BUSINESS LIVE: Royal Mail takeover agreed; Anglo American bid delay; Bloomsbury buys US publisher

The FTSE 100 is down 0.1 per cent in early trading. Among the companies with reports and trading updates today are International Distribution Services, Anglo American, BHP, Bloomsbury Publishing and Pets at Home. Read the Wednesday 29 May Business Live blog below.

> If you are using our app or a third-party site click here to read Business Live

UK diesel drivers are paying more to fill up than the rest of Europe

If you drive a diesel car or van you are paying more to fill up than any other nation across Europe.

The UK now has the most expensive diesel, despite the current 5p-a-litre fuel duty discount introduced in March 2022 and extended for another 12 months in the Spring Budget.

Is it a good time to buy Scottish Mortgage shares?

Scottish Mortgage was once the go-to fund for UK investors wanting access to high growth technology stocks.

Its former manager James Anderson, who left in 2022, was renowned for making a series of successful bets in the tech sector, including Tesla and Amazon.

Pets at Home: ‘The more difficult backdrop is masking some fundamental strengths’

Sophie Lund-Yates, lead equity analyst, Hargreaves Lansdown:

‘Pets at Home has come good on downgraded expectations. The group’s not immune to a challenging consumer environment and has been hit hard by the need to keep prices low in order to stoke growth.

‘Convincing pet owners to part with additional cash for money-makers like accessories has been a far more arduous task then when people feel flush with cash.

‘The more difficult backdrop is masking some fundamental strengths though. Pets at Home remains in a more resilient position than the average retailer.

‘The group is primed to benefit from the huge boost in pet ownership, and a broader step change in ways of life, which includes putting our four-legged friends at the centre of our lives.

‘There’s an element of guaranteed income, in that pet-owners will continue to buy food and medicine for their cats and dogs, regardless of how tough times get. Along the same vein, the vet business is doing well too.

‘There is, of course, the overhang from the CMA’s ongoing investigation into the veterinary sector, which is denting sentiment. This has arguably been overdone though, with the current valuation not fully reflecting Pets at Home’s resilient market position and enviable net cash hoard.

‘Apart from the CMA investigation, investors will now be assessing Pets at Home’s ability to restart the engines on more lucrative areas of the business, like discretionary pet accessories.

‘A lot of this will be governed by the economy, but there is the risk of online competition too. The group is helped by the fact that many people want face-to-face advice for things like pet gear, and Pets at Home has some exclusive licenses which helps stop customers simply going elsewhere.

‘All in, there should be confidence in the group’s strategy, but restarting more meaningful growth may take a touch longer than expected.’

Crypto rush fuels money laundering fears: FCA approves just 1 in 7 firms

Fewer than one in seven cryptocurrency firms that tried to register with the City watchdog were approved after it found high risks of money laundering.

Just 47 companies were successfully registered between January 2020 and April this year, figures from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) show.

Out of 344 applications received by the FCA, 233 were withdrawn and 48 rejected – while 16 were still pending at the time the figures were compiled.

Pets At Home profits slip on weaker accessories demand

Pets At Home has posted a lower annual profit after inflationary pressures and lower purchasing power dented demand for pet accessories such as collars and bedding.

The company, which also offers grooming and veterinary services, posted an underlying profit before tax of £132million for fiscal 2024, compared with £136.4million the previous year.

‘FY24 has been a pivotal year for the business, having delivered some key building blocks of our platform for long term growth.

‘I am proud of the progress we have made in the year; we relaunched our brand, opened our new DC, built our new digital platform, made progress in our sustainability agenda, and enhanced our physical estate.

‘The business has come together brilliantly to navigate any challenges faced this year, and we have delivered some key milestones of our strategy.’

New lung cancer drug boosts AstraZeneca as trials show improved survival rates

AstraZeneca’s lung cancer drug has showed improved survival rates in trials.

The results were a boost for the pharma giant as it seeks to bolster its pipeline.

The British firm said yesterday that the drug, being developed with Japan’s Daiichi Sankyo, could be ‘an important new treatment for patients’.

Bloomsbury buys US publisher in ‘game-changer’ $83m deal

Bloomsbury has acquired US academic publisher The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group for up to $83milllion (£65million).

The London-listed Harry Potter publisher said the deal is a ‘significant milestone’, making Bloomsbury ‘a leading US academic publisher’.

Bloomsbury’s biggest acquisition to date will see $76million satisfied in cash on completion and up to $7million, in escrow, to be satisfied in cash post completion.

‘This acquisition is a game-changer for Bloomsbury. Rowman & Littlefield is one of the few independent US academic publishers of such scale and it is great that our discussions with Jed Lyons have led to this acquisition.

‘Their 40,000 academic titles added to ours will make us a significant US academic publisher, growing Bloomsbury’s academic and digital publishing presence in North America, opening new markets and publishing areas to Bloomsbury, and is a key milestone in the delivery of our long-term growth strategy.

‘Following the exceptional performance in our Consumer division in our recently announced Preliminary Results, the acquisition accelerates our Non-Consumer division, underlining our portfolio of portfolios strategy.’

Anglo American bid delay

BHP Group has said it needs more time to engage with Anglo American, a week after the London-listed miner rejected the Australian firm’s £38.6billion offer ahead of a final bid deadline later in the day.

The group has outlined commitments to reduce regulatory risk in South Africa blocking the deal.

It said it was sure it had quantified and managed risk surrounding the deal and that it would offer a break fee to Anglo American if the deal was blocked due to anti-trust reasons or failed to gain regulatory approvals.

Those commitments included job security for employees in South Africa. BHP also said it would shoulder the costs of increased South African employee ownership that is expected to be required in any demerger.

Nick Train vows to back ‘world-class’ British businesses after apologising for a dismal performance

Star stock picker Nick Train apologised yesterday for the poor performance at his Finsbury fund – but said he was betting on a pick-up for the UK market.

Train expressed frustration about the ‘malaise’ gripping undervalued London-listed shares.

However, he said that over the past year the fund has been deliberately reducing the size of overseas holdings.

Royal Mail takeover agreed

Royal Mail’s parent company International Distributions Services has agreed to a £3.57billion formal takeover offer by Czech billionaire Daniel Křetínský , who has pledged to maintain the universal service obligation and maintain its headquarters in the UK.

The board of IDS, which also owns international parcels network GLS, said it had ‘negotiated a far-reaching package’ as it approved the 370p per share deal.

It will also secure the maintenance of employee benefits and pensions.

Kretinsky’s investment vehicle EP Group sweetened its bid earlier this month to buy IDS after a previous bid of 320p was rejected by the London-listed firm in April.

Křetínský said in a statement:

‘IDS, and Royal Mail in particular, form part of the national infrastructure of the countries they operate in. More than that, Royal Mail is part of the fabric of UK society and has been for hundreds of years.

‘The EP group has the utmost respect for Royal Mail’s history and tradition, and I know that owning this business will come with enormous responsibility – not just to the employees but to the citizens who rely on its services every day.

‘The scale of the commitments we are offering to the company and the UK Government reflect how seriously we take this responsibility, to the benefit of IDS’ employees, union representatives and all other stakeholders.’