FTSE 100 Live April 19: IMF updates economic forecasts, US earnings season picks up pace


IMF cuts UK growth forecast as inflation hits economy

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) cut its growth forecast for Britain today as it warned inflation would hit spending and investment.

In its latest quarterly report on the world economy, the IMF lowered its forecast for UK GDP growth this year by one percentage point to 3.7%.

“Consumption is expected to be weaker than expected as inflation erodes real disposable income, while tighter financial conditions are expected to dampen investment,” the organization said.

The IMF lowered its forecast for global growth from 4.4% to 3.6%, saying conditions had “deteriorated significantly” since its last update in January.

The downgrade came a day after the World Bank cut its forecast for global growth as rising interest rates, soaring inflation, continued Covid-19 infections and war in Ukraine dampen growth. global growth. The World Bank lowered its forecast from 4.1% to 3.2%.


US healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson saw its shares fall more than 3% in premarket trading after it cut its full-year sales and profit forecast.

The company beat first-quarter profit expectations as adjusted net profit hit $7.12bn (£5.48bn), but sales of $23.4bn were below expectations of the market.

The company said that given the oversupply and uncertainty in demand for Covid-19 vaccines, it was suspending guidance on this part of the business.

Johnson & Johnson now estimates its reported sales for 2022 to be between $94.8 and $95.8 billion, down from the $95.9 to $96.9 billion range forecast in January.

Additionally, earnings per share guidance fell to $10.15-$10.35 from January’s $10.4-$10.6.

Mikaela Franceschina, senior analyst at Third Bridge, said Johnson & Johnson had been a “strong and steady performer”, as evidenced by its 13.6% full-year sales growth in 2021.

“Although their medical device unit continues to suffer from Covid-19 headwinds, we can expect the market to recover throughout 2022,” she said.

“With the company’s plan to spin off its consumer healthcare business, the addition of new partnerships and a strong pipeline, the company should continue to be successful despite any potential setbacks with competitive pressures and market constraints. supply chain.”

Franceschina added that a key part of Johnson & Johnson’s business was its immunology drugs, such as Stelara (an antibody drug that helps treat Crohn’s disease and psoriatic arthritis) and Tremfya (which helps treat psoriasis).


Amazon agreed to an independent racial equity audit following pressure from shareholders.

The New York pension fund filed a shareholder resolution last year calling for an audit, and although the proposal was only backed by 44% of Amazon shareholders, the pressure on the company has been maintained.

The audit will analyze whether there are racially disparate impacts on Amazon’s U.S. hourly employees resulting from its policies and practices. Airbnb was the first company to conduct a racial audit in 2016.

The New York State Common Retirement Fund and its comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, which had pressed Amazon to conduct a racial audit, said they looked forward to hearing more about Amazon’s plan for a review. But they said they “remain concerned that the company provided few details and gave no assurance that the audit will be independent”.


Funky Pigeon suspends orders as it investigates cyberattack

Online card seller Funky Pigeon has revealed it was hacked and halted all customer orders.

The WH Smith-owned company said no customer payment data, such as bank account or credit card details, had been threatened, but was still assessing whether personal data, such as names, addresses and e-mail addresses, had been consulted.

The Bristol-based company said it identified a cybersecurity incident on Thursday (April 14) that affected its systems, prompting it to temporarily suspend orders.

WH Smith said the incident would not impact its finances, with half-year results due April 27.


Boots aiming to rid plastic fiber wet wipes from its shelves this year

Major retailer Boots will remove all wet wipes containing plastic fibers from its shelves by the end of the year, totaling more than 800 million a year.

The UK’s largest pharmacy chain will replace wipes with plant-based, biodegradable alternatives, following a trial that included Boots reformulating its own ranges of branded wipes and working to reduce plastic and become “a more sustainable retailer”.

Boots has written to its suppliers across the UK and the Republic of Ireland asking them to withdraw all wet wipes containing plastic fibers by the end of the year.

In the UK alone, 11 billion wet wipes are sold every year. Boots is one of the biggest sellers of wet wipes in the UK with over 140 different ranges stocked across skincare, beauty, baby, fabrics and healthcare categories. It is one of the leading sellers of facial beauty wipes, accounting for up to 15% of all facial wipes sold in the UK.

Many of the 11 billion wet wipes used in the UK each year still contain some form of plastic and evidence suggests they are the cause of more than nine in ten blockages in UK sewers.


GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca get US drug approval boost

GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca have won victories with the US regulator over treatments that could become blockbuster drugs for the companies.

Glaxo’s Daprodustat, which is used for the treatment of anemia in patients with chronic kidney disease, has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States after its successful Phase III clinical trial.

The triumph for the drug, which is already available in Japan, comes after the European Medicines Agency approved it last month.

Daprodustat is part of Glaxo’s new and specialty medicines division, whose nearly £10 billion in sales in 2021 made it the best-performing part of its pharmaceuticals business last year.

Meanwhile, AstraZeneca’s Enhertu, which it developed with Japan’s Daiichi Sankyo, was granted “Priority Review” status following a successful clinical trial.

Enhertu is used as a treatment for adults with unresectable or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer whose tumors have a HER2 mutation and who have had previous but unsuccessful treatment.

According to AstraZeneca’s latest results, Enhertu recorded sales of $214 million in 2021, but if this latest development achieves full approval, the company hopes to achieve the much-vaunted “blockbuster” status – $1 billion. dollars in annual sales.


Soho-based cybersecurity firm SEON raises £72m from Silicon Valley fund

A London-based fraud prevention firm that works with companies like Revolut and airline KLM has raised $94m (£72m) from a Silicon Valley investor.

The Series B funding round for Soho-based SEON was led by IVP, a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm, which has also backed $52 billion cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike and the company. Cyence cyber risk modelling.

Michael Miao, an IVP partner who joined SEON’s board, said the company “is making a remarkable dent in fraud prevention by making it easy for every business to adopt its data-driven solution. “.

SEON uses machine learning to create an image of a customer’s digital fingerprint using their email address, phone number, and IP address, and spot potentially fraudulent or fake accounts.

The company’s clients include fintech Revolut and airliner KLM. It has used its technology to review over a billion customer transactions and estimates that it has avoided over €50 million in fraudulent transactions.

Criminals stole more than £750million through fraud in the first half of 2021, according to research into UK finance.


Energy bosses fear rising customer debt amid soaring bills

Energy bosses have urged the government to act immediately to help reduce the scale of the rapidly rising levels of energy poverty.

Rising energy prices are exacerbating already strained household budgets, but with another increase in the energy price cap in the fall, energy companies are warning of large numbers of late-paying customers .

Addressing the Select committee for commercial, energy and industrial strategy Today, Michael Lewis, chief executive of E.ON, said he expected rising energy costs to have “a significant impact on customers’ ability to pay”.

He added that he expected to see “significantly more people falling into fuel poverty”, with an increase in debt as a result.

E.ON expects customer debt to rise by 50% to £800m from the current £1.6bn.

Chris O’Shea, the boss of British gas owner Centrica, said his debt had risen by 125,000 over the past year, adding that this meant 715,000 people owed the company money, a figure he expected to continue to rise.

Research from industry specialist Cornwall Insight has predicted a further rise of nearly £500 on the average annual bill in October when the price cap rises, pushing the average bill above around £2,450.


Fahy de SThree leaves the board of directors under pressure from shareholders

The chair of SThree’s audit committee has resigned over shareholder concerns over her involvement with bankrupt contractor Interserve.

Anne Fahy announced on Tuesday that she has resigned from the SThree board with immediate effect and will not be seeking re-election at tomorrow’s annual general meeting.

Sources close to the company said shareholders had raised concerns about Fahy’s role as chairman of Interserve’s audit committee from 2013 until its collapse six years later.

The company’s financial problems were such that the Financial Reporting Council imposed fines of over £700,000 on Interserve auditor Grant Thornton and one of its partners.

Fahy had already faced a revolt from SThree shareholders in 2019, but retained his post.

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