London’s FTSE 100 finished Thursday’s trading session 0.5% ahead at 7,076.17 points after the Bank of England kept interest rates on hold and lifted UK growth expectations and as UK voters headed to the polls.

In the US the S&P 500 was up 2.7 points to 4,170.64 by 4.30pm UK time.

JOHN LAING LEAPS

In company news, shares in John Laing (JLG) jumped 20% to 379.8p on the revelation the infrastructure projects powerhouse is in takeover talks with private equity giant KKR.

Clothing retailer Next (NXT) gained 1.8% to £82.74 after raising its central guidance for pre-tax profit by £20 million to £720 million for the year.

First quarter sales in the 13 weeks to 1 May were down 1.5% compared to the same period two years ago before the pandemic, largely as a result of store closures.

But the company said the last three weeks sales have been ‘exceptionally strong’ and, versus two years ago, total full price sales were up 19%. In that period, full price sales in like-for-like retail stores were up 2% and online sales were up 52%.

Fashion brand Superdry (SDRY) surged 28% higher to 353.5p after it reported a very strong end to the year and issued an upbeat outlook.

‘Our strengthened ecommerce presence has helped mitigate the impact from enforced closures of our stores,’ said CEO Julian Dunkerton. ‘The early signs following the reopening of our UK stores are encouraging, as lockdown restrictions start to lift, and we can clearly see the light at the end of the tunnel.’

Housebuilder Barratt Developments (BDEV) gained 1.9% to 779.8p on news it expects outturn to be ‘modestly above’ its expectations after raising its forecast on completions for the full-year thanks to strong demand for homes.

ASTON MARTIN LOSSES NARROW

Shares in Aston Martin Lagonda (AML) softened 0.5% to £18.91 despite the luxury carmaker reporting narrower losses in the first quarter of the year as a surge in wholesale volumes and higher prices boosted revenue.

For the first quarter, pre-tax losses narrowed to £42.2 million from £110.1 million year-on-year as revenue rose 153% to £224.4 million. The rise in revenue was driven by ‘wholesale growth and stronger pricing dynamics as dealer GT/Sport stock reduced as planned,’ the company said.

Insurance company Aviva (AV.) edged 0.6% higher to 406.2p having completed the sale of its entire 40% stake in the Turkish life insurance and pensions joint venture, AvivaSA Emeklilik ve Hayat AS, to Ageas Insurance International NV.

Aviva received £122 million in cash for the sale, which included a £3 million dividend from AvivaSA received in March 2021.

OTHER NEWS

Engineering turnaround specialist Melrose Industries (MRO) gained 0.8% to 165p after reporting an 8% surge in sales during the first quarter of 2021, compared to the same period a year earlier.

Operating margins achieved in the first quarter of the year improved faster than expected and Melrose was cash neutral in the first quarter, a period that has traditionally been a cash outflow period.

Legal and professional services group Gateley (GTLY:AIM) surged 5.9% higher to 197.5p after it resumed its dividend on expectations for profit and revenue to be ‘significantly ahead’ of market expectations following a very strong end to the year.

Consensus market expectations for adjusted pre-tax profit is £14.7 million and for revenue is £111.7 million. Gateley confirmed plans to restart dividend payments and will pay a dividend for its current financial year in line with its previous policy of distributing up to 70% of profit after tax.

And Bacanora Lithium (BCN:AIM) sparked up 27% to 57p as major shareholder Ganfeng, the world’s largest lithium metals producer, said it might make a cash offer for the entire company pitched at 67.5p per share.

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Issue Date: 06 May 2021