London’s FTSE 100 edged 0.2% higher to trade at 6,754.1 points by midday as markets looked to build on yesterday’s Inauguration Day rally, although the pound’s strength versus the US dollar interrupted the progress of the blue chip benchmark.

US futures suggested shares would hit new record highs on Wall Street as 46th president Joe Biden gets his feet under the table in the Oval Office.

CORPORATE NEWS

In company news, Sage Group (SGE) jumped 3.6% to 593.6p as it reported a near 5% rise in recurring revenue for the final three months of 2020 and confirmed plans to ‘progressively increase investment’ over the coming year.

The group’s recurring revenue increased by 4.7% to £408 million, supported by software subscription growth of 11.3% to £303 million. As a result, subscription penetration increased to 68% (FY20: 65%).

Pet supplies retailer Pets at Home (PETS) gained 1.6% to 409.6p after reporting revenue growth of 18% to £302 million in the 12 weeks up to 2 January 2021.

The group report a retail revenue growth of 17.5%, despite Covid related restrictions, as well as Vet Group revenue up 22.1%. Total liquidity as of 31 December 2020, comprising cash balances and undrawn portion of banking facilities, was £391.7 million.

Peter Pritchard, group chief executive officer, commented: ‘Against a backdrop of continued uncertainty our pet care model remains robust, with our performance during the third quarter testament not only to the advantages of our scalable omnichannel pet care platform and unique joint venture veterinary model.’

Sports-betting and gaming entertainment company Entain (ENT) dipped 0.8% to £12.60 as it reported a rise in fourth quarter net gaming revenue as strong online revenue helped offset the impact on retail performance as it shuttered its shops amid government-enforced restrictions.

The company also reported that Jette Nygaard-Andersen was appointed chief executive officer.

Meanwhile, FTSE 250-listed banking group Close Brothers (CBG) gained 3.3% to £14.66 as it reported growth in its banking and asset management businesses thanks to ‘strong’ loan demand and trading performance.

In banking, the loan book increased 6.5% to £8.1 billion from £7.6 billion reported 31 July 2020. The asset Management division generated annualised net inflows of 5.4%, with managed assets rising to £13.9 billion from £12.6 billion and total client assets increasing to £15.0 billion from £13.7 billion, primarily reflecting favourable market movements, the company said.

Brick maker Ibstock (IBST) rallied 10.7% to 217.8p after it lifted guidance on earnings following cost cuts and ‘strong’ performance in the fourth quarter of the year.

For the year ended 31 December 2020, the company said it now expects to report adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, deprecition and amortisation, or EBITDA, ‘modestly above’ previous guidance of £50 million.

Elsewhere, homebuilder Countryside Properties (CSP) edged 0.7% higher to 431p as it reported a rise in first-quarter completions, in line with expectations, and said it plans to expand regionally were on track and progress had been made on separating its two divisions.

For the 13-week period from 1 October 2020 to 31 December 2020, completions were up 17% to 1,280 homes from a year earlier, and net reservation rate was 0.53, down from 0.81.

Clipper Logistics (CLG) clipped ahead 1.1% to 571p as the logistics solutions specialist inked a five-year agreement with Farfetch to provide pan-European e-fulfilment and returns management services from a new facility in the Netherlands.

Promotional products marketer 4imprint (FOUR) increased 3.5% to £23.40 as it expected profit in line with its expectations as the recovery in order intake continued into the final quarter of the year.

For the year ended 2 January 2021, underlying pre-tax for the full year 2020 was expected to be in line with the company's expectations, while revenue was approximately $560 million, a decrease of 35% compared with 2019.

The recovery in order intake continued into the final two months of 2020, resulting in order intake for the fourth quarter on a like-for-like basis of 70% of the prior year, the company said.

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Issue Date: 21 Jan 2021