What to watch: Lookers £50m loss, Dr Martens IPO, Boohoo Arcadia talks, Reddit ripples

Tom Belger
·Finance and policy reporter
·4 min read
A couple walk past cars on the forecourt of Vauxhall Lookers in Speke, Liverpool, as showrooms open for the first time since lockdown, as part of a wider easing of restrictions in England.
A Lookers forecourt when restrictions were eased over the summer in the UK. Photo: PA.

Here are some of the top business, market, and economic stories you should be watching today in the UK, Europe, and around the world.

Lookers £50m losses with showrooms closed

Car dealer Lookers (LOOK.L) saw its revenues slump 40% in the first half of 2020 to £1.56bn ($2.13bn), as coronavirus restrictions forced it close showrooms.

It posted a £50m loss, versus a £19.6m profit a year earlier, in its unaudited interim first-half results.

The company confirmed it had closed 12 sites and made 1,500 redundancies.

But it said trade was “encouraging” in the second half of 2020 and expected to be ahead of the previous year despite COVID-19 restrictions late last year.

The board “remains cautious” about 2021 amid the latest closure of showrooms in the third nationwide lockdown.

The company confirmed it had appointed Duncan McPhee as chief operating officer.

Lookers finally published its 2019 results in November after accounting problems and a fraud probe, with the company losing £327,000 in the fraud carried out by a staff member. It has applied to resume trading on the London Stock Exchange (^FTSE).

Boohoo confirms talks to buy three Arcadia brands

Online fashion retailer Boohoo (BOO.L) has confirmed that it is exclusive talks with Arcadia Group to buy three of Sir Philip Green’s retail brands.

According to Sky News Boohoo is leading the race to snap up Dorothy Perkins, Burton and Wallis for an estimated £25m.

Any deal would be for the brands and not the high street stores, and could wrap up Green’s remaining retail interests and the closure of all 444 stores in his retail empire.

Boohoo shareholders said the talks with Arcadia's administrators "may or may not result in agreement of a transaction.” Adding that "a further announcement will be made when appropriate.”

The news comes as Boohoo sealed a deal to buy the Debenhams brand and website for £55m earlier this week.

Dr Martens valued at £3.7bn in stock market debut

British boots brand Dr Martens kicked off its stock market debut on Friday morning in true fashion attracting bumper demand in sale valuing the firm at over $5bn (£3.7bn).

Shares in the company were up as much as 19% as it began to trade in London after owner Permira Holdings and other investors raised $1.8bn in the UK’s largest initial public offering (IPO) since September.

The company priced the deal at the top of an indicative range at 370 pence per share. It could sell a further 52.5 million shares on top of the initial 350 million shares sold, amid strong demand.

The company famed for its black boots with the yellow stitching said that the offer was over eight times oversubscribed.

The IPO marks a major win for private equity firm Permira, which bought Dr Martens in 2014 for €380m ($460m, £337m).

European stocks sink on short squeeze worries despite resilient GDP data

Stronger-than-expected GDP data in leading European economies failed to lift European stocks on Friday, as the fallout continued from the ‘short squeeze’ rocking financial markets.

The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) was down 1.1% in morning trading in London while the CAC 40 (^FCHI) fell 1.3% in Paris and the DAX (^GDAXI) was 1.2% down in Frankfurt.

“The initial euphoria at the start of January has given way to concerns about extended lockdowns and tighter restrictions for longer across Europe,” said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK.

The declines come in spite of GDP data proving more resilient than anticipated by analysts. The French economy shrank by 1.3% in the final quarter of 2020. It marked a stark reversal of the 18.5% growth in the previous quarter as COVID-19 and restrictions made a resurgence, but was much less damaging than the 4% decline predicted by economists.

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Germany’s economy slid 2.9%, better than the 3.4% consensus estimate. Spain’s economy even eked out growth, expanding by 0.4%, when experts had predicted at 1.5% decline.

Investor concerns in Asia have also grown over speculation of a shift to tighter monetary policy in China.

The Shanghai Composite index (000001.SS) and the Shenzen Component (399001.SZ) fell 0.6%. The Hong Kong Hang Seng (^HSI) shed 0.9%.

Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) also fell 1.9%, South Korea’s KOSPI (^KS11) fell 3%, and the Australian ASX 200 (^AXJO) dropped 0.6%.

Wall Street looked set for declines. Futures on the S&P 500 (ES=F) fell 1.1%, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures (YM=F) dropped 0.9%, and futures on the Nasdaq (NQ=F) were off 1.7%.

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