UK stocks closed well into the red on Thursday as the Government set out strict restrictions once lockdown ends on 2 December.
Most of England will have tough measures to follow, with just the Isle of Scilly, Isle of Wight and Cornwall in the lightest tier one of the Covid tier restrictions.
There was also no direction for investors from Wall Street, as US stock markets were closed due to Thanksgiving.
The UK’s benchmark FTSE 100 index closed 0.44% lower to 6,362.93, while the midcap FTSE 250 index recouped some losses from lunchtime but still remained 0.88% lower to 19,396.34 at the close.
PUB STOCKS UNDER PRESSURE
In company news, pub operators came under particular pressure as the toll of UK-wide lockdowns sparked a swathe of new jobs cuts.
Harvester, All Bar One and Toby Carvery owner Mitchells & Butler (MAB) fell 0.67% to 222p after it had to axe 1,300 staff having being forced on the defensive.
The company, which plunged £123 million into the red last year and is currently burning through around £35 million to £40 million of cash every month, has just £225 million of cash on the books. It needs £50 million a quarter for repayments on its £2.1 billion net debt, including property leases.
Another pub stock, Fuller, Smith & Turner (FSTA), dropped 5.43% to 662p after it also swung to a loss in the first half of the year as revenue plunged after the pub group was forced to shutter its doors as the country went into lockdown to curb Covid-19.
For the 26 weeks to 26 September 2020, pre-tax losses were £23 million year-on-year, compared with a profit of £14.2 million a year ago, with revenue down from £167.1 million to £45.6 million.
AVIVA CUTS DIVIDEND
Meanwhile insurer Aviva (AV.) dipped 0.24% to 326.8p after cutting its dividend by almost a third in an effort to pay down debt.
It declared a 7p per share interim dividend and a final dividend of 14p per share, taking the total dividend for the year to 21p per share for the year, down from 30p a share a year earlier.
Water utility Severn Trent (SVT) edged 0.24% lower to £24.50 despite announcing lower revenue and earnings in the first half of the year, with group turnover of £887.6 million, down 2.5% as a result of Covid-19.
The company said the Ofwat regulatory model will allow it to recover shortfalls in this year's allowed wholesale revenue in 2022/23.
Heat treatment company Bodycote (BOY) fell 5.41% to 725.5p after it reported that revenue fell by fifth in the four months through October versus the same period last year, though there were signs that a recovery was underway following a virus-led hit to its business earlier this year.
For the four-month period to 31 October, revenue fell 20% to £193.6 million year-on-year, though represented a recovery from the 28% decline in constant currency revenues in the second quarter when the Covid-19 related downturn was at its peak, the company said.
Revenue for the 10 months to 31 October 2020 was £500.3 million, 18% down on last year.
ELSEWHERE ON THE MARKETS
Power utility SSE (SSE) fell 0.51% to £13.79 on the announcement that SSE Renewables, with its 50:50 joint venture partner Equinor, has reached financial close on the first two phases of Dogger Bank Wind Farm, which will be the world’s biggest wind farm when all three phases are completed in March 2026.
Britvic (BVIC) gained 1.36% to 821.5p after the soft drinks maker reported a slight rise in annual profit, but cut its dividend, declaring a full-year payout of 21.6p a share, down from 30p a share from last year.
Renewables investor JLEN Environmental Assets (JLEN) dipped 1.08% to 114.75p after it reported a fall in first-half profit as income was held back by a loss on investments as a decline in electricity and gas prices forecasts weighed.
Footwear retailer Shoe Zone (SHOE:AIM) plunged 10.57% to 55p after admitting that the latest UK lockdown will ‘materially’ hit performance for the year ahead.
The company said that the second lockdown in England ‘at a critical time of year’ will result in an anticipated reduction in revenue of at least £12 million in this financial year to October 2021 versus the previous 12 months, ‘even allowing for the good gains in online trade’.
Cleaning technology company Xeros Technology (XSG:AIM) saw its stock soar at first glance on Thursday, although this merely reflected the recently announced 100-for-1 share consolidation.
The newly merged stock is trading at 205.45p.