What to Watch: Foxtons hit by London slowdown, Vodafone spin-off, and Rightmove deal

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
A Foxtons estate agent sign is seen outside a branch in north London, Britain. Photo: Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters

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

Foxtons hit by London slowdown

Foxtons (FOXT.L) continues to feel the pain from the slowing housing market in London.

The estate agent’s revenue fell by 3.5% to £51.1m in the six months to 30 June, with sales revenue down by 10%. Losses also increased to £3.2m.

“The prolonged downturn in the London sales market and continued political uncertainty continues to impact our results,” CEO Nic Budden said.

“Looking ahead, we expect conditions to remain challenging and have effectively positioned the business to reflect this.”

Vodafone spins off phone towers

Vodafone (VOD.L) has announced plans to spin-off its mobile towers business from the rest of the firm.

The telecoms giant said the move will create Europe’s largest cellular tower business. Vodafone will consider floating the new infrastructure company on the stock market in the next 18 months.

“We believe there is a substantial opportunity to unlock the embedded value of our towers and we have started preparations for a range of monetisation options over the next 18 months, including a potential IPO,” Nick Read, group chief executive of Vodafone, said.

Shares in Vodafone were up over 7% on news of the spin-off.

Plans to split the business came as Vodafone reported a 2% fall in total revenue to €10.7bn (£9.59bn). The company said it was impacted by negative foreign exchange effects.

Rightmove snaps up tenant checker

Rightmove (RMV.L) has acquired tenant referencing business Van Mildert for £16m.

Peter Brooks-Johnson, CEO of Rightmove, said the “highly respected tenant referencing company” would help “in our quest to make renting a property faster, easier, and more efficient for tenants, landlords, and agents alike.”

News of the deal came as property website Rightmove announced a 10% rise in revenue to £143.9m and a 10% rise in operating profits to £108.2m despite falling transaction volumes.

Sports Direct results mystery

Shares in Sports Direct (SPD.L) were falling on Friday morning after the retailer failed to publish results as expected.

Sports Direct was due to put out its half-year report on Friday. Listed companies typically publish their results at 7am UK time to give investors an hour to digest the numbers before the London Stock Exchange opens at 8am UK time.

However, Sports Direct’s results had not been published as of 8.35am UK time on Friday morning. Shares in the discount sports retailer were down 1.9% at the same time.

The company said it was “still finalising preliminary results” but said it expects to announce the figures later today.

Mothercare under pressure

Shares in embattled retailer Mothercare (MTC.L) crashed 11% on Friday after it told investors profits will not grow this year due to “fragile consumer confidence.”

Total sales at Mothercare slid by 9.2% in the 15 weeks to 15 July. The baby-and-mother retailer blamed an “uncertain and volatile” market.

The baby products business closed more than 50 of its UK stores over the past year in a bid to keep it afloat and improve profitability.

Woodford freeze ‘undermines trust’

The shuttering of high-profile fund manager Neil Woodford’s flagship fund is hurting the whole investment industry, according to a leading stock broker CEO.

“It undermined people’s trust in financial services, it undermines people’s confidence to invest, and that has a negative impact for all of us at a time when volumes have been relatively weak,” Richard Stone, CEO of The Share Centre, told Yahoo Finance UK.

“It’s not good for the investment industry as a whole.”

Gucci sales slide

Shares in luxury goods group Kering (KER.PA) sunk by as much as 9% on Friday after the company on Thursday reported weaker-than-expected sales growth at star brand Gucci.

The company — which also owns the Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, and Alexander McQueen brands — said sales at Gucci climbed by 12.7% in its second quarter, below analyst forecasts of 14.5% growth.

Kering pointed to a drop-off in Chinese tourists to the US, where sales declined by 2% during the period.

European markets quiet

European markets were slightly higher on Friday.

Britain’s FTSE 100 (^FTSE) was up by 0.1%, France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) was up by 0.1%, Germany’s DAX (^GDAXI) was up by 0.1%, and the Euronext 100 (^N100) was up by 0.1%.

Overnight in Asia, markets were mixed. Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) closed down by 0.4%, the Hong Kong Hang Send Index (^HSI) was down by 0.6%, and China’s Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) was up by 0.2%.

What to expect in the US

US stocks look set for a higher open later today. S&P500 futures (ES=F) were up by 0.2%, Dow Jones futures (YM=F) were up by 0.1%, and Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) were up by 0.2%.

Companies reporting later today in the US include: