By lunchtime on Friday, London’s FTSE 100 was 0.8% lower at 6,474 points with recession fears, problems with the vaccine rollout and ‘message-board led volatility’ from the so-called ‘Reddit revolution’ all weighing on investor sentiment.

The dispute between the EU and pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca (AZN) over its coronavirus vaccine looks no closer to being resolved, something that hasn’t been helped by the German regulator saying the vaccine shouldn’t be given to over 65s.

Even a fall in the pound and news that the Novavax Covid-19 vaccine is nearly 90% effective, including against the UK variant, failed to lift the FTSE amid heightened risk-off sentiment.

DR MARTENS SURGES AFTER IPO

British bootmaker Dr Martens (DOCS) jumped 16% to 430p on its first day of trading on the stock market, with the firm having priced its initial public offering at 370p a share.

Alongside an initial 350 million shares, the company said a further 52.5 million shares would be made available in an over-allotment option, following heavy demand that saw the offer eight times oversubscribed, it said in a statement.

Chief executive Kenny Wilson said, ‘We have been delighted by the strong levels of interest, engagement and support from such a high quality selection of institutional investors. The successful transformation of Dr. Martens is a great story, and what is even more exciting is the huge potential ahead.’

Pub group Marston’s (MARS) fizzed 18% higher to 88.1p after it confirmed it has received an unsolicited takeover bid from buy-out outfit Platinum Equity Advisors.

Online fast fashion retailer Boohoo (BOO:AIM) gained 2.5% to 342.3p after it confirmed it’s in talks to buy the Dorothy Perkins, Wallis and Burton brands from failed retail group Arcadia.

Arcadia fell into administration in November last year casting doubt over the future of its brands and 13,000 jobs. Any deal would be for the brands, and not the physical stores.

Publishing company Bloomsbury Publishing (BMY) surged 8.8% to 309p after it lifted its annual profit and revenue expectations thanks to strong performance in its consumer division amid a surge in reading during the Covid-19 lockdowns.

For the 12 months ending 28 February 2021, revenue was expected to be ahead and profit before tax and highlighted items ‘well ahead’ of market expectations of £161.8 million and £12.1 million, respectively, the company said.

‘This follows continued strong trading in the consumer division, for both adult and children’s publishing,’ the company said.

ELSEWHERE ON THE MARKET

Military equipment maker Avon Rubber (AVON) gained 0.7% to £31.20 as it said it remained ‘confident’ of meeting its expectations for the financial year as ‘good’ order intake across its portfolio of life critical personal protection systems had continued.

‘We have seen positive order momentum in the military, first responder and Team Wendy businesses, and have made progress with the updated body armor designs for the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency Enhanced Small Arms Protective Inserts and U.S. Army Vital Torso Protection contracts,’ the company said.

‘The board therefore remains confident of achieving its expectations for the current financial year,’ it added.

Mining company Evraz (EVR) dipped 0.2p to 502p as it reported a rise in crude steel sales as output in the fourth quarter increased, but annual production declined slightly in 2020 on turbulence in oil and gas markets.

Real estate company CLS Holdings (CLI) fell 0.2% to 214.5p as it unconditionally exchanged contracts to acquire a portfolio of three office buildings in Dusseldorf, Berlin and Hamburg for €89.7 million.

The three properties, occupied by 31 tenants, are currently 93% occupied with a weighted average unexpired lease term of 4.9 years. The current average rent is 22% below estimated market rents, ‘providing an opportunity to actively manage the assets to bring the rent to market levels over the medium term’, the company said.

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Issue Date: 29 Jan 2021