Slowdown at HSBC

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HSBC, Europe’s biggest bank, says its third-quarter financial performance was ahead of a year ago but warned of slower revenue growth. The bank attributed the slowdown in revenue growth to seasonal variations in fee income, a decision to slow the rate of lending in some markets, fewer gains on disposals – and a weaker performance in its investment banking arm.

Woolworths has issued another profit warning, knocking 7½ per cent off its shares. The clock was ticking for Trevor Bish-Jones already but it has just speeded up. His Big Red Book catalogue idea looks poorly-planned and he has Baugur muttering break-up noises in his ear. Woolies blames the consumer and is helped by the fact that BRC figures today show November sales growth was the slowest in nine months.

However, rather inconveniently, Tesco, with a strong third-quarter trading update today, has shown it is possible to thrive in this environment if you get the product/price mix right. Greene King, which published interim results today, also seems to be doing well.

Charles Dunstone made it sound as if some level of peace might have broken out with Vodafone in a presentation he gave to the Merrill Lynch sales desk. The stock is up 7 per cent as a result. Carphone Warehouse, it seems, will be able to keep existing Vodafone customers who want to upgrade, it just can’t have the new ones. He, too, finds the consumer willing to spend: December has got off to a decent start, he said.

Stephen Carter, who just finished being chief executive of Ofcom, is to be chief executive of Brunswick, the City PR firm. It’s hardly ITV, which he was in the running for. He will report “directly” to chairman Alan Parker. I normally feel theologically opposed to running stories about PR (even though my wife is in it), but this one may be hard to avoid. Surely, this presages a Brunswick float or sale. Not at all, says Alan.

United Utilities is selling Vertex, its underperforming outsourcing division. Earlier this year, the unit was reckoned to be worth around £450m but now the value could be lower as profits have declined. United Utilities also published decent first half results today.

More great full-year figures today from Electra. Check out FT Alphaville for the full details.

Rumour of the Day:

Forth Ports is up strongly again, by another 4 per cent. Today’s rumour is that Bank of Scotland is putting together a bid.

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