What to watch: Bunzl tops FTSE, Barratt on track, and lockdown boost for Asos and Just Eat

Oscar Williams-Grut
·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·4-min read

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

Bunzl tops Footsie

A race for PPE means business is booming at Bunzl (BNZ.L), the FTSE 100 outsourcing and services giant.

Bunzl, which helps companies source essential products and aids with distribution, said third quarter revenue had risen by 4%.

In a trading update on Wednesday, the company said “continued growth in the sale of COVID-19 related products, such as masks, sanitisers, gloves and disinfectants” helped revenue to grow over the last few months.

“Sales of the top eight COVID-19 related products, which are primarily own brand, contributed 17.5% of growth,” the company said. “This growth more than offset a 9.5% decline in revenue from other product sales.”

A general view of the BUNZL logo on the side of a van in the City of London.
Bunzl surged to the top of the FTSE 100 on Wednesday. Photo: PA

Bunzl said revenue growth in the second half was expected to be strong and its operating profit margin was likely to be slightly ahead of last year.

The bullish update helped Bunzl surge to the top of the FTSE 100, with the stock up 5.5%.

Barratt on track

House builder Barratt Developments (BDEV.L) on Wednesday told investors it remains on track, with a “healthy” order book and “strong” balance sheet.

In a trading update on Wednesday, Barratt said it was in a “strong position” despite continued uncertainty.

The company’s sales rate, home completions, and forward sales were all rose between July and October.

“There is continuing strong customer demand for our homes and we have a healthy forward order book,” chief executive David Thomas said.

“As we look ahead, whilst significant economic and political uncertainties persist, we believe our disciplined approach and strong balance sheet provide us with the resilience and flexibility to react positively to future challenges."

Shares rose 0.8%.

Asos profit surges

Strong sales during lockdown and fewer returns have helped profits surge at Asos (ASC.L).

The online fashion retailer said on Wednesday that pre-tax profit in the year to 31 August rose 329% to £142.1m ($182m).

Asos said the jump in profits — which was ahead of forecasts — was driven by improvements in the underlying efficiency of the business and a decline in returns, which offset rising costs due to COVID-19.

Revenue rose 19% to £3.26bn in the period. Asos recorded double digit percentage sales growth in all its markets and signed up 3.1 million new customers during the year.

Just Eat’s lockdown order boom

Just Eat Takeaway.com (JET.L) has delivered 151.4 million takeaways around the world in three months as demand soared during the pandemic, new figures show.

Orders leapt during in its third quarter, up 46% on the previous year in its European and other markets. Takeaway delivery firms have been one of the few winners from the coronavirus crisis, with millions more households staying at home and many dine-in restaurants facing restrictions.

Just Eat Takeaway.com shares jumped 5.2% on the update on the London Stock Exchange on Wednesday.

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Stock markets subdued

Stock markets were mixed on Wednesday, as strong corporate earnings and new devices from Apple failed to distract from the worsening picture on COVID-19 and US stimulus talks.

European stock markets mostly opened near flat on Wednesday morning, following a global slump for equities on Tuesday.

The DAX (^GDAXI) was up 0.1% in Frankfurt and the CAC 40 (^FCHI) was flat in Paris after an hour of trade.

The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) was up 0.4% in London. The index was boosted by pressure on the pound. Around 70% of company earnings on the index are derived in dollars, so a weak pound makes their share prices look more attractive. Sterling was down 0.3% against both the euro (GBPEUR=X) and the dollar (GBPUSD=X).

Wall Street futures were trading higher. S&P 500 futures (ES=F) were pointing to a 0.3% rise at the open, while Dow Jones futures (YM=F) were up 0.1% and Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) were 0.5% higher.

Stocks were weak in Asia overnight. Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) closed up 0.1%, but the Hong Kong Hang Seng (^HSI) was flat and the Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) fell 0.6%.

Additional reporting by Tom Belger

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