Home Money BUSINESS LIVE: AstraZeneca ups profit guidance; BATS vape sales soar; Unilever cheers volume growth

BUSINESS LIVE: AstraZeneca ups profit guidance; BATS vape sales soar; Unilever cheers volume growth

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BUSINESS LIVE: AstraZeneca ups profit guidance; BATS vape sales soar; Unilever cheers volume growth

The FTSE 100 rose 0.2 per cent in early trading. Companies with reports and trading updates today include AstraZeneca, British American Tobacco, Unilever, Compass Group, Nanoco, SSE and Watches of Switzerland Group. Read the Business Live blog from Thursday 8 February below.

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More and more sellers and buyers are contacting real estate agents, says Rics

The real estate market is heating up with an increasing number of people looking to buy or sell, according to two separate reports.

The latest survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) showed that estate agents and surveyors are seeing an increasing number of inquiries from buyers, as well as a greater number of sellers coming to the market.

Market open: FTSE 100 up 0.2%; The FTSE 250 adds 0.4%

London-listed shares are trading higher this morning, with the FTSE 100 supported by a series of upbeat results from industry giants such as Unilever and British American Tobacco, while industrial metals miners rise on the back of a weaker dollar.

Unilever shares rose 3.1 percent after soap maker Dove reported a rise in fourth-quarter sales and launched a $1.6 billion share buyback program.

The broader personal care, pharmacy and grocery index rose 1.7 percent on the news, leading sector gains.

British American Tobacco has advanced 4.6 per cent to the top of the FTSE 100 after the Dunhill maker forecast single-digit organic revenue growth in 2024 and a beat on full-year profits.

Shares in catering group Compass rose 2.5 per cent on the back of a rise in first-quarter organic revenue and better-than-expected like-for-like volume.

Snap loses a third of its value due to the advertising slowdown

Snap shares fell by more than a third yesterday as it grapples with an advertising slowdown, leaving founder Evan Spiegel and his wife Miranda Kerr with losses of £200m.

The social media giant saw its shares plunge 35 percent after Wall Street became frustrated with its latest quarterly performance.

Taxi app Uber celebrates first annual profit as demand surges

Uber has posted its first annual profit as demand for its taxis soars.

The San Francisco-based company posted a profit of £870m for 2023, following a loss of £1.4bn the previous year.

Unilever publishes ‘boring’ 2023

Charlie Huggins, Wealth Club Quality Stock Portfolio Manager:

“Unilever’s 2023 performance was uninspiring, with notable weakness in Europe and ice cream, driven in part by market share losses to private label competition.

‘Unilever’s new CEO Hein Schumacher recognizes that the group could and should do better. His ‘Action Plan’ is designed to revitalize performance through more impactful innovation, productivity savings and improved culture, with greater focus on the top 30 power brands.

‘It is too early to judge the success of this Action Plan, but investors should not expect quick fixes. The plan is not just about cutting costs and increasing efficiency. It is designed to make Unilever a more innovative business, with stronger and faster-growing brands. This requires greater investment in branding and marketing, and will not be quick or easy to achieve.

‘Overall, there is a lot to like in the new CEO, Hein Schumacher’s Action Plan. But it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the environment for Unilever and its peers has become much tougher in recent years.

‘Cost of living challenges mean private labels have never been more attractive, meaning Unilever has to work harder just to maintain its market share, let alone grow it. It appears that this Action Plan has more substance than previous initiatives, but it must be successful to prevent the business from going backwards.’

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AstraZeneca sales boosted by oncology assets

Summer Colling, Citeline Healthcare Analyst:

‘AstraZeneca’s strong fiscal 2023 revenue figures of $45.8 billion are in line with, but slightly lower than, Evaluate’s $46.8 billion estimate.

‘As expected, Q4 2023 sales were driven by the company’s oncology assets Tagrisso, Imfinzi and Lynparza, its diabetes asset Farxiga and sales of Ultomiris in the rare disease market, which have helped compensate for falling sales of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 drugs. .

‘Tagrisso remains the company’s leading oncology asset, having racked up sales of $5.8 billion in fiscal 2023, also in line with Evaluate’s $5.9 billion estimate. Tagrisso’s sales in the rest of the world were negatively affected in the fourth quarter by the recent reclassification of Australian government rebates and also continue to be affected by the mandatory price reduction in Japan.

‘As expected, sales of Imfinzi in China were boosted by the new launch in bile duct cancer, which helped offset the effect of the anti-graft campaign launched by central government departments.

“Sales of Farxiga in Europe do not appear to have been affected by the recent EMA recommendation to update the information for diabetes medicines containing dapagliflozin to reflect the risk of vulvovaginitis, balanitis and related genital infections.”

Unilever celebrates volume growth

Unilever met underlying quarterly sales growth expectations in 2023 after the consumer goods giant raised prices at a slower pace and achieved its first increase in sales volumes in 10 quarters.

The company said it expects a “modest improvement” in underlying operating margin for the full year, and that underlying sales growth will be within its multi-year range of 3 percent to 5 percent.

Boss Hein Schumacher said: Today’s results show an improvement in financial performance, with volume growth returning and margins rebuilding. However, our competitiveness remains disappointing and overall performance needs to improve.

‘We are working to address this by improving our execution to unlock Unilever’s full potential.

‘In October, we set out a Growth Action Plan focused on three priorities: achieving higher quality growth, increasing productivity and simplicity, and adopting a strong focus on performance.

‘The new management team has implemented the action plan at a good pace. We have increased investment behind our 30 Power Brands, accelerated portfolio transformation, and are driving a sharper focus on performance with clear, broad objectives across the organization.

“We are in the early stages of this work and there is much to do, but we are moving quickly and urgently to transform Unilever into a consistently outperforming company.”

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BATS suffers drop in smoking rates, but vaporizer sales soar

British American Tobacco has forecast single-digit organic revenue growth next year as falling US smoking rates weigh on double-digit gains in its “new categories” segment, which includes products such as vaporizers.

The maker of Dunhill and Lucky Strike cigarettes reported a 5.2 percent rise in annual profit for 2023, beating analysts’ expectations.

Chief Executive Teadeu Marroco said its plans to revive performance in the United States were showing early signs of progress and it was investing more.

“We expect these investments, along with US macroeconomic pressures, to impact 2024,” he said.

Germany remains ‘Europe’s sick man’ as industrial production falls for seventh consecutive month

Germany reinforced its status as “Europe’s sick man” as the once-mighty industrial sector recorded its longest slump since reunification three decades ago.

Europe’s largest economy and once driving force said official data showed output fell another 1.6 percent in December.

AstraZeneca raises its profit forecasts

AstraZeneca expects higher revenue and profits in 2024 as the drugmaker bets on strong uptake of its childhood RSV vaccine and resilient demand for its drugs against cancer and rare blood disorders.

Since then, strong sales of AstraZeneca’s cancer treatments and rare disease drugs, along with strong demand in emerging markets, have fueled its growth.

The London-listed company said it expects total revenue and earnings per share (EPS) to rise in the low double-digits to low teens this year.

For 2023, AstraZeneca reported revenue of $45.81 billion and core earnings per share (EPS) of $7.26.

For the fourth quarter, it reported core earnings per share of $1.45 on total revenue of $12.02 billion, compared with forecasts for earnings of $1.50 per share on revenue of $12.01 billion.

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