Unilever hikes dividend and announces €6bn share buyback

Anglo-Dutch company, which last month announced plans to consolidate its global headquarters in Rotterdam instead of London, also hiked its dividend 8%
Unilever, the consumer goods giant which owns brands including Dove, Marmite and Ben & Jerry's, announced its first-quarter turnover fell 5.2 per cent to €12.6bn thanks to unfavourable exchange rate movements.
Underlying sales growth was 3.7 per cent, stripping out currency movements and sales from its spreads business, which it has agreed to sell.
The Anglo-Dutch company, which last month announced plans to consolidate its global headquarters in Rotterdam instead of London, also hiked its dividend by 8 per cent and unveiled plans for a €6bn (£5.2bn) share buyback starting in May.
Read more London may be losing Unilever’s HQ but it must not lose its shares Emerging markets underlying sales grew 5.1 per cent but that wasn't enough to satisfy investors.
Shares in Unilever were down 1.5 per cent in morning trading.

Debenhams says beast from the east put results in the freezer. Now boss Bucher has to explain that to Mike Ashley

The trouble with the excuse – which you’re probably going to hear from other retailers with troubles too – is that while “the beast” was extreme by UK standards, Debs is reporting a couple of days after Primark and JD both managed to keep their investors warm
Poor old Debenhams. The beleaguered department store chain says the “beast from the east” froze its results and as a result the already bombed out shares have had some fresh sale reductions applied.
They’re now languishing on one of those rails where they put the stuff no one wants to buy on even when they’re all but giving it away.
The trouble with the excuse – which you’re probably going to hear from other retailers with troubles too – is that while “the beast” was extreme by UK standards, Debs is reporting a couple of days after Primark and JD Sports both managed to keep their investors warm.
Read more Debenhams blames disappointing Xmas and bad weather for profit crash Debenhams to cut 320 store management jobs in cost..

Ultra Electronics faces corruption investigation by the Serious Fraud Office

Defence contractor says it is co-operating with the SFO
The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has opened a criminal investigation into London-listed firm Ultra Electronics over suspected corruption.
The inquiry into the defence contractor’s business in Algeria was launched after Ultra reported itself to the SFO.
Shares in Middlesex-based Ultra were down more than 8.5 per cent by mid-morning.
Read more The SFO wants more money but it must up its game In a statement to the stock exchange on Thursday morning, Ultra said: “Given the stage of these matters, it is not possible to estimate reliably what effect the outcome of this matter may have on the group. The company will provide a further update as and when appropriate.”
The company said it “continues to co-operate with the SFO”.
The SFO said: “No further information can be provided at this time as the investigation is live.”
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250,000 households face energy bill hikes in next three months as they are switched to 'rip-off' tariffs

During April, May and June, 130 fixed-rate tariffs will come to an end, research finds
A quarter of a million households face paying an extra £200 on their energy bills in coming months as suppliers switch them to more expensive default tariffs, labelled a “rip-off” by politicians.
During April, May and June, 130 fixed-rate tariffs will come to an end, according to research by comparethemarket.com
Around 247,000 households on those deals face being moved on to an expensive standard variable tariff (SVT) or equivalent and could see their bills rise if they do not switch.
Read more Consumers face energy bill hike as E.ON changes price structure Those consumers face paying an additional £200 on their annual bills, on average, the price comparison site calculates. That would equate to a £50m so-called “inertia dividend” for gas and electricity providers.
The biggest hikes in the cost of energy will impact households with tariffs ending in April, where the average annual increase in..

Pound sterling continues downward trend after disappointing UK retail sales figures

Statisticians blamed the Beast from the East for retail sales drop
The pound dropped 0.25 per cent against the dollar on Thursday morning after a bigger than expected dip in UK retail sales.
Sterling also fell 0.16 per cent against the euro to hit €1.1458 as it continued its decline which began on Wednesday after inflation undershot expectations.
The downward direction of the pound comes days after it hit a post-Brexit vote high of $1.436 ahead of wage and employment data released on Tuesday.
Read more Pound sterling plummets as UK inflation undershoots expectations Sterling falls back from post-Brexit referendum high Warning of imminent slump for sterling against euro and dollar Commenting on the retail sales figures, ONS senior statistician, Rhian Murphy said the reduction was “due to a large decline in March with petrol sales seeing a significant slump as a result of the poor weather keeping many shoppers indoors.
However, she added: “The snow actually helped boost online..

'Beast from the East' responsible for biggest drop in UK retail sales in a year

Retail sales suffered their worst quarter in a year in March thanks to snow storms which deterred shoppers.
The Office for National Statistics reported on Thursday that sales fell 1.2 per cent in the month in which the “Beast from the East” struck the UK.
For the first quarter as a whole sales volumes were down 0.5 per cent – the biggest quarter-on-quarter fall since the beginning of 2017.
Retail sales account for around 20 per cent of UK GDP and the first quarter drop adds to the evidence that the overall UK economy slowed in early 2018.
The ONS is due to release its preliminary estimate for Q1 growth next week.
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Sky hails cheaper Premier League deal as it unveils increased revenue and profit

Broadcaster is at centre of a bidding war between Comcast and 21st Century Fox
Sky grew revenues and earnings in the first three quarters of its financial year, with customer numbers rising by 480,000 to 22.9m over the last 12 months.
Revenue was up 5.8 per cent to £10.1bn, from £9.6bn in the first nine months of the previous year, while earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation rose 11 per cent to £1.7bn from £1.5bn. Operating profit increased by 22 per cent to hit £857m.
The company hailed a strong quarter in the UK & Ireland, which included “making significant progress on our future growth plans, including the successful renewal of our Premier League rights from 2019 to 2022 at 16 per cent less cost per game”.
Read more Sky: Now Fox offers 'legal separation' of Sky News Sky News could be sold to Disney early in bid to push through Sky sale Sky reveals gender pay gap of 11.5% and bonus gap of 40% Sky chief executive Jeremy Darroch said: “Agai..

Debenhams profits drop 85% as retailer blames disappointing Christmas and Beast from the East for plunge

High street retailers have been struggling in recent months
Profits at Debenhams plunged by 85 per cent in the first half of the financial year, tumbling from £87.8m to £13.5m, causing shares in the company to drop by more than 10 per cent at the open.
The beleaguered department store blamed a combination of a “disappointing Christmas season” and extreme weather conditions for denting sales and margins. In the final trading week of the first half, which ended on 26 March, Debenhams was forced to temporarily close almost 100 stores, which is estimated to have reduced sales by 1 per cent. Sales were down 2.2 per cent overall in the six month period.
Read more Debenhams to cut 320 store management jobs in cost-cutting drive The group slashed its dividend to 0.5p per share, a reduction of 51.2 per cent compared to 1.025p awarded this time last year.
The company provided an update on its accelerated Debenhams Redesigned strategy, which has seen the group focus on improving its webs..

Elon Musk tells Tesla staff to break rules and walk out of meetings. Business revolution or a recipe for corporate chaos?

The Tesla boss has also outlined plans to take production of the Model 3 24/7 in a leaked email sent to staff
Elon Musk is either a certifiable genius or certifiably crazy. He might be both.
Evidence for that can be seen in an email, purportedly sent by him to Tesla employees, which has conveniently found its way into the public domain.
You may be aware that Tesla, his electric car company, has been under a cloud of late, with its shares under pressure such the company’s market value has dipped back below General Motors, which it at one point surpassed despite selling just over 1 vehicle for every 100 shifted by the latter in 2017.
Read more Elon Musk 'sleeping' in Tesla factory in attempt to fix Model 3 delays Tesla has gone bankrupt, Elon Musk tweets in apparent April Fool Tesla car involved in fatal California crash 'was on autopilot' The e-mail needs to be seen against that backdrop.
It seeks to send a message, to make a statement of intent, and to te..