UK jobless rate falls to new 43-year-low, but pay growth weakens

Tuesday’s official figures also showed the sharpest annual decline in the number of EU workers in Britain since 1997. (Reuters)
Updated 14 August 2018
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UK jobless rate falls to new 43-year-low, but pay growth weakens

  • The figures painted a largely familiar picture of a tight labor market — including a record number of job vacancies — failing to translate into strong wage growth
  • Total annual wage growth slowed to a nine-month low of 2.4 percent, below forecasts for it to hold at 2.5 percent

LONDON: Britain’s unemployment rate fell to its lowest in over 43 years in the three months to June and fewer workers made do with insecure jobs, but there was little upside for most as pay growth slowed to its weakest in nine months.
Tuesday’s official figures also showed the sharpest annual decline in the number of EU workers in Britain since 1997, continuing a trend seen since the 2016’s vote to leave the EU, and a pick-up in annual productivity growth.
Despite some positive elements, the figures painted a largely familiar picture of a tight labor market — including a record number of job vacancies — failing to translate into strong wage growth.
Britain’s economy warmed up a little in the second quarter from its winter slowdown of early 2018, official data showed last week, but there was no sign of an end to its lackluster performance in the run-up to next March’s Brexit.
“This will not be what the Bank of England will have wanted to see, as one of the justifications for (its) decision to hike rates earlier this month was that it was expecting wage growth to start lifting off.
This hasn’t happened yet,” said Emma-Lou Montgomery, an associate director at Fidelity International.
The BoE raised interest rates on Aug. 2 for only the second time since the financial crisis.
Tuesday’s data showed productivity grew at its fastest annual rate since late 2016 and the number of people whose main job was an insecure zero-hours contract fell by the most since 2000, the Office for National Statistics said.
The unemployment rate fell to 4.0 percent in the April-June period, the Office for National Statistics said.
That was the lowest since the three months to February 1975 and beat economists’ forecasts in a Reuters poll for it to hold steady at a previous low of 4.2 percent.
The drop came despite a smaller-than-expected number of jobs created over the three-month period, 42,000 — less than half the average forecast by economists in a Reuters poll.
Sterling briefly rose above $1.28 against a broadly weaker dollar, as Tuesday’s data helped a struggling pound move away from 13-month lows plumbed last week.
Total annual wage growth slowed to a nine-month low of 2.4 percent, below forecasts for it to hold at 2.5 percent.
The ONS said changes to the timing of annual bonus payments was partly responsible.
Excluding bonuses, pay growth fell to 2.7 percent, well below the 4 percent rate typical before the financial crisis a decade ago.
Output per hour worked grew by 1.5 percent year-on-year in the April-June period, the biggest increase since late 2016 after a 0.9 percent rise in the first quarter of 2018.
With less than eight months until Britain is due to leave the European Union, the ONS data showed an acceleration of EU nationals leaving Britain’s workforce.
In the second quarter there were 2.35 million EU nationals working in Britain, down 86,000 on a year ago, the largest fall since records began.
“Shortages are already hampering firms’ ability to compete and create jobs, so it’s vital that the UK pursues an open and controlled post-Brexit immigration policy,” Matthew Percival, head of employment at the Confederation of British Industry, said.
The number of nationals from the eight East European countries that joined the EU in 2004 fell by 117,000, an 11.7 percent drop on the year. That was partly offset by a 54,000 increase in Romanians and Bulgarians.
The number of workers employed on often-precarious zero-hours contracts fell to 780,000, or 2.4 percent of the workforce, the lowest since 2015.


SABIC prepares to meet investors to offer bond

Updated 25 September 2018
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SABIC prepares to meet investors to offer bond

  • The Kingdom’s petrochemical giant will be meeting investors in London, New York, Los Angeles and Boston from Sept. 25
  • SABIC has also confirmed the appointment of BNP Paribas and Citigroup as global coordinators on the sale

LONDON: Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC) is preparing to offer its dollar-denominated unsecured bond to the global market with investor meetings due to start this week.
The Kingdom’s petrochemical giant will be meeting investors in London, New York, Los Angeles and Boston from Sept. 25, according to a filing on the Saudi stock exchange on Tuesday.
The Saudi company is likely to be keen to tap into the heightened international interest in the Kingdom’s financial markets following the lifting of some restrictions on foreign investors’ activities at the start of the year.
SABIC has also confirmed the appointment of BNP Paribas and Citigroup as global coordinators on the sale, alongside HSBC Bank, Mitsubishi UFG Securities EMEA and Standard Chartered Bank acting as joint lead managers, in its Tadawul note.
The proposed issuance has been well-received so far by analysts with ratings agency Moody’s Investor Service assigning an ‘A1’ rating to the proposed senior unsecured notes to be issued by the financial vehicle, referred to as SABIC Capital II, and guaranteed by SABIC itself.
“SABIC’s A1 rating reflects its strong business position in the chemical sector and its ability to weather industry volatility, particularly given its healthy operational cash flows and conservative liquidity profile,” said Rehan Akbar, a senior analyst at Moody’s, in a note on Monday.

 

The bond is anticipated to be used in part to refinance an existing SR11.3 billion ($3 billion) one-year bridge loan raised in January this year to fund the company’s 24.99 percent stake in the Swiss chemical company Clariant, according to the Moody’s note. All regulatory requirements were completed on this acquisition earlier this month.
Cash proceeds from the bond may also be used to repay a $1 billion bond due on Oct. 3, according to Moody’s.
On Tuesday SABIC confirmed that the bond will be used mainly to refinance “outstanding financial obligations” of the company and its subsidiaries.
Analysts at rating agency S&P Global were also upbeat about SABIC’s outlook, with research published on Monday stating that the company has “strong profitability” via its KSA operations and a “strong” liquidity position.
“The debt issuance is helpful for the credit profile in the sense that it extends the company’s debt maturity profile and strengthens its liquidity position,” said Tommy Trask, corporate and infrastructure credit analyst at S&P Global.
The agency currently assigns the petrochemical firm an ‘A Minus’ rating, with a “stable outlook,” which it said reflects its “view on the sovereign as well as its expectations that SABIC will maintain high profitability under current benign industry conditions.”
S&P Global’s report said margins in the global chemical industry will “largely stabilize in 2018 following several years of improvement, attributable to the increase in commodity chemical capacity.”
However, it also warned that a key risk to credit quality is
the trend for mergers and acquisitions within the sector and the “potential negative impact on credit metrics from funding them with debt.”

FACTOID

SABIC operates in more than 50 countries across the world.