BUSINESS LIVE: StanChart faces $850m impairment; CAB Payments names CEO; Energy bills to fall

The FTSE 100 is flat in midday trading. Among the companies with reports and trading updates today are Standard Chartered, CAB Payments and Shell. Read the Friday 23 February Business Live blog below.

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Serco Leisure ordered to stop using facial recognition rech on workers

(PA) – The UK privacy and data protection watchdog has ordered Serco Leisure to stop using facial recognition technology to monitor the attendance of leisure centre employees.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) found that Serco Leisure and community leisure trusts were unlawfully processing the biometric data of more than 2,000 employees at 38 leisure facilities across the UK.

It said facial recognition and fingerprint scanning were used to monitor workers’ attendance and then the subsequent payment for their time.

The leisure centre operator failed to show why these methods were needed rather than “less intrusive” means, such as ID cards or fobs for staff, the ICO said.

The ICO also said employees were also not offered a clear alternative to having their faces and fingerprints scanned.

John Edwards, the UK Information Commissioner, said: “Biometric data is wholly unique to a person so the risks of harm in the event of inaccuracies or a security breach are much greater – you can’t reset someone’s face or fingerprint like you can reset a password.

“Serco Leisure did not fully consider the risks before introducing biometric technology to monitor staff attendance, prioritising business interests over its employees’ privacy.”

Two thirds of UK adults £65k worse off due to low financial confidence

Two thirds of Britons are £65,000 worse off on average over the course of their life due to low financial confidence and knowledge, a study claims.

Only 32 per cent feel confident when it comes to managing their money, new figures from digital wealth manager Moneybox suggest.

Car loans probe may see billions in payouts as Lloyds sets aside £450M

Lloyds has set aside £450 million to cover possible compensation payouts as a probe into car finance goes ahead.

The bank, which provides about one in six car loans in the UK, announced the hit as it revealed record annual profits of £7.5 billion for 2023.

Tui shares top FTSE 350 risers

Top 15 falling FTSE 350 firms 23022024

Standard Chartered shares top FTSE 350 risers

Top 15 rising FTSE 350 firms 23022024

Installing green technology in your home could boost its value

Two thirds of house hunters are looking for a property with green technology installed, a study claims.

More homebuyers seek houses with environmentally-friendly upgrades such as solar panels, triple-glazed windows and roof insulation, that will help them be more energy efficient and reduce carbon emissions, a survey by Ovo Energy shows.

Japan’s Nikkei stock market hits first new high in 34 years

Japan’s main stock index soared to a new high yesterday, breaking the previous record which was set 34 years ago.

Tokyo’s Nikkei rose 2.19 per cent on Thursday to close at its highest level since the 1980s boom.

Get out of Russia, you’re paying for Putin’s war, senior MPs tell Cadbury’s owner Mondelez

The owner of Cadbury has been attacked by MPs for continuing to sell chocolate in Russia two years after the invasion of Ukraine.

Labour’s Alex Sobel, who co-chairs an all-party Ukraine group, has written to Dirk Van de Put, chief executive of US food giant Mondelez, which took over the beloved British chocolate brand Cadbury in 2010.

Market open: FTSE 100 up 0.2%; FTSE 250 off 0.1%

The FTSE 100 has inched higher at the open, propped by financial stocks following Standard Chartered’s results, though the index is on course for marginal losses for the week as markets digest a raft of mixed earnings updates.

Standard Chartered has jumped 6.4 per cent to the top of FTSE 100 after the Asia-focused bank rewarded shareholders with dividends and a fresh $1billion buyback as annual profit rose 18%.

The stock powered a 1 per cent rise in British lenders .

The FTSE 250 has edged 0.1 per cent lower, led by a 2 per cent fall in the UK’s Domino’s Pizza Group as Barclays downgraded the firm to ‘equal weight’ from ‘overweight’.

Meanwhile, British consumer sentiment fell for the first time in four months in February as households took a gloomier view of their recent personal finances and the broader economic outlook, according to a survey.

MARKET REPORT: Nvidia adds £206bn in biggest ever share rally

Chipmaker Nvidia has jumped in value by £214billion, delivering the biggest increase in market value of any company in a single day’s trading in history.

Shares surged 16 per cent yesterday in New York. The increase outpaces the £156billion gain made by Facebook owner Meta at the start of February.

StanChart: ‘China story still the focus’ despite lower impairments than peers

Matt Britzman, equity analyst, Hargreaves Lansdown:

‘Standard Chartered’s fourth quarter results benefited from lower impairments like many of its peers. Profit before tax beat expectations largely due to a release of impairments back to profit from one of its divisions. Strip that out and underlying performance was a little weaker than expected, but the focus will be on guidance.

‘The outlook for 2024 is a smidge lower than analysts had priced in but the medium-term guidance out to 2026 shows promising signs. Volume growth, cost cuts and a benefit from the structural hedge are expected to help deliver a return on tangible equity of 12% in 2026 (10% 2023). If delivered, that should provide a material tailwind to the current valuation.

‘The China story remains in focus. Standard took another write-down of its investment in the domestic Chinese bank, Bohai, over the quarter – taking the total to $850mn for the year. The stark performance difference between onshore and offshore business in China highlights the challenging domestic environment.’

Energy bills will fall by £238 a year from April as Ofgem confirms price cap drop

CAB Payments names new CEO

British fintech company CAB Payments has named Neeraj Kapur as its new chief executive officer, just months after the group’s share went public.

Kapur will succeed Bhairav Trivedi, who will transition to the role of a senior adviser to the board.

The company, which went public last year and specialises in business-to-business emerging market cross-border payments and foreign exchange, has been looking to win back market trust after a sharp plunge in its shares following a profit warning.

UK private sector growing at fastest rate for nine months fuelling hopes the recession is already over

Britain’s private sector is growing at the fastest pace for nine months according to new figures adding to evidence that the recession is already over.

The purchasing managers’ index (PMI) showed business activity picking up speed – in stark contrast to data showing a deepening downturn in Germany.

UK GDP shrank for two quarters in a row late last year, meeting the technical definition of recession, but there are signs it has started to bounce back.

StanChart faces $850m impairment

Standard Chartered took a $850million impairment last year, mainly from its stake in Chinese lender Bohai Bank, its second time writing down the value of the unit as the lender was hit by increasing bad loans as growth in the world’s second-largest economy sputtered.

The hefty loss in China, a core target for StanChart’s strategy, underlines the challenge it faces to expand in the country as policymakers struggle to arrest a deepening property crisis and revive weak consumer confidence.

A fresh $150 million writedown of its stake in Bohai Bank, following a $700 million hit earlier this year, reduced its value to $700 million from $1.5 billion at the start of the year.

It follows news earlier this week from rival HSBC, which took a £2.4billion hit against the value of its stake in China’s Bank of Communications.