Pub, leisure stocks help push FTSE higher as England prepares to lift restrictions – business live

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Multimillioniare Philip Day has backed a deal to keep his Peacocks fashion chain afloat – saving 2,000 jobs and just under half of the chain’s 423 stores, our retail correspondent Sarah Butler writes.

The deal comes after more than 200 Peacocks stores closed with the loss of more than 2,000 jobs when the chain called in administrators in November last year.

On Tuesday, EWM Group, the private investment firm controlled by the Day family, said it was providing a deferred loan to a management buyout of Peacocks led by Steve Simpson, the chief executive of Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Day’s right-hand man.

The buyout is also being supported by a group of unnamed Middle East investors, understood to be associates of Day, who are providing working capital to help support Peacocks’ return to trading.

The Cardiff-based budget fashion chain, which Albert Peacock founded as a penny bazaar in Warrington, Cheshire, in 1884, was part of Day’s EWM Group, which included Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Jaeger and Ponden Home. The Jaeger brand was bought by Marks & Spencer in January.

BP has cut its debt faster than expected after a “very strong” first quarter, in which it was able to sell off almost $5bn worth of its assets.

BP chief executive Bernard Looney told investors this morning that net debt fell from $38.9bn at the end of 2020 to $35bn, a target BP had hoped to reach by the end of this year or even early next year.

It was able to pay off debt quicker than expected after selling $4.7bn worth of assets in the first quarter and a “very strong business performance”, he explained.

BP’s fast-falling debt could spell a cash windfall for its shareholders after it slashed dividends last year. BP had warned that it would not begin share buybacks until it reached the $35bn debt threshold.

Its share price climbed by 3.5% on Tuesday morning to 299.95p a share.

Shareholders can expect more details on potential share buybacks when it reports its first quarter results on 27 April.

John Lewis is reopening its changing rooms in England for the first time in a year when the high street lockdown ends next week.

The department store is expected to be joined by many other clothing retailers who are taking advantage of a change in government guidelines, which previously urged the closure of fitting rooms during the pandemic.

John Lewis will also be resuming services including children’s shoe fitting, click & collect and beauty packaging recycling at the stores which have been closed since December.

However, only 34 of its shops will reopen after the group announced the permanent closures of eight stores, including Peterborough and York, last month.