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July 30, 2021

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Europe firms banish virus woes

Carmaker Volkswagen, plane maker Airbus and energy major Royal Dutch Shell all posted bumper financial earnings yesterday reflecting a generally buoyant mood among European companies emerging from the coronavirus pandemic.

European stocks hit record highs, taking their cue from the positive outlook and increased investor payouts offered by many companies reporting on one of the busiest days on the financial calendar.

There were some clouds on the horizon — strong sales figures from Swiss foods group Nestle and brewer Anheuser Busch InBev were offset by concerns about the impact of higher costs on them.

Volkswagen trimmed its estimate for an increase in car deliveries to customers because of a shortage of computer chips, and Finnish telecoms equipment maker Nokia also warned that the same issue was putting the brakes on its healthy growth. But business is clearly picking up from the lows of 2020 when efforts to contain the coronavirus forced consumers to stay home and businesses to cut output.

Investment house Pictet said equities in developed markets were enjoying “a positive feedback loop in 2021, with stronger economic recovery increasing sales growth, improving margins and earnings set to rebound by 40 percent in 2021 in the US and Europe.”

Airbus, now the world’s largest planemaker, led the way by doubling its full-year profit forecast and raising the outlook for jet deliveries.

Shell boosted its dividend and launched a US$2-billion share buyback program after a sharp rise in oil and gas prices drove second quarter profits to their highest in more than two years.

It joined peers TotalEnergies and Norway’s Equinor in announcing share buybacks as companies throw off more cash than they can reinvest.

Figures earlier in the week showed the luxury goods industry has rebounded strongly since the start of the year, fuelled by robust demand in Asia and the United States.


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