Financial markets bookmaker Plus500 is tilting towards investment and tapering shareholder returns after the pandemic drove “unprecedented levels of platform usage”.

An “increased emphasis on investing in growth” meant returning at least 50 per cent of net profit through dividends in future years, the company said. It flagged entering new markets such as share dealing, potentially by acquisition, and set aside an incremental $50m over the next three years to set up a research and development centre in Israel.

For 2020 Plus500 returned 60 per cent of net profit, with management proposing a special dividend of $29.4m on top of ordinary dividends of $186m.

Total revenue for 2020 rose 146 per cent to a record $872.5m with underlying earnings surging 168 per cent to $515.9m, Plus500 reported. Customer trades reached a record 82m, up from around 35m in 2019.

British American Tobacco cautioned that currency headwinds will hold back 2021 earnings by more than analysts had expected. The maker of Rothmans and Lucky Strike cigarettes guided for mid-single digit growth in earnings per share at constant currencies this year but flagged that foreign exchange effects would be a 7 per cent drag. Its annual operating profit of £11.4bn on sales of £25.8bn were both in line with consensus expectations.

Hargreaves Lansdown co-founder and biggest shareholder Peter Hargreaves raised nearly £300m overnight with the sale of 19.5m shares. The placing at £15.35 per share, a 7.1 per cent discount versus Tuesday’s close, cut Hargreaves’ stake in the investment broker from 23.9 per cent to 19.8 per cent.

Rio Tinto proposed a record $6.5bn final dividend after rising iron ore prices lifted its annual underlying profit by 13 per cent to $12.5bn. The Anglo-Australian miner will pay a final dividend of $3.09 a share, plus a one-off payment of 93 cents per share. Rio said it would invest in technologies that could deliver reductions in the carbon intensity of steelmaking of at least 30 per cent from 2030.

Signature Aviation, the private jet servicing group, announced the sale of its engine repair and overhaul business to StandardAero for $230m. Signature had formally put the ERO business up for sale in 2018. There was no update on the agreed takeover of Signature by Blackstone, Cascade and Global Infrastructure Partners.

Imperial Brands has hired Lukas Paravicini as its new chief financial officer to succeed Oliver Tant, who will step down in August at the latest having been in the job for seven years. Paravicini is CFO of agricultural commodities and brokerage group ED & F Man.

Stock trading volumes in Hong Kong have soared to four times those on London’s main exchange, as large technology stocks attracted soaring appetite from foreign investors for the “Nasdaq of Asia”. Trading volumes in Hong Kong also reached almost 60 per cent of the New York Stock Exchange as investors, mostly from China, have poured about $50bn into shares listed in the Asia finance hub this year.

Renewable energy assets are in a bubble that has led to a string of deals with “crazy” valuations, according to Patrick Pouyanné, the chief executive of French oil company Total. In a wide-ranging interview with the Financial Times, Mr Pouyanné admitted public sentiment had shifted away from fossil fuels faster than anyone in the industry imagined just a few years ago but decried as a “paradox” the view that “we will solve the climate change challenge just because there is no more equity invested in oil and gas majors, that’s something completely wrong.” Read more

A US judge has dealt a blow to Citigroup’s efforts to recover hundreds of millions of dollars mistakenly sent to a group of asset managers, ruling the recipients are allowed to keep the erroneous payments. The decision stems from a dispute between Citigroup and funds that were creditors of one of its clients, the cosmetics company Revlon. In August, Citi intended to send the funds interest payments of less than $8m on a loan made in 2016 to finance Revlon’s acquisition of rival Elizabeth Arden. Instead, it ended up sending the Revlon lenders $900m — the entire principal and all outstanding interest.

Gerard O'Reilly Markets are still efficient even with Tesla’s 2020 gains, argues the co-chief executive of Dimensional Fund Advisors.

Lombard In the perennially under-fire outsourcing sector, Serco has decided that defence is the best form of attack. The acquisition of US military consultancy Whitney, Bradley & Brown takes Serco deeper into the relatively low-risk area of defence.

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