London shares made decent gains in early trade on Wednesday, buoyed by positive economic news from China and a smattering of upbeat corporate statements. The FTSE 100 index rallies 55 points, or about 0.8%, to 6,436, echoing a positive showing for US markets overnight.
Heading the Footsie leader board is metal and mining group Glencore (GLEN), its' shares surging 4.7% to 125.1p thanks to 'significant progress' on plans to cut net debt to the low $20 billion by the end of 2016. The group also reports increased output from its mines generally in line with estimates.
High street titan Marks & Spencer (MKS) is the blue-chip surprise of the day, the shares marked up 17.75p (3.4%) to 538.25p as better-than-expected interims stoke forecast upgrades. CEO Marc Bolland reports 6.1% growth in underlying pre-tax profit to £284 million, north of the £271 million consensus estimate and driven by general merchandise gross margin improvement. There's also a 6.3% dividend hike to 6.8p to woo investors, reflecting Bolland's growing confidence in the cash generation of the business.
UK housebuilders remain under pressure as valuation concerns continue to weigh on the sector. Persimmon (PSN) falls 2.7% at £18.69 despite posting a strong third-quarter update pointing to a 12% hike in sales as well as a 20.5% operating margin. Berkeley (BKG) sheds 3.7% to £30.78, Taylor Wimpey (TW.) falls 2.8% to 182.4p and Barratt Developments (BDEV) is down 2.6% at 571.5p in a sector-wide sell-off.
Estate agent chain Countrywide (CWD) slumps on a profit warning. The company reckons housing transactions remain slow and that will likely result in volumes for year being at least 5% below 2014 at 950,000 in total. 'We anticipate our EBITDA for full year will be less than £121.1 million achieved in 2014,' the company flags, sparking a big sell-off in the stock, which tumbles 12.6% lower to 406.4p.
Among the bigger movers, Plethora Solutions (PLE:AIM) rockets 127% to 6.5p after agreeing to sell the business to Hong Kong-based group Regent Pacific (0575:HKSE). The £102.9 million deal values each Plethora share at 12.5p, but the full value is not being reflected in Plethora's share price because its an all-share agreement. Many investors are clearly sniffy about taking stock in a Hong Kong-quoted entity.
Berkeley Energy (BKY:AIM) jumps 27% to 28.75p as it reports a net present value for its Salamanca project of $871.3 million, with an internal rate of return of 93% based on a discount rate of 8% and a long-term uranium price of $65/lb.
TyraTech (TYRU:AIM) slumps 21% to 3.25p as it goes cap in hand to investors for £3.16 million at 3p each for the new shares. That's a hefty 21% discount to last night's close even if proceeds will go on increasing market penetration of its Vamousse product range.
Eternal broadcast tech flop Forbidden Technologies (FBT:AIM) rallies 18.5% to 5.63p as it reveals that US production group Leftfield Entertainment has chosen to deploy its platform Forscene across its group of production companies to provide a flexible and efficient post-production solution. But the company has made similar announcements before, none of which have made a significant difference to growth, or gone close to dragging the company into profit for the first time ever.
ImmuPharma (IMM:AIM) rises 9% to 27p as it reports several important operational and regulatory milestone tickboxes have been checked. This, the company says, puts it on track to start putting its first run of test patients into Phase III clinical trials of Lupuzor this year.
Premium tonic water-to-ginger beer supplier Fevertree Drinks (FEVR:AIM) fizzes 8.25% higher to 469.25p on a positive, unscheduled, trading update. Further upgrades ensue as Fevertree says full-year results will smash existing forecasts, with trading remaining strong in the second half.
Documents storage outfit Restore (RST:AIM) gains 7% to 294p as it acquires a subsidiary from logistics outfit Wincanton (WIN), up 1.3% to 205p. Restore is paying £60 million for Wincanton’s non-core records management business which will be funded by a £34 million share placing at 260p a share and additional debt facilities.
Elsewhere, pub chain JD Wetherspoon (JDW) tumbles 4.5% to 741p on news the increase in starting rates for hourly paid staff caused its operating margin to fall from 7.7% to 6.2% in the 13 weeks to 25 October and could result in a drop in annual profits. Like-for-like sales are up by 2.4% with sales in the last six weeks boosted by the Rugby World Cup.
Unloved African agri-business Zambeef Products (ZAM:AIM) gathers up 4.3% at 6.13p after reporting progress in reducing net debt and guiding toward sales and profits growth in Zambian kwacha terms in the new financial year.
Park Plaza operator PPHE Hotel (PPH) slips 2.3% to 666.5p after warning the extensive renovations it will carry out over the next few years could have a negative impact on its performance due to temporary room closures. Revenue per available room is up by 12.1% in the three months to 30 September driven by a 13.1% rise in the average room rate to €155.5. Occupancy is down from 89.8% to 89.0%.