Key events

Rail strikes latest: Ministers to hold talks with union chiefs this week

Ministers will hold talks with rail union chiefs this week to urge them to call off strikes aimed at causing “maximum disruption” over Christmas.

The RMT union announced on Tuesday that thousands of its members working for Network Rail and 14 train operating companies will strike on 13-14 and 16-17 December, causing disruption over six consecutive days in the run-up to Christmas. There will be a further two strikes on 3-4 and 6-7 January.

Work and pensions secretary Mel Stride said on TalkTV this morning:

What we need is we need more talking from the unions with the employers and less announcements of strikes.

He said the consequences of the strikes announced by the RMT union in December and January would be “quite serious”, disrupting “medical appointments, for example, as well as “family reunions” over the festive period.

The timing of these strikes are designed to create maximum disruption across the Christmas period.

The Secretary of State is actually meeting the rail union leaders later this week, so there is that dialogue occurring.

The essential discussions have to occur between the rail operating companies, Network Rail and the unions, and they really should be engaging more on that and working things out between them more vigorously, in my view, than simply rushing off and going into strike action.

Announcing the strikes on Tuesday, the RMT’s general secretary, Mick Lynch, said:

This latest round of strikes will show how important our members are to the running of this country and will send a clear message that we want a good deal on job security, pay and conditions for our people.

We have been reasonable, but it is impossible to find a negotiated settlement when the dead hand of government is presiding over these talks.

Introduction: Manchester United shares jump after Glazers put club up for sale

Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of business, the financial markets and the world economy.

The Glazer family are looking to sell Manchester United after owning it for 17 years, triggering a 27% jump in the share price to $16.6 in after hours trading on Nasdaq.

The Glazers announced last night that they were “commencing a process to explore strategic alternatives” for the Premier League club, on the same day it was confirmed that Cristiano Ronaldo had left Old Trafford by mutual agreement.

A statement from United revealed plans to identify new investment that could lead to a potential sale. The club said the process led by their American owners will consider a number of options “including new investment into the club, a sale, or other transactions involving the company”. The Raine Group, which oversaw the sale of Chelsea earlier this year, has been appointed as the exclusive financial adviser.

In August, Jim Ratcliffe, the UK’s richest person, expressed an interest in buying United. “If the club is for sale, Jim is definitely a potential buyer,” a spokesperson for him said. Last month, though, Ratcliffe claimed he had met the Glazers and they did not wish to sell.

The club was valued at nearly $2.5bn (£2bn) on the New York stock exchange yesterday. The Glazers took control of United in a £790m deal in 2005, loading the club with £500m of debt, and later listed a minority stake, in 2012, but retained control through a dual-class share structure which gives them almost all voting rights.

The announcement that they were considering selling comes after years of protest from the fans, chanting “Love United, Hate Glazers”. United has not won the Premier League since 2013 and the fans want to see more investment in the club.

David Cogan, a media executive who negotiated the sale of the Premier League’s TV rights, has been talking about this on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

The owners have said we’ve done our 17 years, we’ve taken out as much as we can, we’re under constant pressure from fans and therefore what we need to do is try to find a buyer at a time when the Premier League looks like it might make more money because lots of people are buying rights and we’ve got the asset value to where we could get it.

And what’s really driven that is the differences in value. A year ago Newcastle sold for £305m. Chelsea sold for £2.5bn plus an additional £1.75bn for reinvestment in the club, nearly £5bn. When you’re Manchester United or you’re Liverpool and you’re the owner of those clubs, you look at those numbers and say we can easily get that, and that’s a huge return on our initial investment.

He said large American hedge funds may be interested in buying the club, noting that they have been buying media rights of sports assets, for example in rugby.

It may well be that all these American hedge funds are looking at football assets believing they are undervalued even at £4bn or £5bn because the Premier League will continue to grow…

Most fans are quite happy if the money is coming in.

Roman Abramovich sold Chelsea for £4.25bn to a consortium led by the American businessman Todd Boehly in May. Newcastle United was sold by Mike Ashley for £305m last October to a consortium led by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

Otherwise, the focus today is on the latest flash PMIs for November, closely-watched business surveys, as well as the minutes from the US Federal Reserve’s last meeting when it hiked interest rates as expected by 75 basis points.

Most Asian stock markets have gained while oil and the dollar slipped, as rising Covid-19 cases in China triggered fears of fresh lockdowns that could hold back the reopening of the world’s second-biggest economy.

European stocks are expected to rise at the open, after they reversed their Monday losses and closed at three-month highs on Tuesday.

The Agenda

  • 8.15am GMT: France S&P Global PMIs flash for November

  • 8.30am GMT: Germany PMIs flash for November

  • 9am GMT: Eurozone PMIs flash for November

  • 9.30am GMT: UK S&P Global/CIPS PMIs flash for November

  • 1.30pm GMT: US Durable goods orders for October (forecast: 0.4%)

  • 2.45pm GMT: US S&P Global PMIs flash for November

  • 3pm GMT: US Michigan Consumer sentiment final for November (forecast: 55)

  • 3pm GMT: Treasury committee to quiz UK chancellor Jeremy Hunt on autumn statement

  • 7pm GMT: Bank of England chief economist Huw Pill speech on returning inflation to target

  • 7pm GMT: US Federal Reserve minutes

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