What to Watch: Businesses auto-enrolled for no deal, Jack Wills boss sacked, and Boris to meet Merkel

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
The Jack Wills store on Foubert's Place in Soho, London. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA via Getty Images

Here are the top business, market, and economic stories you should be watching today in the UK, Europe, and abroad:

Businesses auto-enrolled for Brexit

The Treasury is auto-enrolling thousands of UK businesses that trade with Europe to ensure they can continue to do business under a no-deal Brexit.

More than 88,000 VAT-registered companies across the UK will be allocated an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number in the next two weeks. EORIs are an important identifier needed by customs officers and are needed to ensure businesses can keep trading if the UK falls out of the EU with no deal on new trading arrangements.

The auto-enrolment push will more than double the number of registered businesses in the UK with an EORI. It comes as the government prepares for an increasingly likely no deal Brexit.

“There can be no time for delay, which is why HMRC has allocated thousands of businesses with a trading number to ensure they can continue to trade their goods through Europe from day one,” Chancellor Sajid Javid said in a statement.

“This will help ease the flow of goods at border points and support businesses to trade and grow.”

Jack Wills boss sacked

Sports Direct (SPD.L) tycoon Mike Ashley has fired the boss of preppy retailer Jack Wills just weeks after buying the chain.

Retail Week reported that staff were informed of Suzanne Harlow’s departure on Monday.

Sports Direct bought Jack Wills for £12.75m as part of a pre-pack administration at the start of August. Ashley has already begun closing Jack Wills stores as part of efforts to turn around the struggling chain.

Boris Johnson to meet Angela Merkel

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will travel to Berlin today to meet with German chancellor Angela Merkel.

Johnson is hoping that he can convince Merkel to back his call to re-open Brexit negotiations and scrap the Irish backstop in a bid to avoid a no deal Brexit in October.

However, Johnson will likely face a frosty reception during his first visit to the EU since becoming Prime Minister. An ally of Merkel’s told the Guardian on Tuesday that Boris Johnson’s letter to the EU earlier this week calling for renegotiation was “not a serious offer.”

At just before 9am UK time, the pound was down 0.1% against the euro to €1.0941 (GBPEUR=X) and down 0.2% against the dollar to $1.2134 (GBPUSD=X).

Ryanair launches legal battle

Ryanair (RYA.L) has launched a last-ditch legal bid to stop a strike by its pilots in a row over pay and conditions, which could cause significant disruption for holidaymakers if it goes ahead.

The high court in London will hear the case on Wednesday morning, after the airline sought an injunction just hours before the strike is due.

The strike is set to take place on Thursday and Friday, with fears it could leave travellers unable to fly if Ryanair cannot make alternative arrangements. A further walkout could take place in September.

UK tech investment soars

More than half of the money raised by UK technology companies so far in 2019 has come from US and Asian investors, according to new data.

Overall, the sector has raised more money in the first seven months of the year than it did in the entirety of 2018.

New research released on Wednesday shows that UK-based technology firms have received $6.7bn in funding thus far in 2019, with 55% coming from investors based in either the US or Asia.

On average, more than $1bn has been invested per month in the sector, 1.5 times the amount raised in the same period in 2018.

Executive pay falls but still high

FTSE 100 (^FTSE) CEOs are still earning 117 times what average UK workers make in a year, despite a fall in pay for top bosses.

Analysis by CIPD, the professional association of HR workers, and think tank the High Pay Centre found that average pay for FTSE 100 chief executives fell by 13% last year to £3.4m.

The findings tally with similar research by Deloitte released earlier this week.

However, despite the drop, FTSE 100 bosses still earn more than 100 times the median UK salary, which stands at £29,574.

Markets in the green

European markets were rising on a quiet Wednesday morning, as traders look ahead to minutes from the US Federal Reserve to be released later today which they hope will hint at future rate cuts.

Minutes from the Fed’s rate setting committee are due to be published at 7pm UK time. US President Donald Trump has been putting pressure on the central bank to cut interest rates to support the economy.

Britain’s FTSE 100 (^FTSE) was down up by 0.7%, France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) was up by 0.7%, Germany’s DAX (^GDAXI) was up by 0.4%, and the Euronext 100 (^N100) was up by 0.7%.

Overnight in Asia, Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) closed down by 0.2%, the Hong Kong Hang Seng Index (^HSI) was up by 0.2% and China’s Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) closed flat.

What to expect in the US

US stocks future are pointing to strong open later today. S&P500 futures (ES=F) were up 0.5%, Dow Jones futures (YM=F) were up by 0.4%, and Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) were up by 0.7%.

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