What to watch: Smirnoff-owner's £325m coronavirus hit, William Hill's £10m credit card ban, and Frankie & Benny's owner closes restaurants

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Bottles of British vodka brand Smirnoff displayed for sale at the Carrefour supermarket in Spain. (Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

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

Smirnoff-owner warns on £325m coronavirus hit

Diageo (DGE.L), the drinks giant behind brands like Smirnoff vodka and Gordon’s gin, has warned investors to expect a sizeable impact from the coronavirus epidemic.

Diageo, which also owns Guinness, said Wednesday sales in Asia would be up to £325m (£423m) lower this year due to the outbreak of novel coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19.

Net sales are forecast to be between £225m and £325m lower due to COVID-19, which would leave operating profit £140m to £200m lower than forecast.

“Public health measures across impacted countries in Asia Pacific, principally in China, have resulted in: restrictions on public gatherings, the postponement of events and the closure of many hospitality and retail outlets,” Diageo said in a statement.

“Several countries and many businesses have also imposed restrictions on travel.”

The situation is also “dynamic and continues to evolve”, meaning the eventual hit to the business may be even worse.

Diageo stock was down 2.8%.

Stocks rout continues

European stocks fell yet again on Wednesday amid growing fears about the spread of coronavirus and its impact on the world’s major economies.

Officials are now warning that an outbreak of COVID-19, as the novel coronavirus is officially known, is now likely in the US.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index (^STOXX), which has already had two days of sharp losses, fell by more than 1.5% on Wednesday morning.

The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) was down by around 1.1% in London. Germany’s DAX (^GDAXI) was down by more than 1.2%, while France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) fell by almost 0.9%.

The FTSE 100 closed at a 12-month low on Tuesday, and is now down more than 6% since the beginning of the week.

“European equities are deep in the red again after Wall Street capitulated on Tuesday on mounting [coronavirus] pandemic fears, and Asia once again took a dive overnight,” said Neil Wilson, the chief markets analyst of Markets.com.

William Hill's £10m credit card ban

William Hill (WMH.L) has warned that an impending ban on using credit cards to gamble in the UK will cost it £10m.

The warning came as the book maker reported better-than-expected results. Net revenue declined by 2% to £1.5bn and pre-tax losses narrowed to £37.6m, compared to a loss of £721.9m in 2018.

“2019 was a year of transition during which we executed on our ambition to diversify internationally with the acquisition of Mr Green and the continued strong growth of our US business,” said William Hill chief executive Ulrik Bengtsson.

“The group delivered a strong operating performance, ahead of our expectations and against a challenging regulatory backdrop.”

As well as the credit card ban, introduced in April, UK regulators have limited the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals as part of a broader gambling crackdown.

Frankie & Benny's owner closes restaurants

The Restaurant Group (RTN.L) is closing scores more outlets as the casual dining crunch continues.

The company, which owns chains like Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito, said Wednesday it would shut 90 restaurants across the UK by the end of the year. It follows 18 closures in 2019.

“Following extensive review we have defined three clear strategic priorities for the next two years: Grow our Wagamama, concessions and pubs businesses; rationalise our leisure business; and accelerate our deleveraging profile,” said chief executive Andy Hornby.

Metro Bank falls to £130 loss

Metro Bank (MTRO.L) swung to a huge loss last year as it battled a loan miscalculation fiasco that upended the business.

Metro Bank said on Wednesday it made a loss of £130.8m ($170m) last year, compared with a profit of £40.6m in 2018.

The bank blamed a £88m write-down of assets, including millions of costs linked to loan issues last year.

However, Metro Bank fell to an £11.7m loss on an underlying basis when one-off costs are stripped out. That compared to an underlying profit of £50m in 2018.

Revenue shrank by 1% to £400m in 2019 and customer deposits declined by 8% to £14.4bn. Demand for its retail savings account fell by 19% and deposits from commercial customers, not including small businesses, halved. Total assets fell by 1% to £21.4bn.

Shares in Metro Bank slumped 6% on Wednesday morning.

Chevron sends 300 London workers home on coronavirus fears

US oil giant Chevron (CVX) on Tuesday told around 300 staff based at its London office to work from home amid fears that one of its employees has contracted coronavirus.

The move will raise fears about the spread of coronavirus in the UK, where only 13 people have been affected by the virus thus far.

Chevron’s office in the UK capital is located at Canary Wharf, the bustling and densely populated financial district.

The employee, who is experiencing flu-like symptoms, recently returned from abroad, and has been sent for testing, according to the Financial Times.

“Chevron continues to monitor the situation very closely, utilising the guidance of international and local health authorities,” Chevron said in a statement, noting that it would not provide personal details about the employee.