Uber denied licence to operate in London

Uber
TfL says 14,000 Uber journeys were carried out by unauthorised drivers Credit: Henry Nicholls/REUTERS

Wrap-up: Europe markets close in the green again

Well, say what you want about whether traders are getting a little too excited whenever the trade war news is better than bad – the gains still count.

Credit: Bloomberg TV

The FTSE 100 was once again a standout today, despite a rising pound, as investors cling onto hopes that a solid Conservative majority could be on the cards – meaning short-term certainty.

Longer term, of course, things remain as doubtful as ever, and Boris Johnson’s commitment to a narrow negotiating window means fears of a cliff edge will be, at best, postponed if the Tories take a win next month.

That’s all from me today – thank you for following along, and to everyone who commented. I’ll be back tomorrow with the latest news on business, economics, markets and finance!

Uber alerts customers they can still use app

Looks like Uber isn’t taking any chances with people who might think it has already stopped operating. Here’s a push alert its users in London just recieved: 

Full report: Viagogo swoops for StubHub

My colleague James Cook has a full report on Viagogo’s acquisition of StubHub. He writes:

Viagogo, the ticket reseller condemned by MPs for its misleading sales practices, is buying rival site StubHub from its owner eBay for $4bn (£3bn).

The auction site paid $310m for the ticket business in 2007 and it has become the largest ticket reseller in the US, with revenues of about $1.1bn last year.

Eric Baker, chief executive of Viagogo, co-founded StubHub while still in business school but left before it was sold.

“It has long been my wish to unite the two companies,” he said on Monday and claimed that the deal will give customers “more choice and better pricing”.

The combined companies will sell hundreds of thousands of tickets a day in more than 70 countries.

Read more: StubHub is just the ticket for Viagogo after $4bn swoop

Sports Direct: We want to be called Frasers Group

Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley Credit:  John Nguyen/JNVisuals

Slightly odd one as we approach the close: Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct International has said it wants to be called Frasers Group instead.

The company says the proposed rebrand:

...reflects the fact that this new, elevated concept will house the core areas of focus for the wider business – iconic brands, beauty, sports and luxury fashion

The change will take effect after the company’s shareholders’ meeting on December 16. Given Mr Ashley is the majority shareholder, presumably it will pass without difficulty.

It echoes the name of Frasers, a new store concept by the company that combines products from Sports Direct, House of Fraser and Flannels.

Global trade drops

New figures from the CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis show world trade contracted sharply in September, falling 1.3pc compared to the month before.

That reverses gains made of August and July, and dashing hopes the worst trade disruption has already passed.

 US and Chinese important volumes both fell, putting the biggest drag on the index.

Poland repatriates 100 tones of gold from Bank of England

Interesting yarn from Bloomberg:

Poland brought about 100 tons of gold home from the Bank of England in a bid to demonstrate the strength of nation’s $586bn economy, central bank Governor Adam Glapinski said.

The institution bought about 126 tons in 2018 and 2019 to increase its gold reserves to 228.6 tons.

As a result, the country has become the 22nd-biggest bullion holder in the world and has the biggest reserves of the metal in the European Union’s east, the central bank said. Glapinski said the central bank will keep bringing the precious metal home if the “reserve situation is favorable.”

“The gold symbolizes the strength of the country,” Glapinski told reporters on Monday. Poland could generate “multi-billion” profits if it sold its holdings but has no plans to do so, he said.

Pound leaps after poll puts Johnson on course for 80-seat majority

The pound is surging against all other major rival currencies, after a new poll put Boris Johnson on track for a major victory in next month’s General Election. 

Our politics team reports:

Boris Johnson’s Tories have established their biggest lead over Labour for two years, according to a monthly poll of polls that puts them on course for a majority of 80 seats.

It shows the Tories with the same 13 per cent lead that Theresa May had at the same point in the 2017 campaign with two and a half weeks to go - before her bungled manifesto launch led to a collapse in her support to just two per cent by election day.

The monthly poll of polls shows November was the best month the Tories have had since the last election with the Tories on 43 per cent against Labour’s 29.9 per cent. 

Here’s a reminder of how much Uber’s share price has already struggled since it floated earlier this year

Wall Street rises 

Markets in the US have joined the rally, with the Nasdaq up 0.9pc. 

Credit: Bloomberg TV

It has been a volatile open for Uber, which is about 1pc down currently, but jumping around a lot in the –1pc  to –3pc range

EBay to sell Stubhub to Viagogo

More M&A news: ecommerce giant eBay will sell its ticketing unit, StubHub, to Viagogo for $4.05bn, the companies have said.

The deal is expected to close by the end of the first quarter of next year.

EBay bought Stubhub – a top platform for buying and selling tickets – for $310m in 2007. Viagogo is a rival in the ticket-sales space, but Stubhub is focused on the US while Swiss-based Viagogo is more internationally-focused.

Stubhub was co-founded by Eric Baker, who is now Viagogo’s chief executive.

Charles Schwab to buy rival in $26bn deal

The deal between Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade is valued at $26bn Credit:  Paul Sakuma/AP

US broking giant Charles Schwab will buy rival TD Ameritrade in an all-share deal worth $26bn (£20bn), my colleague Vinjeru Mkandawire reports. She writes:

Combining America’s two biggest listed discount brokers will create a dominant player with more than 24m individual investors and $5 trillion in client assets. 

The deal is expected to generate joint annual revenues of $17bn and pre-tax profits of $8bn. 

Charles Schwab chief executive Walter Bettinger said: “We believe the combination of our two great companies positions us to be competing and winning in the investment services business for the long run.” 

San Francisco-based Charles Schwab is the largest discount broker in the US and is followed by Omaha-based TD Ameritrade. 

Ben Marlow: Sadiq Khan’s retrograde war on Uber will backfire

The Uber decision belies mayor Sadiq Khan’s assertion that London embraces innovative companies, says Ben Credit: Yui Mok/PA

Our Chief City Commentator Ben Marlow has tackled the Uber question in his City Intelligence column today. He writes:

The dispute between TfL, the mayor and Uber has been portrayed as a simple battle over how Uber operates. But what it is really about is protecting the vested interests of more than 21,000 black cab drivers.

Read Ben’s full column here, and don’t forget to subscribe to his newsletter:

Global cross-border deal levels remains low despite LVMH’s offer for Tiffany

Data from Refinitiv shows that global cross-border takeover activity is at a 10-year low, despite LVMH’s mega-offer for Tiffany today.

The total value of border-hopping deals has hit $1 trillion, a 29pc fall from this time last year. 19 of the 20 biggest deals have been domestic.

Credit: Refinitiv

Full report: Retail sales slump stops

My colleague Tom Rees has a full report on this morning’s CBI retail figures (see 11:13am update). He writes:

The battered high street has been given a glimmer of hope in the crucial run-up to Christmas as a six-month slide in sales finally came to a halt. 

Shoppers dispelled any pre-election worries to take the CBI’s retail sector gauge to its highest level for seven months with sales broadly flat year-on-year. The balance of reported sales recovered for a third consecutive month, rising to a stronger-than-expected score of minus 3, up from minus 10.

Retailers are gearing up for a merrier festive period, fuelled by bumper real pay growth boosting spending power. Expectations for sales climbed to a seven-month high and retailers are hiring part-time workers at the strongest pace for five years.

Prosus fires back at Just Eat

The war of words continues: investment giant Prosus has responded to Just Eat’s plea to shareholders to back its merger with Dutch rival Takeaway.com.

Prosus said it “continues to believe that Just Eat’s proposed combination with Takeaway.com will not fully or effectively address the investment needs of Just Eat in the areas of product, technology, marketing and own delivery capabilities.”

It urged Just Eat shareholders to reject the combination with Takeaway.com, and back the counter-offer made by Prosus.

 Chief executive Bob van Dijk said:

While historically Just Eat has been a strong business, today it is at an important inflection point. Just Eat's board is now acknowledging the increased investment required and the impact that this will have on their profit pool, but in our view continues to underestimate the severity of the competitive pressure and the urgency of the investment need.

Shares in the delivery firm seem fairly unmoved today:

Babcock wins £1bn contract for Aussie subs

Babcock employees stand on scaffolding as they work on the Royal Navy's new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier Credit: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg 

FTSE 250 engineering firm Babcock has won a contract worth £1bn to design and build the weapons handling system for Australia’s new attack class submarines.

Babcock said the deal “will support the operation and sustainment of the future submarines, including managing the involvement of the local supply chain in the manufacture, supply and assembly of critical components for the weapons handling system”. Work on the designs will commence immediately, and initially take place in Bristol.

Chief executive Archie Bethel said:

I am delighted that Babcock will play a significant role in Australia's future submarine programme

German economy ‘could pick up a little’ in 2020

Here’s more from my colleague Tom Rees on those Ifo Institute survey results (see 9:20am update):

More signs of life have emerged out of Germany this morning after the Ifo’s closely-watched business survey indicated that the downturn in Europe’s biggest economy has bottomed out.

Its business climate gauge rose slightly to a score of 95 from 94.7, but the research group warned that manufacturing remained “stuck in a recession”. 

Economists at Oxford Economics said the four-month high in the overall gauge signalled that the eurozone’s engine room “is through the worst of the slowdown and could pick up a little as we enter 2020”.

Germany has struggled to cope with mounting uncertainty from Brexit and the trade war with its huge manufacturing base buckling in the global industrial slump.

PSA

Quick note, since a couple of people in the comment section appear to have got the wrong end of the stick: TfL alleges that 14,000 rides were carried out by unauthorised drivers, not that it found 14,000 unauthorised drivers.

SFO fines Alstom £15m over corruption allegations

The Serious Fraud Office has ordered Alstom Network Uk £15m, plus a further £1.4m in costs, over “conspiracy to corrupt” relating to a contract to supply trams in Tunisia.

The group was convicted in April last year of having paid an intermediary to secure a contract with the company that runs the Tunis metro system. The SFO said:

To satisfy internal compliance checks and make its agreement with Nevco appear a legitimate contract for services, Alstom helped to produce paperwork as ‘evidence’ of services rendered. In reality, Nevco was simply a conduit for bribes.

The decision concludes the SFO’s wide-ranging investigation into Alstom, which also saw three individual charged with conspiracy to corrupt.

SFO director Lisa Osofsky said:

This sentencing brings to an end a case which involved cooperation from over 30 countries and concerned conduct across Europe and beyond.

It shows that we will work tirelessly with law enforcement around the world to root out bribery and corruption.

Markets maintain momentum

European markets are still trading up, with the FTSE 100’s rise breaking 0.9pc. 

Credit: Bloomberg TV

 Only three of the index’s 100 stocks are in the red: Unilever, whose boss has said a disposal of its tea unit it not currently on the cards following a Telegraph report over the weekend, Polymetal, and Fresnillo.

The former two are fairly flat, so Fresnillo (which prefers a bearish market) is the only real laggard.

Round-up: TSB slashes branches, Argos cuts ties with AO World, Questor’s take on the Tories

Items are sorted into crates to be sent to retail stores from the Argos Distribution Centre in Burton-upon-Trent Credit: PAUL ELLIS/AFP

 Here are some of the day’s top stories:

Prosus slammed over ‘wholly inadequate’ Just Eat bid

Here’s more on the Just Eat/Takeaway.com/Prosus saga (see 8:11am update), courtesy of my colleague Oliver Gill, who writes:

A suitor for Just Eat has attacked a rival bid as “wholly inadequate” and an attempt to buy the British delivery company “on the cheap”.

Amsterdam-listed Takeaway.com labelled an approach by investment fund Prosus as “opportunistic” and said its offer was “superior”.

Just Eat and Takeaway.com announced plans for an all-share merger in July after facing pressure from activist investor Cat Rock for several months. 

Prosus gate-crashed a merger agreement between Takeaway.com and Just Eat last month with a £5bn cash offer. So far it has refused to increase its bid on account of what it believes is Just Eat’s weakening operation.

Uber Eats should be unaffected

Uber Eats is the group’s food-delivery service

In case anyone was worrying about their lunch or dinner plans, it appears that Uber Eats, the company’s food-delivery service, will not be impacted by today’s ruling.

The ride-hailing and delivery wings are separate entities, and the specific area where TfL has issues with Uber (its driver policy, in particular), don’t apply to Uber Eats.

Uber shares drop in pre-market trading

Shares in New York-listed Uber have taken a hit following this morning’s announcement, and are current trading down about 6pc ahead of the open at 2:30pm.

Markets.com’s Neil Wilson said:

Uber has suffered a big blow with this ruling. London, with about 3.5m users, is the largest market in Europe for Uber. London is one of the group’s ‘fab five’ cities that account for around a quarter of global revenues. There is a clear and obvious hit to revenues, if the ruling is upheld, which it seems likely it will. Competition in the shape of Bolt and Ola are ready and willing to step in at the drop of a hat in the capital and it could be forgotten pretty quickly once gone.

Uber boss: ‘This TfL decision is just wrong’

Uber’s boss, Dara Khosrowshahi, has tweeted:

Reaction: Retail figures ‘mildly encouraging’

Pedestrians cross the road near Oxford Circus  Credit: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

 Reacting to those CBI retail figures (see 11:13am update), Pantheon Macroeconomics’ Samuel Tombs says:

The pick-up in the reported sales balance in November to its highest level since April is a tentatively encouraging sign that retail sales have regained momentum... Overall, we still expect growth in households’ spending to remain robust enough over the coming quarters to steer the economy away from recession, but November’s CBI survey increases our conviction level only slightly.

He adds of the survey, however:

...the reported sales balance has been a very poor guide to the official data over the last year.

Credit: Pantheon Macroeconomics

Uber calls for customers to share their support

Uber has sent a call to tweets to some of its London customers, asking them to share their support for the firm on social media following TfL’s decision. In an email, they said:

Today Transport for London (TfL) announced that they will not be renewing Uber’s licence to operate in London. We think this decision is wrong and we will appeal.

You and the 3.5 million riders who rely on Uber in London can continue to use the app as normal. Over the last two years we have fundamentally changed our business, and TfL found us to be a fit and proper operator just two months ago.

Retail sales recover

 The CBI’s monthly survey has found British retail sales have held up this month compared to last year, following six months of decline.

 The CBI said:

Retailers reported broadly unchanged sales volumes in the year to November after six consecutive months of declining annual sales, according to the latest quarterly CBI Distributive Trends survey. Retailers expect growth to return in the year to December, with their strongest expectations in seven months.

Its deputy chief economist Anna Leach added:

Retailers are entering the festive season with a bit of hope that sales will head up, with the strongest expectations in half a year. Actual sales have also stabilised and have nudged above average for the time of year. And employment has stopped falling after three years of decline. But Brexit uncertainty continues to weigh on investment plans for the year ahead which remain weak. 

Full report: Wagamama slowdown knocks Restaurant Group

My colleague Simon Foy has a full report on Wagamama/Restaurant Group (see 8:26am update). He writes:

Slowing sales at Wagamama and a gloomy outlook sent shares in its owner the Restaurant Group tumbling on Monday.

The noodle chain's UK like-for-like sales rose 6.3pc in the three months to September – less than half the 12.9pc growth posted in the previous quarter. Sales in the US were up 12.5pc. 

It came as Emma Woods, chief executive, warned that Wagamama would not be immune to the “various headwinds facing our industry” in 2020.

However, she said the chain still managed to outperform the market in the quarter. 

Quick wrap: What has happened with Uber, and who has said what?

Uber will continue to operate normally during the appeals process

Uber has lost its licence to operate in London for a second time, after Transport for London said there was a “pattern” of safety failures at the ride-hailing company.

What happened: TfL issued its highly-anticipated decision on Uber today, concluding that the company had made failures in its safety processes that “placed passengers and their safety at risk” and refusing to grant it a new private hire operator’s licence.

It identified a new of safety lapses, including in the company’s driver authorisation systems, which it says allowed 14,000 journeys to be carried out by unauthorised drivers.

What happens now: Uber has said it will appeal to decision, kicking off a potentially lengthy court battle.

In the meantime, Uber’s services will continue to operate in the city.

What’s been said: Responses have been immediate and strong from both sides.

TfL’s Helen Chapman said:

While we recognise Uber has made improvements, it is unacceptable that Uber has allowed passengers to get into minicabs with drivers who are potentially unlicensed and uninsured.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said:

I know this decision may be unpopular with Uber users, but their safety is the paramount concern.

Uber said:

TfL’s decision not to renew Uber’s licence in London is extraordinary and wrong, and we will appeal.

Private hire drivers’ union boss James Farrar said:

The terrible price of Transport for London’s inability to run a stable regulatory regime and Uber’s refusal to play by the rules will be paid for by the most vulnerable workforce in London.

More from Uber...

Uber’s Jamie Heywood (to whom those tweeted comments are being attributed) added:

Over the last two months we have audited every driver in London and further strengthened our processes. We have robust systems and checks in place to confirm the identity of drivers and will soon be introducing a new facial matching process, which we believe is a first in London taxi and private hire.

Uber: Decision is ‘extraordinary and wrong’

Here’s Uber’s statement:

Khan: I support TfL decision

In a tweet, London mayor Sadiq Khan has said he supports TfL’s decision. He added:

I know this decision may be unpopular with Uber users but their safety is the paramount concern. Regulations are there to keep Londoners safe, a fully complying with TfL’s strict standards is essential if private hire operators want a licence to operate in London.

TfL: ‘it is unacceptable that Uber has allowed passengers to get into minicabs with drivers who are potentially unlicensed and uninsured’

There’s an extended statement now available on TfL’s website, which lays out their full reasoning for the statement. Directing of licensing Helen Chapman said:

Safety is our absolute top priority. While we recognise Uber has made improvements, it is unacceptable that Uber has allowed passengers to get into minicabs with drivers who are potentially unlicensed and uninsured.

It is clearly concerning that these issues arose, but it is also concerning that we cannot be confident that similar issues won't happen again in future.

If they choose to appeal, Uber will have the opportunity to publicly demonstrate to a magistrate whether it has put in place sufficient measures to ensure potential safety risks to passengers are eliminated.

If they do appeal, Uber can continue to operate and we will closely scrutinise the company to ensure the management has robust controls in place to ensure safety is not compromised during any changes to the app.

Here are the safety lapses it identified:

  1. Uber’s systems allowed unauthorised drivers to upload their photos to accounts, meaning at least 14,000 trips were conducted by unauthorised drivers.
  2. Dismissed or suspended drivers were allowed to make new accounts and carry passengers again.
  3. Several other “serious” breaches were registered, including insurance-related issues.

What happens now?

My colleague James Cook has rounded up what today’s decision means in the short term for Uber, its drivers and its customers. These are the important points:

  1. Customers of Uber in London are unlikely to see any disruption to the service
  2. There won't be any immediate change to Uber's operations in London
  3. Uber will now have to carry out a lengthy legal process in order to regain its London licence

TfL: Uber has 21 days to appeal

Here’s some of Transport for London’s full statement:

Transport for London (TfL) has concluded that it will not grant Uber London Limited (Uber) a new private hire operator’s licence in response to its latest application. As the regulator of taxi and private hire services in London, TfL is required to make a decision on Uber’s fitness and propriety before its current licence expires. Safety is TfL’s number one priority.

Uber has made a number of positive changes and improvements to its culture, leadership and systems in the period since the Chief Magistrate granted it a licence in June 2018. This includes interacting with TfL in a transparent and productive manner. However, TfL has identified a pattern of failures by the company including several breaches that placed passengers and their safety at risk. Despite addressing some of these issues, TfL does not have confidence that similar issues will not reoccur in the future, which has led it to conclude that the company is not fit and proper at this time.

Uber will continue to operate as it appeals the decision Credit:  Laura Dale/PA

 

Sources: Identity check breaches sunk appeal

 Matthew Field reports:

Uber has time to appeal and its services will not immediately be blocked. 

Uber was previously blocked from London in September 2017, leading to a protracted legal battle with London's regulator winning it a reprieve.

But in September, its hope of securing a long-term licence was dashed when TfL offered only a two month temporary licence due to ongoing safety concerns. Problems with uninsured drivers were considered the “final nail” in its coffin. The two month licence expired on Monday. 

A source told The Telegraph that Uber had been denied its licence as a results of 14,000 breaches related to driver identity checks, such as drivers uploading fake photographs or swapping accounts. LBC first reported Uber would not have its licence renewed.

Union boss: This is a ‘hammer blow’ to drivers

James Farrar, chair of the United Private Hire Drivers branch of the IWGB union (which has several Uber drivers as members) said:

The Mayor’s decision to once again deny Uber a license will come as a hammer blow to its 50,000 drivers working under precarious conditions. Many will now face the distress of facing not only unemployment but also crippling debt as they struggle to meet car lease payments.

The terrible price of Transport for London’s inability to run a stable regulatory regime and Uber’s refusal to play by the rules will be paid for by the most vulnerable workforce in London. We are asking for an urgent meeting with the Mayor to discuss what mitigation plan can now be put in place to protect Uber drivers.    

Breaking: Uber denied a London licence

Uber will continue to operate while it appeals the decision

Just in – my colleagues Hannah Boland and Matthew Field report:

Uber has been denied a licence in London, effectively banning it from the city, The Telegraph understands. The taxi app had been trying to secure a five-year licence from Transport for London – an application which was rejected. Sources suggested concerns centred around fake and unlicenced driver accounts on the app. Uber is expected to appeal the decision, and during that period it will be able to operate in the city. 

More follows...

Asos appoints ‘chief growth officer’

Online retailer Asos has appointed a chief growth officer as it tries to re-stabilise following a slump in profits.

Robert Birge will join the company early next month, with a responsibility “for driving profitable growth and integrating the company’s marketing efforts with strategic planning, analytics and customer experience”.

Chief executive Nick Beighton said:

Robert’s proven track record in delivering high impact marketing programmes for fast-growing e-commerce businesses means he is an ideal appointment for this new role.

The company is currently recruiting for executives to oversee its product, HR and strategy divisions.

Germany ‘not out of the woods yet’

The figures shown Germany’s industrial sector stayed in the doldrums Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Responding to those Ifo figures, Capital Economics’ Jack Allen-Reynolds said they show Germany’s economy is “not out of the woods yet”. He noted that there are signs of relative strength:

The index has not fallen in three months, which suggests that the economic weakness is bottoming out

But added:

The breakdown shows that the country’s industrial sector remained in the doldrums. The manufacturing component edged down, and is still consistent with big falls in industrial output. Meanwhile, the services index edged up, but as it has been on a steep downward trend for the past year, it still looks weak and suggests that the economy’s problems are not just confined to manufacturing and the car sector.

All in all, the Ifo survey is consistent with our view that the German economy will be in the doldrums for some time, and is more likely to contract than expand in the coming quarters. Looser fiscal policy should give the economy some support next year, but not enough to provide a meaningful stimulus to the euro-zone economy as a whole.

German business confidence edges up

Business confidence in Germany has edged up slightly after the country avoided falling into a technical recession, according to the latest report by the Munich-based IFO Institute.

Its November survey found:

  • Business climate at 95, up from 94.6
  • Expectations at 92.1, up from 91.5
  • Current conditions at 97.9, up from 97.8

That means companies are feeling better about their present situation, and hopes are increasing slightly for the future.

Tweet: Uber to lose licence

LBC radio’s Political Editor Theo Usherwood tweets that Uber will not be granted an operator’s licence later today.

LVMH buys Tiffany for $16.2bn

Tiffany rebuffed LVMH’s initial $14.5bn offer, which would have given investors $120 per share Credit: Arnd Wiegmann/REUTERS

 French conglomerate LVMH has agreed a deal worth $16.2bn (£12.6bn) to buy New York-based jeweller Tiffany in its biggest-ever acquisition, giving it a significant foothold in the US., my colleagues Simon Foy and Vinjeru Mkandawire report.

They write:

The Paris-based luxury group, controlled by Europe’s richest man Bernard Arnault, agreed to pay $135 per share in cash, it said on Monday. 

Tiffany initially rebuffed LVMH’s initial $14.5bn offer, which would have given investors $120 per share. 

The transaction is expected to complete by the middle of 2020. LVMH shares rose 1.4pc to €401.80 in early trading in Paris. 

Mr Arnault said:

We are delighted to have the opportunity to welcome Tiffany, a company with an unparallelled heritage and unique position in the global jewelry world, to the LVMH family.

Read more: LVMH agrees $16.2bn deal to buy US jeweller Tiffany

Uber decision coming up: what to read

Bitcoin continues to drop

Bad news for crypto fans: Bitcoin has fallen for the eight trading day in a row, its longest losing streak since 2014. The digital currency has now shed about 30pc of its value in 20 days:

Sirius Real Estate continues to ‘flourish’

Shares in Germany-focused property developer Sirius Real Estate has lifted this morning, after the group said it had managed to “flourish” in the face of political and economic uncertainty.

The group, which operates branded business parks and flexible working spaces in the Germany, reported an 8.6pc increase in its dividend per share, after raising its net asset value per share and profit.

Chief executive Andrew Coombs said:

Despite political uncertainty and economic headwinds, Sirius' value-add business model continues to flourish due to the diversity that comes from intensive asset management and our wide range of products... we are well positioned for a busy and progressive second half of the financial year.

The group was recently admitted to the FTSE 250.

Restaurant Group shares hit after Wagamama growth slowdown

Sales growth at Wagamama has slowed Credit: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

Shares in Restaurant Group have taken a hit today after Wagamama, which it bought a year ago, reported a slowdown in sales growth.

The pan-Asian restaurant chain reported a 6.3pc like-for-like  increase in sales growth during the second quarter of its financial year.

Citi analyst James Ainsley said the growth was “markedly slower” than in previous results.

Wagamama said it had invested across its operations during the period, with turnover rising 12.4pc to £154m over the thirteen weeks to the end of September.

Chief executive Emma Woods said:

We look forward to 2020, and whilst we don’t expect to be immune to the various headwinds facing our industry, we will stay true to our positive culture and growth mindset.

Markets advance

It has been a strong open for European equities so far, with gains being grabbed straight away across the board. 

Credit: Bloomberg TV

Upbeat short-term news on trade appear, for now, to be outweighing the potential fallout from a big win for pro-democracy candidates in Hong Kong’s local elections.

Markets.com’s Neil Wilson said:

On trade, it’s the usual Washington two-step – one step back, another step forwards. The picture on trade remains rather muddy, not least because of the incendiary situation in Hong Kong that is becoming increasingly ‘economized’, but the latest developments will likely lend support for risk. 

Just Eat: Prosus offer ‘undervalues’ business

Takeaway firm Just Eat has told shareholders a takeover attempt by investment giant Prosus “significantly undervalues” its business, amid a bubbling bid war.

The company’s board fired their latest salvo against Prosus in an update released this morning. Just Eat has been attempting to push through a merger with Dutch rival Takeaway.com, but a £5bn counter-bid from Prosus has thrown plans into disarray.

Investors have been given until 1pm on Dec 11 to make their mind up whether to back the merger with Takeaway.com.

In its release this morning, Just Eat called for shareholders to throw their support behind the tie-up with Takeaway.com, saying:

The Board continues to believe that the Prosus Offer significantly undervalues Just Eat both on a standalone basis and as part of the proposed recommended all-share combination with Takeaway.com.

It added:

The Takeaway.com combination gives you exposure to the Netherlands and Germany, two high-quality markets which will further drive profitability and financial strength.

Agenda: Markets rally on fresh trade hopes 

Good morning. The FTSE 100 is tipped to open higher this morning after China appeared to extend an olive branch in trade talks with the US over intellectual property violations – a key sticking point in negotiations. 

Elsewhere, Hong Kong stocks jumped overnight after the pro-democracy movement scored a crushing victory over pro-Beijing candidates in the territory’s local council elections. 

5 things to start your day

1) Electing the Labour Party could trigger a run on the pound in a “sudden and dramatic reaction” on the markets, economists have said. New research from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) said that Labour plans, laid out in its manifesto last week, “would not inspire market confidence”.

2) Uber will discover today whether it has received a new licence to operate in London, following months of turmoil over its position in its largest European market. The taxi app had applied for a long-term licence, having only been grated one for two months by Transport for London in September.

3) French conglomerate LVMH is closing in on a deal to buy Tiffany after tabling a higher offer for the New York-based jeweller. The Paris-based luxury group, controlled by Europe’s richest man Bernard Arnault, has raised its bid to $135 per share, the Financial Times reported. The boards of both companies are expected to meet on Sunday to approve the offer.

4) UK retailers are facing a £2.6bn festive returns hangover, as Black Friday and the winter sales span several weeks, putting more strain on struggling brands. Shops will rack up the costs based on the amount they have to spend on processing and refunding returns as well as from the losses accrued on stock they will be forced to sell at a discount in January.

5) Europe’s banks will have to raise up to €400bn (£343bn) of fresh capital or slash lending to meet the draconian demands of Basel III regulations, risking an investment crunch across the region and a second decade of economic stagnation.

What happened overnight

Stocks in Asia rose with US equity futures as investors mulled the latest move by China that may go some way to easing trade tensions. 

Shares in Japan, South Korea, China and Australia advanced with S&P 500 futures. Hong Kong stocks outperformed after local council elections proceeded with record turnout amid the city’s continuing unrest.

In the latest on trade: China said over the weekend it will raise penalties on intellectual property violations as it tries to smooth over one of the sticking points in discussions with the US. The S&P 500 Index closed higher Friday after President Donald Trump said he was “very close” to a trade pact.

Global stocks are on course to round out a third month of gains, though a mixed picture on trade last week capped sentiment and left bond yields making a further move lower. The 10-year benchmark US yield has steadied around 1.77pc, down from the three-month high of 1.97pc touched in early November.

Coming up today 

Interim results: Sirius Real Estate

Trading statement: Restaurant Group

Economics: CBI retail (UK), IFO expectations (Germany)