Welcome to Wednesday. Wizz Air, which has had a good pandemic as far as that’s possible for an airline, said it would report a € 214m loss for its third quarter as it ramped up staff numbers, its fleet and routes even as travel restrictions hit demand.
The Hungarian-headquartered airline said it now had more staff than pre-pandemic as it prepares to return to “full utilization” by late spring. During peak holiday season in the latest quarter, it had more passengers than in 2019. But the emergence of the Omicron variant hit demand towards the end of the quarter, and Wizz said it expected demand in January, February and part of March to be affected by uncertainty over travel. Its fourth quarter loss is likely to be slightly higher than the third quarter as a result.
“Despite the short-term headwinds, we are cautiously optimistic for a continued recovery into Spring and near-full utilization from Summer onwards”, boss József Váradi said.
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Long live the City (or at least Canary Wharf). Citi has announced plans for a three-year overhaul of its London skyscraper at a cost of more than £ 100m, our correspondents report. David Livingstone, the bank’s Europe, Middle East and Africa head, told them that London’s position in the bank’s global strategy was “undiminished and. . . actually growing ”. Bad news for staff though: they’ve got to decamp from the 42-storey tower at 25 Canada Square until 2025.
Stagecoach’s sale of its inter-city coach business has been delayed by a competition review into Stagecoach’s proposed takeover by National Express.
Retailer Pets at Home said full-year profits are expected to be at least £ 5m more than previously anticipated as pampering pets becomes the norm. In corporate speak, “ongoing humanization and premiumization support[ed] record sell through of seasonal ranges ”(I think that means people dressed up their animals in Christmas outfits). Underlying pre-tax profits will be at least £ 140m, it forecast, after a 9 per cent rise in like-for-like revenues in its third quarter.
Harry Potter publisher Bloomsbury said profits will be “materially ahead of market expectations” (of £ 20m) for the year to February. It reported strong trading in its consumer division in both adult and children’s publishing.
M&G is partnering with Moneyfarm to provide direct investment services to UK consumers. Also out today in asset management land are updates from Quilter and Brewin Dolphin. Other updates come from CMC Markets, Tullow Oil and Playtech, which has urged shareholders to vote for a takeover offer from Australian group Aristocrat Leisure amid reports of resistance from shareholders based in Asia who may force a break-up.
Beyond the Square Mile
Apple has experienced major outages in some of its US-based data centers, Patrick McGee reports from San Francisco, locking people out of their iCloud accounts and preventing them from logging into iPhone and Mac devices with Apple ID.
Wind turbine maker Vestas warned supply chain and profitability woes in the wind turbine industry would continue throughout 2022, Richard Milne reports. The Danish company’s warning follows rival Siemens Gamesa, which last week cut its financial outlook for the third time in recent months.
It’s not a rout, it’s a buying opportunity. Ark Invest founder Cathie Wood has declared “innovation is on sale” after the sell-off in tech stocks and urged investors to look beyond recent market volatility, asset management editor Harriet Agnew reports. Shares in her flagship exchange traded fund ARKK – which makes bold bets on high-growth US-listed companies, notably in areas related to DNA technology, automation, robotics, energy storage, artificial intelligence and fintech – are down 27 per cent this year.
Global banks are pushing back against Beijing’s new overseas listings rules, Tabby Kinder reports, warning regulators that an overhaul of the regime for listing Chinese businesses overseas may deter them from advising on IPOs and imperil a source of funding that has powered some of the country’s best known companies.
And the latest in the Jes Staley saga, brought to you by our US banking editor: Staley pressed JPMorgan Chase to keep Jeffrey Epstein as a client, despite Epstein’s conviction for prostitution offenses, before the bank cut him off as a client in 2013, according to two people involved in the discussions.
This week my column is on the City watchdog’s fight with its own staff, who are balloting for industrial action. It’s a new nadir in relations between employees and employer at the Financial Conduct Authority (and this from a regulator that once had to upbraid staff for defecating on the floor in its new headquarters). I argue that at a time boss Nikhil Rathi is trying to (sensibly) overhaul the FCA, this is the wrong battle for the regulator to be waging. Essential reading, as always.
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