What to Watch: Warehouse fire costs Ocado, market fears ease, and UK economy flatlines

Oscar Williams-GrutSenior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Yahoo Finance UK
A delivery driver returns empty crates to his Ocado delivery van. (Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images)
A delivery driver returns empty crates to his Ocado delivery van. (Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images)

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

Warehouse fire costs Ocado

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Online shopping business Ocado (OCDO.L) fell to a £214.5m ($277m) loss last year as a fire at its Andover warehouse hit the business’s bottom line.

However, sales rose 9.9% in the year to £1.7bn despite the devastating fire and resulting lack of capacity. Analysts and investors reacted positively to the number, with shares rising 2.7%.

Bruno Monteyne, a retail analyst at Bernstein, said Ocado’s retail revenue growth “cements Ocado as the fastest-growing major retailer in the UK, gaining share in the overall UK grocery market and the ecommerce market”.

Monteyne said focus was now on the “execution” of a number of solutions deals struck by Ocado, which will see it build smart warehouses for other retailers around the world.

Fears ease in Europe

Stock markets rose on Tuesday, as fears about the spread of coronavirus eased slightly.

The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) was up 0.7%, the German DAX (^GDAXI) rose 0.6%, the French CAC 40 (^FCHI) climbed 0.4%, and the Euronext 100 (^N100) was 0.5% higher.

Overnight in Asia, the Hong Kong Hang Seng (^HSI) jumped 1.2%, Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) closed down by 0.6%, and the Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) rose by 0.3%.

S&P 500 futures (ES=F) were up 0.2%, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures (YM=F) were up 0.2%, and Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) were up 0.3%.

“Most of Asia, Europe and the UK saw strong gains on Tuesday,” said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell. “Investors seemed quite upbeat despite the ongoing coronavirus incident where the global death toll has now passed 1,000.”

UK economy flatlined at the end of 2019

UK economic growth flatlined at the end of 2019, as Brexit uncertainty, troubles in the motor industry, and the general election weighed on the economy.

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) on Tuesday said preliminary estimates suggest UK GDP grew by 0% in the fourth quarter when compared with the prior three months. The ONS also revised up third quarter growth to 0.5%, marking a particularly sharp quarter-on-quarter slowdown.

“There was no growth in the last quarter of 2019 as increases in the services and construction sectors were offset by another poor showing from manufacturing, particularly the motor industry,” said Rob Kent-Smith, the ONS's head of GDP.

JD’s Footasylum deal in doubt

The UK’s competition watchdog has raised serious concerns about JD Sports’s (JD.L) proposed takeover of rival trainer and sportswear shop Footasylum, suggesting the deal could be blocked unless both companies take action.

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said an in-depth investigation of the deal found it “could leave shoppers worse off, both in-store and online.”

The CMA’s ‘Phase 2’ investigation found the £90m ($116m) deal would “substantially lessen competition nationally” and warned it could lead to fewer Black Friday discounts and clearance sales for shoppers.

JD Sports and Footasylum have two weeks to try and alleviate concerns but the CMA warned on Tuesday that “its current view is that blocking the deal by requiring JD Sports to sell the Footasylum business may be the only way of addressing these competition concerns.”

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