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BUSINESS LIVE: UK dividends set for subdued 2022; L&G boss slams levelling up efforts; De La Rue issues profit warning










UK-listed companies brought back their dividends strongly last year after being forced to slash payouts as the Covid crisis hit in 2020, with 2021 ending significantly better than the prior year for income-chasing investors.

However, inflation, tax hikes and continued disruption caused by the pandemic will make for a challenging backdrop for many companies and their ability to pay dividends in 2022.

The boss of Legal & General has criticised the Government’s levelling up efforts as data showed the UK had taken ‘a step back’ in some areas of life.

L&G’s Rebuilding Britain Index, which tracks quality of life, showed that in 12 months there had been declines in healthcare and housing access, but less unemployment.

Banknote printer De La Rue has warned its annual profit is set to come in below market expectations on lower output, due to increased employee absences at its manufacturing facilities globally as a result of coronavirus infections.

The company said other challenges such as the chip crisis and supply chain cost inflation were also delaying its turnaround plan.

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

De La Rue forecast adjusted operating profit for the year to be in the range of £36 million to £40million, versus market expectations of £45million to £47million

De La Rue forecast adjusted operating profit for the year to be in the range of £36 million to £40million, versus market expectations of £45million to £47million

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The metaverse is the future, or so Mark Zuckerberg and Satya Nadella are convinced. So certain is Zuckerberg of the potential of this next phase of the internet that Facebook, the company he founded and leads, is known as Meta Platforms. 

Nadella, the chief executive of Microsoft, is making clear the extent of his ambitions through this week’s $69billion (£50billion) purchase of video games giant Activision Blizzard, which makes Call of Duty. 

The deal should alert private investors to the mounting hubbub about the metaverse. 

For the uninitiated, the metaverse is an immersive 3D digital ecosystem which you enter wearing a VR (virtual reality) or AR (augmented reality) headset. 

In this sphere, users will not only be able to play video games but also work, shop, socialise, consult a doctor or go to a gallery. 

Bloomberg Intelligence is forecasting that by 2024, companies will be earning revenues of $800bn from the metaverse economy, amid ‘the disruption of everything that hasn’t yet been disrupted’, as an analyst at Jefferies, the US investment bank puts it. 

You may be highly sceptical, as some much-hyped digital innovations went nowhere. 

In 2003, the Second Life system offered the chance to live virtually. But at the time, the notion sounded too sci-fi. 

However, Jonathan Tseng of investment management firm Fidelity International contends that the shift to the metaverse is an inevitable progression, similar to the transition from surfing the net on a desktop computer a decade ago to using our mobile phones. 

‘The metaverse is not the next internet, but the future of the current one,’ he says.

‘It will be a digital layer that can enrich and enhance the surrounding world. 

‘The possibilities are endless. Consumers will be able to use headsets to teleport to the Olympics or change the view outside their window to a Caribbean beach.’ 

James Yardley of Chelsea Financial Services argues that improvements in graphics and VR technology will enhance every metaverse activity: ‘We are already almost at a photo real experience – which means that you can’t distinguish with your eyes between the real world and the VR world.’ 

He adds that the metaverse will cut costs for companies as it can be used to create and test simulated versions of products, limiting the expense of real world manufacturing. he says Nvidia, the US giant trying to take over UK chip designer Arm, offers the Omniverse, a platform on which ‘digital twins’ can be evolved. You may be dubious about this digital enterprise. But it is likely that more of our lives will be led online, even when the pandemic recedes. 

Commerce has already crossed over into the metaverse – and that will be the route to attracting younger consumers in the view of fashion giant Ralph Lauren, US discounter Walmart and other retailers. 

Sotheby’s has an auction house on the Decentraland online marketplace for trading in digital artworks. Samsung and 400 other Korean companies have formed a metaverse alliance with millions of users.

Video game makers devise and offer their creations on the online platform Roblox, a Nasdaq-quoted stock. 

In light of this, it’s worth taking a look at companies like Meta and Microsoft that are stepping into the metaverse, but would still flourish even if the dream fades. 

Note that, for the moment, Apple is not getting involved, although its next launch will be a VR headset. 

Rob Morgan of Charles Stanley Direct emphasises that companies at the forefront early on may not endure: ‘Google and Meta, for instance, did not exist in the early years of internet growth.’ 

This suggests that you should operate on the ‘picks and shovels’ principle, remembering the fortunes that were made by suppliers of kit to the Gold Rush, rather than the prospectors. 

Meta’s ownership of the VR reality headset business Oculus Rift is underpinning Zuckerberg’s bet.

Intel, the silicon chip maker, estimates that metaverse projects will eventually need at least 1000- times the computing power we have now.

Since demand for microchips should soar, watch out for weakness in the prices of Nvidia and TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) as buying opportunities. 

Fundsmith, where I am a holder, has stakes in Meta and Microsoft. Baillie Gifford Pacific, meanwhile, holds Samsung. 

For exposure to Meta, Roblox and Unity Software, the video game software group and other metaverse infrastructure companies, Dzmitry Lipski of Interactive Investor suggests the Polar Capital Technology investment trust. It is at an 8pc discount to the value of its net assets. 

This reflects the threat to tech stocks from higher interest rates, and the resolve of US lawmakers to curb Big Tech’s power which the metaverse seems certain to intensify. 

A surge in video gaming and gambling in this environment will increase addiction levels, for example. As we learnt this week, Meta is patenting technologies that use eye movements of VR wearers as a means of targeting personalised advertising at them. I will be tip-toeing into this area, but warily.

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

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Frankie & Benny’s owner TRG raises profit forecast after sales outperform wider hospitality sector

  • TRG also owns the restaurant brands Wagamama, Chiquito’s and Garfunkel’s 
  • LFL sales at TRG’s pubs and leisure arms in December were lower than in 2019
  • Plan B curbs in England have severely damaged the hospitality sector’s trade










Frankie & Benny’s owner The Restaurant Group has upgraded its projected profits despite sales taking a blow from the Omicron variant in December.

The company’s trading update in November saw it hike its adjusted underlying earnings guidance for 2021 to between £73million and £79million, following a market-beating recovery in business as coronavirus restrictions loosened.

Citing continued outperformance during the last three months of the year and strong cost management, the group said it now expects to post profits towards the high end of this forecast.

Boost: Frankie & Benny's owner The Restaurant Group said it expects adjusted earnings for 2021 to be towards the high end of its £73million to £79million forecast

Boost: Frankie & Benny’s owner The Restaurant Group said it expects adjusted earnings for 2021 to be towards the high end of its £73million to £79million forecast

Like-for-like sales at its Wagamama outlets in October and November were up 11 per cent and 8 per cent, respectively, on pre-pandemic volumes before growth dwindled to just 1 per cent in December.

Sales at TRG’s pubs and leisure outlets fell by 2 per cent and 7 per cent in December respectively, whilst they plunged by more than a third at its concessions business, which tend to be located at UK airports.

But, according to the hospitality industry sales monitor Coffer Peach business tracker, UK restaurant revenues fell 4 per cent in December, whilst pub restaurant sales plunged by over a third and airport passenger numbers dived 47 per cent.

The UK Government’s introduction of ‘Plan B’ restrictions in England last month in response to rising Covid-19 infection rates discouraged more people from eating and drinking out.

Authorities in Scotland and Wales have imposed even harsher guidance on hospitality venues, with the latter mandating groups no larger than six in pubs and two-metre social distancing rules in public places.

As a consequence, already struggling hospitality businesses lost a considerable amount of sales during the critical Christmas and New Year trading periods and many were left on the brink of collapse.

Trade Like-for-like sales at TRG's Wagamama outlets in October and November were up by 11 per cent and 8 per cent, respectively, on pre-pandemic volumes

Trade Like-for-like sales at TRG’s Wagamama outlets in October and November were up by 11 per cent and 8 per cent, respectively, on pre-pandemic volumes

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announced on Wednesday an end to work-from-home guidance and the lifting of all Plan B rules by the end of next week, which should provide a much-needed lifeline to the industry.

Though TRG, which also owns the Chiquito and Garfunkel’s restaurant brands, has welcomed the move, it said consumer confidence may take longer to revive.

Yet, it remarked: ‘Despite the near-term uncertainties, the Board remains confident in the Group’s prospects given the strength of our brands, substantially reduced net debt and outperformance versus the market.’

Danni Hewson, a financial analyst at AJ Bell, said the company was ‘pretty heroic’ for expecting results at the high end of forecasts ‘given all the challenges currently facing it’.

She praised the group’s ability to keep a lid on costs and said the leisure division’s performance would be ‘particularly pleasing for investors’ considering the difficulties it has historically experienced’.

But she warned: ‘All areas of the business are continuing to outperform the wider market, and the company might well need to keep this up if it is going to continue to thrive against the backdrop of a cost of living crisis. This will put pressure on household budgets and likely reduce appetite for eating out.

‘More positively the lifting of restrictions and the opening up of travel again, which would boost its airport-based concessions, could provide the business with a tailwind.’

The Restaurant Group’s shares were up 1.25 per cent at 101.25p during the late Friday morning, meaning their value has climbed by about a quarter in the past month. 

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It was a tough week for Advance Energy, which slumped 86 per cent to 0.625p after it warned of potential problems at its Buffalo-10 well, offshore Timor-Leste.

The Buffalo-10 well intersected its primary target, the Elang reservoir, with early data indicating hydrocarbons are present but the project operator cautioned that ‘information to date indicates that the seismic processing techniques employed on this project have not resolved the underlying seismic velocities or imaging resolution issues that are present in this field.’

Sector peer Reabold Resources saw its shares leap 51 per cent after the investment company, which specialises in upstream oil and gas projects, announced the initial results of independent analysis of the West Newton Extended Well Test (EWT) programme in Ghana.

Best of the Best saw its shares slump 34% this week after it warned on profits

Best of the Best saw its shares slump 34% this week after it warned on profits

The study indicated the potential for initial production rates of 35.6million cubic feet of gas per day from a horizontally drilled well situated in the gas zone, based on the data from the West Newton A-2 well.

It also indicated potential initial production rates of 1,000 barrels of oil per day from a horizontally drilled well situated in the oil zone.

88 Energy Ltd was wanted after it said it is on track for a February spud at the Merlin-2 well on Alaska’s North Slope.

The announcement allayed fears raised by reports than a protest group, the Center for Biological Diversity, had communications with the Bureau of Land Management in relation to the permit to drill.

The shares, some of the most volatile in the small caps space, rose 42 per cent on the week.

Helium One Global headed 48 per cent higher this week after a multispectral satellite spectroscopy study identified multiple additional surface helium anomalies at the explorer’s Rukwa, Eyasi and Balangida project areas.

A production update from Bluerock Diamonds sent the company’s shares 31 per cent northwards.

The AIM-listed diamond producer, which owns and operates the Kareevlei Diamond Mine in the Kimberley region of South Africa, produced 6,866 carats in the final quarter of 2021, up 44 per cent year-on-year, and sold 6,980 carats, up 3 per cent.

Thanks to the value per carat soaring by 64 per cent, fourth-quarter revenues rose 68 per cent to $3million from $1.8million the year before.

Away from the resources sector, Brave Bison Group charged ahead following a strong trading update.

The digital media and social video broadcaster said full-year results will be ahead of current market forecasts.

The shares shot up 31 per cent after the company said revenues and viewing numbers across the company’s advertising network have been robust, while Brave Bison’s agency won several new customers during the final quarter of the year.

Diversified UK entertainment business The Brighton Pier Group provided some post-festive cheer with its trading update covering the 26 weeks to Boxing Day.

Trading in the period was described as ‘extremely robust’ and while there was some impact in December due to the lockdown restrictions, over New Year the bars recovered their momentum, trading 9 per cent up on 2019.

The shares galloped 18 per cent higher as management said the group is in a strong position to deliver a good result for the year, comfortably in line with market expectations.

Digital media and social video broadcaster Brave Bison said full-year results will be ahead of current market forecasts

Digital media and social video broadcaster Brave Bison said full-year results will be ahead of current market forecasts

ReNeuron Group shares halved after it released ‘inconclusive’ results from its hRPC phase IIa trial in people with a degenerative eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa.

The company said it would now focus on the commercial potential of its exosome technology and out-license its human retinal progenitor cells (hRPC) programme.

In general, it has been a good time of late to be a recruiter but not so for Gattaca, the company formerly known as Matchtech.

Its shares lost just over a third of their value after the recruitment firm, which concentrates on the engineering and technology sections, issued a profit warning on Tuesday.

The group said the recovery of its contract business had been slower than anticipated. The contract side of the business typically generates three-quarters of the group’s net fee income.

2020, when Best of the Best was one of the year’s best performers, seems a long time ago as the weekly online competitions firm saw its shares slump 34 per cent after it warned that cost of acquiring new players had risen sharply in November and December.

Costs of acquiring new players in those months were roughly 37 per cent above the preceding six-month average, although early indications are that costs are trending back towards the mean.

Another company disappointing with its trading update was Eve Sleep, which describes itself as a ‘sleep wellness brand’.

The mattress seller – sorry, sleep wellness brand – said in the Christmas trading period high levels of Covid infection placed additional strain on the delivery network resulting in ‘customer service challenges’, which presumably meant ‘sleep wellness products’ (mattresses) not arriving at customers’ houses in time for Christmas.

‘We believe these challenges will be short lived and reflect the current peak of absence due to illness across the delivery network, and hence foresee customer experience returning to our usual high levels over the next few months,’ the company said.

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

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Ladbrokes owner Entain cuts profit forecast as online gambling boom falters despite retail sales jump

  • Entain predicts underlying earnings of between £875m and £885m for 2021
  • The betting business benefited from a much-fuller sporting calendar last year
  • Fourth-quarter online gaming revenue at the FTSE 100 firm fell 6% year-on-year 










Gambling group Entain has narrowed its guidance as 23 consecutive quarters of digital revenue growth came to a shuttering end.

The Ladbrokes and PartyPoker owner forecasts making between £875million and £885million in underlying earnings for the 2021 financial year, against a much broader previous estimate of £850million to £900million.

Fourth-quarter digital revenue at the FTSE 100 firm fell 6 per cent year-on-year due to a solid comparative performance in 2020 when onerous Covid-19 restrictions led to betting shops closing and punters laying more bets online. 

Jumping strong: Ladbrokes owner Entain forecasts underlying earnings between £875million and £885million this financial year, against a previous estimate of £850million to £900million

Jumping strong: Ladbrokes owner Entain forecasts underlying earnings between £875million and £885million this financial year, against a previous estimate of £850million to £900million

Yet thanks to the majority of its more than 4,000 stores remaining open this time around, the group’s retail revenue between October and December surged by 62 per cent to within 10 per cent of pre-pandemic volumes.  

Although Entain’s retail revenue for the whole year plunged by over a fifth, a strong online performance in the first three quarters of last year helped its total net gaming revenues grow by 15 per cent.

The business, which also owns SportingBet and Coral, benefited from a much-fuller sporting calendar, including the UEFA European Football Championship, Tokyo Olympics events and the return of the Wimbledon Grand Slam tennis tournament.

But it has also reaped huge gains from the fast-expanding sports betting market in the United States, where activity has been flourishing since the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn a federal ban in 2018.  

Entain launched a tie-up with hospitality and entertainment company MGM Resorts the same year called BetMGM, which operates in 19 US states and territories. 

In a trading update released yesterday, the group revealed that it was the second-largest sports betting and gaming operator in the US markets where it functions for the three months to November 2021.

Big partnership: Entain launched its BetMGM tie-up with hospitality company MGM Resorts in the same year that the US Supreme Court overturned a federal ban on sports betting

Big partnership: Entain launched its BetMGM tie-up with hospitality company MGM Resorts in the same year that the US Supreme Court overturned a federal ban on sports betting

It expects revenues of around $850million for 2021, followed by more than $1.3billion the year afterwards, and to turn a positive underlying profit in 2023.

Chief executive Jette Nygaard-Andersen said: ‘2021 has been a successful and eventful period for Entain, and our market-leading platform has driven another year of strong, sustainable and diversified growth. 

‘All of our major markets have performed well. BetMGM, our hugely exciting business in the US, has been a particular highlight with FY21 net gaming revenue ahead of expectations and an upgraded outlook for 2022.’

The firm hopes to make further gains in the North American market when it launches online sportsbooks in Illinois, Louisiana and Ontario this year, and expands its bingo product and BetMGM Racing app into more states. 

Like many other British gambling companies, it has been the subject of serious takeover interest from US rivals, though it has not fallen into new ownership despite major bids being offered. 

MGM Resorts put forward an £8.1billion proposal to buy the group at the start of last year, but Entain rejected the deal on the grounds that its value was too low.

More recently, a £16.4billion takeover proposal from online betting giant DraftKings failed, with many analysts speculating that the joint venture partnership with MGM complicated the deal.

Shares in Entain were up 0.6 per cent to £17.20 during the mid-afternoon on Thursday, meaning their value has risen by 37.3 per cent over the last 12 months.

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The Hut Group warns on profit margins as shares slide but sales reach over £2bn amid shopper demand for beauty products

  • THG saw its share price slide over 7% today, with shares down 75% in a year
  • Profit margins for 2021 now expected to come in lower than previously forecast 
  • Beauty product sales strong – with six sales a second at peak online sales times 










The Hut Group’s 2021 profit margins are set to fall short of analyst forecasts, but the firm believes they are well-placed to recover this year.

The e-commerce group, which is also known as THG, saw its share price fall over 7 per cent to 171.2p this morning, bringing losses to over 75 per cent in the past year. 

Profit margins for 2021 are now expected to come in at between 7.4 per cent to 7.9 per cent, against previous estimates of around 7.9 per cent. 

In charge: THG is led by Matthew Moudling, pictured centre

In charge: THG is led by Matthew Moudling, pictured centre

The dip in 2021 profit margins has been driven by fluctuating exchange rates, according to the company. 

THG has reported full-year sales of more than £2billion, but warned that 2022 is expected to be a more challenging year. 

Group sales were up 92.4 per cent on a two-year basis in the fourth quarter to 31 December. 

The group saw its fourth quarter sales rise 27 per cent to £711million, when compared against the same period a year ago.

Sales were given a boost by recent acquisitions, while revenue via e-commerce tech arm Ingenuity jumped by 41 per cent.

In the past year, the group’s beauty products were the strongest sellers, and it saw six orders per second at peak times. 

Matthew Moulding, chief executive of THG, said: ‘We are delighted to report significant growth across all divisions during the peak trading period and to have delivered record annual sales of £2.2billion.’

He added: ‘The new year has started well, and we remain confident in delivering our strategic growth plans during 2022 and beyond.’

THG thinks its sales over the course of this year will rise between 22 per cent to 25 per cent. 

Sales: THG has reported full-year sales of more than £2bn, but warned that 2022 is expected to be a more challenging year

Sales: THG has reported full-year sales of more than £2bn, but warned that 2022 is expected to be a more challenging year

Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said: ‘The only way THG is going to win back the market’s favour is if it delivers better than expected figures consistently for at least two or three quarters. Unfortunately, its latest update doesn’t pass the test as it flags margins are slightly below expectations.

‘Under normal circumstances, a business delivering the level of growth seen in THG’s latest update would be applauded by the market. Sadly, THG has shot itself in the foot thanks to the way it has behaved as a listed company since joining the stock market. And that means only something spectacular will lift the share price.

‘Failure to deliver the level of detail about the business desired by investors, questionable corporate governance standards, and comments by chief executive Matt Moulding that he wished he’d never floated THG all amount to bad practice as far as investors are concerned, and they’ve voted with their feet which has left the share price languishing well below its IPO price.

‘The fact THG is guiding for revenue growth to slow in 2022 is even more reason for disgruntled investors to keep shaking their heads in disbelief.

‘Online companies that pitch their story as rapid growth need to live up to the hype. So far THG is coming across as an ill-trained runner which has brought sprint tactics to a marathon and found it can’t sustain momentum at top pace.’

The Manchester-based group’s share price has fallen sharply in the past year amid mounting concerns over governance at the business. 

In response to these concerns, Mr Mounting pledged to appoint an independent chair at the company, dish up more information about Ingenuity and vowed to end a ‘special share’ takeover defence earlier than scheduled.

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Young investors have outperformed their older counterparts and professional investors since the start of the pandemic, according to a new study.

Investors aged between 18 and 24 outperformed all other age groups, enjoying a 22.8 per cent return since the start of the pandemic.

Those in the 24-34 and 35-44 year old age brackets were not far behind the youngest investors, returning 20 per cent and 19.2 per cent respectively in the two-year period. 

The data from investment platform Interactive Investor drilled into its customers’ performance by age group and compared them to the average fund. 

All three age groups beat the average customer portfolio return of 14.5 per cent over the same period and the FTSE All Share index which gained 6.7 per cent.

Older investors, aged over 65, by comparison returned 12.3 per cent over the two years and were more likely to opt for individual stocks like Glaxosmithkline and Astrazeneca.

Despite the meme stock phenomenon which sparked a new generation of investors, the research shows young investors did less share picking and focused on backing investment companies.

Interactive Investor has attributed younger investors’ success with this higher-than-average exposure to trusts – at 34 per cent on average for the age group versus an overall average of 23 per cent.

However, it may also reflect the trusts that they held, with popular names such as Scottish Mortgage scoring big returns through the pandemic. 

But while younger investors have performed well over two years, their outperformance stalled in 2021 and slipped slightly behind older investors.

Investors over the age of 65 returned 14.6 per cent in 2021, compared to 13.8 per cent for the average Interactive Investor customer and 13.1 per cent among 18-24 year olds.

Young investors have turned their back on individual stocks, instead opting for investment trusts which performed well last year

Young investors have turned their back on individual stocks, instead opting for investment trusts which performed well last year

The investment trust sector has proved to be a popular asset class for investors: data from the Association of Investment Companies shows the industry raised £14.8billion of new money last year.

The closed-ended structure has previously been overlooked by some everyday investors but it gives managers the opportunity to invest in illiquid assets like infrastructure and renewables which have proved popular in recent years.

Another benefit investors have found is that income is less lumpy than equities. 

Eleven trusts featured on the AIC’s ‘Dividend Heroes’ list for increasing their dividends for more than 40 consecutive years, including City of London Investment Trust and Alliance Trust.

AGE PERFORMANCE 
Column  24 month return 18 month return 12 month return 
18-24  22.8%  19.5%  13.1% 
25-34  20.0%  16.8%  12.9% 
35-44  19.2%  16.0%  12.7% 
45-54  16.6%  13.7%  13.1% 
55-64 14.1%  11.2% 13.4% 
65+  12.3%  8.6%  14.6% 
Source: Interactive Investor 

This is likely due to the higher exposure to equities among this age bracket: stocks made up 42.9 per cent of the portfolios of 65+ investors compared to 23.3 per cent among 18 to 24 year olds.

Interestingly, II said its average investor was not able to beat the FTSE All Share and FTSE 100 last year – which returned 18.3 per cent and 18.4 per cent respectively.

However, they still beat the professionals at their own game when compared to a multi-asset portfolio rather than one just invested in shares. The IA Mixed Investment 40-85 per cent Shares sector which was up just 11 per cent across the year.

Scottish Mortgage, Britain’s largest investment trust, was the most popular holding across all age groups.

Baillie Gifford’s flagship trust has returned 300 per cent over the past five years, while the FTSE All-Share Index has returned just 10 per cent over the same period.

However, the trust, which took early bets on Tesla and Amazon, has underperformed over the past six months and a further tech sell-off has seen its share price fall more than eight per cent since the start of the year.

While Tesla has remained a popular stock for Interactive Investor customers across all age brackets, they say individual stocks do not dominate the portfolios of 18-24 year olds.

However, this differs from data from fee-free share dealing app Freetrade, which has 1.2million UK customers, of which 27 per cent are between 18 and 25. Its investors can buy individual shares, investment trusts and ETFs.

Leading tech stocks like Apple and Amazon make up 50 per cent of the portfolios of all investors across all age groups, although younger investors seem to have adopted a ‘satellite and core approach’, with S&P tracker funds particularly popular.

Freetrade investors between 36 and 45 are the least risk averse with 60 per cent of the top buys being tech stocks, suggesting they are looking to maximise growth before shifting towards income as they approach retirement.

There were also some subtle variations between men and women’s performance, according to Interactive Investor.  Women performed slightly better than men in the past year – 13.9 per cent versus 13.7 per cent.

Since the start of the pandemic, women saw returns of 14.3 per cent just ahead of the 14.2 per cent earned by men, which the platform said could be because they had a higher exposure to investment trusts but differences in portfolios are minimal.

‘It’s encouraging to see that our customers have managed to navigate the ongoing market uncertainty since the start of the pandemic in 2020,’ said Interactive Investor boss Richard Wilson.

‘Over the 24 months of data collected, our customers have outperformed both the FTSE 100 and FTSE All Share, and our younger investors have demonstrated a particularly impressive performance, helping to pave the way for their longer-term financial security.’ 

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

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Music giant sees profits treble at British arm after minimising impact of record store closures










The music giant behind Beyonce and Robbie Williams has seen profits treble at its British arm after minimising the impact of record store closures. 

Sony Music Entertainment UK notched up a £98million profit in the year to March 31, 2021, up from £31million the year before. Turnover was flat at £280million, according to accounts filed at Companies House. 

The firm’s directors said that due to the pandemic, ‘there has been a decline in the market for physical product sales and in certain ancillary revenue streams’.

However it said streaming growth and cost savings had ‘minimised’ the impact. 

In tune: Sony Music Entertainment UK notched up a £98million profit in the year to March 31, 2021, up from £31million the year before

In tune: Sony Music Entertainment UK notched up a £98million profit in the year to March 31, 2021, up from £31million the year before

Sony’s UK arm is part of the Japanese conglomerate and saw profit rise due to a one-off boost from internal group income. It did not pay a dividend last year. 

The profit surge comes as a row rages over record label earnings from streaming. Last year, MPs called for artists to be paid a greater share of streaming revenues. 

The Government has told the Competition and Markets Authority to conduct a study into the major record labels, Universal, Sony and Warner. 

Independent music firms last week called for it to be expanded to include the likes of Apple and Spotify. 

The growth of streaming helped Universal Music Group float at $40billion last year.

But there are signs streaming’s growth is slowing, with UK vinyl sales growth outpacing it last year.

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Audioboom shares soar after podcast platform finally turns a profit thanks to surging demand from advertisers










Audioboom shares soared as it made a profit for the first time amid surging demand from advertisers.

Shares in the group, which hosts podcasts on topics ranging from sport to crime, jumped 5.7 per cent, or 80p, to a seven-year high of 1490p after it posted a £1million profit for 2021.

Revenues during the year also rocketed 125 per cent to £44.4million as the company cashed in on a surge in podcast listeners during lockdown, which in turn had attracted more advertisers to its platform.

Investors: Audioboom's success has provided a tidy windfall for Australian singer and actress Holly Valance and her husband, property tycoon Nick Candy

Investors: Audioboom’s success has provided a tidy windfall for Australian singer and actress Holly Valance and her husband, property tycoon Nick Candy

The group, founded in 2009, flagged ‘significant growth’ from its technology products, which allow podcasters to add adverts to older episodes of their shows without needing to re-edit them.

The company’s success has also provided a tidy windfall for Australian singer and actress Holly Valance and her husband, property tycoon Nick Candy. 

The couple are the company’s second-largest shareholders with a stake of around 14.8 per cent.

The share price rise has added around £28.6million to their fortune since the end of 2020.

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The holidays are over, the drinks cabinet is depleted and it is early January, the time when many of us resolve to change for the better. 

Gym memberships shoot up and sports halls are crowded with enthusiasts determined to lose weight, get fit and develop that six-pack they have always wanted.

In February and March, attendance falls off and by April, memberships are being cancelled at pace. 

The pattern is not just bad news for gyms, it is also a problem for governments and health services worldwide. 

Triumphant: 4Global has helped bid for and run global events including the 2016 Olympics where Britain’s women’s relay team won bronze

Triumphant: 4Global has helped bid for and run global events including the 2016 Olympics where Britain’s women’s relay team won bronze

According to research, around 30 per cent of the global population is physically inactive. 

In the UK alone, around 60 per cent of adults and one in three children are overweight and obesity is responsible for more than 30,000 deaths a year, a tragedy for loved ones and an immense cost burden on the NHS. 

But it does not have to be like this. A recent report suggested that encouraging the over-65s to be more active would save the health service around £12billion a year, almost 10 per cent of the annual budget. 

And Sport England says that every £1 spent on persuading people to exercise delivers a £4 return.

4Global helps public and private sector bodies to make physical activity more accessible and appealing to young and old, rich and poor. 

The company joined the stock market in November, the shares are 84p and they should increase materially as the business expands. 

The company was founded in 2002 by Eloy Mazon when he was just 27. Armed with an MBA from Imperial College and a strong interest in sport, Mazon set up 4Global to help cities and other bodies to bid for, organise and benefit from major sporting events.

The firm has since worked on virtually every summer and winter Olympic Games, including London, Rio and Tokyo, as well as several World Cups and other football championships. 

Sometimes 4Global is involved from the beginning. Sometimes the group is brought in to manage crises. 

Increasingly, the firm helps cities and government bodies to ensure that games leave a lasting legacy, not just in terms of buildings and stadiums but for local people too. 

Much like New Year resolutions, big sporting events often spur physical activity, which equally often tails off within a few months.

Mazon was keen to find out why and, after working on the London Olympics, he and his team began to accumulate data from local authorities, gyms and other sports centres showing patterns of activity, from weightlifting to cycling to Zumba classes. 

Today, 4Global has amassed more than a billion individual pieces of data, mostly in the UK but also in Europe and North America. 

While the information is completely anonymised, it provides a clear and constantly updated picture of the types of people who are active, what they are doing, where they are doing it and when. 

4Global helps public and private sector bodies to make physical activity more accessible

4Global helps public and private sector bodies to make physical activity more accessible

Critically too, the data highlights areas filled with idlers, be they senior citizens, young children or people from poorer backgrounds. 

The information is valuable to public sector bodies and private companies alike and 4Global’s customers include Swim England, the Rugby Football Union, Manchester City Council and the Jamaican government, as well as several gym groups and leisure centres. 

In the past few months alone, Mazon has secured a £4million contract with Sport England, a £370,000 contract with the government of Peru and a lucrative deal with the city of Los Angeles to maximise the legacy of the 2028 Olympic Games. 

The company has also been commissioned by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport to assess the social impact of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games this summer, while numerous other organisations are turning to Mazon for guidance and advice. 

Looking ahead, 4Global has a pipeline of contracts worth more than £100million over the next four years. 

The group’s data can help gyms work out where to build new facilities, it can help cities plan infrastructure that will encourage locals to exercise and help local authorities work out how best to attract older citizens and children to gyms and fitness classes. 

Profits of around £325,000 are forecast for the year to March, more than tripling to £1.1million next year and soaring to more than £2million in 2024, as the group wins new deals here and overseas. 

Mazon owns just over half of 4Global’s shares so he is strongly motivated to deliver rewards to investors.

Midas verdict: In 2009, Eloy Mazon was struck with a vicious virus that left him in a wheelchair. Today, he is a committed runner, cyclist and swimmer with a sideline in weightlifting. His determination and drive permeate 4Global and the shares, at 84p, are a buy

Traded on: AIM Ticker: 4GBL Contact: 4global.com or IFC Advisory on 020 3934 6630 

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