What to Watch: Domino's UK troubles abroad, WH Smith deal, and Nestle buyback

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
Domino's UK is abandoning its international markets. Photo: Domino's / PA

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

Domino’s UK abandons global expansion

Domino’s UK is set to abandon its overseas operations because of their “disappointing” performance, the company has announced in its third-quarter trading statement.

The London-listed Domino’s Pizza Group (DOM.L), itself part of the US giant, runs the Domino’s brand in Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.

But David Wild, its CEO, said: “We have concluded that, whilst they represent attractive markets, we are not the best owners of these businesses.”

International sales were down 2.7% in the third quarter overall. But investors appeared to welcome the news, with its share price up 4.1% at around 10am in London.

Unilever sales fall below expectations

Unilever (ULVR.L) shares rocketed on Thursday as it reported a 2.9% rise in underlying sales growth year-on-year in the third quarter, despite the figures falling behind analysts’ expectations.

Data supplied by Unilever suggested analysts had expected 3% growth, but the near-miss failed to dent an optimistic mood among investors as the company reported strong growth in home care products, up 5.4%.

It also reported strong growth in emerging markets overall and in southeast Asia, growth slowed in India and China and remained low in Europe and North America.

The company, behind many household brands including Dove, Hellman’s and Ben and Jerry’s, also noted it had “lapped a strong ice cream season in Europe.’ Its shares were up 2.1% at around 10am in London.

WH Smith to snap up US airport and casino retailer

WH Smith (SMWH.L) is set to buy Marshall Retail Group, a US retailer that operates stores in airports and casino resorts in a $400m (£318m) deal.

The move, which will see it take on the group’s 170 stores across the United States and Canada, accelerates WH Smith’s international expansion, which has been focused on the $3.2bn US airport travel retail market.

WH Smith acquired American travel accessories retailer In Motion this time last year for $198m.

Nestle to hand investors up to £15.8bn

The food and drink giant Nestle is set to hand its investors up to £15.8bn ($20.2bn) over the next three years, largely by buying back their shares.

The multinational (NESN.SW) highlighted strong growth in the US and its Purina PetCare brand as it said its strategy was generating “attractive cash returns for shareholders” in its latest sales update on Thursday.

The handout to shareholders is expected to begin in January next year mainly through a share buyback programme, though it may also pay out out “one or more special dividends” up to 2022.

European markets mixed

European stocks were mixed in early trading on Thursday.

Britain’s FTSE 100 (^FTSE) was up 0.3%, the German DAX (^GDAXI) index was flat, while the French CAC 40 (^FCHI) was down 0.2% and the Euro Stoxx 50 (^STOXX50E) was down 0.1%.

Asian stocks were also mixed overnight, with the Hong Kong Hang Seng Index (^HSI) up 0.7%, Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) and China’s Shanghai Composite index (000001.SS) both down 0.1%.

What to expect in the US

US stocks also looked set for a flat open, with S&P500 futures (ES=F) up just under 0.1% and Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) and Dow Jones futures (YM=F) both flat.