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Shell unveils plan to increase dividends, BT earnings slip in first half

By Josh White

Date: Thursday 29 Oct 2020

(Sharecast News) - London open

The FTSE 100 is expected to open four points higher on Thursday, having closed down 2.55% on Wednesday, at 5,582.80.
Stocks to watch

Royal Dutch Shell on Thursday unveiled a plan to increase dividends and cut debt as it swung to a small third quarter profit. The energy giant lifted its dividend by 4% quarter on quarter to 16.65 cents a share and reported a $$177m profit on a current cost of supplies (CCS) basis, compared with a $18.4bn loss in the second quarter.

BT said on Thursday that its first half revenue was "relatively resilient", falling 8% year-on-year to £10.59bn, which it put down to the impact of Covid-19, including reduced BT Sport revenue and a reduction in business activity in its enterprise units, and declines in legacy products. The FTSE 100 company said adjusted EBITDA was down 5% for the six months ended 30 September at £3.72bn, driven by the fall in revenue, partly offset by sports rights rebates, savings from its modernisation programme and other cost initiatives, including Covid-19 mitigating actions. It lifted the lower end of its adjusted EBITDA outlook range for the 2021 financial year to £7.3bn, making for a revised range of between £7.3bn and £7.5bn.

Newspaper round-up

Advertisers are cutting more than £700m from their marketing budgets in the run-up to Christmas, as the pandemic puts paid to the big budget extravaganzas that normally bombard the public over the festive season. While the annual Christmas advertising battle will be as fiercely fought as ever, with a total of £6.2bn spent across the fourth quarter, consumers are unlikely to see glitzy tie-ups such as Mariah Carey's reportedly £9m deal to promote Walkers festive-themed crisps last year. - Guardian

Coronavirus has had a "devastating" impact on the UK's pubs and will exacerbate the decline in the number of independent breweries - for the first time in nearly two decades - an influential consumer guide has warned. Thousands of pubs and breweries that survived the first lockdown are now fighting to stay afloat amid a slump in business following ongoing restrictions and curfews that could "make or break" the industry, according to the 2021 Good Beer Guide, published on Thursday by the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra). - Guardian

Ministers are scrambling to hire consultants who can offer emergency help to their central Covid-19 Task Force amid fears Whitehall will be overwhelmed by a winter coronavirus surge, according to documents seen by the Telegraph. The Cabinet Office has issued a request for consultants to help it respond "rapidly to any worsening Covid crisis" until at least March 2021. - Telegraph

The billionaire brothers seeking to buy Asda have been dealt a fresh blow after credit agency Moody's cut its rating on the debts of their petrol station empire further into junk territory. Zuber and Mohsin Issa's company EG Group was criticised by Moody's for failing to improve its financial reporting and management processes following a two-year acquisition spree. - Telegraph

Rogue advisers are targeting members of Rolls-Royce's gold-plated retirement scheme, prompting regulators to warn of the threat of a new pensions scandal. Rolls said in May that it was cutting 9,000 jobs as the aircraft engine-maker grappled with the fallout of Covid-19 in the aviation industry. - The Times

US close

Wall Street stocks closed in the red on Wednesday as new Covid-19 cases continued to rise across the US.

At the close, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 3.43% at 26,519.95, the S&P 500 lost 3.53% to 3,271.03, and the Nasdaq Composite was 3.73% weaker at 11,004.87.

The Dow closed 943.24 points lower on Wednesday, extending losses recorded in the previous session as an ever-increasing number of new Covid-19 cases continued to weigh on sentiment.

In focus on Wednesday, news that the number of new cases of Covid-19 across the US had risen above 70,000 yet again, according to Johns Hopkins University, taking the weekly average to a record high of more than 500,000.

Increased restrictions amid rising cases in Europe were also weighing on sentiment.

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