(Bloomberg) -- Some households will be asked to turn down the lights and use less energy for a second time to avoid potential blackouts. What might seem like a grim choice to some, may be viewed as a pretty good deal by others. Meanwhile, Primark-owner AB Foods posted record Christmas sales and signaled that food cost pressures are easing. 

Here’s the key business news from London this morning:

In The City

Associated British Foods Plc: The company’s Primark budget fashion chain had a “very strong” festive trading period, with sales in the week to Christmas reaching a new record. 

  • While AB Foods still sees profit margins squeezed this year as it struggles to pass on higher costs to cash-strapped consumers, it’s starting to reap the benefit of raising food prices as inflation has become less volatile and some commodity costs have fallen

Henry Boot Plc: The construction and property development group warned of a “challenging” year ahead as the value of its investment portfolio dropped due to the overall fall in UK commercial property values. 

  • The company now sees its pretax profit for the year ended Dec. 31 slightly below market expectations

Bridgepoint Group Plc: The private equity firm announced a buyback, saying that “short-term market dislocations” mean there’s value in allocating capital to repurchase shares. 

In Westminster

The government sank deeper into debt in December as rising debt-interest payments and the cost of insulating consumers and businesses from the energy-price shock strained the public finances.

The UK’s public sector needs a “robust ethical culture” to ensure people feel safe speaking up about poor behaviour, Rishi Sunak’s standards watchdog warned following a string of allegations of impropriety across government. 

Britain is failing to address menopausal discrimination in the workforce, an issue that led to women quitting their jobs due to a lack of employer support, a committee of lawmakers said.

Meanwhile, for the 8,000 people suffering from cystic fibrosis in the UK, Kaftrio is a miracle drug. For the cash-strapped National Health Service, it’s a foretaste of an unaffordable future.

In Case You Missed It 

As the UK government’s hopes for homegrown chip giant Arm to list in London dim, local investors may still be able to own a slice of the Cambridge-based firm. Even if Arm picks the US for a listing, the British public could buy shares in the chip designer through a retail offer, according to PrimaryBid, a firm that specializes in such offers. 

Berkadia, the real estate venture between Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and Jefferies Financial Group Inc., has formed an alliance with UK-based Knight Frank to provide clients with cross-border property advice. The agreement comes as a cheap pound and a correction in European real estate markets promises to unleash a wave of US investment into the UK.

“Are you missing out on the UK's pension deal?,” asks Stuart Trow, columnist for Bloomberg Opinion. 

Looking Ahead 

EasyJet Plc’s first-quarter update tomorrow will be scoured for year-ahead guidance as well as any indication of how the company fared over the winter period.

While pent-up demand helped some European airlines during December, the next few months may be trickier as costs continue to rise, household budgets are further tested, and skiers wait for snow, according to Bloomberg Intelligence’s Conroy Gaynor. EasyJet may also benefit from travelers trading down from more expensive peers, behavior that would reveal crucial information about the state of the European consumer, Gaynor notes.

EasyJet has expressed optimism about the continued recovery of the travel industry, with Chief Operating Officer David Morgan telling Bloomberg that there’s no sign consumers are cutting down on travel or holidays.

For a more considered take on the UK's economic and financial news, sign up to Money Distilled with John Stepek.

--With assistance from Charles Capel.

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.