London’s FTSE 100 finished Wednesday’s trading session 0.36% lower at 7,248.89 points as investors fretted over interest rates and oil majors Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB) and BP (BP.) weighed on the blue chip benchmark, the shares off 1.75% to £16.29 and 2.9% to 334.85p respectively.
The US Federal Reserve was set to announce its rates decision later on Wednesday, with the Bank of England following on Thursday.
The more domestically-focused FTSE 250 closed 0.1% lower at 23,116.97 points.
Cyber security firm Darktrace (DARK) fell 5.4% to 598.5p after UK private equity firm Vitruvian Partners sold 11 million shares in the FTSE 100 company in a placing.
The shares were sold at 580p each, a rough 8% discount to last night’s 632.5p, raising around £63.8 million for the venture capital firm and slashing its stake to just over 20.8 million shares, a fraction under 3%.
Elsewhere among the blue chips, clothing retailer Next (NXT) shed 3.3% to trade at £80.38 after flagging rising freight and online delivery costs.
That news tempered news that sales were running ahead of expectations, although the retail chain resisted any temptation to up full year guidance.
In a third quarter trading update Next reported that it expects pre-tax profit for the year to 31 January 2022 to rise 6.9% to £800 million. Full-price sales in the 13 weeks to 30 October were up 17% versus two years ago.
Next will update on its full year on 6 January 2022 when investors will get a steer on the crucial Christmas run-in and early January sales.
Veterinary group and pet products retailer Pets at Home (PETS) announced the departure of the current chief executive officer. Peter Pritchard will stand down next summer, having overseen a successful turnaround of the business.
The company also said that its anticipated underlying pre-tax profit for the year to 31 March 2022 will be towards the top of current analyst expectations. Consensus is currently pitched between £128 million and £135 million. The market was left underwhelmed, the share price slipping 1.9% to 489.8p.
Enterprise software group Micro Focus (MCRO) gained 10% to 399.9p after agreeing to sell its archiving and risk management portfolio to Smarsh for $375 million. The archiving business more commonly known as Digital Sage was acquired by Micro Focus in September 2017 as part of the HPE transaction.
In a third quarter trading update, clay bricks and concrete products maker Ibstock (IBST) announced the launch of Ibstock Futures, a new business unit established to capture growth opportunities in new, fast growth sectors of the UK construction market.
The company said it had also benefited from a strong third quarter performance supported by continued robust demand in core markets. As part of Ibstock Futures launch project, the company plans to invest £50 million to build an automated brick slip systems factory in Nostell, West Yorkshire.
The planned £50 million capital investment would provide capacity for up to 60 million brick slips per annum. This news prompted a 1.7% share price jump to 206.2p.
AROUND THE MARKET
Shares in packaging company Smurfit Kappa (SKG) softened 0.5% to £38.46 after the company announced that earnings had risen 10% in the year to date, putting it on track to meet annual forecasts.
Smurfit said materially higher input costs, including those for recovered fibre and energy, were being progressively recovered through corrugated price increases. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation for the nine months through September had increased to €1.24 billion, with a margin of 17%.
Train and bus ticketing platform Trainline (TRN) reversed 7.1% to 299.6p after a partial recovery in sales wasn’t strong enough to prevent it from booking another first half loss.
Exploration and production company Energean (ENOG) cheapened 3.5% to 892p, despite raising the lower end of its production guidance range after reporting record third-quarter production.
And shares in late night bars operator Nightcap (NGHT:AIM) leapt 21.1% higher to 23p after the company said annual results for 2022 will be significantly ahead of expectations.
The company said for the first 13 weeks of the 2022 financial year to 26 September it generated revenues of £7.6 million which was 68% ahead of the same period in 2019.
Consensus expectations for full year revenues sit at £19 million which will be comfortably beaten if the company can replicate last quarter’s performance for the rest of the year, implying full-year revenues around £30 million.