UK stocks were softer on Thursday on worries that a spike in coronavirus cases in the US and China could presage a second wave of infections.

In line with European indices, the FTSE 100 slipped 0.3% to 6,232 points with housebuilders and travel stocks racking up losses while defensive stocks like supermarkets limited the downside.

Oil prices were steady with Brent crude futures trading up 0.75% at $40.50 per barrel while the gold price held firm at $1,725 per ounce.

Supermarket chain Tesco (TSCO) announced it had sold its loss-making Polish business for £181m, generating net proceeds of £165m which it will use for ‘general corporate purposes.’

The sale is part of Tesco’s plan to focus on profitable markets such as the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia where growth prospects are better and where margins are accretive to the group as a whole. Shares gained 1% to 229p.

Other supermarket stocks such as Morrison (MRW), Ocado (OCDO) and Sainsbury (SBRY) were also in the black.

Energy transmission firm National Grid (NG.) posted a 1% increase in underlying operating profits and a 1% decrease in underlying earnings per share for the year to 31 March.

Importantly for income seekers, the firm raised its full year dividend by 2.6% with the payment of a final 32p dividend due in early July. Shares eased 0.9% to 941p.

House builder Taylor Wimpey (TW.) raised £522m of fresh equity overnight through a placing of 360 million new shares at 145p, a discount of 4% to last night’s closing price.

The firm said it was raising the money ‘to pursue additional near term land acquisition opportunities.’ Disruption in the market for building land has created short-term opportunities to buy at attractive prices.

It also said it intended to resume paying ordinary dividends next year. Shares fell 4.8% to 144.6p.

Rival house builder Vistry (VTY) announced it would pay its second interim dividend by issuing £60m of bonus shares rather than using cash.

Shareholders on the register at 27 December last year will receive 0.03 new shares for each existing share they own, making the payment 3%. Shares dipped 1% to 764p.

Ted Baker (TED) raised £105m through the placing of 140 million new shares at a price of 75p per share. The firm described the fund raise as ‘part of a holistic financing package and broader strategic transformation plan.’ Shares gave up 5.8% to 118p.

Storage firm Safestore (SAFE) delivered a strong half year result for the period to the end of April with revenues up 5.9% on a like for like basis and operating profits up 9% with average occupancy up to 4.77 million square feet.

Since the easing of lockdown restrictions the firm has seen enquiries, new lets and occupancy rise above pre-Covid levels in France and Spain and back to pre-Covid levels in the UK with occupancy up since the end of April. Shares gained 3.8% to 745p.

 

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Issue Date: 18 Jun 2020