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STOCK MARKET WATCHLIST: The curse of Woodford spreads tentacles into universities 

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Data released last week showed a fall in the amount invested in university spinouts.

These are where ideas from brainy scientists are turned into companies aiming to cure diseases or use technology to solve problems.

The amount raised dropped from £1.4billion in 2018 to £1.2billion last year – the first slide for six years – according to the report from database Beauhurst in conjunction with university spinout investor Parkwalk Advisors.

There is little explanation given for the reduction. Many industry sources complain that the Neil Woodford scandal hurt investment into firms in which he was a major backer.

The Neil Woodford scandal has hurt investment into firms in which he was a major backer

The Neil Woodford scandal has hurt investment into firms in which he was a major backer

The Neil Woodford scandal has hurt investment into firms in which he was a major backer

Perhaps the fall was due to Parkwalk being owned by IP Group, the listed university commercialisation giant which counted Woodford as an investor until the fund manager’s implosion last year.

IP Group, whose shares have dived 30 per cent in a year, also invested alongside Woodford on a string of deals.

There is now much less appetite to invest in risky start-ups while others have had to buy out his stakes rather than invest new cash.

Petra Diamonds is expected to give details tomorrow about how its operational programme, dubbed Project 2022, is improving performance at its mines.

That will be important because investors have been fretting over lower diamond prices.

Analysts at Peel Hunt have pencilled in a fall in profits for the first half of its financial year, which ended on December 31.

They reckon underlying earnings will drop from $76million last year to $64million, and expect a net loss of $4million.

Project 2022 is aimed at boosting cash flows to help Petra pay down its $596million (£457million) debts – eye-watering for a company currently worth just £72million.

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Fresh from signing two major American deals costing more than $2billion, British defence giant BAE Systems is poised to unleash its annual results.

Analysts expect underlying earnings of around £2.1billion, up from £1.9billion the year before.

But some think free cash flow might be what shifts the share price on Thursday.

Scribblers at Deutsche Bank predict it will come in at around £800million.

BAE, which employs 86,000 people in more than 40 countries, has set guidance at between £700million and £1billion so if it drops below the bottom end the shares could take a nosedive.

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The winter version of Love Island might not have been a huge hit but it has still been a decent first six weeks of 2020 for ITV.

That’s the view of analysts at UBS ahead of the broadcaster’s annual results due out in a few weeks.

They reckon total ad revenues will be up in the first quarter, having fallen in the same period of 2019 – with a similar story in the second quarter, helped by the Euro 2020 football in the summer.

The first six weeks of the year have been helped by The Masked Singer, the return of Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway and Love Island.

 

 

 

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Coronavirus set to claim a series of corporate victims as Brighthouse and Carluccio’s near collapse

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The coronavirus is set to claim a series of corporate victims this week as Brighthouse and Carluccio’s near collapse. 

Rent-to-own firm Brighthouse will appoint administrators today after the lockdown tipped it over the edge. 

And Italian-style restaurant chain Carluccio’s is working with administrators FRP to ‘consider all options’ in a move which could threaten more than 2,000 jobs. 

On the brink: Rent-to-own firm Brighthouse will appoint administrators after the lockdown tipped it over the edge

On the brink: Rent-to-own firm Brighthouse will appoint administrators after the lockdown tipped it over the edge

On the brink: Rent-to-own firm Brighthouse will appoint administrators after the lockdown tipped it over the edge

Carluccio’s chief executive Mark Jones said that his company is ‘days away from large-scale closures’ without state aid, while a group of 38 MPs have written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak urging him to step in with an aid package to support the aviation sector as travel bans have decimated bookings. 

Research from accountancy firm UHY Hacker Young has revealed that the number of restaurant insolvencies last year climbed 10 per cent to 1,500, while the number of pubs which went bust also increased by 10 per cent, to 500. 

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Locked down zoo saved as Lloyds Bank stumps up £300,000

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A Somerset zoo that was forced to close its doors to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic has bagged £300,000 of funding to help it survive. 

Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm, in Wraxall near Bristol, was forced to shut last weekend in the run-up to its busiest time of the year, but was facing substantial costs to look after more than 1,000 animals. 

Lifeline: Noah's Ark Zoo Farm, in Wraxall near Bristol, was forced to shut last weekend in the run-up to its busiest time of the year

Lifeline: Noah's Ark Zoo Farm, in Wraxall near Bristol, was forced to shut last weekend in the run-up to its busiest time of the year

Lifeline: Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm, in Wraxall near Bristol, was forced to shut last weekend in the run-up to its busiest time of the year

However, the family owners were able to breathe a sigh of relief after agreeing a £300,000 package with Lloyds Bank which will allow them to retain their team of specialist staff. 

Lenders are under pressure from the Government and Bank of England to support businesses through the lockdown. Lloyds has worked with Noah’s Ark for the entire 66 years the Bush family has been on site. 

Managing director Larry Bush said: ‘Running a zoo is a huge undertaking and we were really concerned about our animals. 

‘But our catering suppliers donated fruit and veg that would otherwise have been delivered to local hotels and restaurants, and the public have shown their support.’ 

 

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Arcadia halts £2m pension top-ups as it tries to cling on to cash in face of coronavirus lockdown

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Sir Philip Green’s retail empire is suspending payments to its pension scheme as it desperately tries to cling on to cash in the face of the coronavirus lockdown. 

Arcadia, which owns High Street brands including Topshop, Wallis and Dorothy Perkins, will halt the £2m monthly contributions which were agreed with The Pensions Regulator last summer to reduce a shortfall in the pension scheme. 

Under pressure: Sir Philip Green's Arcadia owns High Street brands including Topshop, Wallis and Dorothy Perkins

Under pressure: Sir Philip Green's Arcadia owns High Street brands including Topshop, Wallis and Dorothy Perkins

Under pressure: Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia owns High Street brands including Topshop, Wallis and Dorothy Perkins

The deal saw Sir Philip’s wife, Tina, who technically owns Arcadia, agree to plug the gap in the scheme by also making her own £25m per year contributions. 

She will continue to make those payments, despite the crisis hitting High Street sales. 

But pensions expert John Ralfe, who advised MPs investigating the collapse of Sir Philip’s High Street chain BHS, estimates that if Arcadia were to go bust the current shortfall in its pension scheme would be around £350m to £400m.

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