(Alliance News) – Supermarket chain Tesco on Thursday reported a “strong start” to its financial year, with softness in Central Europe offset by stronger showings from Asian operations and wholesaler Booker, as well as a bumper Easter in the UK. Total group sales excluding VAT and fuel were up 0.4% at constant exchange rates to GBP13.98 billion in the 13 weeks to May 25, rising 0.2% on a like-for-like basis. At actual exchange rates, sales were up 0.4%. Tesco’s total sales in the UK and Ireland were up 1.3% at constant exchange rates to GBP11.17 billion, up 0.8% on a like-for-like basis, and 1.2% higher at actual currency rates. Tesco said it delivered a robust Easter performance across all formats, including the “biggest-ever” sales day for its small stores on Easter Sunday. “We have had a strong start to the year, growing ahead of the UK market on both a volume and value basis,” said Chief Executive Dave Lewis. Here is what you need to know at the London market open: ———- MARKETS ———- FTSE 100: down 0.2%, at 7,352.19 ———- Hang Seng: down 0.8% at 27,091.00 Nikkei 225: closed down 0.5% at 21,032.00 DJIA: closed down 43.68 points, 0.2%, at 26,004.83 S&P 500: closed down 0.2% at 2,879.84 ———- GBP: down at USD1.2682 (USD1.2727) EUR: down at USD1.1299 (USD1.1320) Gold: firm at USD1,337.40 per ounce (USD1,334.28) Oil (Brent): p at USD61.82 a barrel (USD60.85) (changes since previous London equities close) ———- ECONOMICS AND GENERAL ———- Thursday’s Key Economic Events still to come 0930 BST UK retail sales 1600 CEST EU FCCI flash consumer confidence indicator 0830 EDT US weekly initial jobless claims 0945 EDT US Bloomberg consumer comfort index 1030 EDT US EIA weekly natural gas storage report 0830 EDT US Philadelphia Fed business outlook survey 1630 EDT US money stock measures 1630 EDT US foreign central bank holdings 1630 EDT US Federal Discount Window borrowings ———- US President Donald Trump said he will meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit later this month and also confirmed he will have talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Japan to discuss trade. “I have a feeling we are going to make a deal with China,” Trump said on Wednesday at the White House, but also cautioned: “I’d like to make a deal but we will see what happens.” Trump has accused China of reneging on agreements that were reached between the sides and indicated he is not willing to open up again issues that he believed were settled. Speaking in the Rose Garden of the White House, Trump said the sides had agreed on opening China for foreign businesses and handling issues around intellectual property theft. ———- The race to become the next UK prime minister is set to narrow as Conservative members of Parliament hold the first ballot of the contest following a week of leadership pitches. Frontrunner Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Sajid Javid were the final two of the 10 candidates to launch their campaigns, as the battle for Number 10 intensifies. Leadership hopefuls need at least 17 votes in the secret ballot to go through to the second round, with anyone below the threshold automatically eliminated. But even if all the candidates meet the target, the one with the lowest number of votes overall will still have to exit the race. Johnson launched his bid with a warning to MPs that they will “reap the whirlwind” if they try to thwart Brexit – and said it was essential that Britain was out of the EU by the end of October. Thursday’s ballot is due to take place between 10am and 12pm London time, with the result due to be announced at 1pm. ———- UK members of Parliament opposed to a no-deal Brexit have failed in their latest attempt to seize control of parliamentary business in a bid to stop the next prime minister taking Britain out of the EU without a deal with Brussels. The Commons voted Wednesday by 309 to 298 to defeat a cross-party motion which would have given MPs control of the business of the House on June 25. For Labour, shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said the move would have enabled MPs to prevent the next prime minister leaving without a deal. Labour sources made clear they would try to find other parliamentary routes. ———- The UK housing market is showing signs of stabilising following the Brexit deadline being pushed back to October, according to surveyors. For the first time since July 2018, property professionals have not reported that demand from buyers is declining, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said. It said: “The outright declines in the interest of new buyers in purchasing a home showed signs of stabilising May, in the wake of decision to extend the deadline for withdrawal from the EU till the end of October.” ———- Eurozone finance ministers are due Thursday to seek agreement on a fledgling eurozone budget at talks in Luxembourg, but must resolve differences on the financing and approximate size of such a fund, according to a senior EU official. The idea of a eurozone budget has been around for several years, with French President Emmanuel Macron pitching the notion of a standalone multi-billion-euro fund which was subsequently whittled down into a more modest Franco-German proposal. As it stands, the budget for the eurozone – which currently has 19 members – would be anchored in the financial spending framework for the entire 28-country EU, restricting the amount of money available. ———- BROKER RATING CHANGES ———- GOLDMAN RESUMES BARRATT DEVELOPMENTS WITH ‘SELL’ – TARGET 513 PENCE ———- GOLDMAN RESUMES BERKELEY GROUP WITH ‘NEUTRAL’ – TARGET 3953 PENCE ———- GOLDMAN RESUMES TAYLOR WIMPEY WITH ‘BUY’ – TARGET 179 PENCE ———- GOLDMAN RESUMES PERSIMMON WITH ‘BUY’ – TARGET 2563 PENCE ———- BARCLAYS CUTS BREEDON TO ‘EQUAL WEIGHT’ (‘OVERWEIGHT’) – TARGET 75 (86) PENCE ———- COMPANIES – FTSE 100 ———- Wm Morrison Supermarkets said it is expanding the ‘Morrisons at Amazon’ store on Prime Now to more cities in the UK. The grocery delivery service is currently available in Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and London, and will be rolled out to other cities – including Glasgow, Newcastle, Liverpool, Sheffield and Portsmouth in 2019, and then is expected to further expand in future years. This move will see Morrisons becoming a retailer on Amazon’s Prime Now website and app, through ‘Morrisons at Amazon’, and selling directly to customers. ———- Paper and packaging firm DS Smith reported double-digit growth in both revenue and profit for its recently-ended financial year. Revenue for the year to April 30 was up 12% to GBP6.17 billion, with pretax profit boosted 35% to GBP350 million. This lead to the firm raising its payout 13% to 16.2p. Irish broker Davy did note, however, that DS Smith’s operating profit of GBP631 million was slightly below its forecast of GBP643 million and consensus of GBP644 million. DS Smith recorded a return on sales margin of 10.2%, above its target of 8% to 10%. Following this strong performance, the company raised its medium-term return on sales target to between 10% to 12%. ———- Vodafone Group said its German subsidiary has acquired “important” wireless spectrum for delivering next-generation 5G mobile data services in the country, spending EUR1.88 billion. Following a Federal Network Agency auction, Vodafone Germany secured 90 megahertz of spectrum in the 3.6 gigahertz band for EUR1.07 billion which will be available until 2040. The telecoms firm also secured a further 40 megahertz in the 2,100 megaghertz spectrum until 2040 for EUR806.5 million of which 30 megahertz would be available from 2021 and the remainder from 2026. ———- Miner and commodities trader Glencore has put its oil assets in Chad up for sale, Reuters reported. Glencore’s main producing fields in the central African country are Mangara and Badila, contributing over half of its net oil production. Glencore began the sales process less than a month ago and has provided drilling and seismic data to potential bidders, Reuters added. ———- COMPANIES – FTSE 250 ———- Consumer products maker PZ Cussons announced the departure of its chief financial officer as it said annual profit is expected in line with prior forecasts. CFO Brandon Leigh has stepped down from the board immediately, the company said, with Commercial Finance Director Alan Bergin to assume his responsibilities until a replacement is found. Separately, the Imperial Leather soap maker said it expects pretax profit before exceptional items for the year ended May 31 to be around GBP70 million. “The expected outturn for the year reflects a resilient performance in Europe and Asia driven by product innovation and renovation as well as distribution expansion, and with the Group’s beauty division performing particularly well,” said PZ Cussons. This performance in Europe and Asia has been as operations in Africa continued to be “disappointing” due to the macro economic situation in Nigeria and challenging conditions at the port. ———- COMPANIES – OTHER MAIN MARKET AND AIM ———- Majestic Wine reported a swing to annual loss as it stepped up investment in its Naked Wines offering, and separately said it has made some board changes as it eyes expansion. Revenue for the year to April 1 grew 6.3% to GBP506.1 million, but the group swung to a loss of GBP8.5 million from a GBP8.3 million profit the year before. The swing to loss was as a result of investment in the firm’s Naked Wines offering, weaker Retail trading and a non-cash impairment charge relating to the Retail store estate of GBP11.1million. Naked Wines, to which the company intends to shift its focus, delivered underlying sales growth of 15% in the year. The company said it is in advanced discussions over the possible sale of Majestic Retail & Commercial, talks which are expected to be finalised in the summer. The wine retailer suspended its final dividend, having paid out 5.2p the year prior, but said it will replace this with a special dividend equal to last year’s payout if the sale of Majestic goes through. Greg Hodder will step down as chair as the conclusion of August’s annual general meeting, to be replaced by John Walden. In addition, president of the US Naked Wines division, Nicholas Devlin, will take up the role of group chief operating officer while retaining his divisional head role. ———- Philip Green has rejected suggestions that his Arcadia retail empire came close to collapse before a restructuring plan was clinched with regulators and landlords. The Topshop billionaire suggested the company voluntary arrangements had comfortably cleared a vote by landlords and creditors on Wednesday, following speculation that the decision had been on a “knife-edge”. The vote gave the go-ahead for the closure of 23 stores, putting 1,000 jobs at risk, while another 25 will be shuttered as part of a wider restructuring. Landlords, including Intu Properties , will receive smaller amounts of rent on certain properties, with some reduced to half the original price. ———- COMPANIES – INTERNATIONAL ———- French car-maker Renault Chair Jean-Dominique Senard said that the company’s priority is more than ever to ensure sustainability of the alliance with Nissan Motor and to continue to improve its performance, after a proposed merger with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles failed last week. “Today, the alliance is making a fresh start. There can be no success for Renault without the success of the alliance,” Senard said during the company’s shareholder meeting. It was Renault’s first AGM since the arrest last November of former chief executive Carlos Ghosn, who built up the alliance between Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi. Senard defended his attempt to merge French car-maker with Fiat Chrysler, and criticized the French government for not supporting the merger. Last week, Fiat Chrysler withdrew its proposal to merge with Renault saying that political conditions in France did not support the proposal. ———- Thursday’s Shareholder Meetings Tesco WM Morrison Supermarkets Sirius Minerals Just Group Union Jack Oil Dignity JPJ Group Petropavlovsk Concepta Acacia Mining ———- By Tom Waite; email@example.com London Briefing is available to subscribers as an email newsletter. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2019 Alliance News Limited. All Rights Reserved.