat market expectations.

Goldman Sachs shares rose 3pc in premarket trading in the US. They have climbed about 1pc so far this year compared with a nearly 8pc drop for rival Morgan Stanley.

Goldman Sachs chief executive David Solomon said the Wall Street bank was continuing to 'execute on our strategy'
Goldman Sachs chief executive David Solomon said the Wall Street bank was continuing to 'execute on our strategy' - Kyle Grillot/Bloomberg

12:31 PM BST

BP cuts more than 100 jobs in EV charging business

BP has cut a tenth of its workforce in its electric vehicle charging business as the energy giant shifts back towards its core oil and gas operation.

Chief executive Murray Auchincloss has been pushing the company towards its most-profitable segments amid investor doubts over the switch to net zero.

BP Pulse, which installs electric vehicle charging infrastructure, has since reduced the number of countries it operates in from 12 to four, according to Reuters.

It will now focus on Britain, the US, Germany and China and has cut more than 100 jobs - equivalent to more than 10pc of its global workforce of 900, it was reported.

BP is reducing its electric vehicle charging business
BP is reducing its electric vehicle charging business

12:14 PM BST

Samsung to build chip factories in Texas as Biden offers $6.4bn

The Biden administration has reached an agreement to provide up to $6.4bn (£5.1bn) in direct funding for Samsung to develop a computer chip manufacturing and research cluster in Texas.

The funding announced today by the Commerce Department is part of a total investment in the cluster that, with private money, is expected to exceed $40bn.

The government support comes from the CHIPS and Science Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law in 2022 with the goal of reviving the production of advanced computer chips domestically.

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said:

The proposed project will propel Texas into a state of the art semiconductor ecosystem.

It puts us on track to hit our goal of producing 20pc of the world’s leading edge chips in the United States by the end of the decade.

She expects the project will create at least 17,000 construction jobs and more than 4,500 manufacturing jobs.

Samsung’s cluster in Taylor, Texas, would include two factories that would make four- and two-nanometer chips, the first of which is expected to open in 2026. Also, there would be a factory dedicated to research and development, as well as a facility for the packaging that surrounds chip components.

The Biden administration has reached an agreement to provide up to $6.4bn in direct funding for Samsung Electronics to develop a computer chip manufacturing and research cluster in Texas
The Biden administration has reached an agreement to provide up to $6.4bn in direct funding for Samsung Electronics to develop a computer chip manufacturing and research cluster in Texas - AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

11:55 AM BST

Wall Street poised to open higher

The US stock markets are on track to rise when trading begins later after Wall Street witnessed a bruising sell-off on the back of disappointing earnings from some big banks last week.

All three major indexes fell more than 1pc on Friday, registering weekly losses after results from the likes of JP Morgan failed to impress.

Investors are also cautiously optimistic that there will not be a wider conflict after Iran launched an attack on Israel on Saturday. Iran’s attack, launched using more than 300 missiles and drones, caused only modest damage in Israel.

With the first-quarter earnings season now in full swing, investors will look for numbers from brokerage Charles Schwab and lender Goldman Sachs before the opening bell.

US equities have sold off recently as investors sharply readjusted their expectations of how much the Federal Reserve would cut rates this year. Traders have priced in only 42 basis points of cuts this year, according to LSEG data, down from about 150 bps at the start of the year.

In premarket trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.2pc, the S&P 500 had gained 0.4pc and the Nasdaq 100 was up 0.5pc.


11:28 AM BST

Tesla shares fall amid layoff plans

Tesla shares have fallen in premarket trading despite its latest plans to streamline its operations with thousands of job cuts.

The world’s largest car maker by market value had 140,473 employees globally as of December 2023, according to its latest annual report, meaning at least 14,000 staff are likely to lose their jobs under Elon Musk’s latest plans.

Tesla had previously laid off 4pc of its workforce in New York in February last year as part of a performance review cycle and before a union campaign was to be launched by its employees.

The company has scrapped plans to produce an inexpensive car, abandoning one of Mr Musk’s longstanding goals to make affordable EVs for the masses.

Tesla shares were down 0.3pc in premarket trading on Monday.

Tesla has scrapped plans to make an affordable EV
Tesla has scrapped plans to make an affordable EV - REUTERS/Edgar Su

11:14 AM BST

Elon Musk to cut Tesla workforce by ‘more than 10pc’

Tesla will reportedly lay off 10pc of its global workforce as demand for electric vehicles wanes and amid increased competition from China.

The world’s largest electric car maker will cut around 14,000 roles under the plan. It employs about 140,000 people.

Chief executive Elon Musk announced the “difficult decision” in an internal memo to staff that was leaked to Electrek.

He wrote:

Over the years, we have grown rapidly with multiple factories scaling around the globe. With this rapid growth there has been duplication of roles and job functions in certain areas. As we prepare the company for our next phase of growth, it is extremely important to look at every aspect of the company for cost reductions and increasing productivity.

As part of this effort, we have done a thorough review of the organization and made the difficult decision to reduce our headcount by more than 10% globally. There is nothing I hate more, but it must be done. This will enable us to be lean, innovative and hungry for the next growth phase cycle.

I would like to thank everyone who is departing Tesla for their hard work over the years. I’m deeply grateful for your many contributions to our mission and we wish you well in your future opportunities. It is very difficult to say goodbye.

For those remaining, I would like to thank you in advance for the difficult job that remains ahead. We are developing some of the most revolutionary technologies in auto, energy and artificial intelligence. As we prepare the company for the next phase of growth, your resolve will make a huge difference in getting us there.

Tesla has been contacted for comment. The job cuts come after Tesla revealed its first drop in quarterly car sales in four years during the first three months of 2024.

The company blamed the tough start to the year on teething problems with the production of its updated Model 3 at its Californian factory and “factory shutdowns resulting from shipping diversions caused by the Red Sea conflict and an arson attack at Gigafactory Berlin”.

Its shares have fallen by more than 40pc since July as it has also battled stiff competition from rivals like China’s BYD.

Industry figures this month showed that electric car demand slowed sharply in Britain in a sign that drivers are turning back to petrol.

The market share of battery electric vehicles (EVs) declined last month, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said.

EV registrations rose only 3.8pc from a year earlier, compared with a 10pc advance in the overall car market. Hybrid and petrol-powered cars showed the strongest growth.

Tesla chief executive Elon Musk attended the Breakthrough Prize awards in Los Angeles at the weekend
Tesla chief executive Elon Musk attended the Breakthrough Prize awards in Los Angeles at the weekend - Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

11:00 AM BST

Uniqlo’s £15 ‘banana’ bag drives sales surge after going viral with Gen Z

A “banana” bag that went viral on TikTok has triggered a sales surge at Uniqlo.

Our senior business reporter Daniel Woolfson has the details:

Sales across the Japanese fashion retailer’s UK and European business rose by 36pc to more than €1.3bn (£1.1bn) over the year to 31 August 2023, newly-filed accounts show. Pre-tax profits rose by €77m to €187m.

The company put the increase down to demand from young shoppers, singling out its mini-round shoulder bag as a best seller among this group.

The bag, nicknamed the “banana” thanks to its distinctive shape, captured the imagination of Gen Z and millennials on TikTok in 2022 and 2023.

It went viral after a user posted a video of her unpacking a procession of items from the bag, showcasing how surprisingly roomy it was.

Read how the bag has proved a hit with the high-fashion crowd.

Japanese fashion retailer singles out its mini-round shoulder bag as a best seller among young shoppers
Japanese fashion retailer singles out its mini-round shoulder bag as a best seller among young shoppers - Richard A. Brooks/AFP

10:40 AM BST

Pound rises ahead of US retail sales figures

The pound has risen against the dollar as traders reassess the tensions in the Middle East and prepare for the latest figures indicating the strength of the US economy.

Sterling was up 0.3pc against the greenback at $1.249, has was up 0.1pc against the euro, which is worth just over 85p.

It comes ahead of UK inflation figures later this week while US retail sales data will be published later today.

Susannah Streeter, head of money and markets at Hargreaves Lansdown, said:

There’s now a big rethink taking place about when the Federal Reserve will be confident enough to cut interest rates, with more hopes sliding away from a June date and September being increasingly pencilled in instead.

US retail sales figures out later today will be watched closely for signs of continued consumer resilience.


10:21 AM BST

Wizz Air cancels Israel flights

Low-cost carrier Wizz Air also confirmed it had suspended services yesterday and today but said it expected to resume flights tomorrow.

A spokesman said:

Wizz Air confirms that it cancelled its flights to Tel Aviv on Sunday, 14th April and Monday, 15th April, following the ongoing escalation in the region.

The airline will resume flights as of Tuesday, 16th April, however passengers may experience some schedule changes. The airline is closely monitoring the situation with the relevant authorities and keeping its passengers informed of all schedule changes.

All passengers affected by the schedule changes will be provided with rebooking or refund options.

The safety and security for our passengers, crew, and aircraft remains our number one priority. We hope that normality comes back to the region soon.


10:07 AM BST

Outsourcer Mitie tops FTSE 250 amid record revenues

Outsourcing giant Mitie has revealed record revenues of “at least” £4.5bn for the past year amid continued growth.

Shares in the company were up 7.5pc to the top of the FTSE 250 as it also pointed towards higher profits.

The contractor and facilities manager said revenues jumped by 11pc to record levels for the year to March 31.

Mitie hailed the performance during the final year of its three-year growth strategy as meeting or surpassing all its key targets.

The company said it witnessed “strong” growth in the final quarter and “sustained demand from our clients for transformational projects across their estates”.

It added that higher revenues, combined with efforts to manage cost inflation and improve margins, mean it is on track for operating profits before other items of at least £200m.

This would represent an increase of at least 23pc on the previous year, when it reported £162m.


09:48 AM BST

EasyJet cancels flights to Israel amid rising Middle East tensions

EasyJet has cancelled flights to Israel in the wake of Iran’s unprecedented attack at the weekend.

The airline had restarted flights to Tel Aviv last month after pausing travel following the October 7 attacks by Hamas last year.

It has suspended operations to and from the airport until April 21 following Iran’s first ever military assault on Israel on Saturday.

A spokesman for the airline said:

Customers on affected flights have been contacted directly via SMS and email via the details provided at the time of booking.

The safety and security of our passengers and crew is always easyJet’s highest priority.

EasyJet’s shares were among the top gainers on the FTSE 100 today following a sharp sell-off last week.

There had been concerns that conflict in the Middle East could increase the cost of fuel.

However, oil prices have declined amid signs that the attacks will not escalate into a wider conflict, with Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron and US President Joe Biden urging Israel to “take the win” after it intercepted 99pc of Iran’s drones and missiles.

Meanwhile, British Airways is continuing to run flights to Israel, which are already on a reduced schedule of three flights per day since April 1, compared to four previously.

EasyJet has cancelled flights to Tel Aviv until April 21
EasyJet has cancelled flights to Tel Aviv until April 21 - REUTERS/Paul Childs

09:38 AM BST

Apple loses status as world’s largest smartphone maker

Apple has lost its status as the world’s largest phone maker as iPhone sales fell by 10pc.

The company shipped 50.1m devices in the first three months of the year, down from 55.4m units it shipped in the same period last year, according to preliminary figures from IDC.

It meant Samsung retook the top spot for handset sales during the quarter, securing a 20.8pc market share, ahead of Apple’s 17.3pc as Chinese brands such as Huawei gained ground.

Global smartphone shipments increased 7.8pc to 289.4m units in the three months to March.

South Korea’s Samsung, which launched its latest flagship smartphone lineup - Galaxy S24 series - in the beginning of the year, shipped more than 60m phones during the period.

Apple, led by Tim Cook, has lost its status as the world's largest phone maker
Apple, led by Tim Cook, has lost its status as the world's largest phone maker - Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

09:19 AM BST

Gas prices fall as Middle East conflict appears contained

Wholesale gas prices have dropped amid hopes that Iran’s attack on Israel last week would not escalate into a wider conflict.

Europe’s benchmark contract fell as much as 3.2pc after recording its biggest weekly increase since October as tensions grew in the Middle East.

Jefferies chief Europe economist Mohit Kumar said:

The events of the weekend highlight that geopolitical uncertainty remains very much a key risk factor for markets.

Iran’s attack over the weekend was well telegraphed, meant to be intercepted, aimed at military rather than civilians and meant more as a signal rather than to result in causalities.

For now, it provides a way for Iran to claim retaliation and Israel to not escalate further given limited damage.

Dutch front-month futures, Europe’s benchmark, were last down 1.8pc to a little over €30 per megawatt hour. The UK equivalent fell 1.7pc.


09:09 AM BST

Cameron: Israel should ‘take the win’

Lord David Cameron echoed US President Joe Biden’s comment that Israel should see the successful defence against Iran’s drones and missiles as a victory.

The Foreign Secretary told Times Radio: “The best thing to do in the case of Israel is to recognise this has been a failure for Iran.

“And so they should, as President Biden has said to them, as it were, take the win and then move on to focus on how to eradicate Hamas in Gaza and how to get those hostages free.”

He also said: “Israeli people this morning are thinking ‘we’ve suffered this massive attack. Of course, we want our government to respond’.

“And that’s why I think we have to be sensitive in the way we put this, but to say ‘look, you have had a win because the Iran attack was such a failure and the smart thing to do as well as the tough thing to do now is actually not to escalate’.”


08:58 AM BST

Cameron: UK to ‘absolutely’ consider more sanctions on Iran

Rishi Sunak will address the developments in the Middle East in the Commons, Lord David Cameron confirmed as he said the UK would “absolutely” consider further sanctions on Iran in response to its attack on Israel.

Asked whether the Government would impose more sanctions on Tehran, as Labour has called for, the Foreign Secretary told BBC Breakfast:

Absolutely. We already have 400 sanctions on Iran. We put in place a whole new sanctions regime at the end of last year, which is proving very effective. We’ve sanctioned the IRGC - the Iranian Revolutionary Guard - in its entirety. And we’ll continue to look at what further steps we can do.

I think there is an opportunity, and I’m sure the Prime Minister will talk about this in his statement to the House of Commons, to try and work very closely with our partners in the G7. All these things are more effective if countries can act together.

I think Britain in many ways has been at the sort of sharp end, has been the most keen on sanctions and on pressure and on turning up the heat, recognising... that Iran is the malign actor in the region, but it’s best if we can do these things together.

Lord Cameron arriving for media interviews in Westminster
Lord Cameron arriving for media interviews in Westminster - Jeremy Selwyn/SelwynPics

08:44 AM BST

Global markets fall after Iran attacks on Israel

The FTSE 100 is by no means an outlier in falling today after Iran launched a barrage of missiles and drones at Israel over the weekend.

Tokyo, Hong Kong, Seoul, Sydney, Wellington, Singapore, Mumbai, Taipei and Manila were all in the red.

However, Frankfurt and Paris rose while US markets are on course to make gains when trading begins later.

XTB analyst Kathleen Brooks said:

When Iran launched drone and military attacks on Israel... it was the culmination of a build-up of tensions over a number of weeks.

The market was deeply concerned about the scale of this attack and whether it would lead to a wider escalation of war in the Middle East.

At the start of a new week, that uncertainty has disappeared, there was minimal damage from the strikes and there were no fatalities.


08:30 AM BST

FTSE 100 falls amid risk of Iran-Israel conflict

The FTSE 100 opened on a lower note as investors treaded cautiously amid the escalating tensions in the Middle East.

The resource-heavy index has declined by 0.4pc, while the mid-cap FTSE 250 was down 0.2pc.

Precious metal miners led losses, sliding 2.9pc, while heavyweight oil and gas shares dipped as much as 2pc amid falling crude prices.

Traders are also waiting to see figures on US retail sales for March due later today, while UK inflation and retail sales data is due later in the week.

Shares in PageGroup shed as much as 6.4pc after the recruiter reported a nearly 13pc fall in group gross profit in the first quarter.

Ashmore lost 4pc after the fund manager said its assets under management dropped in the first quarter.


08:20 AM BST

PageGroup cuts more jobs amid global slowdown in recruitment

In corporate news, recruiter PageGroup has revealed further trading woes and more job cuts as the global hiring market remained under pressure at the start of 2024.

The group reported gross profit down 12.8pc in the first three months of the year, with March recording an 18pc slide, which comes after a fall of 8.9pc in the fourth quarter of 2023.

PageGroup shares dropped by 5.7pc in early trading after it said it reduced its fee-earner workforce by another 1.7pc, or 100 roles, over the first quarter.

The firm said it now intends to hold its fee earner headcount “broadly at existing levels”, having trimmed the workforce by more than 1,000 last year.

The group said it saw a “slight deterioration” in job flow towards the end of the first quarter, with job seekers more wary of accepting offers and firms putting off recruitment decisions against an uncertain economic backdrop.

In the UK, it posted a 19.2pc plunge in gross profit to £27.1m, following a decline of 19.9pc in the final three months of 2023.

Nicholas Kirk, chief executive of PageGroup, said: “The slower end to the fourth quarter of 2023 continued into the first quarter of 2024, particularly within Continental Europe.

“Overall, activity levels remain strong, however we experienced a slight deterioration in job flow towards the end of the quarter.”


08:05 AM BST

FTSE 100 falls amid Middle East crisis

UK markets have fallen at the start of trading following the attack by Iran on Israel over the weekend.

The FTSE 100 dropped 0.1pc to 7,990.56 while the midcap FTSE 250 has slumped 0.3pc to 19,722.46.


08:03 AM BST

Dollar gains as Asian investors seek safe haven

In currency trading, the US dollar has risen to a fresh 34-year high against the Japanese yen in the wake of the tensions in the Middle East.

The dollar is worth 153.81 yen, up from 153.07 yen as investors shifted toward the traditional currency of refuge.

However, the pound has gained 0.2pc against the dollar in early trading to $1.247. Sterling is up 0.6pc against the yen at 191.92 and up 0.1pc against the euro, which is worth 85p.


07:47 AM BST

Oil market already reflects risk to supply, says Goldman Sachs

Goldman Sachs thinks the heightened tensions in the Middle East have already been priced into global markets, limiting the price of oil despite Iran’s attack on Israel at the weekend.

However, analyst Daan Struyven wrote in a note to clients that Israel’s response would be key to what happens next. He said:

We estimate that oil prices already reflect a $5-to-$10-a-barrel risk premium from downside risks to supply.

The potential Israeli response to Iran’s attack is highly uncertain and will likely determine the extent of threat to regional oil supply.

He added that Iranian crude production has risen by more than 20pc over the past two years to 3.4m barrels a day, or about 3.3pc of global supply.

“If the market were to price a higher probability of reduced Iran supply, then this could contribute to a higher geopolitical risk premium,” he added.


07:37 AM BST

Oil prices could hit $100 if Israel-Iran conflict escalates, warns City

Oil prices could surge above $100 a barrel - a level which could raise petrol prices for drivers - if the conflict between Israel and Iran escalates, City analysts have warned.

Brent crude, the international benchmark, has slipped below $90, having initially risen to $91.05 a barrel after Tehran launched drone strikes late on Saturday.

Oil prices climbed close to six-week highs last week as markets prepared for a potential retaliation by Iran to a suspected Israeli strike on its embassy in Syria earlier this month.

Analysts at Citi warned that its base case for the near future is for tensions to remain “extremely high” in the Middle East.

Analyst Max Layton wrote in a note to clients: “What is not priced into the current market, in our view, is a potential continuation of a direct conflict between Iran and Israel, which we estimate could see oil prices trade up to +$100/bbl, depending on the nature of the events.”

A rise in prices to more than $100 a barrel would risk raising petrol prices for drivers.

RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said: “If the price of oil was to reach $95 a barrel, we could see petrol at the pump go back up to 150p a litre which would be bad news for hard-pressed drivers.”


07:28 AM BST

Japan stocks slump amid Middle East tensions

Tokyo stocks closed lower after Iran’s unprecedented missile and drone strikes on Israel raised fears of wider conflict in the region.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index fell 0.7pc, or 290.75 points, to end at 39,232.80, while the broader Topix index gave up 0.2pc, or 6.44 points, to 2,753.20.


07:26 AM BST

Inchcape to sell UK car dealerships to US rival

In corporate news, car dealership firm Inchcape is to sell its UK retail operations for around £346m.

The company said it has sealed a deal to sell the operation, which employs 3,600 people across more than 80 sites, to US-based rival Group 1 Automotive.

It comes after London-listed Inchcape said it was reviewing options for the UK business, including a possible sale, after “approaches from a number of interested parties”.

Duncan Tait, group chief executive of Inchcape, said:

With our active international expansion into higher value distribution activities, the strategic importance of the UK retail operations has become limited.

The board has therefore concluded it is the right time for a new owner to take this business forward.


07:21 AM BST

Gold near record high after Iran attack on Israel

Gold prices rose as traders sought safe havens after Iran’s retaliatory attack on Israel stoked fears of a wider conflict in the Middle East.

The flight to safety sent gold up more than 0.5pc to $2,356.39 an ounce, close to its record high of $2,369.32.


07:17 AM BST

Cameron: It’s right for Israel not to escalate

Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron said “it is right for Israel not to escalate” after Iran’s unprecedented attack on Israel.

He told Times Radio:

Israel has every right to respond as an independent sovereign country being attacked in this way.

But I think we’re very anxious to avoid escalation and to say to our friends in Israel it’s a time to think with with head as well as heart.

And in many ways this is a double defeat for Iran. Not only was their attack an almost total failure, but also the rest of the world can now see what a malign influence they are in the region and understand their true nature.

And so I think it is right for Israel not to escalate, but obviously they’re a sovereign, independent country and they’ll make their own decisions.


07:15 AM BST

Oil falls despite rising tensions in the Middle East

Oil prices have fallen despite the increasing tensions in the Middle East following Iran’s unprecedented attack on Israel.

Brent crude, the international benchmark, has slipped 39 cents but remains above $90, having initially risen to $91.05 a barrel after Tehran launched drone strikes late on Saturday.

Oil prices climbed close to six-week highs last week as markets prepared for a potential retaliation by Iran to a suspected Israeli strike on its embassy in Syria earlier this month.

The attack over the weekend marked the first time Iran had ever launched a military assault on Israel, despite decades of enmity dating back to the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Stephen Innes, managing partner at SPI Asset Management, said: “While the drone attack has grabbed headlines, its immediate impact on global markets, particularly oil prices and inflation concerns, may be subdued.

“The precision and limited lethal impact of Iran’s response suggest a strategic approach aimed at minimising damage rather than escalating tensions.”

The limited reaction of oil prices to Iran’s assault comes as markets had a little over a week to adjust to the potential for rising tensions in the Middle East - and amid diplomatic efforts to avoid a wider conflict.

Iran said its attacks were in response to a suspected Israeli strike on its Syrian embassy which took place on April 1.

US President Joe Biden was reported to have cautioned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “take the win” and forego a counterattack.

Experts said the limited scope of the attack showed Iran was seeking to make a show of strength with its attack, but without sparking a conflict.

Hebe Chen, an analyst at IG Markets, said:

The muted market response likely stems from the highly intricate sentiment in the market at this stage.

Market participants are certainly not giving up hope that the past weekend’s events were just a one-off occurrence, while holding their breath for what could happen next.

Helima Croft at RBC Capital Markets said: “This war may move down the escalation ladder if the Israeli government follows the advice of the White House and forgoes retaliatory action.”


07:07 AM BST

Good morning

Thanks for joining me. Oil prices have fallen despite Iran ramping up Middle East tensions by launching a barrage of missiles and drones at Israel over the weekend, fuelling fears of a wider conflict in the volatile region.

While Israel called the attack an escalation of hostilities, analysts said there was hope among traders that the crisis could be contained.

That sliver of optimism helped drag oil prices lower.

5 things to start your day

1) Drivers face petrol price rise as Middle East crisis deepens | Cost at the pump could jump to £1.50 a litre within weeks, warns RAC

2) Benefits system ‘not designed’ for Britain’s 2.3m long-term sick | Reforms announced by Tories will not go far enough, warns Resolution Foundation

3) BAE pushes to delay Royal Navy frigate to prioritise Norway deal | Bid to sell submarine-hunting warships to Norway hinges on Royal Navy accepting delays

4) More than half of heat pump grant cash still unclaimed | Increase in funding to £7,500 per household fails to spark uptake

5) The coming days are critical for Britain’s economic fortunes | Bank of England doesn’t always follow in the Fed’s footsteps, writes Roger Bootle

What happened overnight

Asian stocks tumbled overnight after Iran ramped up Middle East tensions by launching a barrage of rockets at Israel over the weekend, fuelling fears of a wider conflict in the volatile region.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 slipped 1pc in morning trading to 39,114.19.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 dipped 0.6pc to 7,743.80. South Korea’s Kospi dropped 1.1pc to 2,653.06.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dropped 0.5pc to 16,633.37, while the Shanghai Composite gained 1.4pc to 3,062.73.

Elsewhere in Asia, Taiwan’s Taiex was 1pc lower and the Sensex in India fell 1pc as the country geared up for lengthy national election process.