What to watch: €700m losses at Tui, £2bn Ocado sales, new Bitcoin high, UK testing rules hit airline stocks

·Finance and policy reporter
·5 min read
TUI posted heavy losses. Photo: Toby Melville/Reuters
TUI posted heavy losses. Photo: Toby Melville/Reuters

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

Tui suffers €699m losses but notches 2.8 million summer bookings

Shares in Tui (TUI.L) dipped 0.9% on Tuesday, as it posted an 87.8% slide in revenue in its first quarter as the coronavirus crisis hammered the European travel giant.

Revenues between October and December stood at €468.1m (£411.3m, $566.6m), down from €3.85bn a year earlier.

Its results show the scale of the heavy losses it suffered at the end of last year, with underlying earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) slumping €698.6m.

But the company said 2.8 million customers had made bookings for its 2021 summer season, with plans to maintain 80% of 2019 capacity despite Europe’s battle to contain the virus and slow vaccine rollout.

Only 116 hotels were open at the end of 2020, compared with 229 a year earlier amid lockdown restrictions as well as seasonal winter trends. Summer bookings are still down 44% on 2019 levels.

European stock markets dip as February rally cools

European stock markets were mixed on Tuesday, punctuating a rally since the start of the month.

Asian stocks had advanced off the back of a continued rally on Wall Street on Monday, with the S&P 500 (^GSPC) hitting another record high in a sixth day of gains. US futures were close to flat as the trading day got underway in Europe.

Britain’s FTSE 250 (^FTMC) was up 0.1%, while the Europe-wide Stoxx 600 (^STOXX) was 0.2% lower in early trading.

The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) in London and the CAC 40 (^FCHI) in Paris were trading flat, while the DAX (^GDAXI) lost 0.4% in Frankfurt after reaching an all-time high on Monday. It came after data showed German exports growth slowing, with trade up 0.1% month-on-month in December compared to a 2.3% rise in November.

Watch: European stock markets mixed as February rally cools

Most Asian stocks had made gains overnight, following gains in the US on Monday. China’s SSE Composite index (000001.SS) rose 2%, and the Shenzhen Component (399001.SZ) was up 2.4%. The Hang Seng (^HSI) in Hong Kong rose 0.6%. Shanghai composite gains are the biggest in a month.

Japan’s Nikkei was up 0.4%, and MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan also rose 0.4%.

Stocks in the US looked set for a weak open, however. S&P 500 futures (ES=F) and Dow Jones futures (YM=F) were trading close to flat at around 3.20am eastern time in the US (8.20am in London), while futures on the Nasdaq (NQ=F) were off 0.1%.

Airline stocks fall as UK set to ramp up COVID-19 testing for new arrivals

Airline stocks fell on Tuesday morning in London, after reports the UK will force new arrivals to take two coronavirus tests during self-isolation after arriving in the country.

Travellers will have to take a test on the second and eighth days of a 10-day self-isolation period after arriving in Britain, according to sources quoted by ITV.

The new rules are expected to be confirmed by health secretary Matt Hancock in a statement to the Commons on Tuesday.

The measures will apply to all travellers, rather than only arrivals from the narrower list of countries which face mandatory hotel quarantine in a bid to contain the South African variant of COVID-19.

Shares in Ryanair (RYA.L) and International Airlines Group (IAG.L), which owns British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus, fell 0.9% in morning trading in London. EasyJet (EZJ.L) shares were down 1.2%, amid worries the moves will further limit passenger numbers in the battered travel sector.

The UK government also faces growing pressure to both expand and speed up its hotel quarantine plan. Shares in Premier Inn owner Whitbread (WTB.L) leapt 1.8% on Tuesday, while InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG.L), which owns Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza, was up 0.9%.

WATCH: What is bitcoin?

Bitcoin continues to soar with new all-time high

Bitcoin’s (BTC-USD) price reached a new record Tuesday morning, surging almost 20% and crossing $47,000 (£34,123), a day after Tesla (TSLA) announced it had invested $1.5bn in the cryptocurrency. Some analysts have estimated the price could hit $50,000 by the end of the week.

“The crypto digital king recorded another all-time high today. It seems like the bull rally is in full swing now, and nothing is going to stop the bitcoin price from touching the $50,000 price level,” noted Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at AVATrade.

Simon Peters, cryptoasset analyst at multi-asset investment platform eToro had also earlier said that “with this kind of endorsement from a multi-billion dollar company, it's likely the price will hit $50,000 by the end of the week.”

Aslam also said “there is no doubt” the rally was driven by news that PayPal (PYPL) will allow users to use bitcoin on its platform, with Tesla’s news taking “things to a new territory.”

Ocado sales cross £2bn as COVID-19 drives online grocery boom

Online supermarket Ocado (OCDO.L) saw its sales cross £2bn ($2.75bn) last year as the COVID-19 pandemic drove a global boom in online shopping.

Ocado said on Tuesday that its retail sales rose by 35% to £2.2bn in 2020. It came as the overall online grocery sector doubled to 14% of the market, according to data from market research firm Kantar.

“The rapid acceleration of many pre-existing trends in business and society has been a feature of the COVID-19 crisis and the dramatic channel shift in grocery is a clear example of this,” Ocado chief executive Tim Steiner said in a statement. “The landscape for food retailing is changing, for good.”

Overall, group revenue rose by 32.7% to £2.3bn in the 52 weeks to 29 November 2020. Underlying earnings rose 68.8% to £73.1m.

However, exceptional costs of £104.6m pushed Ocado to a full-year loss of £44m. The figure was down on 2019’s loss of £214.5m.