London stocks ease lower in early trade on Monday ahead of a busy week that will include important data for the Bank of England and the Federal Reserve in deciding when to increase interest rates. The FTSE 100 index slides around 17 points, or 0.3%, to 6,532, with midcaps also lower, the FTSE 250 down 15 points, or 0.1%, at 17,606.
In company news, British plumbing supplies company Wolseley (WOS) tops the FTSE 100 leader board after analysts at Citi upgrade the stock to ‘buy’ from ‘neutral’ and hike their target price to £47.25 from £41.00.
Housebuilder Bovis Homes (BVS) slumps despite posting a 9% rise in first-half pre-tax profit as it reports a record number of legal completions and says it is on track to deliver its expected volume of new homes for 2015. This is most likely to profit-taking response to a share price that has risen 24% since the start of May.
Drug developer Shire (SHP) is lower on news it is likely to improve its takeover offer for US competitor Baxalta after its first offer was rebuffed, although the group is putting pressure on its rival to make some concessions first. The Dublin-headquartered pharmaceuticals group will have to add around $5 per share to its initial $45.23 all-share offer for Baxalta, speculate several of Sunday's newspapers, sparking investor fears that Shire may end up overpaying to close the deal.
Satellites operator Inmarsat (ISAT) makes a modest 2.5p, or 0.25%, move higher as it confirms the launch of its third satellite in the Global Express programme. The I-5 F3 satellite will lift-off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Friday 28 August.
Among the bigger movers, Boutique hostel Safestay (SSTY:AIM) is readmitted to trading after revealing details of its £14.9 million acquisition of a 615-bed hostel in Edinburgh, which will be funded via a placing and a new £8.5 million debt facility. The shares are trading at 62.5p, 9.4% lower than their pre-suspension price of 69p on 22 July.
European niche insurer Gable (GAH:AIM) leaps 15.9% to 20p after deciding against tapping shareholders for fresh funds following a strong performance in the six months to the end of June. Interims are due on September 10.
Elsewhere, Bradford-based grocer Morrisons (MRW) cheapens 0.9p to 176.9p despite weekend press speculation surrounding the disposal of its M local convenience store chain to Greybull Capital. The absence of any clarification on the move, which would enable CEO David Potts to concentrate on turning round the core supermarket estate, disappoints investors on Monday.
Carillion (CLLN) seals a contract to replace substandard buildings at eight schools in the Midlands. The infrastructure and construction specialist plans to build the schools at a capital cost of £138 million and will also invest £5.5 million of equity in the project. Outsourcing services will also provided over a 25-year period after the buildings are completed, worth an estimated £49 million in revenue. Shares in the stock open flat at 353p.
Shipping services group Clarkson (CKN) turns in a seemingly robust performance for the six months to 30 June investors remain decidedly underwhelmed, the shares crashing 10.8% to £24.53. Underlying profit before tax rose 49% to £23.6 million while underlying earnings per share increased to 54.3p and the interim dividend of 22p per share is up from 21p last time.