Forget the galactic senate – try the CBI annual conference

What delights lie in store this year at an event where R2-D2 has rubbed shoulders with all three major party leaders?

Star Wars favourite R2-D2 upstaged the guest speakers at last year’s CBI annual conference – yet more evidence that robots are taking over from humans.

C-3PO’s beeping buddy was part of a skit with Pinewood Studios chief executive Ivan Dunleavy. Other guests in 2014 included David Cameron as well as Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg (remember them?).

This year’s roster for the business group’s event, which 1,000 bosses are expected to attend, includes representatives from long-established businesses as well as more disruptive forces, ranging from Tesco and Whitbread to Uber and Airbnb.

Education secretary Nicky Morgan will be on a panel discussing youth unemployment and a surprise senior cabinet minister is also promised.

No UK party leaders this time, however (unless the surprise turns out to be Cameron). Strangely the only media fuss surrounding these non-appearances was when Jeremy Corbyn reportedly cried off, prompting CBI mutterings of a snub by the Labour leader. “I am really disappointed he has not accepted my invitation to speak at the conference,” said CBI director-general John Cridland.

Shame, really. Corbyn could have called his speech a new hope or – for more recent fans – the force awakens.

ITV aims to bounce back from rugby letdown

England’s early exit from the Rugby World Cup might still be painful for the country’s supporters to recall, but ITV investors will be hoping it does not scar the broadcaster’s results.

Tuesday’s trading update should provide some answers, but analyst Ian Whittaker at Liberum remains positive. He said ITV had indicated that nine- month advertising revenue would grow by 6%, which implies around 8% for the third quarter. “The risk to this number is more on the upside than downside,” he said. “Previous discussions with media buyers suggested ITV had a strong September, helped by the Rugby World Cup [and England’s matches in the group stages] and comments from newspaper groups have suggested a relative improvement recently in advertising trends, which should be more pronounced in TV.”

ITV should also have been boosted by the return of the The X Factor and Downton Abbey, as well as new successes such as Unforgotten.

Any privatisation of Channel 4 – as hinted by the government – might allow free-to-air broadcasters to charge pay-TV companies for carrying their channels. More news was expected by Christmas, said Liberum.

Sainsbury’s ready to come out fighting

It seems like supermarket trading updates come around almost as often as new brand-match offers, and in the case of Sainsbury’s it’s pretty much true.

It was only the end of September when the supermarket group pleased investors by saying full-year profits were likely to be better than expected after an improvement in sales and volumes in the second quarter. Come Wednesday and we get its half-year figures, with analysts now focusing on supermarket margins, which are expected to fall to 2.5%, according to Barclays. Half-year pre-tax profits could drop by 24% to £284m, the bank said.

No surprise, really, given that competition in the sector is still fierce. Credit Suisse said: “Sainsbury’s stronghold in the south-east, particularly the greater London area, is coming under increasing threat. Recent statements from Lidl show the scale of their ambition, with plans to quadruple the numbers of stores within the M25, from 70 to 280.”

Over the summer Sainsbury’s issued two bonds for £250m each, and half of the proceeds is expected to be injected into its pension fund. It is also selling its in-store pharmacy business for £125m in a deal that is expected to be completed in the second half. So it should have the funds for the battle.


Nick Fletcher

The GuardianTramp

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