UK markets reversed early falls to rally into lunch time, shrugging off the brutal sell-off in US technology stocks overnight. This was despite sentiment towards the housebuilding sector souring on news of a competition regulator probe into the selling of leasehold homes. At midday, the benchmark FTSE 100 is up 0.5% at 5,882.02, while the mid-cap FTSE 250 rallied even harder, adding 1% at 17,629.47. Taylor Wimpey, Barratt Developments, Persimmon and Countryside Properties are all subject to a Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) probe into their leasehold practices. The regulator said it has 'uncovered troubling evidence' of potentially unfair terms concerning ground rents in leasehold contracts and potential mis-selling, putting downward pressure on share prices, led by Barratt's 3% decline to 522.6p. Peer Berkeley managed to rise 1.5% to £47.105 after reporting 'resilient' trading for the four months to August, underpinning existing guidance of £500 million of pre-tax profit for the full year, while reiterating plans to return £280 million to shareholders, although the outlook statement was cautious outlook. 'We remain very mindful of the current volatility and the risks this presents to the UK and global economies as they come to terms with the longer term impact of Covid-19, including once current Government support tapers and in the event of a severe second wave of the virus, said Berkeley, also conscious of the risks around the UK's departure from the European Union at the end of 2020'. BUDGET AIRLINE'S CASH CALL TAKES OFF Low-cost carrier Ryanair improved 3% to €12.01 on confirmation it has raised €400 million through a placing priced at €11.35, with the funds helping to boost the budget airline's liquidity during the Covid-19 crisis. Advertising company WPP edged up 0.5% to 630.1p, having acquired French customer experience consultancy Velvet Consulting, whose clients include Schneider Electric and L'Oreal, for an undisclosed sum. British Gas owner Centrica gained 0.6% to 46.7p as it agreed to acquire the energy supply customers of Robin Hood Energy for an undisclosed sum. Equities investor Witan Investment Trust eased back 0.1% to 185p after it appointed WCM Investment Management and Jennison Associates as its new global growth managers. Both managers were based in the US and specialised in faster growing companies. SMALL CAP WRAP Engineering services firm Renew rose 8.2% to 459.5p on news it now expects results for the year to September 2020 to be 'materially ahead' of current market expectations. Management upgraded annual adjusted operating profit guidance to a £39 million-to-£40 million range, while also guiding towards a net cash position, highlighting the resilience of Renew's engineering activities in the rail, infrastructure and environmental markets as well as effective pandemic mitigation measures. Paris-based diagnostics group Novacyt gained 1.7% to 305p as it released an additional CE-Mark approved test for Covid-19. Professional business services group Christie sparked up 5.1% to 72.5p on strong full year results for 2019 and the news the group anticipates a return to profitable UK trading in 2021. Christie also expects to resume paying dividends next year, so long as the company is trading in line with management's expectations. Flooring retailer Topps Tiles added 0.4% to 50p on news that it had appointed Stephen Hopson as its new chief financial officer. Hopson was joining from Molson Coors Beverage Company, where he was director of central finance, Western Europe. He was previously director of finance at BSS and had held other senior finance roles at Travis Perkins and Mitchells & Butlers.
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