London shares lose their head of steam quickly in early trade on Thursday, coming back from initial 40-odd point gains to hover barely better than flat. The FTSE 100 index nudges around 7 points higher, or a rough 0.14% gain, to 5,681, failing to bounce from near three-year lows. This offers little respite to investors after a torrid session of deep losses on Wednesday.
In corporate news, academic publisher Pearson (PSON) is up 9.7% to 721p as it confirms it will maintain its full year dividend and announces a restructuring programme that will see up to 4,000 jobs axed. Read Shares exclusive story here.
Normally reliable healthcare IT supplier EMIS (EMIS) tanks as it reveals a tough second half in parts of its business, with new contracts harder to nail down than hoped. This means that while reporting a 13% increase in revenues, this comes in below the 17% anticipated by the market, with analysts believing this stems from fewer than expected contract wins in secondary care with Ascribe. The shares are harshly dealt with, slumping around 11% to 982p.
A fourth quarter contract terminations and delays to the start of fulfilment of a major order for 40mm ammunition brought a disappointing 2015 to a close for defence specialist Chemring (CHG). Shares in the £312.2 million cap plunge 10.4% to 159.5p after the group revealed a 78% decline in operating profit. Chemring is also looking to raise £80 million from shareholders to manage its mounting debt.
Letter and parcel carrier Royal Mail (RMG) is notable among the risers, adding 3.1% to 434.7p after a trading update covering the nine months to the end of December 2015 showed trading in line with management expectations during the group's peak period.
Car parts-to-cycling products retailer Halfords (HFD) speeds 9% higher to 354p after reassuring with its third quarter and Christmas trading update. Despite warm weather crimping car maintenance sales, CEO Jill McDonald reports a return to like-for-like growth in cycling, bumper online business over the Black Friday weekend and with the help of cost savings, leaves full-year pre-tax profit guidance unchanged at between £78-£82 million.
Unloved multi-channel fashion retailer N Brown (BWNG) bounces 9.2% higher to 306.9p as a better-than-expected Christmas trading update confirms CEO Angela Spindler's transformation plan is working. In the third quarter to 2 January, all three of the outsize apparel retailer's 'Power Brands' – Jacamo, JD Williams and Simply Be – shrugged off the unseasonably warm weather to record double-digit growth.
Surgery focused minimally invasive tool-maker Surgical Innovations (SUN:AIM) shoots 8% higher to 1.4p on a 36% increase in revenue during 2015 as momentum builds in its sales division following a difficult few years for the company.
A modest improvement to expectations in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) for 2015 sends estate agency group Countrywide (CWD) 8.8% higher to 361.1p. The financial services and surveying divisions were behind the rise. The group says its transaction pipeline is stronger than it had 12 months ago.
Bisto gravy-to-Mr. Kipling cakes maker Premier Foods (PFD) cheapens 7% to 36.5p despite posting a solid third quarter update and reiterating full-year profit and net debt guidance. Investors are disappointed by news quarterly grocery sales were held back by 'an unexpectedly mild December and a decision to reduce promotional activity of Ambrosia'.
Online casino operator 32Red (TTR:AIM) rises 2% to 147p after reporting record revenue growth of 51% in 2015, driven by increased marketing investment and its acquisition of Roxy Palace. The running Shares Play of the Week says full year EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) will be slightly ahead of expectations.
Budget hotelier EasyHotel (EZH:AIM) gains 1.7% to 89.5p on news it has acquired a 125 year leasehold of a property in Birmingham, which it intends to convert into an EasyHotel subject to getting planning permission. The group recently announced new hotels in Ipswich and Barcelona, which are due to open in 2017 and 2018 respectively. It says trading is in line with expectations.
Hostel booking platform Hostelworld (HSW) skids 2.4% to 202.3p after reporting overall bookings growth of just 1% in 2015. Bookings at its flagship Hostelworld brand rose by 17% and the group says full year results should be in line with its expectations.
Wealth manager St James’s Place (STJ) moves 2.1% higher to 898.2p as funds under management increase 13% to £58.6 billion in 2015, while gross inflows were 17% higher at £9.2 billion. St James’s performance track record during periods of volatility has seen it attract funds while others have lost business during the recent volatility.