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Berkeley cans investing in new developments, Grafton extends share buyback

By Josh White

Date: Friday 08 Dec 2023

(Sharecast News) - London open

The FTSE 100 is expected to open 13 points higher on Friday, having closed down 0.02% on Thursday at 7,513.72.
Stocks to watch

UK housebuilder Berkeley Group has decided to not invest in any new developments due to the adverse planning and regulatory environment, and instead focus on "financial strength" following a rise in profits in the first half. Pre-tax profit in the six months to 31 October increased by 4.6% to £298m, as operating margins held steady at 19.5%. However, the value of reservations during the period dropped by a third due to the impact of elevated interest rates and ongoing "elevated political and macro volatility", the company said.

Building materials distributor Grafton Group has extended its share buyback programme to 31 May 2024, it said on Friday, having initially set it to expire on 31 January. The FTSE 250 company announced an increase in the maximum total consideration for the programme of £50m too, resulting in a total maximum consideration of £100m. It said the programme's purpose was to reduce the company's share capital, under terms first set out at the end of August.

Newspaper round-up

Rishi Sunak's "spiteful" new anti-strike laws have created a "galvanising moment" for the UK's trade union movement, the TUC general secretary has said. Speaking before a special congress of union leaders on Saturday about how to respond to the Strikes Act, Paul Nowak promised the TUC would throw its weight behind any worker hit by the new law. - Guardian

Britain's largest recruiters have warned the Bank of England that demand for permanent hiring among UK businesses has plunged at the second fastest rate since the pandemic, amid worsening headwinds for the UK economy. Ahead of the central bank's decision on interest rates on 14 December, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) trade body said lingering economic uncertainty and hesitancy to commit to new hires had weighed on activity in November. - Guardian

Sir Rocco Forte is planning a trip to Saudi Arabia next year to scout for hotel locations. The tycoon, whose £1.2bn group includes Brown's Hotel in Mayfair and the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh, is eyeing a Middle Eastern expansion after inking a deal with Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund. Under the tie-up, the Public Investment Fund (PIF) is taking a 49pc stake in Rocco Forte Hotels, with Sir Rocco and his sister Olga Polizzi retaining the other 51pc. - Telegraph

The Financial Conduct Authority took more than three years to crack down on illegal crypto kiosks in Britain, according to an official report that raises concerns about the sluggish response of the regulator to new financial threats. The National Audit Office said "there can be a significant delay between the FCA identifying an issue and it taking action" and pointed to the failure to act quickly on so-called crypto automated teller machines as an example. - The Times

The billionaire hedge fund tycoon Sir Chris Hohn has awarded himself a £275 million dividend despite a near halving of annual profits at his investment firm. The $346 million payout from his TCI Fund Management Limited business follows a record $689.6 million dividend distributed by the group a year earlier, which was the biggest ever enjoyed by an individual based in the UK. While this year's payout is significantly lower after volatile markets knocked TCI's investment performance, Hohn nevertheless remains in the top ranks of Britain's best-paid business figures. - The Times

US close

Wall Street stocks closed higher on Thursday, with the market finding optimism in fresh labour market indicators, fueling expectations of a potential interest rate cut from the Federal Reserve.

At the close, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.17% at 36,117.38 points, while the broader S&P 500 index rose 0.8% to settle at 4,585.59.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite posted even stronger gains, jumping 1.37% to finish at 14,339.99.

In currency markets, the dollar was last 0.06% stronger on sterling, trading at 79.45p, while it edged up 0.01% against the euro to 92.65 euro cents.

Meanwhile, the greenback held steady on the yen, trading at JPY 144.13.

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