Germany on cusp of recession despite Olaf Scholz saying country will avoid one

German chancellor Olaf Scholz told the World Economic Forum in Davos that Germany would avoid a recession - Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg
German chancellor Olaf Scholz told the World Economic Forum in Davos that Germany would avoid a recession - Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg

Germany has fallen into recession, experts have warned, after official data revealed a surprise slump at the end of last year.

Europe's top economy contracted 0.2pc in the three months to December, according to preliminary figures from statistics authority Destatis, which some economists are interpreting as evidence the country entered a mild recession over the winter.

The downturn comes less than a fortnight after German chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany would avoid a recession.

A technical recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of contraction.

However, Franziska Palmas, senior Europe economist at Capital Economics, said the data "pours cold water on the recent optimism about the prospects for the eurozone".

She added that a technical recession in Germany "now looks quite likely particularly as the drag from higher interest rates will intensify in the coming months".

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos this month, Mr Scholz had insisted Germany will avoid a recession this year despite the energy crisis which has ravaged its economy.

Mr Scholz said that new liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals on the Baltic and North Sea coasts would help cushion the blow from the energy crisis on Germany's crucial manufacturing sector.

Read the latest updates below.

05:54 PM

Carnaby Street owner tells Sunak to resolve strike standoff

Rishi Sunak must resolve the standoff with striking rail unions, the owner of Carnaby Street has said, after footfall fell on key shopping days before Christmas.

My colleague Riya Makwana reports:

Brian Bickell, chief executive of Shaftesbury which owns the London shopping area, urged the prime minister to “get all the strikes settled”.

While the company enjoyed a positive run-up to Christmas with turnover up by 42pc compared to the year before, when business was hammered due to the emergence of the Omnicron variant of Covid, Mr Bickell insisted “strikes can't go on”.

Shaftesbury also owns Chinatown, Seven Dials and parts of Covent Garden, Soho and Fitzrovia. The company relies heavily on local and oversea tourists visiting West End theatres, restaurants and shops.

Read the full story here.

05:23 PM

Volvo hit with $130m fine over re-call issues

Volvo will pay a penalty of as much as $130m under an arrangement with the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over findings that the maker of heavy-duty trucks was slow to recall vehicles and report injuries and deaths.

Bloomberg has the details:

NHTSA said Monday that the figure, which includes a $65m upfront payment, is “one of the largest-ever penalties for violations of the Vehicle Safety Act.” The manufacturer, which is separate from Volvo Cars, also agreed to oversight by an independent third-party auditor and to meet regularly with NHTSA to ensure that it addresses any potential safety issues.

The consent order will last for a period of three years. NHTSA said it has the option to extend it for two additional years if warranted.

“We look forward to continuing our close work with NHTSA to identify and close any compliance gaps,” Volvo Group said in a separate statement. “Wide-ranging improvements in our North American safety processes and systems are already underway.”

04:43 PM

Paperchase mulls sale of retailer 'as a going concern to new owners'

Commenting on reports that Paperchase is close to collapsing into administration, a spokesman for the company said:

We confirm that we have retained [Begbies Traynor] and PwC to advise Paperchase on strategic options, including the sale of the business as a going concern to new owners. Talks are continuing with a number of interested parties.

All Paperchase stores and the website will continue to trade as normal during this period. We can’t comment further on this process until discussions with interested parties have been concluded.

03:59 PM

Handing over

That's all from me today. My colleague Simon Foy will take things from here.

03:57 PM

FTSE 250 slumps as 888 shares plunge

The announcement of a new chief executive at Unilever has helped boost the FTSE 100 but it has been a bad day for midcap stocks.

The blue-chip index has gained 0.2pc to 7,778.96, aided by good performances from consumer goods companies Reckitt and Unilever, the latter of which revealed former Heinz executive Hein Schumacher will lead the company from July.

However, it was a tough day on the FTSE 250, which has fallen 0.8pc to 19,869.83.

This follows a 28pc hammering for gambling company 888 after it emerged its chief executive has stepped down as it launched an internal investigation into failures to follow anti-money laundering rules.

Cybersecurity business Darktrace was down as much as 18pc to its lowest level on record after asset manager Quintessential revealed a short position in the business.

In the US, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has fallen 0.2pc to 33,920.30 and the broad-based S&P 500 has slumped 0.8pc to 4,037.87.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite has fallen 1.6pc to 11,434.83 amid investor jitters over interest rate decisions in the US, Britain and Europe this week.

03:47 PM

Charity backed by FTX investigated by UK regulator

The UK's charity regulator has launched an investigation into a charity which was backed by the collapsed crypto trading platform FTX.

The Charity Commission will conduct the inquiry into Effective Ventures Foundation after discovering "indications of potential risks to the charity's assets".

Once valued at more than $32bn, FTX sensationally collapsed in November after a run on crypto assets. Its founder Sam Bankman-Fried is facing fraud charges in the US over allegations he misused customer funds, which he denies.

Regarding its inquiry into Effective Ventures Foundation, the Charity Commission said "there is no indication of wrongdoing by the trustees at this time".

However, it wants to investigate "the extent to which the trustees are complying with their legal duties" and "relationships between the charity’s trustees and its funders".

Howie Lempel, interim chief executive of Effective Ventures Foundation UK, said: "We understand the Commission’s desire to exercise extra scrutiny, especially given the scale and profile of the FTX situation, and we will be cooperating fully.

"The trustees have carefully assessed the financial situation and the charity is not reliant on the FTX-related funds for its future operations."

FTX was a 'significant funder' of Effective Ventures Foundation - OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images
FTX was a 'significant funder' of Effective Ventures Foundation - OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images

03:37 PM

Shareholder revolt over On The Beach bosses' pay

Travel company On The Beach has said more than one in five votes were cast against its bosses' pay at a shareholder meeting last Friday.

The business said that only 79.34pc of votes were in favour of the remuneration policy, but a majority approved last year's remuneration report.

Around 13pc of shareholders also did not want to authorise the company to establish its 2023 long-term incentive plan (LTIP). The business said:

The remuneration committee believes that the 2023 LTIP will enable the company to retain key talent by providing management with greater visibility over long-term remuneration outcomes in a very challenging market, while addressing the difficulties faced in setting long-term performance targets in the context of the volatile UK travel sector.

Nonetheless, the board notes the concerns raised by some shareholders.

03:09 PM

Paperchase 'could appoint administrators tomorrow'

Paperchase is reportedly close to collapsing into administration as talks to rescue the struggling high street stationery retailer falter.

Insolvency practitioners from Begbies Traynor could be appointed as soon as tomorrow, according to Sky News.

Last week Paperchase confirmed it had retained Begbies Traynor and PwC to advise on "strategic options, including the sale of the business as a going concern to new owners".

A spokesman for the company had said talks were "continuing with a number of interested parties".

The retailer has more than 100 stores and employs 820 staff.

Paperchase - David J. Green / Alamy Stock Photo
Paperchase - David J. Green / Alamy Stock Photo

02:59 PM

Oil prices plunge as Opec+ 'unlikely to alter production'

Oil prices has dropped amid speculation a panel of Opec nations and their allies will keep the oil producing cartel's current output policy unchanged when it meets this week.

Ministers from Opec+ countries - members of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and others including Russia - are due to hold a virtual meeting at 11am on Wednesday.

Five sources from the group told Reuters last week that the panel, called the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee, would discuss the economic outlook and the scale of Chinese demand, and was unlikely to suggest tweaks to current policy.

One said the rebound in oil prices in 2023 made any changes unlikely.

Brent crude immediately slid 1.1pc to below $85 a barrel. US-produced West Texas Intermediate dropped 2pc below $78 a barrel.

02:49 PM

Seven operators still not using service to tell rail passengers about cancellations

Seven train operators are not using a system that has been available for eight months to automatically notify passengers when services are cancelled or changed, a regulator said.

The process involves an email or text message being sent to online ticket buyers when services are amended up to 48 hours before travel.

It is available to train operators, independent retailers and travel management companies, but not all businesses have signed up despite journey reliability sinking to a record low.

Rail regulator the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) said the operators not using the automatic notification tool developed last year are: Hull Trains, London Northwestern Railway, ScotRail, South Western Railway, TransPennine Express, Transport for Wales and West Midlands Railway.

It wrote to the companies stating that "passengers reasonably expect train operators to be proactive in keeping them informed" and they are expected to begin using the system by the end of March.

TransPennine Express is among the operators not yet sutomatically notifying passengers when services are cancelled or changed - Danny Lawson/PA Wire
TransPennine Express is among the operators not yet sutomatically notifying passengers when services are cancelled or changed - Danny Lawson/PA Wire

02:33 PM

US markets lower at the open

Wall Street lost ground at the opening bell at the start of the busiest week of the earnings season and ahead of key central bank meetings.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.3pc to 33,887.14, while the broad-based S&P 500 shed 0.6pc to 4,045.92.

The Nasdaq Composite dropped 0.9pc to 11,512.34 at the opening bell.

The US Federal Reserve is expected to increase the Fed funds rate by 25 basis points at the end of its two-day policy meeting on Wednesday, close on the heels of economic reports showing signs of slowing demand and cooling inflation.

The Bank of England and European Central Bank announce their interest rate decisions on Thursday.

02:07 PM

British companies like BP ideal for takeover, says fund manager

British companies could make attractive takeover targets, a fund manager has suggested, thanks to cheap valuations and the weak pound.

The oil and gas sector could catch the eye of foreign buyers, according to M&G's head of UK equities Michael Stiasny.

The fund manager said he "would not be shocked" if a major British business in the sector was the subject of a takeover bid.

He suggested BP as a name that trades "at a significant discount to US peers, even after a solid year of performance".

BP has a price discount of 50pc compared to US peer Exxon, which stood at 10pc in 2018. Its shares have risen 0.7pc today to £4.92.

BP - Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
BP - Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

01:56 PM

Ford slashes prices in electric vehicle price battle

Ford is slashing the price of its electric Mustang Mach-E by an average of $4,500 (£3,634) following Tesla's own recent cuts, stepping up the price wars in a slowing electric vehicle market.

The discount comes on a model that Ford has already described as unprofitable, but the automaker said it hopes to offset further margin deterioration by boosting production 67pc this year.

The lowest priced Mach-E now starts at $45,995 (£37,148), down $900, while the largest cut comes in the GT Extended Range version, which falls $5,900 to start at $63,995 (£51,686).

The move, along with discounted financing rates as low as 5.3pc on the Mach-E, is meant to counter Tesla’s decision to cut prices across its lineup by as much as 20pc.

It also brings the Mach-E in line with new caps on EV prices to qualify for federal tax credits of up to $7,500 under the Inflation Reduction Act. The fight to win over buyers comes as analysts predict the pace of growth for EVs will slow this year.

The electric Ford Mustang Mach-E - Alex Wong/Getty Images
The electric Ford Mustang Mach-E - Alex Wong/Getty Images

01:40 PM

Danish government wants to give £591 handouts to poor pensioners

Denmark's government proposes to spend 2.3bn Danish kroner (£272m) on an economic aid package aimed at softening the blow from high inflation.

The country's finance ministry the government will now start talks with opposition parties in parliament to reach a broad deal and decide on the details of the programme  mainly targeting senior citizens

Finance Minister Nicolai Wammen said: "There are Danish families with children and pensioners who are under severe financial pressure and clearly feel the high inflation."

As part of the proposal, the government suggests giving a tax-free cash handout of 5,000 Danish kroner (£591) to elderly  people with a limited income, mirroring a similar move by the previous government in June last year.

01:25 PM

BBC impartiality at risk because journalists 'lack understanding of basic economics'

BBC journalists "lack understanding of basic economics", according to an independent review of the corporation's economics coverage.

Arts and entertainment editor Anita Singh has the latest:

Impartiality is at risk because some journalists at the corporation make assumptions and have gaps in their knowledge, the review concluded.

The thematic review was commissioned by the BBC Board into the broadcaster's coverage of taxation, public expenditure, government borrowing and government debt.

Its authors, economics experts Michael Blastland and Sir Andrew Dilnot, were tasked with assessing whether due impartiality was being achieved in these areas.

Read what they found.

01:07 PM

Facebook seeks to block £3bn mass action over market dominance

Facebook has asked a tribunal to block a collective lawsuit valued at up to £3bn over allegations the social media giant abused its dominant position to monetise users' personal data.

Meta, the platform's parent company, is facing a mass action brought on behalf of around 45m Facebook users in Britain.

Legal academic Liza Lovdahl Gormsen, who is bringing the case, said Facebook users were not properly compensated for the value of personal data that they had to provide to use the platform.

Her lawyers said users should get compensation for the economic value they would have received if Facebook was not in a dominant position in the market for social networks.

But Meta said the lawsuit was "entirely without merit" and should not be allowed to proceed. Its lawyers said the claimed losses ignore the "economic value" Facebook provides.

Ms Lovdahl Gormsen's lawyers today asked the Competition Appeal Tribunal to certify the case under the UK's collective proceedings regime.

Facebook - REUTERS/Dado Ruvic
Facebook - REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

12:53 PM

US markets poised for fall

Wall Street is expected to open lower as a note of caution creeps into the markets at the start of a week of crucial interest-rate decisions.

Futures contracts on the S&P 500 dropped about 1pc after Wall Street extended January's stellar rally on Friday as traders brushed off disappointing outlooks from some of the world's largest technology companies.

Nasdaq 100 futures were down about 1.3pc, though still heading for the best start to a year since 1999. Treasury yields rose.

Federal Reserve officials are expected to raise rates by a quarter percentage point on Wednesday.

12:34 PM

Oil trades flat ahead of rates decisions

Oil is trading flat, along with broader commodities markets, as China's return from Lunar New Year holidays failed to deliver hoped-for gains.

Brent crude was trading above $86 while West Texas Intermediate slid fractionally toward $79 a barrel after topping $81 last week.

Traders are keen to avoid big bets on markets ahead of a US Federal Reserve meeting Wednesday that is expected to result in another rate increase. The Bank of England gives its rate decision on Thursday.

Oil has had a bumpy ride in recent months, with prices supported by the demand outlook in China but held back by concerns that the US could slip into recession.

Yet some investors are speculating the Fed is now nearing the end of its tightening cycle.

12:06 PM

Barclays to open 70 sites this year

Barclays will set up shop in town halls and libraries across Britain this year, adding another 70 sites offering face to face contact in communities.

The bank set up 200 so called Barclays Local outfits last year under a plan aimed at limiting the impact of branch closures sweeping the industry.

The bank said the format "offers a way of remaining in places where there is no longer enough demand to support a traditional branch".

This year the scheme will begin to also be introduced into areas without an existing Barclays presence.

It will also start setting up "banking pods" in purpose-built, semi-permanent structures in sites such as shopping centres and retail parks.

At least 10 will be rolled out across the UK by this summer following the success of the bank's first pod in St Austell in Cornwall.

Barclays Bank - REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Barclays Bank - REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

11:49 AM

Oil and gas investment needed for another 30 years, BP warns

Investment in oil and gas production will be needed for the next three decades if the world is to avoid more shortages and price swings, BP has warned.

Energy correspondent Rachel Millard has the details:

The oil giant said in its annual energy outlook published today that fossil fuels are still likely to account for about 20pc of primary energy in 2050 even under a significant tightening of climate policies.

Spencer Dale, chief economist at BP, said investment in new wells would therefore be needed until 2050 to ensure supply of fossil fuels matches demand.

"Natural declines in existing production sources mean there needs to be continuing upstream investment in oil and natural gas over the next 30 years," he wrote in the report.

Read how the assessment is likely to spark backlash from climate groups and campaigners.

11:26 AM

Lidl to invest £4bn in UK food producers this year

Lidl has said it will invest £4bn into UK food businesses this year as it pushes forward with growth plans.

The discount supermarket added that the move will accelerate previously announced spending plans.

In 2019, the British arm of the German retailer committed to £15bn of investment in the UK food industry from 2020 to 2025.

The group said this is now expected to rise to £17bn for the period.

Ryan McDonnell, chief executive officer at Lidl GB, said:

The farmers and producers that supply us, some of which have been with us for decades, are paramount to the success of our business.

We see them as partners in our mission to provide households with high quality affordable produce, and for many, working with Lidl GB and being part of our growth has opened opportunities for their own expansion, both here in the UK and across the globe.

Lidl said it sources around two-thirds of its core products from the UK and works with more than 650 suppliers across the country.

Lidl will invest in UK food producers - Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
Lidl will invest in UK food producers - Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

11:19 AM

German economy contracts weeks after Scholz brushed off recession fears

Germany's economy unexpectedly shrank at the end of 2022 due to the fallout from the war in Ukraine, official data showed today, weeks after chancellor Olaf Scholz insisted the country will avoid a recession.

Europe's top economy contracted 0.2pc in the October to December period compared to the previous quarter, according to preliminary figures from statistics authority Destatis.

For the whole of 2022, the German economy grew 1.8pc, the data showed, a revision from an earlier figure of 1.9pc.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos this month, Mr Scholz had insisted Germany will avoid a recession this year despite the energy crisis which has ravaged its economy.

Mr Scholz said that new liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals on the Baltic and North Sea coasts would help cushion the blow from the energy crisis on Germany's crucial manufacturing sector.

Olaf Scholz speaks in Davos - FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Image
Olaf Scholz speaks in Davos - FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Image

10:53 AM

JD advises customers to 'be vigilant about potential scam emails'

JD warned customers to be vigilant against any potential fraudsters who could use stolen information to convince shoppers that they are receiving a call, email or text from JD.

Chief financial officer Neil Greenhalgh said:

We want to apologise to those customers who may have been affected by this incident.

We are advising them to be vigilant about potential scam emails, calls and texts and providing details on how to report these.

We are continuing with a full review of our cyber security in partnership with external specialists following this incident.

Protecting the data of our customers is an absolute priority for JD.

The business said that it would proactively contact customers whose data might have been taken in the breach.

10:50 AM

Hackers may have stolen details of 10m customers at JD Sports

JD Sports has warned that around 10 million people might have had their addresses, phone numbers and email addresses among other things stolen in a hack that hit the retailer.

The business said payment card details were safe, and that it has no reason to think the hackers have accessed users' passwords.

Hackers accessed a system which contained information on orders placed between November 2018 and October 2020 by JD Sports customers, the company said.

The impacted brands include JD, Size?, Millets, Blacks, Scotts and MilletSport.

JD Sports has revealed it was hit by a cyberattack - Carlos Jasso/Bloomberg
JD Sports has revealed it was hit by a cyberattack - Carlos Jasso/Bloomberg

10:46 AM

NHS backlog forces workers to reduce hours

A fifth of adults were waiting for a hospital appointment last month, official figures reveal, with workers also reporting that the delays are impacting their work.

One in five adults was waiting for a hospital appointment, test, or to start receiving medical treatment through the NHS in the four weeks to December 18.

Meanwhile, four in 10 who were either employed or self-employed said that the wait had affected their work.

More than a quarter said they had been forced to reduce their working hours, while 7pc went on long-term sick leave.

The data from the Office for National Statistics comes after Jeremy Hunt last week made an appeal to early retirees and the long-term sick to come back to work to get the economy back on track, saying: "Britain needs you".

One fifth of Britain's working age adults are economically inactive.

The 39pc of employed or self-employed adults who said their work had been affected by delays to NHS treatment detailed a variety of ways their working lives were being impacted.

More than four in 10 (42pc) said they were changing the tasks they do while more than a quarter (26pc) said they were reducing their working hours.

Some 11pc were not going for promotion or training opportunities while 7pc were one long-term sick leave.

Almost a quarter of adults who needed to see a GP in the past month reported not being able to get an appointment, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Adults who experienced moderate-to-severe depressive symptom were more likely to report this.

10:35 AM

Shock rise in Spanish inflation spooks markets ahead of rate rises

A surprise rise in Spanish inflation has spooked investors across Europe as they fear it could trigger higher interest rates later this week.

Consumer prices in Spain advanced by 5.8pc from a year ago in January — up from the previous month’s 5.5pc increase, the statistics institute in Madrid said today.

Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had predicted a fall to 4.8pc.

The data sent yields on Eurozone bonds climbing as investors sold them off, with Germany's 10-year Bund yield hitting 2.28pc, and the Spanish 10-year bond yield jumping 1.9 percentage points to 3.27pc. Italy's 10-year bond yield leapt 1.7pc to 4.3pc, the highest in the bloc.

Antoine Bouvet, a rates strategist at ING Bank said: "The higher core inflation is a concern. That sell-off shows that markets are biased toward lower inflation and that release is catching them offside."

Spain's rise in inflation will have sparked concerns that the European Central Bank will need to continue with aggressive interest rate rises to pull down consumer prices.

All eyes will be on the US on Wednesday evening when the Federal Reserve decides by how much it will increase rates, with the Bank of England and the European Central Bank announcing their decisions on Thursday.

Global markets have started the week off badly, with France and Germany stock indices down 0.5pc and the Euro Stoxx 50 falling by 0.8pc. The FTSE 100 recovered from a similar fall to sit flat.

Spanish inflation unexpectedly quickened in December - AP Photo/Manu Fernandez
Spanish inflation unexpectedly quickened in December - AP Photo/Manu Fernandez

09:56 AM

Gas prices jump on hopes of rebound in consumption

European natural gas prices have leapt 5pc as cheaper fuel brings the possibility of a rebound in industrial consumption.

Benchmark futures reversed an earlier decline as a mild winter, fuel savings and strong inflows of liquefied natural gas have eased prices dramatically after a turbulent year.

The price volatility is keeping the energy crisis alive, even though it has lost much of the sting.

Europe's gas inventories dropped last week amid a brief cold spell, but they are still far above historic averages.

Temperatures in northwest Europe are climbing back above seasonal norms and are expected to remain mild until mid-February, according to forecaster Maxar Technologies.

Dutch front-month gas, Europe's benchmark, traded 5.5pc higher at €58.50 a megawatt-hour.

The contract lost 17pc last week, the biggest decline since December. The UK equivalent contract added 3.6pc today.

09:23 AM

Pound weakens against the dollar

The pound has slipped against the dollar as traders remain cautious ahead of the big interest rate decisions this week.

Sterling was down 0.1pc verses the greenback, and is now well below $1.24, having gained 2.7pc over the last month.

It is a major week for currency markets, with the US Federal Reserve to announce its next interest rate decision on Wednesday evening, followed by the Bank of England and the European Central Bank on Thursday.

09:09 AM

Renault agrees to cut stake in Nissan

Renault has agreed to lower its stake in Nissan, seeking to address a longstanding source of friction in their two-decade alliance to better compete in an industry moving to electrification and automation.

The partners will each retain a 15pc cross-shareholding with Renault transferring the remainder of its stake into a French trust for a coordinated sale when it is commercially "reasonable" to do so, the companies said today.

The plan still requires final approval from the companies' respective boards.

Up to now, Renault Group has held a 43.4pc stake in Nissan, potentially giving it a larger say in how the company is run.

It will transfer shares equivalent to a 28.4pc stake to a French trust, so it will hold a 15pc stake in Nissan, just as Nissan holds 15pc of the French automaker, according to the companies.

The top shareholder in Renault is the French government. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida met with French President Emmanuel Macron earlier this month.

Renault will cut its stake in Nissan - STEPHANIE LECOCQ/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Renault will cut its stake in Nissan - STEPHANIE LECOCQ/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

08:54 AM

China's state-owned companies hit by deeper decline

Profits at Chinese state-owned companies fell 5.1pc year-on-year in 2022 to 4.3trn yuan (£510bn), according to data from the Finance Ministry.

The decline was steeper than the 4.4pc fall in the first 11 months of 2022.

08:45 AM

Adani Group hits back as stock rout his £52.5bn

India's Adani Group has said a US short-seller's report on the business house was a "calculated attack" on the country and its institutions as its seven listed companies losses reached about $65bn (£52.5bn).

Adani has been hit by a mass exodus of shareholders since Hindenburg Research raised concerns about the coal-to-ports group's high debt levels on January 24, alleging the use of offshore entities in tax havens, charges the group has denied.

Meanwhile, founder Gautam Adani has dropped from being the world's third-richest person to the eighth, with about £22.6bn of his net worth wiped out over the last year according to the Bloomberg Billionaires index.

In a 413-page response to Hindenburg's allegations, the Adani Group said: "This is not merely an unwarranted attack on any specific company but a calculated attack on India, the independence, integrity and quality of Indian institutions, and the growth story and ambition of India."

Adani's finance chief, Jugeshinder Singh, likened the behaviour of Indian investors participating in the sell-off to the colonial-era Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar city.

Adani Group founder Gautam Adani - INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP via Getty Images
Adani Group founder Gautam Adani - INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP via Getty Images

08:32 AM

Markets fall ahead of rate decisions

Stocks in London have slipped as investors refrained from making risky bets ahead of the US Federal Reserve, European Central Bank and the Bank of England's interest rate decisions this week.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 was down 0.6pc, while the midcap FTSE 250 dropped 0.7pc.

888 plummeted 14pc after the bookmaker said chief executive Itai Pazner would step down immediately and that it would suspend VIP activities in some markets pending an internal investigation.

Legal & General slipped 2.3pc after the insurer said chief executive Nigel Wilson was retiring after a decade in the top job but would remain in the post until a successor took the helm.

Shares of Unilever rose as much as 0.8pc after the consumer goods giant appointed Hein Schumacher, currently the chief of Dutch dairy business FrieslandCampina, to replace Alan Jope as its chief executive from July 1.

08:25 AM

LVMH and L'Oréal 'weighing up bids' for Aesop

LVMH and L'Oréal are reportedly among the luxury consumer companies weighing offers for a stake in Aesop that may value the high-end cosmetics brand at $2bn (£1.6bn) or more.

Japanese beauty group Shiseido is also studying a potential bid for an interest in Aesop, according to Bloomberg.

Aesop is owned by Brazilian cosmetics maker Natura, which is working with Bank of America and Morgan Stanley as it explores the sale of a stake in the business.

Deliberations are ongoing. Representatives for Natura, LVMH, L’Oréal and Shiseido declined to comment.

Sao Paulo-based Natura said in October that it was assessing options to unlock value at Aesop, including a possible IPO or spinoff.

Aesop makes luxury cosmetics -
Aesop makes luxury cosmetics -

08:17 AM

New Shell chief executive overhauls business after a month

Shell has revealed it will combine its oil and gas production and liquified natural gas (LNG) divisions as part of an overhaul by its new chief executive.

Wael Sawan, who took over at the start of this month, said the changes will take place from July.

Shell also confirmed its shake-up will reduce the size of its executive committee from nine to seven members in order to "simplify the organisation further and improve performance". Mr Sawan said:

I'm making these changes as part of Shell's natural and continuous evolution.

Our core purpose is to provide energy to our customers, safely and profitably, while helping them - and us - to decarbonise.

I believe that fewer interfaces mean greater co-operation, discipline and speed, enabling us to focus on strengthening performance across the businesses and generating strong returns for our investors.

Shell - REUTERS/Neil Hall
Shell - REUTERS/Neil Hall

08:08 AM

Legal and General boss Wilson to retire

Legal & General chief executive Nigel Wilson will retire after more than 10 years at the helm of the asset manager.

The company said it will commence "a rigorous process" to find a successor, with internal and external candidates considered.

Mr Wilson will continue as chief executive until a replacement is found. It is expected that the process will take about a year.

Legal & General chief executive Nigel Wilson is to retire - Simon Dawson/Bloomberg
Legal & General chief executive Nigel Wilson is to retire - Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

08:02 AM

Markets open lower amid rate decision jitters

Markets have opened lower as investors await interest rates decisions from the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of England this week.

The FTSE 100 has opened 0.5pc lower at 7,724.87 while the midcap FTSE 250 is down 0.4pc to 19,946.69.

07:47 AM

Rio Tinto 'sorry' for lost radioactive capsule

Mining giant Rio Tinto has apologised for the loss of a tiny radioactive capsule that has sparked a radiation alert across parts of the vast state of Western Australia.

The radioactive capsule, believed to have fallen from a truck, was part of a gauge used to measure the density of iron ore feed which had been entrusted to a specialist contractor to transport. The loss may have occurred up to two weeks ago.

Authorities are now grappling with the daunting task of searching along the truck's 1,400 kilometre (870 mile) journey from north of Newman - a small town in the remote Kimberley region - to a storage facility in the northeast suburbs of Perth - a distance longer than the length of Great Britain.

The task, while akin to finding the proverbial needle in a haystack, is "not impossible" as searchers are equipped with radiation detectors, said Andrew Stuchbery who runs the department of Nuclear Physics & Accelerator Applications at the Australian National University.

He said: "That's like if you dangled a magnet over a haystack, it's going to give you more of a chance."

Authorities suspect vibrations from the truck caused the screws and the bolt to come loose, and the radioactive capsule from the gauge fell out of the package and then out of a gap in the truck.

Rio Tinto - REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon
Rio Tinto - REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon

07:42 AM

888 boss quits

The chief executive of 888 is to step down immediately just weeks after it was announced the gambling company's chief financial officer would be leaving at the end of March.

Itai Pazner is stepping down, with Lord Mendelsohn becoming executive chairman until a new boss is found.

It was revealed earlier this month that Yariv Dafna would leave as finance chief in a "mutual" decision, having presided over the company's £1.9bn purchase of rival William Hill's operations outside the US.

It comes as, in a separate announcement, 888 said an initial internal review showed that "certain best practices have not been followed" in relation to anti-money laundering and "know-your-client" processes for its VIP customers in the Middle East.

The betting company has therefore suspended VIP accounts in the region with immediate effect.

The company estimated that this affects less than 3pc of group revenues, were the suspensions to remain in place.

Lord Mendelsohn, chairman of the company, said:

The board and I take the group's compliance responsibilities incredibly seriously.

When we were alerted to issues with some of 888's VIP customers, the board took decisive actions.

We will be uncompromising in our approach to compliance as we build a strong and sustainable business.

07:38 AM

Philips to cut 6,000 more jobs

Philips is cutting another 6,000 jobs globally as it grapples with costly recalls of some of its consumer products.

The losses, which amount to about 8pc of its workforce, come on top the company axing 4,000 positions last year. That plan was already due to cost the Dutch business €300m (£263m).

It is unclear how many, if any, of the new job losses at the medical device maker will be in the UK.

Chief executive Roy Jakobs said: "That's a sizeable and impactful measure, but we see it necessary to address the rising cost across the company and the world, but also to musk us more agile."

Philips - REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw
Philips - REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

07:25 AM

Unilever appoints new boss

Consumer goods giant Unilever has appointed Hein Schumacher as its new chief executive officer replacing Alan Jope from July 1.

Mr Schumacher, 51, joined Unilever in October last year as non-executive director and is currently the chief of Dutch dairy business FrieslandCampina.

The London-based company had in September said that chief executive Mr Jope planned to retire at the end of 2023.

 Hellmann's is a brand of Unilever - REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
Hellmann's is a brand of Unilever - REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

07:17 AM

Easter air fares will rise, warns Ryanair

Ryanair has predicted surging demand will send the cost of air travel higher days after rival low cost carrier Flybe collapsed.

Europe's largest discount airline said it was "confident" about the months ahead

Flybe collapsed into administration for the second time in two years over the weekend, leaving thousands of passengers stranded and 277 staff out of work.

Meanwhile, Ryanair raised its profit outlook for the year to a range of €1.325bn (£1.16bn) to €1.425bn (£1.25bn) as it boosted sales by 57pc to €2.31bn (£2bn) in the final three months of last year. Profits for the period were €211m (£185m) compared to a €96m (£84.2m) loss the year before.

Chief financial officer Neil Sorahan said: "We will deliver record profits in the current financial year and we would expect to continue to grow profitably into next year and beyond.

"Based on current booking profiles, we think that fares will rise into Easter and the summer."

It comes with air fares are rising at their fastest rate since records began as carriers capitalise on pent-up demand following coronavirus lockdowns.

Ticket prices rose by 44.1pc last year, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the largest rise since records began being compiled in 1989.

Ryanair said it is winning market share in places like Spain and Scandinavia as it reported a return to profit for its third quarter results.

In the three months to December, profits were €211m (£185m) compared to a €96m (£84.2m) loss in the same period last year.

Passenger numbers should reach 168m this fiscal year, the airline said, and rise to 225m by 2026.

The airline is putting more capacity into markets including the UK, using its fleet of high-capacity Boeing 737 Max that carry more people at reduced fuel burn.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said this month that the company was seeing its best ever sales for summer travel as travel remains a priority for the public and Ryanair expands its route network.

The carrier said fares remained buoyant after rising last year and would likely show a further high single-digit percentage gain.

Ryanair expects fares to rise by Easter - REUTERS/Paul Hanna
Ryanair expects fares to rise by Easter - REUTERS/Paul Hanna

07:05 AM

Good morning

Airlines are recovering from their worst slump in history following the pandemic.

Those ongoing struggles were highlighted by the collapse of Flybe over the weekend, leaving thousands of passengers scrambling to save their holidays and 277 staff out of a job.

However, things may be changing in the sector. Ryanair expects air fares to rise this year and has raised its profit forecast.

Yet there will be pain in the short-term, with the company expecting the cost of travel to rise by Easter.

5 things to start your day

1) Lack of growth plan is leaving Britain in the ‘doldrums’ | British Chambers of Commerce head condemns “clear lack of Government strategy to raise productivity”

2) The Bank of England has a new headache – falling inflation | Andrew Bailey must weigh a trade-off to avoid throttling growth

3) Blow to Jeremy Hunt’s plan as sickness keeps half of over-50s out of work | 1.6 million over-50s quit the workforce due to long-term sickness, up 20pc since 2019

4) Struggling TransPennine train operator under pressure over £75m payouts | Shareholder payouts a ‘sick joke’, shadow transport secretary says

5) Harry Potter wand battle as British start-up takes on Warner Bros | London gadget developer claims media giant is using its intellectual property without consent

What happened overnight

Asian shares were mixed on Monday as mainland China stocks reopened with a rally that has the onshore benchmark on course for a bull market.

Hong Kong stocks fell at the start of trade on Monday morning, with the Hang Seng Index slipping 0.48pc to 22,579.88.

Meanwhile, the Shanghai Composite Index jumped 1.35pc to 3,308.87 and the Shenzhen Composite Index on China's second exchange gained 1.74pc to 2,162.83.

Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei index closed higher after Wall Street finished a positive week on an upbeat note on data showing a further ebbing of US inflation.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index climbed 0.2pc to end at 27,433.40, while the broader Topix index was flat at 1,982.40.