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What to Watch: UK GDP, Just Eat takeover battle, and Greggs soars

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
Chancellor Sajid Javid welcomed GDP growth. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Images via Getty Images

Here are the top business, market, and economic stories you should be watching today in the UK, Europe, and abroad:

UK avoids recession but ‘nothing to celebrate’

The UK economy avoided sliding into recession in the third quarter, but official figures show annual growth has dropped to its lowest pace in almost a decade.

New estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show British GDP rose 0.3% in Q3 from July to September, after a 0.2% decline in the previous quarter.

Chancellor Sajid Javid welcomed “solid” growth, but business leaders warned it was “nothing to celebrate.”

The quarterly figure of 0.3% came in lower than expected by the Bank of England, Barclays and a Reuters poll of economists, who had forecast 0.4% growth. The National Institute of Economic and Social Research had expected even higher growth at 0.5%.

Greggs says profits will beat expectations

Shares in Greggs (GRG.L) were up 15% in morning trading in London after it said profits would be higher than previously expected, fuelled by sales of vegan sausage rolls and other new initiatives.

Healthier food options, savvy publicity, eat-in stores and late-night opening trials have helped Greggs shrug off the troubles of many other well-known high street chains.

The company said on Monday like-for-like sales were up 8.3% in the six weeks to 9 November in its company-managed branches, and total sales were up 12.4%.

It said in a trading statement full-year pre-tax profits would be higher than stated previously.

Just Eat faces hostile takeover battle

Prosus (PRX.AS), the European arm of South African technology investment firm Naspers, on Monday forged ahead with its hostile £4.9bn takeover of online delivery giant Just Eat (JE.L).

Prosus, which is Europe’s largest consumer internet company, published the full terms of its all-cash offer for the company, arguing that it had made an “attractive and fair” offer that would offer shareholders “certainty”.

The offer clashes with the proposed all-share merger of Just Eat and the Dutch — a tie-up that both companies have argued creates more value for shareholders.

In July, the London-based Just Eat said that it had agreed to merge with, creating a European food delivery giant with roughly 360m global takeaway orders.

But the plan has been thrown into a spin by the Prosus offer.

Hong Kong unrest hits Asian markets

Escalating tensions in Hong Kong sent Asian stocks towards their worst day since August, according to Reuters.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index (^HSI) fell 2.6% overnight after police shot and wounded a protester in the latest protests after months of continued unrest.

China’s Shanghai Composite index (000001.SS) sank by 1.8%, while Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) was 0.3% lower.

An MSCI index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan slid 1.2% from six-month highs.

Meanwhile in Europe, Britain’s FTSE (FTSE) fell 0.7%, potentially dragged down by sluggish GDP growth and a credit downgrade for the UK over the two main political parties’ major spending pledges.

The German DAX (^GDAXI) was down almost 0.4% and the Euro Stoxx 50 (^STOXX50E) slid 0.2% but the French CAC 40 (^FCHI) was flat.

What to expect in the US

The downbeat mood appears set to hit markets in the US, with the Dow Jones futures (YM=F) and S&P 500 futures (ES=F) Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) all trading 0.4% lower.