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People walk by a cafe in London flying the Union Jack flag with a central picture of Prince William and Kate Middleton, Thursday, April 21, 2011. (Sang Tan/AP)
People walk by a cafe in London flying the Union Jack flag with a central picture of Prince William and Kate Middleton, Thursday, April 21, 2011. (Sang Tan/AP)

Britain

Wedding offers unexpected gifts to U.K. investors Add to ...

In addition to lifting the spirits of a nation beset by economic hardship and gloom, Britain's royal wedding will boost many companies' fortunes, even if only temporarily.

For investors, there are some unexpected beneficiaries, along with the obvious gainers. From hotels and airlines to makers of dinner plates and collectibles, the largesse of the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton on Friday will reach broadly across the country and beyond.

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British retailers will take in an extra £527-million ($831-million) to £620-million, with help from a million tourists arriving to celebrate the wedding, according to studies by the Centre for Economics and Business Research and London-based Verdict Research Ltd.

Food and drink will account for the highest expenditure at £200-million, with alcohol-making up almost £80-million of the sum, while sales of souvenirs and wedding memorabilia are expected to reach £157.5-million. That is welcome news for retailers at a time of weak consumer sentiment and a recent hike in the general sales tax to a whopping 20 per cent, up from 17.5 per cent last year.

Tesco PLC, which warned last week that the British market will remaining challenging for the rest of the year, says the royal wedding will give a short-term boost to business, especially party foods. Tesco has already profited from selling a £16 knock-off of the dark blue dress by Issa London that Kate wore to her engagement announcement.

By all accounts, this royal marriage will be bigger than any other, and wedding-related products are likely to sell more briskly after Prince William decided to relax the strict rules that govern the use of royal images. The move means any firm may use approved images of the couple on souvenirs, with a few restrictions, such as clothing.

Stanley Gibbons Ltd., which specializes in the sale of postage stamps and other collectibles, says the sour economy is actually helping its business because individual investors are looking to own tangible assets. The wedding adds a new stream of items, and chairman Martin Bralsford says the event will provide a "one-off benefit" to sales and profits.

Waterford Wedgwood Royal Doulton Holdings, which swung back to profitability last year, expects ceramics sales this year to be buoyed by the wedding.

Pubs, which have been arguing for permission to sell alcohol earlier than usual on Friday, foresee brisk business. Britain's largest pub company, Punch Taverns, recently swung to a loss with sales down 3 per cent over the last six months. But CEO Ian Dyson said the company is seeing stronger momentum, which should be aided by the wedding and the Easter weekend.

Britain's biggest newspaper and magazine wholesaler, Smiths News, is expecting a rise in sales, thanks to special wedding editions and supplements.

But perhaps the biggest corporate winners of the day will be the broadcasters around the world carrying live coverage of the wedding. As many as 2 billion people are expected to tune in to the coverage, compared with the 750 million who watched Prince Charles and Diana 30 years ago.

The BBC is the hosting broadcaster providing a pool feed from within Westminster Abbey. It will share the costs and rights income with private British broadcasters BSkyB's Sky News and ITN PLC. International broadcasters, including every major U.S. news organization, will cover the event live.

British media reports say advertising slots were booked up within minutes of the wedding-date announcement. British television advertising revenue for April is already up 18 per cent, according to GroupM, a unit of WPP Group PLC.

News Corp. , which is in the process of acquiring BSkyB, was hoping to use the royal event to promote 3-D television, but Buckingham Palace and the government ruled that the special cameras required would consume too much space within the abbey.

The wedding will certainly give a boost to social media, especially to the leaders in the field, Facebook Inc., Twitter and Google Inc.'s YouTube. Both Prince William and Kate, who use the services, specifically requested their wedding have an interactive presence on the Web. The BBC will provide an audio-free feed to the Royal Channel on YouTube, and Buckingham Palace staff will be blogging alongside the video.

This wall-to-wall coverage of the wedding has sent some Britons fleeing for cover. Ryanair Ltd. says 1.5 million people are taking advantage of the wedding holiday on Friday to get out of the country, boosting the budget airline's bookings by 10 per cent for this time of year.

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