The Great Covid bounceback: Lloyds boss hails Britain’s economic recovery

Lloyds Banking Group’s boss hailed Britain’s economic recovery after a bumper crop of earnings left investors flush with dividends. 

William Chalmers, the lender’s financial head who is standing in as chief executive before Charlie Nunn starts next month, said the outlook was ‘more promising’ as the country bounces back from the pandemic. 

And in a boost to shareholders, Lloyds brought back its dividend, which was cancelled last year when the Bank of England imposed swingeing bans on payouts in the face of the pandemic. 

Flush: Lloyds brought back its dividend, which was cancelled last year when the Bank of England imposed swingeing bans on payouts

Flush: Lloyds brought back its dividend, which was cancelled last year when the Bank of England imposed swingeing bans on payouts

Flush: Lloyds brought back its dividend, which was cancelled last year when the Bank of England imposed swingeing bans on payouts

Lloyds is set to pay out £475m as a half-year reward, and Chalmers said that it should now be able to resume regular payouts twice a year. 

The bank was just one of a host of companies at home and abroad to report bumper earnings as the global economy recovers from the coronavirus crisis. Yesterday alone, UK-listed companies announced more than £7billion of dividends and share buybacks Chalmers said: ‘We’ve upgraded the economic outlook off the back of what we’ve seen as a little bit of a recovery so far and hopefully a more promising outlook going forward.’ 

The lender is expecting the economy to grow by 5.5 per cent this year and the same again in 2022, up around 0.5 per cent from its previous projections, and its unemployment forecast has been revised down from a peak of 7.5 per cent this year to 6 per cent. 

Chalmers added: ‘We are erring on the more conservative side, the more prudent side, of what other market commentators might say about the outlook. But we are building in some room for uncertainties about vaccine rollout, about coronavirus mutation, around policy adjustment and so forth.’ 

The sunnier projections meant Lloyds was able to release £656m of the £4.2billion it set aside last year to cover loans that might turn sour. This helped lift the bank’s profits to £3.9billion in the first half of the year, from a £602m loss over the same time in 2020. 

Delight: Lloyds boss William Chalmers

Delight: Lloyds boss William Chalmers

Delight: Lloyds boss William Chalmers

Mortgage business was booming, though Lloyds also set aside a further £150m to compensate victims of the historic HBOS Reading fraud. 

The bank has also snapped up Embark Group, an investment and retirement business, for £390m as it attempts to build its wealth management arm. 

Chalmers said: ‘We see a huge opportunity in this area.’ 

Lloyds has seen customers deposits creep up by almost £24billion over the first half of this year alone, and rather have this money leave the bank as it gets invested, Lloyds wants to keep it under its wing. 

Already the lender had a partnership with blue-blooded wealth manager Schroders, for customers who wanted advice on their investments. Now Embark will provide the bank with a platform for customers to want to make their own investment decisions. 

Fresh figures from the Bank of England yesterday showed that households tucked away another £9.8billion in June, and have now saved up almost £223billion since the pandemic began. 

Gabriella Dickens, senior UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said it suggested ‘that households remain cautious due to the pandemic, and continue to save excessively’. 

Dickens added: ‘Households’ spending will soar if they spend even a portion of these savings, but we do not anticipate a large drawdown any time soon.’ 

  • TSB pulled in a profit of £42.9m over the first half of the year, compared to a loss of £65.5m last year. The high street bank has had a record six months for mortgage lending, receiving £5.8bn worth of applications. 

Record payout at Anglo American 

Anglo American will hand record payouts to shareholders after profits surged on the back of a commodities rally. T

he value of many of the metals Anglo mines saw prices surge in the first six months of the year as demand rocketed for raw materials. This included iron ore – a key ingredient in steel-making that is being snapped up by China as it ramps up its economy – platinum metals and diamonds. 

Anglo will return an extra £1.4billion to shareholders for the first half – £700m in a special one-off dividend and £700m through a share buyback. Investors will receive £2.9billion including the regular dividend. 

The miner reported the best half-year profits in its 104-year history, up from £7.3billion in 2020 to £15.6billion.

£6.4bn for Shell investors 

Savers and pensioners were given a major boost as Shell raised its dividend by almost 40 per cent and launched a £1.4billion share buyback scheme. 

The FTSE100 energy supermajor will hand investors £6.4billion in total for the second quarter. 

Shell was able to hike the amount it will give to shareholders after oil prices bounced back, climbing above $75 a barrel as the global economy began to rebound. It made profits of £3.9billion – slightly ahead of the City’s forecasts. Shares rose 3.9 per cent, or 54p, to 1438p on the news. 

In April 2020, the company slashed its dividend by two thirds to 12.6p per share after the Covid crisis led to a slump in oil demand and prices. 

It was the first cut to Shell’s payout since the Second World War. Bosses said the decision was ‘prudent’ but it was labelled a ‘devastating’ blow to Britons whose pension funds, stock-market-linked savings accounts and investment trusts all invest in Shell and benefit from its divis. 

Rival BP also made drastic cuts last year but has raised them since. It will reveal in second-quarter results next week if it is now in a similar position to Shell. 

Shell chief executive Ben van Beurden yesterday said he was increasingly confident oil prices would remain strong for the foreseeable future.

BAE’s futuristic jet cleared for take-off

BAE Systems has clinched £250m in taxpayer funding to develop the UK’s futuristic Tempest fighter jet. 

The defence group announced the Ministry of Defence deal as it raised its half-year dividend from 9.4p to 9.9p. 

Flying high: BAE Systems has clinched £250m in taxpayer funding to develop the UK's futuristic Tempest fighter jet (pictured)

Flying high: BAE Systems has clinched £250m in taxpayer funding to develop the UK's futuristic Tempest fighter jet (pictured)

Flying high: BAE Systems has clinched £250m in taxpayer funding to develop the UK’s futuristic Tempest fighter jet (pictured)

In another boost to investors, BAE also said it would kick off a £500m share buyback programme after profits soared by two-thirds to £1.2billion. 

The Tempest project is aiming to design a successor to the Typhoon jets currently in use.

In early plans for the aircraft, BAE has said the plane would be able to fly unmanned and have radar that can capture ‘a city’s worth of data’ in a second. 

Diageo toasts the cocktail culture 

Diageo posted bumper sales thanks to recovering consumer demand and the return of cocktail culture during the Covid19 pandemic. 

The FTSE100 drinks maker, which makes Gordon’s gin and Smirnoff vodka, revealed that net sales rose by 16 per cent to £12.7billion for the year to June. 

The jump helped boost profits by 81.3 per cent to £3.7billion. It increased the final dividend by 5 per cent to 44.59p per share, equivalent to £1billion. 

In Britain, revenue rose by 7 per cent boosted by a 16 per cent increase in spirits as shoppers bought more scotch, Baileys, vodka and gin. However, beer sales slumped by 16 per cent due to the ‘significant impact’ of enforced hospitality closures in the UK. 

ASTRAZENECA SALES BOOSTED BY COVID-19 JAB 

Astrazeneca has posted a huge jump in sales boosted by its Covid19 vaccine. 

The British pharmaceutical group yesterday said revenues surged 18 per cent higher to £11.1billion in the first half of 2021. 

That included £838m from the Covid-19 vaccine the firm jointly developed with Oxford University, of which £640m came in the second quarter. 

By comparison, US rival Pfizer expects to bag £24billion in sales – meaning it could share £7billion in profit with partner BioNTech. 

Unlike rivals, Astra’s deal with Oxford stipulates that it must sell the jabs at cost during the pandemic. Controversies around Astra’s Covid jab have prompted it to weigh up options for the future of its vaccines venture. 

Yesterday Ruud Dobber, head of Astra’s biopharmaceuticals unit, said the firm was ‘exploring different options’ for the business. 

The company’s strong first-half growth included a 19 per cent rise in sales of cancer drugs such as Tagrisso, Imfinzi and Lynparza, as well as a 26 per cent jump in emerging markets, mainly driven by China.

The company declared a dividend of 64.8p per share. 

Astrazeneca shares rose 0.1 per cent, or 11p, to 8277p. 

                                                                                                                                                  Matt Oliver 

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