A payout bonanza at Vodafone (VOD) failed to inspire a fresh round of support buying by investors, the shares staying roughly flat at 191.7p. The UK mobile network giant is in line for a £2.1 billion dividend from its 45% stake in US mobile communications operations Verizon Wireless (VZW). But while analysts at Espirito Santo argue that about a third of that could be handed back to shareholders, the market seems to believe a share buyback is more likely than previous special dividends.
Either way, Vodafone remains dominated by long-running rumours over the future of its VZW stake, which could be sold in part or full, or possibly even result in the £94.5 billion takeover of the mobile group (read our take here). Investors will likely get a better steer alongside next week's (21 May) full-year results announcement.
Investors were disappointed that private equity group CVC has ended takeover talks with Betfair (BET). The gambling group, which rejected an 880p proposal in April, fell 6.3% to 839p on today's news.
It was a case of the bad news not being as poor as the market has expected with ICAP (IAP) up 5.8% to 314.5p. The interdealer broker reported a 20% retreat in pre-tax profits to £284 million, ahead of previous guidance in what chief executive officer Michael Spencer admitted had been an ‘extraordinarily tough’ year for wholesale financial markets where ICAP specialises in facilitating direct trades between investment banks.
A solid set of finals has put the wind behind Babcock (BAB), rising 3% to £11.22. The FTSE 100 support services expert reported a 30% rise in pre-tax profit to £224.6 million. The dividend's gone up 16% and net debt has reduced by 14.1% to £550.6 million.
Integrated energy firm BG (BG.) ticked up 0.6% to £11.92 after a strategy update revealed the immediate priority was to execute on its key projects in Australia and Brazil.
Full-year figures from risk management software supplier Lombard Risk Management (LRM:AIM) set the shares soaring more than 11% to 11.25p. The market is clearly impressed by 18% organic revenue growth, especially against the backcloth of delayed regulatory changes. But investors should keep an eye on cash, where three-quarters of its £5.8 million generated last year was swallowed by capitalised research and development.
Property developer British Land (BLND) fell 0.8% to 616p after full-year results revealed a quarter-on-quarter drop in occupancy. The value of its portfolio increased by 0.5% to £10.5 billion. Underlying pre-tax profit increased 1.9% year-on-year to £274 million, while a dividend of 26.4p has been proposed, a 1.1% increase on 2012.
A drop in profit failed to alter the market's positive view towards Enterprise Inns (ETI). The pub operator nudged ahead 1% to 100.8p as investors focused on debt reduction which continues to overshadow core trading performance.
Ahead of its expected qualification for the FTSE 250 index in June, service group DCC (DCC) impressed the market with full-year results, sending its shares up 4.5% to £26.45. Operating profit was ahead of expectations, the dividend has been raised by 10% and €206 million spent on acquisitions in the financial year to 31 March provides a 'strong platform for future growth', says house broker Davy.
Latin America-based mobile content play Mobile Streams (MOS:AIM) jumped nearly 7% to 70.5p after reporting a near three-fold hike in third quarter revenues to £14.5 million. App store expansion is clearly playing to the content hot spot and with £3.4 million cash, the £25.7 million cap has funds to invest in further growth opportunities for its Appitalism platform.
First-quarter results from Thailand-focused oil & gas producer Coastal Energy (CEO:AIM) got a frosty reception from the market. The shares fell 9.3% to £11.25 despite a 32.5% year-on-year increase in net income to $128.3 million with offshore production slipping from 21,031 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd) to 20,460 boepd.
Software developer for the television industry, Motive Television (MTV:AIM) got a fillip on news that it is to develop its Tablet Television technology for UK Freeview viewers, with the £2.7 million cap up 12% to 0.03p. Tablet Television will enable Freeview users to watch and record programmes directly onto their tablets.
The recovery rally in shipping waste water treatment specialist Nature (NGR:AIM) has come to an abrupt end. After more than doubling in price since January, the small cap today fell 14.3% to 36p on an awful set of full-year results. Free cash flow has nearly halved to £780,000; pre-tax profit fell from £2.3 million to £470,000.
Shares in Kedco (KED) jumped 12.8% after the Irish green energy group's subsidiary Reforce Energy expanded the capacity and number of windfarm projects under a co-development agreement unveiled in January.