The market is smiling as the FTSE 100 regains its strength after a weak August. The benchmark index rises 48 points to 6,477.85. Helping the cause is a strong run from Vodafone (VOD) which jumps 9.4% to 207.05p after confirming talks with Verizon over the sales its 45% stake in their joint venture, Verizon Wireless. We'll publish a story on the news later today. The new issue of Shares is now in the shops and online, featuring an in-depth look at FTSE 100 dividend payers.
The police have been called in to investigate alleged fraudulent behaviour by Serco (SRP) staff on a prisoner escort contract, misreporting data. The news, together with worse-than-expected margins in today's half-year results announcement, sends the shares crashing nearly 10% to 547p. Read our analysis of the situation.
The market welcomes robust interim figures from insurance giant Admiral (ADM) sending the company up 2.5% to £13.22. Pre-tax profits increased 6% to £181.4 million, despite a 7% fall in revenues year-on-year due to a tough UK market. It is confident of meeting full-year expectations, hence the dividend goes up 8%.
Russian steel producer Evraz (EVR) rises 6.6% to 132.9p despite a poor set of half-year results with no dividend, rising net debt and a widening loss. The market clearly likes new adjustments to expansion plans and cost cutting, together with a confident outlook statement.
Investors cash in substantial gains on print technology specialist Xaar (XAR) on the back of exceptional half-year growth. The company, flagged by Shares back in April '12 (page 43 of PDF), cleverly flags a renewed R&D push, the heart of its success, but the shares dip 3.5% to 838.5p as shareholders top slice profits.
There's disappointment among the gold producers which all fall heavily as the gold price drops 0.8% to $1,407 per ounce. Petropavlovsk (POG) is the worst performer, down 12.6% as the situation is exacerbated by half-year results that are riddled with write-downs and no dividend. Other big fallers in the sector are Fresnillo (FRES), down 3.1% to £12.48 and Hochschild (HOC), slipping 3% to 227.9p.
Broadcast kit supplier Vislink (VLK:AIM) is reaping the benefits of investment in R&D and new products, sparking a swathe of buyer to push the shares over 12% up to 42.38p. Shares readers will not be surprised, we flagged the potential in May at 30.4p.
We flagged the risks to Office2Office's (OFF) dividend in July – as the high prospective yield looked too good to be true. Today it suspends the dividend after reiterating a recent profit warning that full-year results will be below last year's performance. That sends the shares down 9.6% to 33p. We said in March that the small cap was in a terrible state and couldn't sustain its dividend, so investors should therefore short the company at 93.75p. Anyone following that call would now be sitting on a 65% profit.
Student housing provider Unite (UTG) improves 1.2% to 366p after declaring a 60% rise in the half-year dividend. Net asset value per share increased 3.1% to 361p. Read our in-depth look at the company from July.
Life sciences diagnostic specialist Avacta (AVCT: AIM) jumps 4.2% to 0.8p on a robust trading update. More good news is expected in 2014 when new products will start generating income, further details of which can be found in our March story on the group.
Ceramic products maker and distributor Churchill China (CHH:AIM) clips ahead 7.5p to 375p as strong first-half figures trigger forecast earnings upgrades. The £40 million cap's pre-tax profits rose 56% to £1.1 million, driven by a stellar performance from its dominant hospitality division, while group operating margins moved from 3.8% to 5.3%. With trading momentum continuing in the second half, broker N+1 Singer pushes through a 10% full-year profits upgrade to £3.1 million.