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What to Watch: Coronavirus to dent UK growth, Heineken boost, Nissan v Ghosn

Edmund Heaphy
Finance and news reporter
A woman wears a mask as she walks through China Town in London last week. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)

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

Ratings agency warns of coronavirus impact on UK economy

Ratings agency S&P Global warned on Wednesday that the slowdown in the Chinese economy could shave as much as 0.2 percentage points off eurozone and UK economic growth in 2020.

The shock to the European economy, of which China is a significant export market, is likely to be felt in the first quarter, S&P Global said.

“A large share of economic activity hindered by the outbreak of the virus, especially goods production, would just be postponed rather than cancelled altogether,” it noted.

After the US and UK, China is the third-largest importer of goods and services from the eurozone. Exports from Europe to China climbed threefold between 2007 and 2018.

The ratings agency said that delayed production could boost the bloc’s economy next year, however.

“If a catch-up effect materialises, the economic outlook for 2021 could even be slightly higher than our current baseline forecast of 1.2%.”

European stocks hit new highs

European stocks climbed further on Wednesday in spite of the S&P Global warning after closing at fresh record highs in the previous trading session,

The waning of fears about the impact of the coronavirus, primarily driven by a slowing of infections, is boosting global markets.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index (^STOXX), which tracks the continent’s top 600 listed companies, was up by more than 0.4% on Wednesday morning, notching a new record peak.

The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) index, meanwhile, was up by more than 0.2% in London. Germany’s DAX (^GDAXI) surged by 0.7%, while France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) was up by 0.4%.

The gains in Europe followed a strong trading session in Asia. The Hang Seng (^HSI) closed almost 0.9% in the green. Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) rose by almost 0.7% on Wednesday.

Alcohol-free beer helps Heineken to best year in a decade

Booming sales of no-alcohol beer helped Heineken (HEIA.AS) enjoy its best sales growth in a decade last year.

Heineken said on Monday that sales of its own-brand beer grew by 8.3% in 2019, the best performance in over 10 years. Part of that was down to the success of Heineken 0.0, its alcohol-free beer, which is now on sale in 57 countries.

“The Heineken brand growth accelerated to 8.3%, with more than 40 countries delivering double digit growth,” chairman and chief executive Jean-François van Boxmeer said. “The successful roll-out of Heineken 0.0 continued.”

Heineken, the company, owns more than just Heineken the beer and the company saw surging sales of low- and no-alcohol beer across its portfolio. Low- and no-alcohol beer sales jumped by 7.6% and now account for almost 5% of total sales.

Heineken’s total revenue rose 6.4% to €28.5bn (£24bn, $31bn) in 2019 and net profit rose 13.2% to €2.1bn.

Nissan files $91m lawsuit against Carlos Ghosn

Nissan has filed a civil lawsuit in Yokohama District Court against former company chairman Carlos Ghosn, seeking damages of 10 million yen ($91m, £69.5m) for alleged financial misconduct.

Ghosn, the former chairman of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi  (RNO.PA) alliance was arrested in Japan in 2018 over allegations of fraud, including misuse of company funds and understating is salary.

He was arrested and imprisoned in Japan, but jumped bail in December whilst under house arrest in Tokyo, and fled to Lebanon in a dramatic escape involving private planes routed through Istanbul.

Nissan Motor Company said on Wednesday that it wants to “to recover a significant part of the monetary damages inflicted on the company by its former chairman” and the amount of damages it is seeking may increase in future as it will also pursue compensation if it gets hit with regulatory fines over Ghosn’s alleged financial wrongdoing.

What to expect in the US

Futures are pointing to a higher open for US stocks.

S&P 500 futures (ES=F) are up by 0.34% and Dow Jones Industrial Average futures (YM=F) are up by 0.37%. Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) are up by 0.46%.

Companies reporting later on Wednesday in the US include: