The UK’s FTSE 100 hit a nine-month high on Friday as a jump in oil prices boosted energy stocks and mild optimism over Brexit talks lifted the mood as the deadline closes in. This offset the drag following news that US drugs giant Pfizer has had to slash its roll-out target of its Covid-19 vaccine.

The benchmark FTSE 100 was up 0.7% in early trade at 6,534.52 with oil majors Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB) and BP (BP.) among the biggest blue-chip gainers as major oil producers agreed to continue output cuts to overcome coronavirus-induced demand concerns.

The mid-cap FTSE 250, considered a barometer of Brexit sentiment, moved 0.3% higher to 20,188.05.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 index was up 0.2% at 3,525.23, although Germany’s DAX underperformed and was trading flat.

COMPANY NEWS

Primark-owner Associated British Foods (ABF) said on Friday that the estimated hit to sales at its fashion chain from Covid-19 related store closures this autumn will add up to about £430 million, up from a previous forecast of £375 million.

The group said it still expects Primark’s full year 2021 sales and profit to be higher than last year’s £362 million, helping underpin a 1.6% share price rally to £23.40.

UK housebuilder Berkeley (BKG) posted a 16.6% fall in first-half profit as home sales were dented by the pandemic and said the coming months would be crucial to gauge the impact of new lockdowns and Brexit.

The company, which operates primarily in London, Birmingham and the South of England, said pre-tax profit fell to £230.8 million for the six months to 31 October, down sharply from the £276.7 million a year earlier.

That saw the house builder head the FTSE loser board on Friday, the stock slumping more than 3% to £46.94.

Topping the FTSE leader board was energy group SSE (SSE) after it agreed to sell a 10% stake in the first two phases of Dogger Bank Wind Farm to Italian energy giant Eni for £202.5 million.

The news saw SSE shares rally 3% at £14.025.

Real Estate developer Land Securities (LAND) said it had exchanged contracts to sell a major central London property to Sun Venture for £552 million.

The 1 & 2 New Ludgate building sale helped shares in the property firm rise 0.7% to 717.40p.

Pets at Home (PETS) will take a profit hit of £35 million after it announced it is repaying the £28.9 million of business rates relief received across the business during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The company said it was doing this as it is no longer be able to offset Covid-specific costs against relief.

Its shares slid 0.35% to 396.80p.

SMALLER CAP WRAP

Own-label household products manufacturer McBride (MCB) jumped nearly 10% in morning trade on Friday after telling the market that it will show growth ahead of expectations in the first-half.

Better still, that will mean that pre-tax profit for the full year to 20 June 2021 is now anticipated to be ‘at least 10% ahead of the current market consensus of £25.2 million’, although the company remains mindful of ongoing economic uncertainty.

McBride shares put on 5.5p at 71.4p, valuing the business at about £145 million.

Estate agency group Hunters Property (HUNT:AIM) confirmed media reports that it had received a preliminary approach from The Property Franchise Group about a possible takeover.

Its share price soared 43% to 84.00p.

Customised electronics maker DiscoverIE (DSCV) continued its buy-and-build strategy after acquiring German business Limitor for up to €18 million.

The deal helped the stock move more than 3% up at 578p.

X-ray screening systems supplier Image Scan (IGE:AIM) reported a pre-tax profit of £113,000, compared with a loss of £2.4 million year-on-year as sales increased 50% to £3.5 million for the year ended 30 September 2020.

That saw shares in the microcap business rally more than 4% to 2.25p, valuing the firm at around £3 million.

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Issue Date: 04 Dec 2020