China reported an increase in the number of deaths from and cases of coronavirus, while the first patient has been diagnosed in London, news that gave investors the jitters on Thursday. The FTSE 100 traded down 0.9% at 7,468.37, with its heavy weighting towards commodity stocks, which are particularly sensitive to events in China, contributing to the weakness.
Barclays (BARC) cheapened 2.8% to 174.3p despite reporting a rise in annual profit and hiking the total dividend from 6.5p to 9p, after the banking giant warned the lower interest rate environment and uncertain macroeconomic backdrop would weigh on returns this year.
For the year to December, Centrica lurched to a pre-tax loss of £1.1m versus a £575m profit a year earlier on revenue down 2% to £22.7bn, while the full year dividend was cut from 12p to 5p. Looking to 2020, Centrica warned that it expects to deliver lower adjusted operating cash flow this year.
Coca-Cola bottling colossus Coca-Cola HBC (CCH) fizzed 4.8% higher to £29.17 after serving up strong full year results, with the business recording its highest ever volume in 2019 and growth accelerating through the fourth quarter.
‘Notwithstanding the Hagibis, Faxai and Dorian windstorm losses, which all occurred during the second half of the year, the aggregate market insured loss amounts are below what we have witnessed in recent years,’ commented chief executive Alex Maloney.
Also catching a bid was Bank of Georgia (BGEO), the shares marked up 4.5% to £17.02 on news of an ‘outstanding’ fourth quarter performance, with profit up 32% year-on-year and the bank reporting strong loan book growth.
Challenger law firm Keystone Law (KEYS:AIM) softened 3.25% to 595p despite posting a positive pre-close trading update, as the absence of upgrades triggered profit-taking after a strong share price run.
Flowtech Fluidpower (FLO:AIM) firmed 5.2% to 102p, despite warning of flat profit growth for 2020, as investors focused on the company’s decisive cost-cutting and guidance for a return to revenue growth in 2021.