Wed, 7th Jan 2009
High Street icon Marks & Spencer released a trading statement on Wednesday, in which it announced job cuts of more than 1,200 and the closure of 27 shops – 25 of which are smaller "Simply Food" outlets – following a 7% drop in sales.The statement was generally well received, however, and Marks & Spencer Share prices rose in the absence of a profit warning and relief that trading results, although poor, were not worse. The FTSE 100 index, however, fell 1.3% in early trading on Wednesday – following gains for six consecutive sessions – with miners, utility companies and banks the biggest losers. Share prices in utility group Scottish & Southern Energy, for example, were down more than 7% following the announcement that the group is to place around 40 million shares – equivalent to around 5% of its issued share capital – to bolster its balance sheet and assist with what it called "bolt-on" acquisitions.In related news it was announced that the private equity market in the United Kingdom fell to its lowest level since 1995 in the final quarter of 2008 despite recent indications that the sector may be recovering. By way of thermometer to the depth of the economic downturn, the upmarket restaurant chain Fishworks called for its shares to be suspended on Wednesday as it urgently sought new investment or a takeover bid, whilst Domino's Pizza and Greggs – two of the largest takeaway chains in the country – reported booming sales over the festive period.