Updates from Microsoft, Old Mutual and Greene King
Overnight, gathering confidence saw the Nikkei 225 soar +2.89% to 13,965. %VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%
First up this morning, Microsoft is to snap up Nokia's Devices and Services unit for £4.6bn, or €5.4bn. Practically, the move integrates Windows Phone 8 with its major hardware producer. In terms of people, it means Nokia chief exec Stephen Elop returns to Microsoft to head up the mobile phone business.
"It's a bold step into the future – a win-win for employees, shareholders and consumers of both companies," claims Microsoft's Steve Ballmer. "Bringing these great teams together will accelerate Microsoft's share and profits in phones, and strengthen the overall opportunities for both Microsoft and our partners."
Strategically, the move means Microsoft now has more hardware muscle to break into mobile in an effort to take on Google and Apple. Microsoft also gets a 10-year licensing arrangement to use the Nokia brand on existing phones. Nokia will now focus on networking equipment.
Next, Greene King and an interim update for the 18 weeks up to 1 September. Like-for-like (LFL) sales in its largest business, Retail, is up +4.6% after 18 weeks, with the trickier comparatives of the Jubilee and the European football last year offset by the better summer weather it says.
"Food continues to improve its share of our business, with LFL sales up +5.7%, while LFL accommodation sales are up +6.0%, helped by an increase in customers taking their holidays in the UK. LFL drink sales are up +3.7%. Regionally, we have again seen our strongest growth in the South East of England."
The pub and brewing operator says there are cautious signs of optimism in the UK macro-economic improvements. "In turn, we are seeing indications of growing consumer confidence, which is reflected in our strong start to the financial year."
Lastly, Old Mutual says its acquisition of a majority stake in Ghana's Provident Life Assurance Company has become unconditional. The deal has been approved by the Financial Services Board (FSB) of South Africa and the National Insurance Commission (NIC) of Ghana.
"With distribution in four cities in Ghana - Accra, Kumasi, Takoradi and Tema - Provident Life Assurance Company," says Ralph Mupita, CEO of Old Mutual Emerging Markets, "provides excellent opportunities for Old Mutual, giving impetus to our expansion strategy in West Africa."
For investors, Old Mutual plc could be seen as a way of accessing the fast-growing African markets, but with a rather reduced risk profile, compared to some other operators.