Sterling slump helps Asos international sales surge 52%

ASOS has bolstered its outlook after sterling's slump since the Brexit vote helped trigger a significant surge in international sales.

The fashion retailer said it was pencilling in full-year sales to be 25 per cent to 30 per cent higher after international figures leapt 52 per cent to £361.7m in the four months to the end of December.

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The firm said its global business was lifted after it reinvested the currency boost from the Brexit-hit pound and benefits from US import duty.

ASOS, which stands for As Seen on Screen, also drove home a strong performance in the UK, with sales climbing 18 per cent to £244m over the period, up from £206.2m in 2015.

Chief executive Nick Beighton said the retailer had built on a strong performance over the festive period.

“Following record sales over cyber weekend and the Christmas trading period, I'm pleased to report a strong start to the year.

“A 50 per cent-plus increase in international sales is a stand-out performance. UK sales growth at 18 per cent was a strong performance in a more promotional market.

“With sales for the year now expected to be up by around 25 per cent to 30 per cent, we're accelerating our infrastructure investment to handle that growth.”

SOS announced plans in December to hire another 1,500 people over the next three years to work at its London headquarters.

PA

JD Sports profits set to beat forecast after exceptional trading

Retailer JD Sports Fashion added to the Christmas cheer across the high street as it said annual profits would beat forecasts after “exceptional” trading.

The chain said it had maintained like-for-like sales growth at around 10 per cent in its second half so far to 7 January.

Shares jumped by 7 per cent as it said profits for the year to 28 January are set to come in higher than City expectations by up to 15 per cent.

Most analysts were pencilling in underlying pre-tax profits of £200m.

Its guidance means the profit haul will come in significantly higher than the £157.1m posted for the last financial year.

Peter Cowgill, executive chairman of JD Sports, praised an “exceptional trading performance”.

He said: “I am delighted to report that we have maintained our excellent momentum from the first half of the year.”

He added it would be “unreasonable” to expect sales growth to continue at the same pace for a fifth year in a row, but said he had confidence in the group’s “unique and often exclusive sports fashion premium brand”.

The firm notched up a third year of double-digit sales growth, which is “particularly impressive”, she said.

JD Sports posted record half-year profits in September, up 66 per cent to £77.4m, driven by 10 per cent like-for-like sales growth at its shops and a 20 per cent hike in overall revenues to £971m.

PA

Barratt on track for strong second half amid ‘healthy’ housing market

Housebuilder Barratt Developments has cheered the “healthy” UK housing market, as strong demand looks set to boost half-year profits.

The FTSE 100 firm said it predicts pre-tax profits to rise 7 per cent to around £315m for the six months to the end of December, driven by “robust consumer demand”.

The developer said completions outside London had hit their highest level for nine years at 6,813, up from 6,784 for the six months in 2015.

However, total completions fell 6 per cent to 7,180, triggered by a 56 per cent drop in completions across the capital to 367, as the firm’s planned building schedule impacted the availability of wholly-owned sites.

The group said it was in a strong position for the second half of the year after seeing total forward sales rise 15.8 per cent to £2.3bn.

Chief executive David Thomas said the fundamentals of the housing market were robust and the firm was focused on delivering “attractive shareholder returns”.

“This has been another good half-year for the group,” he added. “Consumer demand is strong, benefiting from good mortgage availability and ongoing Government support.”

PA

Superdry owner sees Christmas revenues jump 20% to £162m 

SuperGroup cheered sparkling Christmas sales as revenues and profits were also boosted by the plunging pound.

The company behind fashion retailer Superdry said retail revenues jumped 20.6 per cent to £162.1m in the 10 weeks to 7 January, with sterling’s weakness and the roll-out of new stores helping to drive growth.

The firm said it had opened nine new stores over the 10-week period, expanding its trading space by 74,000 sq ft.

The festive update came as the group unveiled its half-year results, which showed a 31.1 per cent leap in group revenues to £334m in the 26 weeks to 29 October last year.

Underlying pre-tax profits stepped up by 8.8 per cent to £21m, while retail revenues climbed 25 per cent to £215.2m over the period.

It said “favourable currency movements”, including the sharp drop in the value of the pound since the Brexit vote, had delivered about one third of the firm’s revenue growth.

Chief executive Euan Sutherland said the board was confident of delivering full-year pre-tax profits in line with expectations.

PA

Air France-KLM Chief Downbeat on Prospects for ‘Difficult’ 2017

Air France-KLM Group chief executive Jean-Marc Janaillac delivered a downbeat assessment of the carrier’s prospects for 2017, saying it faces “difficult” times in the year ahead amid rising oil prices and an ongoing struggle to rein in expenses.

Weak margins combined with high debt remain the greatest challenges to Europe’s biggest airline, Janaillac said in an address at a press reception in Paris late Wednesday. He declined to comment on the status of talks with pilots linked to the cost-cutting drive, citing the need to build trust with unions.

“We will have to face the increase of oil prices, of the dollar, and an increase in interest rates, and this while our profitability is weak and we have a high debt without the option of appealing to our shareholders, given our weak stock valuation,” the chief executive said.

Janaillac took over in July after predecessor Alexandre de Juniac quit following clashes with unions over plans to pare expenses and move more flights to Air France-KLM’s Transavia discount unit, amid a squeeze from Mideast carriers on long-haul and routes and discount specialists such as easyJet in Europe.

Bloomberg

Ex-Barclays banker who leaked tips for job with plumber gets jail

A former Barclays director said he had had enough after 32 years on Wall Street and was hoping to land a less stressful job at a friend’s plumbing company. So he started passing tips about pending mergers to him.

Instead of landing a cushier job, Steven McClatchey will spend five months in prison, as a judge rejected his request for home detention. Prosecutors sought a prison term of 10 to 16 months.

“I’m a good man who made a serious error in judgment,” McClatchey told a US District Judge in Manhattan at his sentencing hearing on Wednesday.

McClatchey pleaded guilty in July to passing information that his plumber friend, Gary Pusey, used to make 10 illegal trades in companies, who pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors against his former pal, made about $76,000 (£62,000) on the trades, prosecutors said.

Bloomberg

Iran’s first new Airbus jetliner lands in Tehran 

The first of 100 Airbus planes that Iran is expected to receive after its historic nuclear deal with world powers ended some sanctions has landed in the capital, Tehran. 

Iran Air’s brand new A321 jet landed at Tehran’s Mehrabad International Airport on Thursday on a flight from Airbus headquarters in Toulouse, France. 

Iran Air finalised a deal with the European plane maker in December for 100 planes worth more than $18bn dollars at list prices. 

Iran’s flag carrier has separately agreed to buy 80 planes from US manufacturer Boeing. 

Most Iranian planes were purchased before the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Out of Iran's 250 commercial planes, 162 were flying, while the rest were grounded due to lack of spare parts. 

AP

Italian bank UniCredit to provision $8.6bn more in bad loans 

Italian bank UniCredit says it will book an additional €8.1bn (£7bn) in bad loans in the last quarter of 2016. 

That is in addition to a turnaround plan being voted on by shareholders Thursday to offload €17.7bn in bad loans, cut 14,000 jobs and raise €13bn in a capital increase to improve the bank’s profitability. 

Italy’s largest bank by assets said in a statement that the latest provisions were part of a new strategy to manage soured loans that includes speeding up their collections or selling them on. 

The bank said it aims to complete the capital increase in the first quarter. 

AP

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