Labour problems and natural forces are expected to weigh on Ryanair’s full-year results. In September 2017, the airline discovered it had insufficient pilots for its roster and had to ground planes into October, which cost it €261m, on top of €45m in salary increases to co-operate more with pilots and crews. It has even agreed to start recognising pilots’ unions. Meanwhile, the storm known as “the Beast from the East” prompted cancellations across the industry in the UK in February and March. In the third quarter, the airline said it was 70 per cent hedged for next year against jet fuel prices, which have risen by more than half since last year, but this is an item to watch. In February, the company predicted full-year profits after tax of €1.4bn-€1.45bn.
US-South Korea talks
South Korean President Moon Jae-in is to meet his counterpart Donald Trump in Washington. Top of the agenda will be North Korea, which last week sparked concern when it raised the possibility of cancelling a potentially historic summit with the US next month. Pyongyang accused the US of pressuring it to “unilaterally” abandon its nuclear weapons programme. It also took aim at US national security adviser John Bolton for demanding a Libya-style denuclearisation of North Korea. Mr Moon’s visit is probably aimed at sharing strategies before Mr Trump’s planned meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore on June 12. But North Korea’s recent comments about denuclearisation suggest Mr Trump can expect tough negotiations.
Catalonia’s new leader Quim Torra must form a government to avert more elections and end a seven-month stand-off that has rocked Spain. Mr Torra, a hardline nationalist chosen by the region’s deposed president, Carles Puigdemont, was elected by a 66 votes to 65 last Monday and sworn in as president of Catalonia in Barcelona on Thursday. His appointment helps ease uncertainty in the region, which represents one-fifth of Spain’s economy. New elections would have been called if the Catalan parliament had not agreed on a viable candidate to lead the region. Madrid has said it will end direct rule over Catalonia once a regional government is formed but it remains unclear how it will respond to Mr Torra’s pledge to pursue Catalan independence.
Chelsea Flower Show
London’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show opens at the Royal Hospital today and runs until Friday. It will feature gardens from designers such as Sarah Price, Jo Thompson, Chris Beardshaw and new talent including Tom Massey and Jonathan Snow.
Motoring and cycling retailer Halfords publishes its full-year financial results. The group said in a trading update in January that same-store sales rose 2.7 per cent in the 15 weeks to January 12 compared with the same time last year, boosted by a strong British cycling market. This followed an almost 10 per cent fall in underlying pre-tax profits for its first half-year after adverse currency movements hit retail margins. In January, CFO Jonny Mason said full-year profits at the FTSE 250-listed group were set to meet analysts’ expectations.
Royal Dutch Shell is set for a confrontational annual general meeting in The Hague with shareholders prepared to revolt on a number of issues. Institutional Shareholder Services, the advisory firm whose recommendations influence votes at annual meetings, is threatening to block the chief executive’s €9m annual pay packet, citing concerns about high payouts and safety. An explosion involving a road tanker operated by a Shell contractor in Pakistan last year caused more than 200 deaths and led to a $2.4m fine for the company’s local subsidiary. A group of activist investors has also declared support for a resolution calling on the Anglo-Dutch oil company to adopt tougher targets for reducing its carbon footprint.
Bank of England economists will be keeping a close watch when the Office for National Statistics publishes its Consumer Prices Indices for April 2018. Last month’s CPI figure showed that inflation in March was 2.5 per cent, below the 2.7 per cent expected by economists. Falling inflation and improving wage growth has not led to increased household spending, with people choosing to rebuild their savings as optimism about the future of the overall economy declines. Worries about slowing consumer expenditure saw the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee hold off on increasing interest rates at its May meeting.
Marks and Spencer
Clothing sales used to be what concerned Marks and Spencer investors. Now they can add food: at its last trading update M&S warned of “ongoing underperformance” in food sales, where it has struggled to pass on price increases to customers. The latest data from market research group Nielsen suggest there has been little let-up since, and the group replaced its head of food at the end of April — one of a flurry of management changes in recent months. Analysts expect pre-tax profit of £573m before adjustments for the year to March 2018, around 7 per cent less than last year. They will be alert to any further deterioration in trading and will also be looking out for any sign of tension between chief executive Steve Rowe, a company lifer, and chairman Archie Norman, a turnround specialist.
Macron in Russia
French president Emmanuel Macron meets his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum amid rising tensions in the Middle East after US president Donald Trump pulled out of the multilateral Iran nuclear deal. The meeting follows US, UK and French air strikes last month against assets held by the Russia-supported Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, in retaliation for a suspected chemical attack on civilians. EU attention has since shifted to salvaging the Iranian nuclear deal, notably with the help of Russia, a fellow signatory to the 2015 Vienna accord. Mr Macron is likely to talk about enforcement of the Minsk ceasefire agreement between Ukraine and Russia after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Merkel visits China
Germany’s Angela Merkel arrives in China on a two-day visit for her first talks with Xi Jinping since being re-elected to a fourth term as chancellor in March. The talks are expected to focus on the crises triggered by Donald Trump’s decision to quit the Iran nuclear deal and impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminium. Germany and China are both concerned that Mr Trump’s tariff could unleash a trade war. As big exporters, both countries are highly sensitive to any disruption in international trade flows. But, like the US, Germany also has grievances against China — particularly the issues of access to the Chinese market and technology transfers from German companies. As well as speaking to Xi Jinping, Ms Merkel will hold talks with prime minister Li Keqiang.
The South African Reserve Bank ends its three-day Monetary Policy Committee meeting to review and set its repo rate. A Reuters poll of 25 economists predicts the central bank will hold rates at 6.5% after a bout of volatility in the rand. The currency fell to R12.78 to the dollar on Friday afternoon — a five-month low.
Irish voters go the polls in a referendum to repeal the country’s constitutional ban on abortion. The abortion question is one of the most contentious in the politics of a once strongly-Catholic country that voted in 2015 to legalise gay marriage. But surveys suggest the campaign to remove the ban has a large but narrowing lead.
London-listed SSE, one of the UK’s ‘big six’ energy suppliers, announces its preliminary results. Analysts expect a boost to profits from higher demand for gas and gas-fired power during snow and freezing weather at the end of February and start of March. But the year ahead faces challenges, not least the proposed merger of the household supply business of SSE and Npower, owned by Germany’s Innogy, which has been referred for an in-depth investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority.
The European General Data Protection Regulation comes into force, representing the biggest change to data protection rules in two decades in the UK. GDPR, which will affect any organisation that processes the personal data of consumers and citizens inside the EU, will introduce tougher rules around privacy, user consent and the notification of data breaches. It also makes the concept of “privacy by design” — that is, putting data protection at the heart of systems and operations — a legal requirement for the first time. MEPs and national MPs are to meet in Brussels for discussions on implementation with law enforcement authorities, intergovernmental organisations and business.
Colombians are likely to buck the global populist trend in presidential elections today and vote for a centre-right candidate from the establishment. Ivan Duque, 41, a protégé of former president, Alvaro Uribe, comfortably leads polls, with 34 per cent of the vote. That lead is probably not enough to win outright in the first round vote, but it is enough to propel him into the June 17 run-off. There his rival will most likely be Gustavo Petro, a former M-19 guerrilla and mayor of Bogotá, polling at 23 per cent. The electoral race has been polarised by President Juan Manuel Santos’ controversial peace deal with the FARC, a Marxist guerrilla group, and the implosion of neighbouring socialist Venezuela. The polarisation has seen more centrist candidates fall away.
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