London’s FTSE 100 was 1.6% lower at 6,462.1 in early dealings on ‘super Thursday’, a bumper day of reporting from some of the market’s biggest companies, with the investors awaiting further developments in the Reddit attack on hedge funds.
Also weighing on investor sentiment was the spat over vaccines involving AstraZeneca (AZN), the UK and the EU.
Alcoholic drinks giant Diageo (DGE) fizzed up 4.1% to £29.70 as the Johnnie Walker-to-Smirnoff brands owner returned to organic sales growth in a forecast-beating first half and raised its dividend, even after operating profits declined amid pub and bar closures and unfavourable currency swings.
North America, its biggest market, performed ahead of management’s expectations and while Diageo isn’t providing specific guidance due to ongoing volatility, the spirits seller expects to see a second half improvement across regions given a weak comparator period.
Investors were reassured as the miner maintained guidance on other commodities including iron ore, copper an coal and insisted it continues to see ‘positive demand for rough diamonds, supported by consumer demand for diamond jewellery in the holiday selling season’, in 2021 to date.
SWEET UPGRADE FROM TATE & LYLE
For the year to March 2021, despite the continuing impact of the pandemic, Tate & Lyle now expects to deliver adjusted pre-tax profits ‘modestly ahead’ of the prior year, benefitting from ‘continued momentum in Food & Beverage Solutions, cost discipline and significantly higher year-on-year Commodities profits’.
Elsewhere, Britvic (BVIC) slid 2.6% to 741p as the soft drinks manufacturer served up a decline in first quarter revenue and said performance would continue to be affected by pandemic-induced weakness in its out-of-home division.
Premium mixers supplier Fevertree Drinks (FEVR:AIM) firmed 4.5% to £24.10 after reporting a strong second half performance across key markets and upgrading full year revenue guidance to around £252 million.
In the airlines sector, EasyJet (EZJ) cheapened 2.9% to 693.4p after reporting a slump in first quarter revenue and warning it expects second quarter capacity of just 10% of the prior year period as lockdowns continue to dent air travel activity.
Hungarian airline Wizz Air (WIZZ) softened 0.3% to £41.92 as it flew in with a €116 million (£102 million) third quarter loss with restrictions continuing to inhibit the aviation market, though chief executive Jozsef Varadi insisted the carrier is focused on emerging from the crisis as a ‘structural winner’ and that his focus is on optimising Wizz Air’s cash position.