News in brief: FTSE 100, 'Brexit', optimism, BT-EE merger

News in brief

Jitters over China manufacturing slowdown wipe £34bn off FTSE 100

UK stocks tumble as renewed concern over global economy spooks markets.

The FTSE 100 had a sorry start to the new year with £34bn wiped off leading shares after more weak figures from China fanned fears the global economy was slowing, reports The Guardian.

News of weakness in China’s vast factory sector and a weakening yuan sent Chinese shares tumbling 7%, forcing trading to be halted. There was further pressure on the country’s stock market as investors anticipated the end of a ban on share sales by big stakeholders this week.

The sell-off and share suspension – which came on the first day that China’s so-called “circuit breakers” came into effect – sent jitters around global markets as traders returned from the Christmas break. The FTSE 100 lost more than 2%, or 150 points, falling to 6,093.

Support for staying in Europe on the wane among finance directors

A clear majority favour Britain remaining in the EU, but unqualified support has fallen reports The Independent.

Support for the UK’s membership of the European Union has narrowed sharply among the finance chiefs of its biggest companies, according to a study.

The survey for the fourth quarter of 2015 by accountancy firm Deloitte found a majority – 62% – still favour the UK’s continued membership of the bloc. But that was down from the 74% figure recorded in the same survey during the second quarter.

Participating in the poll were 137 chief financial officers (CFOs), including the finance directors of 24 companies in the FTSE 100 and 62 in the FTSE 250. The rest, according to Deloitte, work at other UK-listed companies, large private businesses and the UK subsidiaries of big companies with overseas listings.

The narrowing of support is in line with polling data among the population at large. A recent poll by ComRes found 56% of voters favour the UK remaining in the EU, and 35% support “Brexit”.
 

British business rises to be a world leader in optimism

British businesses entered the new year more optimistic than those in almost any other country, with high hopes for rising profits and job creation, according to research.

A survey of more than 10,000 companies across the world by Grant Thornton, the accountants, found that nearly three quarters of UK-based businesses said they were hopeful for the coming year, a figure only trumped in Europe by Ireland, reports The Times.

Whether it is profitability, the prospects for exporters, or plans to increase investment and research, British companies appear to believe that things can only get better, with the proportion of companies saying that they expected their profits to rise jumping 23 percentage points to 63%.

The CBI’s end of year survey echoed the Grant Thornton report. It reported that a balance of 20% of the 766 companies interviewed had recorded an increase in output in the final quarter, a distinct improvement on November and well above the long-run average of 5%.
 

EE boss Olaf Swantee will step down after BT deal with Marc Allera named successor

EE boss Olaf Swantee will step down following the mobile network's soon-to-be completed £12.5bn merger with BT, reports City A.M.

Swantee, chief executive since 2011, will be succeeded by Marc Allera, currently chief commercial officer at EE.

“As we approach the imminent completion of the deal with BT and the start of an exciting new chapter for EE, I’ve taken the enormously difficult decision to step down from my role as CEO, and pursue new opportunities," said Swantee.