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AJ Bell’s trading platform nears 400,000 customers as retail investing maintains its Covid-induced boom

  • About 15,300 more customers joined AJ Bell between October and December
  • AJ Bell reported its total assets under administration jumping by 21% to £75.6bn
  • The firm hopes to attract more clients when it launches Touch and Dodl this year 










Financial services group AJ Bell has continued to benefit from the boom in retail investing as it revealed its customer numbers surged to within touching distance of 400,000.

About 15,300 new clients joined the online investment platform between October and December, taking its total customer base to 398,066, with the majority joining its direct-to-consumer platform.

This was despite the period seeing the UK Government impose much less strict coronavirus restrictions, which had helped drive up demand for retail trading apps – especially amongst younger and first-time investors – over the last two years.

Customer support: About 15,300 new clients joined online investment platform AJ Bell between October and December, taking its total customer base to 398,066

Customer support: About 15,300 new clients joined online investment platform AJ Bell between October and December, taking its total customer base to 398,066

It also reported total assets under administration jumping by over a fifth to £75.6billion in the last three months of 2021 compared to the equivalent time in 2020, while gross inflows soared by 23 per cent to £2.7billion.

However, net inflows declined by £1.4billion as a result of a bulk annuity purchase that led to a one-off outflow of £241million from its investment management and advised platforms.

The Greater Manchester-based company said the continued expansion in new trade ‘evidences the resilience’ of its business model across disparate market circumstances.

It hopes to attract more customers this year when it launches its new adviser platform Touch and trading app Dodl, which will offer several commission-free investments and is aimed at younger investors.

This latter platform will provide stocks, shares and ISAs as well as ‘themed investments’ focused on particular sectors, such as technology, robotics and healthcare.

Patrons will only have to pay an annual charge of 0.15 per cent on their investment accounts and not incur any fees when they buy or sell investments.

New money: Younger and first-time investors have joined retail trading apps such as AJ Bell, Hargreaves Lansdown and Freetrade in huge numbers since the Covid-19 pandemic started

New money: Younger and first-time investors have joined retail trading apps such as AJ Bell, Hargreaves Lansdown and Freetrade in huge numbers since the Covid-19 pandemic started

To begin with, though, investors will be limited to putting their money behind 50 UK shares and 30 funds, including its low-cost multi-asset funds and its Responsible Growth fund, with some US shares joining the platform soon afterwards.

AJ Bell has said Dodl intends to ‘make investing more straightforward and accessible for retail investors’ and hopes to have it up and running sometime during the first half of 2022.

But the move comes amidst increasing competition between rival DIY investment firms like Freetrade, Hargreaves Lansdown and Interactive Investor, who have all seen a pandemic-induced boom in demand for their services.

Founder and chief executive Andy Bell said: We have had a solid start to our new financial year with customer numbers, gross inflows and assets under administration all growing steadily.

‘We continue to see strong demand for our easy to use, low-cost platform across both the advised and direct-to-consumer markets.’

He added: ‘Our trusted brand and easy to use platform propositions, supported by our increasingly popular investment solutions, ensure that we are well-positioned to deliver further growth in both the advised and D2C markets, and we approach the traditionally busy tax year-end period with optimism.’

Shares in FTSE 250-listed AJ Bell were up 1.3 per cent to £3.51 during early trading today; however, their value has fallen by 14.3 per cent over the last six months.   

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Private equity firm TPG sees shares soar on first day of trading with its value topping £7.5bn










Private equity firm TPG saw its shares soar in its first day of trading as its value topped £7.5billion.

The US investment business, which went public yesterday, rocketed by 15 per cent as its shares began trading on the stock market in New York

The stock was initially priced at $29.50 but hit $33.97 in early afternoon.

US investment business TPG , which went public yesterday, rocketed by 15 per cent as its shares began trading on the stock market in New York

US investment business TPG , which went public yesterday, rocketed by 15 per cent as its shares began trading on the stock market in New York

The stellar initial public offering (IPO) cemented the fortunes of TPG’s billionaire founders David Bonderman and Jim Coulter. 

Coulter owns almost 3.5m of the Class A shares being offered in the IPO, now worth £86.5million, while Bonderman owns 780,000 worth £19million. 

They also own almost all of the Class B shares, worth around £5.7billion.

Founded in 1992, Texas-based TPG owns more than 280 firms across more than 30 countries. 

Traditionally, only major institutional investors and ultra-wealthy families have been able to put their money in private equity. 

But several firms have gone public in recent years, giving regular shareholders the chance to gain exposure.

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M&S hoping to keep up with Next as it reveals Christmas trading update this week to renewed investor confidence










Marks & Spencer will be hoping to keep up with Next as it reveals its Christmas trading update on Thursday. 

Under chief executive Steve Rowe, sales rose 5 per cent in the first half of its financial year as against pre-pandemic, with the model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley proving a popular draw.

Russ Mould, investment analyst at AJ Bell, said: ‘Analysts will look for how online sales are faring, and how the M&S link-up with Ocado for food delivery continues to fare.’ 

Follower of fashion: Under Steve Rowe, sales rose 5 per cent in the first half of its financial year as against pre-pandemic, with model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (pictured) proving popular

Follower of fashion: Under Steve Rowe, sales rose 5 per cent in the first half of its financial year as against pre-pandemic, with model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (pictured) proving popular

Mould added that investors would also be keeping an eye out for any affirmation of, or change to, the £500m profit before tax which Rowe had predicted after first-half results. 

Michael Hewson, at CMC Markets, said M&S’s first dividend since 2019 could become more likely if the third-quarter results are strong.

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JD Sports raises earnings forecasts after high trading levels over Black Friday and Christmas period

  • JD Sports estimates earning at least £875m in headline pre-tax profits this year 
  • Peter Cowgill is urging the incoming National Insurance rise to be reconsidered
  • The firm said the $1.9trillion US relief package boosted its bottom line by £100m 










Retailer JD Sports has upgraded its annual profit predictions for the second time in four months following solid sales over the Black Friday and Christmas seasons.

The blue-chip listed firm revealed revenues were more than 10 per cent higher than in the equivalent period in 2020, despite coronavirus creating significant problems for the group.

These include disruption to the supply of goods from particular brands and trading restrictions across Europe and Southeast Asia, which bosses at the company said JD is ‘well placed to manage.’

Booming sales: Blue-chip listed JD Sports revealed revenues in its like-for-like businesses were more than 10 per cent higher than the equivalent period in 2020

Booming sales: Blue-chip listed JD Sports revealed revenues in its like-for-like businesses were more than 10 per cent higher than the equivalent period in 2020

It now forecasts at least £875million in headline pre-tax profits for the 12 months to 29 January, a £65million increase above average current market anticipations.

About £100million of this figure has been attributed by the sportswear chain to the US Government’s $1.9trillion coronavirus relief package passed last March by President Joe Biden.

The group said it expects similar profit levels next year, as long as the UK and North America see no additional trading restrictions and accounting for the benefit provided by the US stimulus package and the extra UK employment costs.

Executive chairman Peter Cowgill said: ‘The commitment of our colleagues is crucial to our success and I would like to thank everyone in our various businesses for their significant contribution in delivering this outstanding performance.’

But he warned that the incoming 1.25 per cent hike in National Insurance rates from April, combined with rising wage costs, will have a negative impact and called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to reconsider the impending rise.

He told the Evening Standard: ‘The imposition on businesses this year, at a time when you’ve got such wage inflation in any event, is pretty strong.

Expansion: JD Sports has bought numerous firms in the last year, including Poland-based Marketing Investment Group and 80 per cent stakes in Deporvillage and Cosmos Sports

Expansion: JD Sports has bought numerous firms in the last year, including Poland-based Marketing Investment Group and 80 per cent stakes in Deporvillage and Cosmos Sports

‘You’ve got the imposition of national insurance, and you’ve got the increase in corporation tax as well. That impacts on retained profits for investment.’

The UK Government is bringing in the National Insurance rise with the intention of funding social care and helping reduce the backlog on the NHS, where about 6 million people are currently waiting for routine hospital treatment.

Think tank The Resolution Foundation has estimated that this levy hike will put another £750 per year onto the average tax bill of those in the top half of the income scale.

But JD Sports’ performance during the pandemic has left it in a much stronger position than many companies and enabled it to embark on an expansion drive through purchasing other sporting brands. 

In the last year, it has bought 80 per cent stakes in online sporting goods business Deporvillage and Greek retailer Cosmos Sports, retro fashion seller 80s Casual Classics, and Poland-based manufacturer Marketing Investment Group.

However, the Competition and Markets Authority ordered the group to sell the Footasylum brand over concerns that its takeover could reduce competition in the footwear industry and lead to higher prices and less choice for customers.

Nonetheless, Keith Bowman, Investment Analyst at Interactive Investor, said today that the firm’s ‘track record for expansion and acquisitions is strong, with growth in the US proving its most recent focus.

‘Online sales have seen JD weather pandemic store disruption well, while a previous logistics deal with Clipper underlines its intention to continue growing the channel. In all, and aided by today’s upgrading of profit guidance, analyst consensus opinion is likely to remain highly favourable, pointing to a strong buy.’

Shares in JD Sports Fashion were down 2.7 per cent to 212.9p at 4pm on Wednesday.

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