What to Watch: Cash talks for shopping centre-owner, takeover interest in hospital group, and stocks slip

Oscar Williams-GrutSenior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Yahoo Finance UK
General view of the Debenhams store at The Trafford Centre on April 12, 2019 in Manchester, England. (Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)
General view of the Debenhams store at The Trafford Centre on April 12, 2019 in Manchester, England. (Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)

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

Shopping-centre owner asks investors for cash

Intu (INTU.L), the property group behind shopping centres Lakeside in Essex and the Trafford Centre in Manchester, is close to securing new cash from investors.

The company has “engaged in constructive discussions with shareholders” and also contacted Hong Kong-based Link Real Estate Investment Trust about potentially becoming a new investor in the business. Intu didn’t confirm how much it is looking to raise but said it hoped to secure the cash in time for its full-year results announcement later this month. Reports have suggested the businesses is seeking up to £1bn ($1.29bn).

Shares in Intu have dropped 90% over the last 12 months and more than halved since the start of the year. It comes as department stores — a key renter in many Intu properties — have struggled and the wider retail sector has moved online.

Intu’s stock jumped 17% on Monday in response to the funding talks.

European stocks slip on coronavirus fears

Stock markets opened lower on Monday, as investor attention returned to the deadly outbreak of coronavirus.

The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) opened down 0.2% in London, while the more domestically-focused FTSE 250 (^FTMC) was down 0.1%.

On the continent, the German DAX (^GDAXI) was 0.2% lower, the French CAC 40 (^FCHI) slipped by 0.4%, and the Euronext 100 (^N100) was down by 0.4%.

“Coronavirus is the biggest threat flashing on traders’ platform on Monday morning,” said Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at Avatrade.

The UK’s health secretary declared the epidemic “a serious and imminent threat to public health” on Monday morning, as a fourth case of the virus was confirmed in the UK.

Chinese authorities said the death toll there had risen to 908, surpassing the total deaths from the deadly SARS outbreak in 2003. The number of confirmed cases has now crossed 40,000 in mainland China alone and 60 new cases have been recorded on a quarantined cruise ship in Japan.

Overnight in Asia, the Hong Kong Hang Seng (^HSI) stock index and Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) index both closed down by 0.6%. The Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) rose by 0.5%, as the People’s Bank of China again injected liquidity into the banking system.

US futures were pointing to a weak open later today. S&P 500 futures (ES=F) and Dow Jones Industrial Average futures (YM=F) were trading flat, although Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) were up 0.1%.

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Takeover interest in hospital group

Embattled hospital operator NMC Health (NMC.L) has confirmed press reports over the weekend about takeover approaches.

NMC said Monday it had received approaches to go private from private equity group KKR and Swiss-based GK Investment Holdings. NMC said discussions were in the early stages in both cases and a firm offer may not be made.

Shares in NMC, which operates hospitals in the Middle East, have fallen almost 70% in less than three months, after the company was targeted by well-known US short seller Muddy Waters in December. Muddy Waters accused the company of misstating its debt levels. A former FBI director was hired last month to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations.

Separately on Monday, NMC said the shareholdings of its joint chairman, founder, and two others may have been “incorrectly reported historically”. A legal review is ongoing.

Podcasting group for sale

Podcasting company Audioboom (BOOM.L) has put out the ‘for sale’ sign.

The company confirmed on Monday it had hired financial advisors Raine to look at “strategic partnerships, financial investment, business combinations and potentially the sale of the Company”. The statement followed a report from Sky News suggesting a deal could be in the works.

Audioboom said it has so far received no takeover approaches and there was no guarantee that a transaction would come off. The company is backed by property tycoon Nick Candy and works with the likes of Sue Perkins to produce content.

Amazon pulls out of tech conference

Amazon (AMZN) has become the latest major tech company to pull out of Mobile World Congress, one of the world’s biggest tech conferences, due to fears about the continued spread of coronavirus.

The company said on Monday that it had made the decision “due to the outbreak and continued concerns about novel coronavirus.”

Amazon joins a high-profile list of companies, such as LG, Nvidia (NVDA), and Ericsson (ERIC), who have chosen to withdraw as exhibitors from the conference, which is due to take place later this month in Barcelona.

Mobile World Congress is considered the largest mobile industry exhibition and conference, and thousands of companies exhibit new technologies and products at the four-day event.

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