What to watch: Shock exit for Ladbrokes boss, COVID concerns hit stocks, and Dr Martens heads for IPO

Oscar Williams-Grut
·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·6 min read
PAIGNTON, DEVON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2019/08/10: Ladbrokes betting shop seen in Devon. (Photo by Keith Mayhew/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Ladbrokes betting shop seen in Devon. Photo: Keith Mayhew/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

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

Shock exit for Ladbrokes boss

The chief executive of Ladbrokes has shocked the market by quitting in the middle of a takeover battle for the company.

Entain (ENT.L), the parent company of Ladbrokes, said Shay Segev had handed in his notice, just six months after taking the top jobs.

Segev is off to run DAZN, a privately owned global sports streaming platform. Barry Gibson, chairman of Entain, said the company couldn’t “match the rewards that he has been promised.”

The surprise departure comes in the midst of a takeover battle for Entain. The company said last week that it had rejected an $11bn bid from MGM Resorts. The casino operator is widely expected to return to the table with another bid.

"I can confirm that this changes nothing with respect to the Board's view of the recent proposal from MGM Resorts International to acquire Entain,” Gibson said. “The Board remains unanimous in our view that the proposal significantly undervalues the Company and its prospects.”

Segev said: “The recent interest from MGM Resorts has had absolutely no bearing on my decision, and I fully support the Board's decision to reject their proposal.”

Segev will remain in post to see out his six month notice period. Entain said they have begun a process to find a potential successor.

"Entain has a wealth of talent across its leadership team and the business has never been stronger,” Gibson said.

Shares in Entain fell 0.6%.

COVID-19 concerns hit stocks

European markets started Monday on the back foot as COVID-19 continued to run rampant.

The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) opened down 0.5% in London by mid-morning, while the DAX (^GDAXI) fell 0.5% in Frankfurt and the CAC 40 (^FCHI) slipped 0.5% in Paris.

Analysts said the declines were driven by a renewed investor focus on the COVID-19 pandemic and concerns about the fast-spreading mutation first discovered in the UK. Reports suggest lawmakers in Britain are considering tightening restrictions across England even further.

Chinese stocks slipped overnight amid continued high tensions with the US. The Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) shed 1% and the Shenzen Component (399001.SZ) fell 1.3%. The Hong Kong Hang Seng (^HSI) rose 0.1%.

Elsewhere in the region, South Korea’s KOSPI (^KS11) slipped 0.1% and Australia’s ASX 200 (^AXJO) fell 0.9%.

US futures were pointing lower. S&P 500 futures (ES=F) fell 0.5%, Dow Jones futures (YM=F) were down 0.6%, while Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) were 0.4% lower.

Dr Martens heads for IPO

Dr Martens, the iconic British boot brand maker, said it plans to float on the London Stock Exchange after more than 60 years in business. The move would be one of the first big IPOs of 2021.

The IPO would consist of a sale of shares held by buyout firm Permira and some other existing shareholders, the company said in a statement.

Permira, a private equity company, bought Dr Martens in 2014 for roughly $463m (£343m).

There would be no sale of new shares in the IPO, which would give the company a free float of at least 25%. It expects that it would be eligible for inclusion in the FTSE UK indices.

Pound falls on lockdown and Brexit worries

The pound dipped against the dollar and euro on Monday, amid a deteriorating outlook for the UK economy as coronavirus restrictions and Brexit stifle firms.

It came as a poll of polls suggested UK business output continued to decline in December, typically a busier season for firms in the run-up to Christmas.

COVID-19 restrictions were also less widespread than in November and at present under a tiered system of regional curbs. Economists have predicted a double-dip recession with the UK back in a strict lockdown.

Kaley Crossthwaite, partner at business advisory firm BDO, which carried out the survey said the figures reinforced “just how stark the economic impact of the pandemic has been.” BDO’s data is based on analysis of leading UK business surveys.

Sterling was trading 0.5% lower against the dollar (GBPUSD=X) at $1.35 and 0.3% lower against the euro (GBPEUR=X) at €1.107 in early trading on Monday morning in the UK.

JD Sports warns shops will be shut till Easter

JD Sports (JD.L) expects its stores to remain closed until “at least Easter,” as the retailer braces itself for a sustained UK lockdown.

Ministers have said they do not expect the lockdown to be eased until at least March, and have set a target of offering all adults coronavirus vaccines only by the autumn.

Easter Sunday is on 4 April this year. JD Sports also said in a trading update on Monday it expects unspecified “operational restrictions” for even longer, outlasting its first quarter which runs to 29 April.

But shares jumped in the sports fashion chain on Monday as it revealed promising sales figures. Stocks were up 4.5% in early trading on the London Stock Exchange.

EasyJet bags $1.8bn cash injection

Budget airline EasyJet (EZJ.L) boosted its liquidity through a five-year loan facility of $1.87bn ($1.39bn), a move that may alleviate worries about its finances as the travel industry is ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic.

EasyJet CEO Johan Lundgren said the facility “will significantly extend and improve easyJet's debt maturity profile and increase the level of liquidity available.” easyJet has now secured more than £4.5bn in liquidity since the beginning of the pandemic.

The company’s stock was up 0.9% Monday morning as markets opened in London.

Investors push HSBC to ditch fossil fuels

HSBC (HSBA.L) is facing pressure from investors to stop lending to fossil fuel companies, starting with those in the highly polluting coal sector.

Fifteen institutional investors and 117 individual investors have backed a shareholder resolution calling for HSBC to set clear targets on reducing financing for fossil fuel companies and projects. The resolution, which was coordinated by climate change activist group ShareAction, calls on the bank to set out a clear strategy in-line with the international Paris climate agreement.

Signatories of the HSBC resolution include Amundi, Europe’s largest asset manager, and Man Group (EMG.L), the world’s biggest publicly traded hedge fund. The institutions backing the resolution manage a collective $2.4tn (£1.7tn), according to Share Action.

Additional reporting by Saleha Riaz and Tom Belger.

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