UK house prices rise in January, Novo Nordisk obesity drug sales surge – as it happened | Business

Here is our full story on UK house prices:

The outlook for the UK housing market is “more positive” as prices improved at their strongest rate in a year, according to Nationwide.

The building society’s index found that the average house price had increased by 0.7% in January on the previous month – a significant turnaround from the December figures, which showed a 1.8% decline in prices.

The average UK house price was £257,656 in January, and was down 0.2% on a year earlier.

Robert Gardner, Nationwide’s chief economist, said: “While a rapid rebound in activity or house prices in 2024 appears unlikely, the outlook is looking a little more positive.”

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Key events

Closing summary

The outlook for the UK housing market is “more positive” as prices improved at their strongest rate in a year, according to Nationwide.

The building society’s index found that the average house price had increased by 0.7% in January on the previous month – a significant turnaround from the December figures, which showed a 1.8% decline in prices.

The average UK house price was £257,656 in January, and was down 0.2% on a year earlier.

Robert Gardner, Nationwide’s chief economist, said: “While a rapid rebound in activity or house prices in 2024 appears unlikely, the outlook is looking a little more positive.”

Novo Nordisk shares hit a record high after the Danish company reported soaring sales of its obesity and diabetes drugs Wegovy and Ozempic, pushing its market value past $500bn and cementing its position as Europe’s most valuable company.

Runaway demand for the drugs, which are taken by celebrities including Oprah Winfrey and Elon Musk, has left the company struggling to keep up with orders and scrambling to expand production sites.

Novo Nordisk shares rose by 4% on Wednesday before settling to trade 1.2% higher, leaving its market value hovering near $500bn (£394bn). The obesity drug boom has turned the drugmaker into Europe’s most valuable company, ahead of France’s luxury goods group LVMH, with a market value of $422bn.

Separately today, the GSK chief executive, Emma Walmsley, said its new RSV vaccine was expected to bring in annual sales of at least £3bn in future.

Britain’s second-biggest drugmaker beat analysts’ expectations with fourth-quarter profits and sales as the RSV vaccine became a blockbuster, racking up £1.2bn sales in four months, on top of steady demand for its shingles shot and HIV medicines. RSV, a common respiratory virus, can lead to hospitalisation and death in older adults.

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Thank you for reading. We’ll be back tomorrow. Take care! – JK

German inflation slows to lowest since mid-2021

Inflation in Germany has slowed to its lowest level since mid-2021, as energy prices dropped and food price inflation eased.

The annual rate fell to 2.9% in January from 3.7% in December, marking the lowest level since June 2021. Core inflation, which excludes volatile items like energy and food, also slowed, to 3.4% from 3.5% the lowest level since June 2022.

German #inflation slows to 2.9% in January from 3.7% in December, lowest level since June 2021. Core CPI slows to 3.4% in Jan from 3.5% in Dec, lowest level June 2022. Energy in deflation, Energy prices dropped -2.8% YoY, while Food CPI slowed to 3.8% from 4.5% in Dec.

— Holger Zschaepitz (@Schuldensuehner) January 31, 2024

EU to delay new green rule in bid to appease protesting farmers

Farmers protesting across Europe have won their first concession from Brussels, with the EU announcing a delay in rules that would have forced them to set aside land to encourage biodiversity and soil health.

The European Commission vice-president, Maroš Šefčovič, described Wednesday’s decision, which is expected to be rubber-stamped by member states within 15 days, as “a helping hand” for the sector at a difficult time.

Citing flooding, wildfires in Greece, heatwaves across southern Europe and drought in Spain, he said it was important to listen to farmers and “to avoid the polarisation which is making any good conversation and discussion more difficult. He said:

We feel we are obliged to act under this pressure which the farming community (is feeling).

We have had a number of extreme meteorological events, droughts, flooding in various parts of Europe, and there was a clear negative effect on the output, on the revenue – and of course, decreased income – for the farmers.

New Brexit food checks likely to mean less choice, warn delis

Thousands of delicatessens and other specialist food shops have said new border rules that come in from Wednesday are likely to mean reduced choice of products for consumers.

The Guild of Fine Food (GFF), which represents 12,000 businesses, has raised fears that European suppliers of specialist foods such as cheeses and meats will stop supplying the UK as a result of the additional red tape for imported goods.

John Farrand, the managing director at the GFF, said: “I’m just worried that we are going to end up buying and selling only mass produced products. Are we going to see the end of smaller, more interesting products, which are ultimately better for the planet?”

UK minister: Brexit checks ‘price you pay for being a sovereign state again’

British businesses experiencing “some friction” when trading with the European Union after Brexit is the “price you pay” for “being a sovereign state again”, a government minister has said.

On the fourth anniversary of Britain officially leaving the European union, the health minister and Brexiter Andrea Leadsom said UK firms should “adapt” to the change in trade rules after new checks were brought in on food, drink and some agricultural products – suggesting they should not buy goods from Europe.

When asked what the successes of Brexit were, Leadsom told LBC News:

I’m hugely delighted at Brexit. We have our sovereignty back, we’re in control of our money, laws and borders. The NHS has considerably more than £350m a week and we’ve signed up to 70 trade deals.

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UK risks steep decline without £28bn green economy pledge, Labour warned

Labour’s proposed investment of £28bn a year in the low-carbon economy is an absolute minimum, a leading business figure has said, adding that without green investment on that scale the UK will face steep decline as a result of crumbling infrastructure and stagnating industry.

Jürgen Maier, the former UK head of Siemens, the German industrial giant and major investor, said massive investment was needed to rebuild the UK economy and make it fit for the future, and that it should concentrate on low-carbon energy, transport and industry.

These are the growth areas of the future. The £28bn is not a cost, it’s an investment. If you make this investment, business will return to the UK.

The GSK share price has reversed earlier losses and is now up 3.6% at £15.93, as the company reported upbeat results and upgraded its outlook, with its new RSV vaccine expected to become an ‘at least £3bn’ sales a year drug . The shares have increased 15% in the past six months.

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Novo Nordisk shares rise to record high

Novo Nordisk shares rose as much as 4% to hit a record high after the Danish drugmaker reported soaring sales of its obesity and diabetes drugs and higher profits.

This pushed the company’s market value through $500bn, cementing its position as Europe’s most valuable company, ahead of France’s luxury goods group LVMH.

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New Morrisons boss says ready to ‘start a new chapter’ as sales rise 3.3%

Sarah Butler

Morrisons sales rose 3.3% last autumn, still well behind inflation, as the new boss of the struggling grocer’s new boss said it was ready to “start a new chapter”.

The UK’s fifth largest supermarket, which has about 500 supermarkets, revealed its pace of growth had improved throughout last year so that total sales rose 2.7% to £14.9bn in the three months to the end of October.

Rami Baitiéh, who took over from David Potts as chief executive in November, said:

We are developing plans to reinvigorate, refresh and strengthen Morrisons and to start a new chapter.

Underlying sales growth, which excludes the impact of store openings and closures, rose 1.8% indicating a fall in the amount of goods sold as food price inflation was more than 5% throughout the year.

Underlying profits rose 6.5% to £970m, but that figure does not include interest payments on Morrisons debts which stand at about £5.5bn.

The company said it had raised £450m during the year from the sale and leaseback of assets, including its warehouses, and generated more than £540m of cash.

Earlier this week, the group also sold off its petrol forecourts business to sister company MFG (Motor Fuel Group) for £2.5bn. The deal will hand Morrisions almost £2bn to potentially pay down its debts or invest in lowering prices and improving stores. It has meanwhile kept a 20% stake in MFG.

A Morrisons petrol station in Cardiff Bay. Morrisons agreed a £2.5bn deal to sell its 337 petrol forecourts to Motor Fuel Group, which has the same private equity owner as the supermarket. Photograph: Ian Hinchliffe/PA

China’s Country Garden puts 1,000-home London project up for sale

The embattled Chinese property developer Country Garden has put its £450m residential development in East London up for sale, as it flogs assets to raise money following a cash crunch.

The property agent Knight Frank said it had been appointed by Risland UK, a subsidiary of Country Garden, to market its 1,000-home development at Calico Wharf in Poplar. Construction has not begun yet.

The project has planning approval for several buildings, including a tower of up to 23 storeys, and is slated to include shops as well as homes.

Country Garden is the largest private property developer in China, and like other developers is struggling after authorities sought to rein in excessive debt levels from 2021. It defaulted on $11bn of offshore bonds in October and has extended repayments for its onshore notes.

The company logo of Chinese developer Country Garden is pictured at the Shanghai Country Garden Center in Shanghai. Photograph: Aly Song/Reuters

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Universal Music shares fall after it threatens to pull songs from TikTok

Shares in Universal Music Group have fallen after it said it intends to pull its millions of songs from TikTok after a dispute with the social media platform over payments, as talks collapsed.

This would mean that TikTok would no longer have access to songs by artists including the American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift and Canada’s The Weeknd and Drake.

Universal accused TikTok of “bullying” and claimed it wanted to pay just a “fraction” of what other social media sites pay for access to its vast song catalogue.

Universal shares fell as much as 3.4%, its biggest intraday decline since October, in Amsterdam and are now trading 1% lower at €27.39.

US singer-songwriter Taylor Swift. Photograph: Sascha Schuermann/AFP/Getty Images

Stock markets mixed, oil prices fall on weak Chinese data

In financial markets, the FTSE 100 index has just turned positive, and is two points ahead at 7,669.

Earlier it was dragged lower by share price falls at Vodafone and GSK, while caution ahead of the US Federal Reserve’s rate decision tonight (we are expecting no change) and weak Chinese data also weighed on the global mood.

Vodafone shares are down 3% after the the French telecoms firm Iliad said its British rival rejected a sweetened proposal to merge their Italian businesses. GSK shares fell 1.2% even though the drugmaker beat market expectations with its 2023 results and it upgraded its outlook.

Germany’s Dax is trading 0.2% lower while France’s CAC is slightly negative and Italy’s FTSE MIB has gained 0.8%.

Oil prices are falling today as sluggish economic activity in China, the world’s biggest oil importer, weighed on sentiment. Manufacturing shrank for a fourth straight month in January, an official factory survey showed.

Brent crude, the global benchmark, has lost nearly $1 to $81.91 a barrel, down 1.2%. US light crude has fallen 1.3% to $76.81 a barrel.

However, oil prices remain on track for their first monthly gain since September as broadening Middle East conflicts raised concerns over supply.

The pound has dipped 0.2% against the dollar to $1.2671.

Inflation has declined in six German states that are important to the economy in January, suggesting that national inflation has resumed its downward path and raising hopes for a slowdown in eurozone inflation.

The inflation rate in North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, declined to 3% in January from 3.5% in December. In Bavaria, inflation eased to 2.9% from 3.4%; in Brandenburg to 3.7% from 4.5%; in Saxony, to 3.5% from 4.3%; in Baden-Württemberg, to 3.2% from 3.8% and in Hessen, to 2.2% from 3.5%.

Germany publishes national figures at lunchtime, ahead of eurozone inflation data tomorrow which are expected to show a dip to 2.8% from 2.9%.

European Central Bank policymaker Joachim Nagel said yesterday:

I am now convinced that we have tamed that greedy beast.

The ECB is expected to start cutting borrowing costs this spring, as inflation eases.

Here is our full story on Fujitsu:

Bosses at Fujitsu have apologised to the wrongfully convicted Post Office workers and their families involved in the Horizon IT scandal and said it would work out the amount of compensation when the direction of the public inquiry became clear.

Earlier this month, executives at Fujitsu told MPs it would contribute to compensation payments to post office operators who were wrongfully convicted after failures in the Horizon IT software made by the Japanese tech firm made it look like money was missing from their shops.

Paul Patterson, Fujitsu’s boss for Europe, told MPs the company had a “moral obligation” to pay compensation but did not specify how much should be set aside to pay out. The UK business minister, Kemi Badenoch, wrote to the company to demand talks on how much it would pay.

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