London’s FTSE 100 struggled to make headway on Monday, creeping into the red by the close on news the coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University, and to be manufactured by pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca (AZN), has been shown to be 70% effective in protecting people against Covid-19.

This effectiveness is less than the 95% protection shown by the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines, which explained the 3.3% decline in AstraZeneca’s share price to £80.40 after a strong run, though this vaccine is a lot cheaper to produce than the other two, and is easier to store, meaning it can be distributed more widely across the world.

Also weighing on sentiment was general anxiety about the lockdown measures Boris Johnson was set to announce later in the evening.

The blue chip benchmark ended the session 0.28% lower at 6,333.84 points.

PUB STOCKS RALLY

Pub stocks rallied after news emerged over the weekend that Boris Johnson is likely to lift lockdown measures and allow venues to reopen.

Mitchells and Butlers (MAB) jumped 7.1% to 233.5p, Marstons (MARS) rose 3.7% to 70.90p and Youngs (YGNA:AIM) gained 4.8% to £12, while JD Wetherspoon (JDW) moved 2.8% higher to £11.

CORPORATE NEWS

Meanwhile in company news, insurance company Aviva (AV.) gained 2.1% to 324.6p, having agreed to sell its 80% stake in the Italian life insurance joint venture Aviva Vita to partner UBI Banca for €400 million.

The transaction, expected to close in the first half of 2021, represents a multiple of 8.4 times Aviva Vita’s 2019 IFRS net profit, and 1.2 times its net asset value as at 30 June 2020.

Roadside assistance company The AA (AA.) reversed 4.8% to 32p on announcing that it had received a possible 35p per share takeover from investors including TowerBrook Capital Partners and Warburg Pincus International.

An initial approach by the potential suitors had been announced previously by AA.

CINEWORLD SURGES

Cinema group Cineworld (CINE) jumped 20% to 55.3p after it secured a $450 million debt facility to firm up its finances and said it was eyeing an additional $300m in liquidity.

Recruitment firm SThree (STEM) rose 5.9% to 324p, having upgraded its annual profit expectations following an improved performance at its US and German businesses, driven by demand in the life sciences and technology sectors.

SThree’s pre-tax profit for the year through November is now expected to be marginally above the top end of the range of market expectations, currently ranging form £23.2 million-to-£27.7 million.

Solar project investor NextEnergy Solar Fund (NESF) firmed 1.5% to 106.8p as it posted a 12% rise in first-half profit and upped its dividend after it generated more energy than budgeted.

NextEnergy Solar Fund declared an interim dividend of 3.53p, up 2.6% year-on-year.

German business park investor Sirius Real Estate (SRE) gained 5.6% to 88.2p, having upped its dividend after notching an improvement in its underlying profit amid a rise in revenue.

Sirius Real Estate declared an interim dividend of 1.82c per share, up 2.8% year-on-year.

Russia-focused gold miner Petropavlovsk (POG) shed 3.6% to 25.75p after it appointed of KPMG to investigate ‘certain transactions’ undertaken by the company in the three years to August 2020.

The forensic investigation is principally into related party transactions and had been approved by shareholders at a general meeting in August.

High-tech component supplier to the aerospace and energy markets Meggitt (MGGT) added 5.1% to 399.5p as it issued $300 million of private placement debt.

Business consultancy Mind Gym (MIND:AIM) was marked down 2.2% to 110p after it swung to a first half loss as the pandemic disrupted business activity and prompted a suspension of face-to-face meetings.

Telematics group Trakm8 (TRAK:AIM) ticked up 3.6% to 14.5p, despite posting a first half loss, after the company said it expected its sales to improve in the second half.

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Issue Date: 23 Nov 2020