Wednesday business round-up: Six key stories of the day

Scotland's economic growth forecasts were trimmed by the Fraser of Allander Institute
Scotland's economic growth forecasts were trimmed by the Fraser of Allander Institute
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Here are six of today’s key business stories in one handy package.

The downturn in the oil and gas sector prompted a downgrade of Scotland’s economic prospects. The Fraser of Allander Institute said it expects the economy north to grow by 1.9 per cent this year – down from its forecast in June of 2.5 per cent. Its prediction for growth next year was also trimmed, to 2.2 per cent from 2.3 previously. Paul Brewer, PwC’s government and public sector leader in Scotland, said: “With oversupply in the oil market looking likely to continue in the medium-term, it’s crucial that the oil and gas industry swiftly adjusts to this ‘lower for longer’ scenario.”

Telecoms provider BT claimed to have generated £1 billion for the Scottish economy in the past year. The firm also said it employs one in every eight employees working in the Scottish IT and communications sectors, adding that about £176 million was spent with Scottish suppliers.

Hopes of higher UK economic growth in the final quarter of the year were lifted by an upturn for the UK’s powerhouse services sector. The latest purchasing managers’ index (PMI) showed a reading of 54.9 for October – up from 53.3 the previous month and the first increase since June.

Perth-based transport giant Stagecoach said it faces higher costs from its Megabus budget coach operation as it expands in France, where the government has decided to liberalise inter-city bus routes of at least 62 miles. “Accordingly, we now expect net start-up losses of around £15m for the year ending 30 April 2016, which is around £5m higher than our previous expectations,” Stagecoach said.

Former Scottish health minister Susan Deacon was named as the first female chair of the Institute of Directors (IoD) in Scotland. Deacon succeeds Ian McKay, who will officially stand down at the IoD Scotland conference on Friday, having served since 2012.

Pubs giant JD Wetherspoon warned that its profits could fall short of last year’s figure after being hit by an increase in staffing costs. The firm, which has 950 outlets, also said like-for-like sales in the 13 weeks to 25 October were 2.4 per cent higher than the same period last year, boosted by the Rugby World Cup.